The Victorian School
King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon


Mr Green's report, 1867


The Schools Inquiry Commission was set up in the mid-Victorian period in order to review the provision of education throughout England and Wales. When one of the commissioners, Mr T.H. Green, visited Stratford's King Edward VI School in the early 1860s he found a school of around 30 boys, ranging in age from 8 to 15.

An edited version of this Schools Inquiry Commission Report can be found here




The grammar school at Stratford is divided into two departments on the basis, not of subjects of instruction and social position, but of age and attainment. Latin is taught throughout. When a boy has got about half-way through Jacob's Latin reader he is transferred from the lower department to the upper. More time is given to reading, writing, and dictation in the lower department than in the upper, but Latin is throughout the chief subject taught. Modern languages and drawing are not taught at all. English grammar is not ostensibly taught at all, The scheme only specifies instruction in English literature and composition, and this the head master understands not to include English grammar. The lower master, however, examines the boys in the parsing and construction of the English passages which they take down from dictation. No English history is taught in the upper department.

At the time of my visit, out of rather more than 30 boys in the school, eight were in the upper department, one being in the first class, three in the second, four in the third. The division of work is this, that in the morning the head master takes the upper department in classics and divinity, while the second master takes the lower department in English and arithmetic. In the afternoon the head master takes the lower department in classics and divinity, while the second master takes the upper department in arithmetic and such "English" as is taught. This arrangement, it will be observed, implies that there is no separate classification for arithmetic and English. As a rule, in the upper department, two mornings a week are given to Greek, three to Latin, one to ancient history, etc. In the lower department four afternoons are given to Latin.

In what they professed to know I thought the boys of this school better than those in most schools of the same kind. One boy, however, was a long way ahead of the rest, and was, indeed, considering his age (15), one of the most promising boys I have met with. He was the son of the lower master. He was reading the fifth book of Herodotus, the second Iliad, the sixth book of Livy, and the Bucolics. I heard him construe in Herodotus and Livy, both of which he did very well, I also saw his Latin exercises from Arnold's second book (which is hard), and his Greek exercises. He had clearly a very good knowledge of Latin and Greek syntax. On the whole, I should say that, in classics, he was quite good enough for the "Twenty" at Rugby. In mathematics he had gone some way in plane trigonometry and conic sections. He had an appearance of great intelligence, and was just the sort of boy for whom a transfer to a higher school (however painful to his present masters) would be beneficial. As it was, his father proposed to keep him at the school till he was of age to get "the De la Warr" exhibition and go to Oxford, where it was hoped he might get a Bible-clerkship. The only person who has yet held the De la Warr exhibition did well at Oxford, and was quite the sort of man whom it is desirable to send to the university.

I heard the boys of the second class do their lesson from Ovid's Metamorphoses. They had not done it before, and had only a short time to get it up in school, but they construed it better than the first class, in many such grammar schools, would construe what they were going over the second time. They also knew something about Latin syntax. The third class I heard do an old lesson out of a Latin reader. They construed very correctly, understood the government of cases, and were good in parsing. Throughout the upper department the arithmetic and dictation were quite satisfactory, as was also the knowledge of English grammar, though, as has been said, it is not regularly taught. On the other hand, the boys seemed to know very little about the Greek history, which they professed to have been learning; and no one but the head boy had finished the first book of Euclid. They were mostly about 12 or 13 years old.

The lower department I examined in arithmetic, dictation, English grammar, and Latin. The Latin, for beginners, was very good. The other subjects were fairly done.

