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.
The main schoolroom, c1850
"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 no 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."
Pedagogue's House, 1892
"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."
"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."
Richard French, headmaster 1875-1878, with boarders
"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."
n A fuller version of the report can be found here