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Higher Grade School, c. 1919

Higher Grade School, c. 1919

Although the log book we hold is labelled inside “Secondary Day School”, it is believed that it belonged to the Higher Grade School in Newhampton Road. The Higher Grade school opened in 1894 with elementary and higher sections. The higher section provided 3 – 4 years of education above the Standards including science. There was also a cookery centre. In 1907 the word Municipal was added to the title. In 1921 the Higher Grade school moved to Old Hall Street and became the Intermediate school.

The covering dates of the log book are 1902 to 1921 and, in contrast to many of the other school log books already featured, there is quite a bit of detail about the War, in particular the deaths of former pupils. Already on 3 September 1914, the headteacher takes it upon himself to speak to the children about the War and directs “that for the next week or two every class should study the geography of the war.”

On 18 May 1916, we read the following sad tale:

Received an account of the heroic self sacrifice of Sergeant Thomas Pearson (Sedgley) of the Shropshire Light Infantry an “Old Boy” who gave his helmet to a private who was buried in a dug-out (all but his head). Sergeant Pearson was overcome by the poison gas & taken to Hospital – where he died.”

Again on 10 July 1916, the headteacher notes the “death of Sergeant John L. Tuft – write to the bereaved parents of this ‘old boy'”. As well as deaths, however, there are also proud announcements, such as on 20 November 1914:

This morning after prayers read of the decoration of Sergeant Sidney Jenkins, formerly a pupil her, by the French President with the Medaille Militaire, for gallantry; announcement received with acclamation by scholars.

Wrote to Sergeant Jenkins conveying him our hearty congratulations.

This is followed up on 7 December 1914:

Sergeant Jenkins of the Royal Flying Corps, with his decoration, spoke to the Scholas who received him with acclamation; he spoke of it as being the proudest day in his life to be in his old school & to receive the congratulations of teachers & scholars.

It is not just boys that are focussed on in the log book, however. On 6 June 1916, he

Read in last night’s ‘Express & Star’ that Nurse Bertha Mary Cooksley, an old scholar of this school, a staff sister at the 1st Southern General Hospital has been awarded the decoration of the Royal Red Cross in recognition of her services in connection with the war.”

The headteacher also receives regular visits and telephone calls from “old boys” who have enlisted, such as on 7 October 1914, when “Robert Hall an old pupil who has joined the Territorials, called to see me.” Regular updates on the War are given to the present pupils, including on 23 March 1916:

Read to scholars the account of Sergeant C. H. Nott who tho’ wounded in the right eye by a piece of shrapnel & rendered unconscious, after coming to himself, sighted his gun & brought down a German aeroplace, & forced another to take to flight.

He was taken to Boulogne Hospital & treated – having unfortunately lost the sight of his right eye.

Write to Sergeant Nott at Chelsea Hospital, London.”

It is not clear whether Sergeant Nott is also a former pupil, but it is clear from the above sample extracts that the headteacher of the Higher Grade School took a very keen interest in events overseas during the Great War.

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