Sheffield Pupil Teacher Centre ---- to ---- City Grammar School

1946 . . . The time is one of change, of the passing of the old familiar, and of the uneasy approach of promised transformation. In no other field are the impending changes more significant than in popular education. Our own School looks to the future without anxiety - few schools have suffered so many sea-changes in so comparatively short a period as the sixty-five years or so in which we have existed in one form or another; few have endured so many temporary and makeshift arrangements, and been pushed so frequently from somebody's pillar to somebody else's post; we have emerged at all stages and at all points, the better and the stronger for our experiences.

This time of foreshadowed change and the revival of publications of THE HOLLY LEAF prompt a review of the Schools history. Any attempt to survey its origins and growth demands an acquaintance with the haphazard and burdensome method by which recruits were obtained and trained for the teaching profession in the last century, for the School is rooted in that method and has grown by successive stages as that method was modified and finally and abandoned.

The Voluntary Societies were formed in the early years of the 19th century to provide, from funds raised by subscription, elementary instruction for "the children of the labouring poor". They were controlled by religious bodies whose particular enthusiasms intensified that lack of unity and objective formation. The children of all such schools shared at least one common fate - they were all instructed on the Montreal or pupil teacher system, of which the chief merit was perhaps its cheapness. The pupil teacher began his career as an apprentice at the age of fourteen. For four years he slaved under the dictatorial eye of the Head Master. And tried not to wilt before the thunders of the Jove-like visiting Inspector. Before his morning session began, the lad waited upon his Head Master to receive his own instruction and to submit his own exercises. After school, he memorised the dull contents of manuals of potted information designed to give him that modicum that was necessary, and not a fraction more, for him to qualify for entrance to a Voluntary Society's Training College. Two years later, if successful, he emerged the proud owner of a "parchment" - he was a teacher.

The story is familiar of the recognition the popular elementary education needed to be both extended to cater for all children and broadened in its scope and content, and that legislation was passed in 1870 to establish local elected School Boards whose main function was to use local rates to build schools where the existing accommodation was inadequate. New schools required larger numbers of teachers, and as higher standards of attainment cam to be expected in schools, the quality of the teachers also needed to be raised.

Accordingly, thought was given and experiments made to devise an economical and efficient method of improving the standards of instruction of intending teachers. This tendency was everywhere observable and the practice eventually arrived at was the collection of pupil teachers into Centres. In Sheffield the first move on the part of the Board was made in 1881 by the provision of special instruction, supplementary to the normal as already sketched, to be given on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings in the new Central Schools (i.e. In our present building). This scheme was superseded during the same year by a plan to group all Board School pupil teachers into eleven Centres where instruction should be given as before by selected Head Teachers. By 1884 there were five such Centres at work - at Huntsman's Gardens, Woodside, Walkley, Duchess Road and Netherthorpe. This number was not exceeded, even though it could not cater for all the pupil teachers.
 

In 1887, sufficient experience had been gained for the many disadvantages of the system to become apparent. Revision was necessary in order to obtain more efficient teaching with less pressure on the time, energy and health of the pupil teacher. It was also considered to be cheaper to amalgamate small groups and thus to reduce the number of instructors required. The new scheme was for one Centre at which pupil teachers should attend on two evenings a week for two hours and on Saturday mornings for three hours, in lieu of the daily morning sessions.

The problem then was to find suitable premises, and the first solution was the Central School. The it was decided to establish day classes for certain groups of pupil teachers and for "candidates", i.e. Intending pupil teachers. In 1894 the Board purchased the old Free Writing School in School Croft, which seems to have been preserved from dilapidation by its use as a joiner's and builder's workshop. On February 8th, 1894, a minute fixed the salary of Mr. J. G. Picknet of the Central Higher School "as long as he is in charge of the instruction of pupil teachers at the Day Classes held in the Old Free Writing School." At the same time classes where continuing to be held in the evenings and on Saturday mornings in the "Bow Street Centre and Holly Street Centre for Manual Instruction," and subsequently a room in the Church Institute was hired for extra classes.

On July 18th, 1895, Mr. J. Batey was appointed "Superintendent and Instructor for the Pupil Teachers' Central Day Classes," and thus began that long connection with the School which is well known to many readers.

The next change was brought about by the Town's decision in 1896 to purchase the Free Writing School for demolition in what we should call slum clearance and road widening. The Board had to search elsewhere and decided to build a grand new Centre on the vacant plot of land at the corner of Orchard Lane and Holly Street. It was to accommodate all pupil teachers, from Board and Voluntary Schools, together with preparatory classes made up of candidates for pupil-teachership.

