Bromley Common and its Schools

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Monitors and Pupil Teachers
Teachers in training at Bromley Common

In Victorian times, most teachers learned their trade by working alongside an experienced class teacher. 

The first aspiring young teacher to serve their apprenticeship at Bromley Common was  Esther Elliot.  In 1850, she started her training by becoming a pupil teacher in the infant school. She was probably thirteen years old.

For the next five years, she worked alongside the infant mistress. She had her own lessons either before or after school hours when she was prepared for the annual assessments by the inspector.  He examined the pupil teacher when he came to test the children. (For more about his visits, see the page on the inspectors.)

At the end of the first year, the managers were told that she "had passed her examination in a satisfactory manner." 

In the second year of Esther's apprenticeship, the managers were told that the infant teacher (Mrs Crump) was too ill "to undertake the duties of the school as well as the instruction of the pupil teacher." The master of the senior school (Mr Crump) took over the responsibility.

Perhaps he was not the best person to train a new teacher because he was dismissed a short while later: he could not keep order in the classroom. Mrs Crump also left.

There was a distinct lack of continuity in Esther's training. Over the next three years, she worked with Miss Dean who was straight out of college, Miss Ramsey and, finally, Mrs Howe. In the period of changeover between the last two, she was paid 10s (50p) "in consideration of her having taken charge of the infant school for one week subsequent to Miss Ramsey‘s departure."

Esther finished her apprenticeship in 1855 and left the school. She may have moved to another school but it is also likely that she gave up teaching altogether.  Many young ladies only became pupil teachers as a way of continuing their education.

In many schools, pupil teachers had a very important role; with the very large classes that were common at that time, they were a source of cheap help. However, the classes at Bromley Common were not large by the standards of the time and they had no pupil teachers over the next twenty years.

There was also the problem that only teachers who did well in the government examination were qualified to train pupil teachers. The teachers at Bromley Common at that time lacked the that level of qualification. For instance, when Mr Parker, was employed in 1858,  the managers were informed that he did not do well enough in the examinations to be allowed to have pupil teachers apprenticed to him.

In the mid 1870s, the school roll rose rapidly and the mixed school (the class for the older pupils) took on their first pupil teacher, John Chapman. He was just the first of many over the next 25 years. The Infant School also became dependant on these young trainees.

Pupil Teacher Lessons 

An hour a day was set aside for the teachers to prepare the pupil teachers for their examinations. In summer, the lessons were taken in the morning before school started. In winter, they were taken after school. 

In October 1885, the master wrote in his log book, "On Monday, I intend to commence taking pupil teachers’ lessons from 4.30 to 5.30 pm instead of from 7 to 8 am." Sometimes the lesson was at dinnertime.

The master also gave occasional ‘model lessons’ to demonstrate teaching methods.

Towards the end of the century, there were usually a couple of pupil teachers in the school at any one time and it was becoming increasingly difficult for the teachers to take all the responsibility for preparing them for the examinations.  In 1898, the managers gave one pupil teacher 30/- (£1.50) to help pay for a ‘correspondence class’. 

In that same year, the managers discussed a pupil teacher centre, which the Bromley School Board was about to open in Raglan Road School. They said, “Our PTs would probably attend if the fee was not excessive.”  It is almost certain that they did attend the centre which developed into Bromley’s first secondary school.

The Female Pupil Teacher Centre at Raglan Road ran classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6.30 to 8.30 and on Saturdays from 9 to 12 noon.  Pupil teachers attending such classes were allowed two half-day holidays per week.  If there had been any male pupil teachers, they could have attend the Beckenham Pupil Teacher Centre.

When the Bromley County School for Girls opened in 1905, it took over the role of educating potential female entrants to the teaching profession but, about that time, the role of pupil teachers changed dramatically. 

John Chapman - pupil teacher 1875-1878

When John Chapman came to Bromley Common as a pupil teacher in 1875, he had already completed two years of training elsewhere so he only spent three years at Bromley Common. The managers had just added an extension to the mixed classroom so John had his own classroom.

One of the few things we know about John is that he played the piano; he took part in a concert which raised £7 for the school.

He had a lot of responsibility, even being left in charge of the school sometimes. This was usually only for a day or two when the teacher was ill but, in 1878, the vicar wrote in the log book, "The school opened today under the charge of J B Chapman, the articled pupil teacher."  

He was in charge of about eighty children because the school was between masters. He was probably very pleased when the managers paid him for that two weeks as if he were the master.

Six months later, he passed the final examination and moved on.

Lillian Casselden - monitor and pupil teacher 1884 -1891

Lillian came from a teaching family; her parents ran the Farnborough Board Schools and her sister, Julia Wills, taught the infants at Bromley Common National School (Julia's husband, Edwin, taught the older children). 

Then, early in 1884, Mrs Casselden wrote in the log book of the infant school, "On account of my receiving a telegram at 12 10 o’clock informing me of my husband’s death, I at once closed the school." 

Lillian's brother-in-law, Edwin Wills, applied for the post as master of the Farnborough School and was quickly appointed. His wife gave up teaching about this time as she had a new child so Mrs Casselden continued to teach the Farnborough infants. She was helped by twelve-year-old Lillian. 

Later that year, Lillian went to Bromley Common School as a monitor to start her training as a teacher.  She was thirteen years old.

Lillian had charge of small class right from the start. We know this because, when she was absent after only a short time in the school, her class had to be taken by the pupil teacher.

After eight months as a monitor, Lillian visited a home where there was a suspected case of smallpox in the family. Smallpox was a nasty illness, often fatal, and even if you survived, you could be badly scarred. The managers were afraid she might bring the illness into the school so she was asked to stay at home for a couple of weeks.

In August 1885, the master of the school wrote in the log book, "L Casselden…will leave the service of the managers this afternoon, the distance from her home at Farnborough to this school being too great."  She was only fourteen and the walk of two miles was on top of a day’s teaching, lessons with the teacher and any study at home. It also seems likely that she was needed at home; her mother was not well.

Lillian helped with the infant class at Farnborough on at least one occasion over the next year but then Mrs Casselden resigned and Lillian returned to Bromley Common.  Her pay was 17/6d (87½p) per month but no doubt it rose as she became more of Lillian

Lillian finished her apprenticeship in 1891 with a second class pass in her final examination and got a job at St John’s, Penge, as an assistant teacher. (A first class pass would have entitled her to a place at a teacher training college.)

Five years later, she returned to Bromley Common as ‘the sewing mistress’ but she would have taught much more than sewing. The picture to the right is of Lillian with her class shortly before she finally left the school in 1909.

No Comment

The log book for 1895 recorded that, "
Henrietta Maidment, 3rd year pupil teacher, has been obliged to resign her post in these schools owing to mental derangement."

The young pupil teacher on the right looks very smart on the day of the class photograph. 

A few years earlier, in 1887, the managers were not so impressed by the appearance of the pupil teachers and "decided that the opinion of the committee concerning the unsuitable dressing of the pupil teachers be communicated to them with a caution to the future." 

Photo of pupil teacher.

Monitors - Many schools, including Bromley Common, used monitors as a form of cheap help in the class­room.  One master wrote, “School work rather noisy on account of the fresh children.  First class boys used in turn as monitors.” 

Some monitors were paid.  These were young people who were considering teaching.  Before they committed themselves to training, pupil teachers often had a trial period as a monitor. 

They were not well paid; Gertrude Hasel was offered 2/- (10p) a week in 1884.  A pupil teacher at that time was paid 25/- (£1.25) a month rising to just over £2 a month in her fifth year when she was eighteen.


Read about  The Managers