This school has been fortunate in having for its head master a man of scholarship and cultivation, who has also been a patient and conscientious teacher; and for its lower master a much better mathematician than the salary given could be expected to obtain. On the other hand, there has, perhaps, been some want of the simple pedagogic energy in the conduct of the school, and its system I think defective. The father of one of the boys in the school, a very sensible man, though very well satisfied on the whole, remarked that he thought the boys had scarcely enough to do, and this agrees with my own observation. Meanwhile the want of any teaching in French and modern history, and ostensibly in English grammar, gives a good deal of dissatisfaction, and keeps many boys from the school. The lower master thought the right thing for the place would be the institution of a modern department, which he would at the same time regret, because all the boys would forsake the classical department for it. I believe that without establishing such a department, the popular demand for "modern subjects" might be satisfied by the profession of English grammar, the institution of a separate classification for arithmetic, the regular teaching of geography and English history, and the introduction of French for the higher classes. Farther, I believe that this might be done without seriously trenching on the time given to Latin. If Greek could be given up, except in the case of boys likely to go on to a higher school, the reconstruction would be much facilitated. But, short of this, more might be done for the "practical subjects" consistently with the general system now maintained. History and geography may be well taught at very little expense of time; and, as it is, in the case of boys whose parents want them to learn French, the master lets them off some of their ordinary lessons, in order that they may learn it out of school.

The school, however, will scarcely recover popularity without certain outward improvements. At present the building contains two rooms devoted respectively to two departments. They are not bad of their kind, but have no maps or educational appliances. There is no separate classroom, and I thought the desks in the room used by the upper department badly arranged. The great defect, however, is that there is no playground, not even a courtyard. Thus the boys are turned out straight into the town street. There is on other place where they can have even five minutes play in the intervals of schooling. They are thus noticed by passers by in the first ecstasy of release from lessons. This I believe to be the source of a certain reputation for roughness which they have acquired in the neighbourhood; a reputation which does not rest, so far as I could learn, on any authentic stories of bad language and behaviour, but which is not the less damaging. The school is surrounded at the back by old cottages and gardens belonging to the Guild trust. If the cottages were pulled down a considerable space might be had for a playground, large enough, I think, for cricket, but certainly large enough to be very useful.

Another defect is the absence of boarders. This is an evil at once as lessening the "genteel" element in the school, as preventing it from being of use to the country district round, and as implying the loss of possible revenue. There is a roomy house belonging to the trust at the back of the school. The situation is confined, and a great deal would have to be done to it to make it fit for boarders. The trustees at one time offered the head master 30 a year to live in it, but he preferred to remain in the house which he rents for himself. Having to rent a house, and as, according to present rules, he would have to pay 6 6s. a head on his boarders, chargeable on boys who are not sons of parents resident in the borough or parish, he does not consider that he could make enough profit on them to induce him to trouble himself with them. It would, I think, be good economy on the part of the trustees to build (or buy) a good new house for the head master, with ample room for boarders. He should at the same time be relieved of his burdensome duty as minister of the Guild Chapel. A lower master might, perhaps, be ready to take the old house above mentioned, and get what boarders he could. If these changes were made, and a uniform capitation fee of 4 a year were charged, the proceeds of which should be paid over direct to the masters (instead of accumulating as at present), so as to give them a pecuniary stimulus to increase their numbers, the school, I am persuaded, might soon have 50 day boys (as it once had) and many boarders. A third master might then be kept which would facilitate the introduction of new subjects and an improved classification. The proposal of a uniform fee of 4 would not be likely, so far as I could learn, to excite much opposition.

At present there are two private schools in the town, both more or less flourishing, which I have referred to in my General Report, p.205. The boys in the grammar school, speaking generally, are of the class between the lesser tradesmen and the professional men There are no sons of farmers among them, though there are plenty in the two private schools. They seemed pleasant lads enough, though somewhat too "free and easy". This fault, so far as it is one, belongs to the general want of high pressure in the school.

(Ch. Com. Rep. XV., 550, A.D. 1826.)

Foundation and Endowment. - By letters patent of King Edward VI., June 1553, incorporating inhabitants of borough, and granting to them all lands and tithes, &c., theretofore belonging to a guild then lately dissolved, for the maintenance of an almshouse and a free grammar school, paying to the master thereof a stipend of 20 a year; his Majesty also granted all tithes, oblations, and altarages lately belonging to the college of Stratford for the payment of stipends of 20 to vicar, and of 10 to a chaplain. Thomas Jolyffe had previously, by deed, 12th February 1482, given to guild of the Holy Cross all his lands in Stratford and Dodwell, in Warwickshire, for maintenance of a schoolmaster.

