Newspaper Article 1995 – Education available for 55pc in 1877

Education available for 55pc in 1877

A few years after the Daily Telegraph was founded in 1877, there were 22 provincial schools in Hawke’s Bay with 818 pupils in attendance which accounted for 38.95% of the school-age population. When the 358 pupils attending private schools and 272 pupils who were receiving home tuition in 1877 were added to this figure, the attendance figure for pupils and students was only 55.97%. Now almost 120 years later, there are more than 160 schools in Hawke’s Bay, with many secondary schools having a pupil attendance which far exceeds the total Hawke’s Bay attendance back in 1877!

In 1877, Government primary schooling became free. At this time there was overcrowding in all primary schools in Hawke’s Bay and there was also a lack of amenities. It has been recordered [recorded] that teaching standards were not very adequate and often teachers had to cope with over crowding. The classrooms were small and were sometimes packed with several classes of children and some pupils were forced to sit on the floor.

William Colenso was the Inspector of Schools in Hawke’s Bay between 1872 and 1877. Mr Colenso wanted to ensure that Hawke’s Bay schoolchildren received a ‘quality’ education. There were not many experienced and competent teachers in Hawke’s Bay as many teachers were attracted to the bigger provinces. Mr Colenso was determined to raise the level of teaching throughout Hawke’s Bay.

At this time, education focused mainly on reading, writing and arithmetic (maths). Mr Colenso encouraged the teaching of geography and science and approved pupils taught sewing, knitting and crochet.

Mr Colenso was often not very tolerant of teachers, and particularly did not approve if he considered a teacher to be lazy. He was however more tolerant of children and their shortcomings.

As attendance at school was very low at this time, Mr Colenso encouraged attendance by offering prizes to pupils. For example in 1875, he offered cash prizes. Six of these prizes were for natural history collections of no less than 100 specimens! Can you imagine teachers of today trying to encourage attendance by offering cash prizes? Perhaps $50 to the pupil who attends school every day, or $50 for the best geography project!

Photo caption – Some Napier Boys’ High School teachers in 1901.

Original digital file


Date published

28 March 1995

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