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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

School Histories

If you are lucky someone will have written a history of your ancestors’ local school. Maureen Nyazai has written about her experiences compiling the history of Busbridge School, Godalming, Surrey. This is full of advice for those who wish to do the same, and contains several quotations from log books etc. such as:

  • 1882 Apr 20 - Sent Bertha Johnson home with her little brother. He had a stone up his nose.
  • 1885 May 15 - Herbert Boxall, Percy May, Williae Boxall and George Newman are absent primrose gathering [and thus contributing to the family income].
  • 1885 Jul 2 - Parents of Elizabeth Hardy were fined 2/6d last Saturday for not sending Elizabeth to school regularly.
  • 1897 Jan 24 - School closed this last fortnight on account of the prevalence of diphtheria to which the following children have succumbed viz. George Williams, William Harris, Barbara Hawkes.
  • 1911 Jul 11 - Sydney Williams has been awarded a Nautical Scholarship by the Education Authority, the first Busbridge boy to gain such a distinction.

Other School Records

A large variety of other documents may turn up:

  • Plans, inventories of equipment, accounts and deeds.
  • Records of Staff. Teachers were required to have a bishop’s certificate from 1603, and records of these containing the teacher’s signatures can be found in Bishops’ Subscription Books, in county archives. There are many later records as well including applications from prospective staff members. Staff at an Industrial School are the subject of an article by Watson. Further information about teachers and professional training can be found in the National Institute for Genealogical Studies course:English: Occupations - Professions and Trades.
  • Teachers’ Association Minutes
  • School prospectuses give names of staff, details of facilities and curriculum taught.
  • Examples of school exercises, timetables, reading primers, the latter typically aimed at moral education as well as literacy.
  • Correspondence Files have sometimes survived and are a really mixed bag, including notes from parents regarding reasons for a child’s absence from school.
  • Examination schedules
  • Medical logs especially after the setting up of the school medical service in 1907. Medical logs and punishment books are subject to closure regulations of up to 100 years.
  • Maintenance of a punishment book was compulsory from at least the early 20th century until the abolition of corporal punishment in 1988. Reasons for, and exact type of punishments meted out to named pupils had to be recorded.
  • Truancy (Attendancy) Officers’ Records. Separate absenteeism books may have been kept in the school, and truancy officers would visit parents whose child was AWOL. Parents could also be brought before the Petty Sessions for failing to send their children to school.

Researchers are encouraged to dig into the references supplied and investigate what is increasingly available online, then pursue leads into the original documents.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.