St Peter's School and Church, Walworth

St Peter's School and Church, Walworth

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Playing Truant

Primary schools do not have as big a problem with truancy as secondary schools, but in an earlier time when children stayed at the one school until fourteen years of age it was more of a problem.

One St Peter's Headmaster, Mr John Corris, on the 21st July 1870 wrote, “Punished the boy Mudd for truanting.” The next day, “Punished Thos. Allen for truanting.” “Webb” is punished on the 26th, “Chas. Webb” again on the 2nd August, followed by Edwin Jones a day later. Mudd and Dolby, Miller, Livingston follow in quick succession.

Mr William Down, the Headmaster of St Peter’s School from 1877 to 1883 strongly believed that truancy from school led to further mischief. On the 23rd May 1879 he wrote, “A parent called this morning to inform me that his son, a boy of the 4th Standard was absent from school the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday without his permission. Received instructions to punish him as thought proper. Spoke to the whole school at 12am on the evils arising from contracting bad habits in youth.”

The same evil was addressed a year later on 23rd April 1880. “Three boys of Standard 3 played truant the whole of Wednesday. After-wards spoke to the whole school on the disgrace boys bring upon themselves who idle about in the streets in this way.” Years later, at the beginning of the 20th century one Walworth street urchin expressed a similar thought vividly, concisely, truthfully: “First you hops the wag, then you nicks, and then you bashes the copper.”

The next Head was Mr Alfred Down, the brother of William. He was less lenient. “Made an example of a boy who played truant by dismissing him from the school.” That recording was made on the 5th November 1886. Mr A.S. Down remained the Headmaster of St Peter’s for 35 years! He finally quit in 1919.

Exclusion is sometimes the only option for very naughty children. At the Girls School in October 1873, Mrs Sarah Taylor “Advised Mrs Clayton to remove her daughter to another school as her conduct had a baneful influence on our elder girls.”

Copyright: Jack McInroy © 2010

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