School Speech Day – Wirksworth Grammar School, 1919


Many Wirksworthians will remember Roy Pearce, Headmaster of Anthony Gell for many years. Here he has spotted details of the School Speech Day from 1919.


From the Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal Saturday 06 December 1919.




RP’s introduction.  This is a long extract from a very long report in the ‘local’ paper (1919, so the first post war Speech Day), covering several columns.  Oddly I found myself typing this piece on 6thDecember 2018.  You will find the first and last parts formal and boring, though interesting of their time.  But in the middle is a gem. It begins with the needs of individual pupils and develops into a cry (in bold) for the value of the arts in education: I am sure this section, with its passion and fluency would have been inserted by Celia H,B., the Headmaster’s wife.  She was a remarkable woman (her school plays were famous!) and I yelled aloud at her rousing contribution.  I wonder what her Wirksworth audience made of her plea. 


The HEADMASTER (Rev. L. Hansen Bay) then read his report.


I have the honour to present to you my eleventh annual report on the work of the School for the year ending July 31st, 1919. The influenza epidemic in the earlier part of the school year was responsible for much irregular attendance, but I am thankful to say that the number of cases was not large enough to warrant my temporarily closing the school. Examinations were held, as usual, in July.


I was very sorry, and the school was very sorry, to sever our long connection with the Oxford Local Examinations in whose lists the name of the school has figured so honourably in recent years. For the first time our Vlth form took the examination of the Joint Matriculation Board of the Northern Universities, examination, which is taken by many of the leading secondary schools in Derbyshire. The regulations of the Board, under which they pay the cost of the examinations, demand that the whole of the Vlth form shall be entered as a form. Our Vlth form was therefore entered. The results are appended and are better than I anticipated. The pupils are to be congratulated on their success. The middle and lower school were examined by myself and the staff.   There is evidence of good earnest work, and on the whole I was satisfied with the results. I am glad to report that sound progress has been made all round and that arithmetic and English seem especially good. The only other outside examinations for which pupils were entered was the Derbyshire Bible examination open all boys and girls of Derbyshire. Our candidates were again very successful, carrying off four first prizes in the different classes, one second prize, one third, and two fourths. Five pupils this year were awarded C.C. Intermediate Scholarships, their merits being considered sufficiently good and advanced enough to gain them such an honour.


I have much pleasure in recommending to the special notice of the governors the following pupils of the Vlth form who gained the full school leaving certificate of the Northern Universities Exam.: W L. Land (distinction in mathematics). Annie E. Goodwin. Ida M. Pattin, Marian Fell. Katherine L. Hatchett, and for good work in other forms—Vivian Wood. Lucy Doxey, Dorothy Nyalssy, and Haworth, all awarded C.C. Inter. Schol.; iv.. Dorothy Ruddock. Gwendoline Williams, and Kathleen H. Bay; lii.. Constance Saunders. Hurt 1.; ii.. Elizabeth Potts. Wadsworth ii.



We have renewed our social activities. Our sports day once more resumed its pre-war characteristics and proved a great success. Our games and our societies are once more flourishing. My wife and I again desire to express an appreciation of the work and co-operation of the staff. We were glad to welcome J. R. Hatchett to help us for two terms. We owe a debt gratitude to Stanley Coulson D.F.C., for the very kind and efficient help gave us with the cadet corps.


(NOW FOLLOWS A HEADMAGISTERIAL RANT RP))   One hears a great deal from time to time about different systems of education. One after another educational enthusiasts devise a system which (expressed in learned words of many syllables) sounds impressive as well as attractive. It has been so throughout the ages. A man (or maybe a woman) of genius develops a method of education which combats some existing evil and meets some obvious need: the system is highly successful in the hands of an enthusiastic and gifted teacher, and nowadays it becomes labelled as the system, the High School System, the “Montessori”  system or whatever it may be. And as the science of education becomes more fully understood each system passes away into comparative obscurity, because the good of the system has been assimilated into the common stock, and the weak points have had time to show themselves and to cause the rejection of the particular system as a whole. Each is good, but in some way not perfect.


The wise enthusiast, it seems to me. should be guided by one rule only, and that seems a very humble one—the rule of common sense.  Common sense in education includes a continued and profound study of the psychology of  the pupil; it connotes nice calculation of the means best adapted to suit the needs of each boy or girl’s particular nature and circumstances (a pupil who has no library at  home for instance, requires more inducement to read widely and wisely than the child of studious parents).  Common sense endeavours to teach co-operation and to discipline the character through work and play without unduly repressing the individuality; it encourages the pupil to explore the vast realms of art and science which lie open him and to enjoy with delicate appreciation and a thankful heart all that is beautiful and delightful in life. It encourages a child to express the thoughts that arise in him by any means most appropriate – by rhythmic movements, song, by painting, writing, creating models of machinery, etc.: mere common sense—undignified by any finer name—covers all this. It endeavours to meet the needs life at every age and stage of development.


It does not neglect to punish the pupil with the accumulated experiences of others in the form of history, and the accumulated mental experiences of others again in the form of literature. Common sense provides the pupil with a set of simple rules for virtuous living which must not be deviated from at any time in his career if he is to walk safely and usefully through life. Above all it teaches him to realise something of the smallness of the material and temporary things as compared with spiritual and eternal things; and (lest the young soul should overwhelmed by the vastness the universe) common sense reveals God to the child as his strong and loving and allwise Father; a God to be served not grudgingly nor of necessity but with zealous devotion. Such a system, if we can but work upon it, can never be out of date or superseded.



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