FROM 1862 it was a requirement for head teachers of state funded schools to keep a regular diary of events within their school. The resulting ‘School Logs’ are a fascinating insight into not just the history of education but also the social conditions, attitudes and key events of the time in which they were written.

The very earliest entries, in many schools, are a record of poverty and the terrible diseases that were rife at the time.

“A great number of children sent home to fetch their school money: afternoon attendance reduced in consequence.” Northam Girls’ School – March 4, 1863.

‘School pence’, as it was called, was the small sum of money that parents were required to pay towards the running of the school. Although it was very little, it could still be hard for some parents to find.

“Chilblains prevalent: many limping and some absent.” Northam Boy’s School – Jan 26, 1871.

While not as serious as many health problems of the time, chilblains were painful, could lead to infection, and were a result of poorly heated homes and inadequate clothing. There were more serious and potentially fatal illnesses:-“Attendance still low owing to prevalence of smallpox”. Northam Boys’ School May 8, 1871.

“Charlotte Oliver who was present yesterday died in the night from cholera”- Northam Girls’ School. September 12, 1866.

Other reasons for absence were less serious and even, frankly, puzzling.

“Less in attendance. Several boys gone to Southampton to see a fat ox” - Bitterne Boys’ School Log. March 6, 1871.

Some comments by head teachers would be seen as totally unprofessional today – “Two boys admitted – very great dunces – one aged 10 can’t say his letters” – Northam Boys’ School September 21, 1863.

External events, which must have been the talk of the classroom, were duly recorded - “A great commotion in the town, owing to the visit of Garibaldi”- Northam Girls’ School April 4, 1863.

Tragic events also featured - “Today being the anniversary of the Titanic disaster, a great many girls are away on account of mothers' illness and grief in the homes upsetting the children - It is a sad echo of last year." - Northam Girl's School. April 15, 1913.

Some school logs have not survived. Bevois Town School was destroyed by fire bombs in 1940 and did not reopen until 6th Jan. 1941 when a new log was started. Air raids continued to be a fact of life and the school provided a shelter for the children.

“The lighting in the shelter has still to depend on hurricane lamps and candles” – Bevois Town School Log. February 14, 1941.

Other aspects of living through the war affected the day to day running of the school - “Arrangements were made for the A.R.P. Warden to visit the school this afternoon and examine all gas marks”- Bevois Town School. May 29, 1941.

Staff were moved around frequently and it must have been very difficult to maintain consistency. There is a note of irritation in the head teacher’s entry for November 19.

“This morning Miss Bratcher was sent to Netley Marsh School and Mrs Abbott was sent to this school in her place. This is the third teacher that the youngest class have had this term”.

Fortunately, not all was doom and gloom - “School closed today for two weeks for the Xmas Holiday. 12 boxes of sweets have arrived from America to be given to the children”.

Free milk was already being distributed in primary schools and the teachers in Southampton must have realised how important it was to the diets of children in their care because they opened the schools to distribute it during holidays. The entry for February 11, 1946 must have been enormously welcome to the staff, the pupils and to their families – “The school dinner service was inaugurated today”.