About the School
On February 5, 1894, the then called ‘Smithy Houses School’ was opened. The school was built by local voluntary effort to accommodate 150 students. 123 students enrolled and two teachers had been appointed to educate them: Mr James Calder Nicol (the Head Teacher) and Mrs Clara Grace Nicol (Assistant Teacher)
On February 14 Mr Nicol attended a meeting of the School Managers and asked for two more Assistants to enable me to conduct the school efficiency. The Managers agreed to advertise immediately for one Assistant Teacher at a salary of £35 per annum! The beleaguered Headteacher was attacked by a hostile parent on the following day when a Mrs Sivinson, mother of Frank, assaulted me with blows in the face and scratches. Two days later, somewhat wearily, Mr Nicol recorded in the school log book.
At the beginning of March some essential stock arrived for the new school. The delivery included three coal scuttles, three pairs of tongs, one fireguard and a picture of a cocoa plant.
However, the school struggled to make progress in the opening months, finding it impossible to recruit sufficient teaching staff and suffering from lack of the necessary apparatus. By the end of June Mr & Mrs Nichol had given up the fight and had been replaced by a new teacher. Mr G W Baldon and a new assistant, Mrs Baldon. At the end of the school’s first year of existence an inspector made the following observation:
The school’s circumstances in the earlier months appear not to have been favourable. At present the instruction is being given carefully and order is good, but in some respect the attainments are backward.
Weakness in mental arithmetic, written arithmetic and spelling were cited. Reading recitation and needlework were fairly good. Grammar moderate and music fair. The final sentence of the report stated: H.M. Inspector reports that the school is insufficiently warmed. Perhaps the pre-occupation of teaching 85 children at a time had caused the Headteacher to overlook his new coal scuttle, tongs and fireguard and he had let the fire go out!