School Property. - Under authority of scheme approved by Court of Chancery, the town council are bound to pay annually to the trustees, as follows: for head master, salary 150, with allowance of 30 for a house; to second master salary 130; 10 for prizes, and 25 for repairs.

School also possesses (1867) 976 18s. 11d. consols derived from investment of capitation fees (according to scheme). Total income (1867) 374 gross, 362 net.

Buildings and site well adapted to their purpose, but no playground.

One "De la Warr," exhibition of 30 for four years, and open to all scholars under 18 who have been four years at school recently founded.

Objects of Trust. - For finding a priest, fit and able in knowledge to teach grammar freely to all scholars coming to him, taking nothing for their teaching (Jolyffe's gift). For a free grammar school, for the instruction and education of children and youth to be continued for ever (charter). All boys of parents residing within borough admissible without payment of any fee. Sons of parents residing in parish to pay a fee of three guineas per annum. Boys residing in borough or parish to pay a fee of six guineas per annum. All other boys to pay a fee of 10 guineas per annum (scheme A.D. 1843). No boy admissible under seven, or until he can read New Testament, be able to write, and say multiplication table. Boys over ten required to know first four rules of arithmetic and Latin accidence; if over 12, Latin syntax, and to be capable of construing some easy Latin author. No boy admissible after 14 (trustees' rules A.D. 1843).

Subjects of Instruction prescribed. - Besides classical languages, mathematics, arithmetic, writing, reading, general English literature, geography, English composition, sacred and profane history. When funds of school will allow, French, German, and other modern languages with instruction in arts and sciences (scheme). No boy to be taught either writing or arithmetic unless he is also instructed in classics. Half the hours of instruction to be devoted to classics, one quarter to writing and arithmetic, and the other quarter to remaining branches of education (trustees' rules).

Government and Masters. - Scheme approved by Court of Chancery, l0th June 1843; and rules framed by trustees Nov. 1843, revised January 1849.

Trustees of municipal charities of borough fifteen in number, all of Stratford, appointed by Court of Chancery, A.D. 1864.

Head master a corporation sole, appointed by lord of manor (Countess de la Warr); must be a graduate of an English university, in Holy Orders, possess superior classical attainments, be fully qualified to teach mathematics, English composition, and history, and be a fit person in his habits and temper to have the charge of education. Allowed to take 20 boarders to be educated in the school. May not hold office of vicar, assistant minister, or curate of Stratford, or any church or chapel having weekly duty or cure of souls attached.

State of School in Second Half-year of 1864.

General Character. - Classical. In age of scholars, second grade.

Masters. - Head master, clergyman, receives annual stipend of 180 from endowment; net income as minister of guild chapel (without cure of souls) 40 per annum. Second master's stipend 130, from endowment.

Day Scholars - 27, [34 in Midsummer 1867,] all on foundation; two-thirds between 10 and 14 years of age; with few exceptions sons of persons engaged in trade; all from within five or ten minutes walk of school. Do not attend on Sunday.

Boarders. - None at present.

Instruction, Discipline, &c. - School classified by Greek and Latin chiefly and other subjects subordinately. Boys above 14 in special cases allowed to substitute for Greek, English grammar, composition, history, or geography. Religious instruction in Scripture history. School opened with prayers taken from Liturgy, Bishop Taylor, and a compilation of master's own.

Examination annually by two examiners chosen nominally by trustees, but practically by head master. Prizes given.

Punishments: impositions; in lower school occasionally caning, the latter publicly. Head master has power to expel any boy for gross misconduct or disobedience.

No playground.

One boy gone to Oxford within the last five years. [None at Oxford or Cambridge in May 1867].

School open 41 weeks in the year. Boys at school 30 hours per week.


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