Another brush with The HMI – Shuttlewood school’s early 20th century challenges

Our blog of 14 August covered our use of His/Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) reports and school log-books in our VCH red books. We used Barlborough school’s 19th and early 20th century brush with the inspectors as an example. But problems weren’t only confined to Barlborough!

When the local education authority took over Bolsover schools in 1903 there was dire overcrowding. This included Shuttlewood, where a temporary timber framed, corrugated iron-clad building was opened in 1905 for older children. It was condemned as ‘an awful affair’ by the HMI. To make matters worse the first headmaster was unable to control the children, who were regarded by HMI as backward and unruly. Only two years after opening the school was declared inefficient.

Despite extensions to the temporary building a permanent structure wasn’t opened until 1927. This building was designed by George Henry Widdows. It’s listed grade II and is now occupied by Brockley Primary School. The buildings illustrated here predate the Widdows school, but are next to it. They are empty and scheduled for demolition.

Part of the Shuttlewood schools complex on Clowne Road. This block is scheduled for demolition, having been empty for some years and surplus to requirements. The present Brockley Primary School is out of picture, to the right.

The first headmaster of the new schools (Henry Thomlinson) instituted such things as formal assembly and dinner, sports days and visits. As our volume III states he ‘sought to make the school a place of beauty’.

At this time Shuttlewood was very much a coal mining community. Thomlinson, recognising his pupils’ academic limitations, concentrated on handicraft, art and music, teaching ‘the children to speak the truth and be kind to animals’.

The HMI were somewhat sympathetic to Thomlinson’s aims, but raised some reservations. These included that some of the slower children (and some of the staff) couldn’t keep up with his ideals.

There’s more about the history of education in the Bolsover area and Shuttlewood schools in our Volume III. Our blog of 10 January charted a brief history of the school buildings.

The various HMI school reports shed a light not only on conditions in schools, teaching and the like, but also standards of discipline and social issues. They perhaps alter the sometimes held traditional view that schools used to teach the ‘three Rs’ in a haven of discipline and compliance.