The enthusiasm for the new building, which was open in 1899 by the Duke of Devonshire, is hard to understand if one knows the place, unless one also knows the makeshifts which had preceded it, for by modern standards it was ill-designed. It had originally no provision for science classes, it had no hall, no free space for staff or student, narrow steep stairs, and but one entrance. Its alleged ventilation system necessitated the intermittent puffing of damp heat from vents in the walls, by a clanking engine in the basement. But, strangely, its inmates grew to love it. The fact was that here was a home for the scattered and neglected, and a place where instruction became education. The first Principal was Mr. A. J. Arnold, who had much to do with the formation of its tradition of hard work, with the introduction of Matriculation and Intermediate classes which won outstanding successes.

The passing of the Balfour Act in 1902 introduced the national system of Secondary education (which is now to be called Secondary Grammar). In competition with the new type of school the pupil-teacher-centre system seemed doomed. The new style pupil teacher received half-time training at the Centre for a period of two years, and the influx of recruits was maintained by having two year preparatory classes. It was decided in 1904 that after 1906 all candidates for pupil-teachership "must get their preliminary training at the Central Higher or other Secondary School."
 

Nevertheless the centre developed a healthy, vigorous life of its own. 1904 saw a holiday granted for an annual excursion - imagine, if you can, brake-loads of staff and students setting off from Leopold Street for Ashopton, or parties of students trailing over the hills and converging on Castleton - and the grant of playing fields at High Storrs. An Old Students' Association was formed - do you now know why it was called Holly Guild? In 1907 the first number of The Holly Leaf was printed (its predecessors having been written in long-hand and circulated).

Numbers began to fall off. Here are the figures: 1906-376; 1907 - 293; 1908 - 212; 1909 - 170; 1910 - 167; 1912 - 143. The reasons apparently were the decline in appointments of pupil teachers, the abandonment of the preparatory classes, and the provision in the district of more secondary schools. H.M.I. Thought that "it is not unconnected with the fact that provision for Secondary Education (in Sheffield) is much below what is considered necessary by moth other authorities". It was also the Inspectorial opinion that "the career of an intended teacher in Sheffield is one long series of external examinations . . . ."

It was partly as a result of this decline that the Committee in 1915 made arrangements for a two-year probationership beginning at fourteen years of age as a temporary measure. Like many other temporary shifts this remained and it was incorporated in the great expansion and reorganisation of the School in 1920, when, once more under the direction of Mr. Batey, Centre suddenly swelled and overflowed the customary premises. So big did it become at a stroke, that in that year thirteen additional members of staff were appointed the classes were held at Carver Street (where the Food Office now is), Townhead Street, Arundel Street (College of Arts and Crafts) and the Central School in addition to the Centre itself. The practice came to be the admission of pupils at the usual secondary "scholarship" age on the same tests and occasions as for the Secondary Schools, to whose number were added, at the same time, Firth Park and Abbeydale Secondary Schools. Centre had become "secondary" in all but name, though objection was officially made to its size, its premises, and the length of its course.

Despite this considerable change in its form, size and scope, the School was destined to retain its original character as a Pupil Teacher Centre in more than its title. Many of its senior students entered on a one year apprenticeship as pupil teachers after leaving Form V or VI, and returned to Centre, as if to their home, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The tradition was maintained, too, by the transfer to their classes of pupil teachers from other Secondary Schools in the city. The whole system of pupil-teachership fell into disfavour and Sheffield was for long one of the last two surviving urban authorities to see any great value in its maintenance. For better or for worse, it came to an end here in 1944. Its going has not affected the School as much as might have been expected in the past, for the fact is that since the changes of 1920, the School has conformed more and more closely to the normal Secondary pattern, and has gained more than it lost. What has survived is corporate loyalty and a tradition of serious work and high endeavour.

The School moved into its present premises in 1933 and changed its name to the City Secondary School shortly after the appointment of the Head Master, Mr Northeast, in 1935. It is now the City Grammar School. How old it is, the careful reader must decide for himself. He might also be able to suggest a new motto for the School, for no longer do we learn in order that we may teach. He might write an up-to-date version of the School Song, which has too many obscure references to the dead past.

He cannot, however, supply the School with what is urgently required and what has been so long promised - a new building commensurate with our needs, modern standards and we think, our deserts.

[The curious enquirer will find articles in The Holly Leaf which describe life as an old-timer pupil teacher (Dec., 1934), and as one of the newer variety (July, 1912). He will find some accounts of the development of the School written by Mr. A. J. Arnold (Dec., 1907, April and July 1908), and by Mr. Dudley (July and dec., 1933).]