In the early period of education in the 1850s and 1860s when schooling was not compulsory, teachers on the whole were apprehensive about being inspected as it directly affected their pay packet. They were judged by the results that their pupils had attained.
It was too bad if a pupil had been absent more often than they were at school and then happened to turn up on the very day the inspector would make his visit.
At the Bendigo North State School in September 1916 AE Thorne came to inspect the school.
Thorne’s first observations were the state of the grounds and he commented about the fences, “A little trouble has been occasioned by some unprincipled residents removing the pickets. The posting of notices, that prosecutions will be instituted in future, has stopped the thieving.”
The Great War was raging and Thorne was pleased Anzac Wattles had been planted to commemorate the names of local volunteers.
Secondly Thorne commented on the state of the buildings and furniture and how neatly everything was kept.
Flowers in the classroom seemed obligatory, pictures, maps and charts on the classroom walls were also mentioned.
For the benefit of the head teacher, James Houston, Thorne stated, “The staff appears to be judiciously arranged,” meaning that Houston had the right people in the right positions.
Inspector J Reroyd came by the school in May 1918, he pulled no punches as to the state of things saying, “Of the pupils enrolled 96 are in the normal grade for [their] age, 67 are normal for age and 27 are below normal and 21 above.
“Satisfactory arrangements are in place to cope with this evil. The evil is due in large measure to irregular attendance and late starting in school life … I would recommend the department to prosecute in most of the cases brought before it by the HT (head teacher). On asking the children where pupils were who are absent today, I was informed that they ‘are playing in the streets’.”
Reroyd came back to the school on many occasions, once noting 70 books in the library.
However again Reroyd’s comments are quite blunt, “The school is in a poor part of Bendigo and has considerably more than its share of sub normal children. Consequently retardation is greater than in most Bendigo schools.”
GE Parker was the inspector that visited the school in 1924, he observed that the library had 125 volumes and that there was a gramophone in the school plus a number of records. However, he was upset that the paper work for the junior teacher was not completed.
During the Great Depression in 1932 there was an inspection by AM Barry.
Apart from commenting on the rocky nature of the school yard, he was complimentary that there was an attractive flower garden.
Barry also noted that the school had recently been connected to the sewage system and that there were bubble taps for the children.
Another inspector came in 1935 and he wrote, “The school Endowment Plantation of Bendigo schools … was recently taken over for conversion into a landing ground for aeroplanes. Out of 72 acres four had been planted chiefly with eucalypts. At present negotiations between the Lands Department and the Education Department are being entered into for a plantation area in Ironbark Gully.”