The Village School

Extract from ‘The Rayner Family of Great Wakering” by Albert Rayner Bsc (Econ) FCA [page 53]

The first village National School was situated outside the village, at Little Wakering Corner. Mrs Rebecca Outten (nee Cates) was the schoolmistress. She 1ived at Little Wakering and was one of the first teachers at Barling Board School when it was opened. Some of the Rayner children attended the Barling School.

According to the 1871 Census, there were four schoolteachers living in the village; Lavinia Parsons, a widow and a relative by marriage of the Parsons family. She was 38, with five children all under 13. There was Sarah Carter, aged 62, a widow from Rushley Island; also Louisa Champs, aged 38, a widow with two sons aged 2 and 5, living at the school and finally Eliza Colgate, aged 53, a widow who was described as a 'Tutoress' - her name also appeared in the 1881 Census.

A new Board School was opened in 1876. According to the 1881 Census Edward Lay, aged 29, was the headmaster, assisted by his wife, Katherine, aged 28. They came from Hampshire and Dorset respectively, lived in the school house and empl oyed a girl, aged 14, as a domestic servant. The school also had two assistants, aged 24 and 20 and two pupil teachers aged 16 and 15. These were all females, two of whom boarded in the village.

Mr Lay was a man of medium size, with a straggling moustache and hair parted down the middle. He was usually dressed in tweeds with a red tie and collar of an old fashioned, turn down type. He had the nickname 'Muggins' but nobody knew why. He was a capable headmaster and used the cane sparingly, particularly with the children of the more important families. He had one or two tough customers whom he would expel for a few days so they could be dealt with by their parents. He was a keen cricketer and played for the village team. As a good bat he was not far short of County standard in early life. Later he was a fast underarm bowler with a spectacular leg break - for underarm bowling was still used in some village matches. Also later in life his face revealed evidence of frequent use of the whisky flask which he carried in his hip pocket. Mrs Lay was in charge of the Infants' School. She developed lameness and walked with a stick.

First thing each Monday morning, the routine was for a teacher to go round with a little tin pail, into which the pupils dropped their monies - some coppers and some a sixpence - depending on their parents' means. In the 1890s slates were still in use in the Infants' School. There were no books and the pupils were taught to read from large printed cards which were held up in front of the class.

In the Senior School, books were limited in number. The basic subjects were taught, including scripture. The Ten Commandments had to be learnt and recited daily; also the multiplication tables. Examinations were held annually, to decide on promotion to the next higher standard.  Pupils were given a consecutive number based on their examination result, commencing with a 'one' for the best pupil in Standard One. These numbers ran right through the school and were pinned on to the pupil's jacket.

Schools were periodically examined by Her Majesty's Inspectors - always men - who even inspected the girls' needlework. Scripture examinations were also held, conducted by a non-local minister, one year from the Church of England, the next year from the Free Church.

Mr Lay married three times and had eight children in all, most of whom joined the teaching profession.

At one time there was a teacher - Mr Purser - who lived in Southend and walked the five miles each way to and from Wakering, morning and afternoon.

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