The school log started in 1869. In it, teachers were required by law to note events of importance to the school, e g visitors or delivery of equipment. Attendance was always a sore point. If it fell below 50%, no register could be taken. Each child had to achieve a minimum number of attendances to be put forward for exams. The unregistered sessions did not count, even for those children who were present. Because of this, unusual absences and closures were always investigated and, in providing the answers, the log gives a fair picture not only of the health and well-being of the children but of parish life, social change – and of course, in a farming community – of the weather.
Much of it is routine – regular visits from the District Nurse and the A.O. (Attendance Officer) for example. Later entries tend to be more perfunctory than those made in the 1870’s but now and then something moved the teacher to go into detail and these insights are very valuable when they come.
In the present extract, illness abounds, including ringworm, colds, influenza, chickenpox, mumps, whooping cough, pneumonia, measles, scarlet fever. Diphtheria and tuberculosis never occurred during 1937-47 but were always threatening. The most frequent cause of absence seems to have been fear of catching cold. Wet days kept a large number of children at home. Being Wales, there were many of those.
In 1937 there were about 35 children in the school. The figure had been much higher and would grow again toward the end of the War.
During those years, the Head Teacher was William Jones. He had the help of an Uncertificated Assistant and sometimes of a Qualified Teacher. These were always women and often very young. In December 1937 the U A, Miss E A Davies, passed her driving test and a few months later resigned to go and work in the school at Abergorlech. She had been at Llansawel for 10 years. Thereafter, Uncertificated Assistants came and went several a year. They were often gaining a little experience before applying to Swansea Training College for their teaching certificate course. Mary Olwen Evans was the longest-serving at about three years. Her salary is noted at £141 per annum. It is Olwen who is pictured in the two school photographs from 1940.
Washbasins were installed in the lobbies of the school, during the 1940 summer holidays but it must be remembered that there was no running water in the school at that time. Water was provided to the village from a spring until the late fifties.
A number of important social changes occurred during this period.
- The arrival of daily school milk in Nov 1937 – for those that wanted to pay. Free milk was available to those who applied, but nobody did. The milk was supplied by Mr Jones of Pistillgwyn, who threw in straws. He continued until 1946 when an adverse report from the analyst caused the school to change to Mr Davies of Sunnybank.
- School lunches at 4d each came after much careful preparation on March 15 1943. Mr Jones the Headmaster was very proud of these and even made a deputation from the Education Authority eat one.
- In 1947 the school leaving age was raised to 15.
The War Years
On June 14 1940, 22 evacuated children from a London School – Hearnville Road – arrived and were followed by boys and girls from Swansea, all accompanied by teaching staff. Bethel Vestry came into use as an additional schoolroom. Headmaster Jones was also Billeting Officer for the evacuees & served on a number of local wartime committees : Air Raid Precaution, Food Control, Service of Youth, and Fire Prevention among them. Mr Jones also was President of the County Association of the National Union of Teachers and a member of the Llandeilo Rural District Council. He took a gardening course so that he could guide the children in growing vegetables in a part of the school grounds. A 1943 report (see gallery) criticised the plot for being smaller than the one they made in the First War!
Winter of 1947
The winter of 1947-48 was memorably cold. A huge snowdrift blocked off the school for days.
A few sample log entries
12th May 1937 School closed. Their Majesties’ Coronation. The children & parents had tea provided out of Rates. The children were presented with a Coronation mug by the local County Councillor – Mr J Morgan, Island. The two following days namely May 13 & 14 were given as additional holiday in honour of the Coronation.
15 July 1938 School closed. Seventh Jubilee of Dr Morgan’s Translation of bible into Welsh & Fourth Centenary of Open Bible.
4 Sept 1939 School was due to open this day (after Summer Holidays) but owing to outbreak of War the reopening was postponed for some days. During the week the School was used for Respirator distribution.
6 Oct 1939 During the week the attendance has been adversely affected by severe coughs among the children. Betty Williams is away – recovering after the effects of an operation for the removal of tonsils & adenoids.
1st March 1940 Appropriate references were made today to Welsh Culture & in the afternoon the children were brought together & gave various items – songs, recitations, dialogues & short sketches. All the children contributed some part of the programme. An interesting item was a short sketch “Byfwyl Ddewi” where one of the characters was voluntarily taken by a boy who had always been too shy to speak Welsh – he came from an English area of Breconshire and as some of the characters had to sing it was pleasing to find that those who had never sung along made very creditable attempts at rendering the various solo parts. Every boy in the main room could take each boy’s part & similarly all girls have learnt each part taken by a girl.
16 June 1942 A mobile Cinema of the War Savings Committee visited the School in the afternoon & exhibited Films illustrating Savings Efforts.
9 Dec 1943 The local Police Constable visited the school this morning & spoke to the children on Road Dangers. In the afternoon a Representative of the Milk Marketing Board talked (to) the older children on milk.
3rd Sept 1946 During the holidays, the children were given a tea to celebrate the Victory over Japan.
Mch 4 1947 Owing to Blizzard, school dismissed early to enable children to reach home before the roads became impassable.
Report by Mr J Branker who visited the School Garden in June 1942
“Llansawel. This garden is now about 1/8 acre in extent. The number & size of boys available is small. During the last war four times this area was cultivated. The soil is alluvial and a sandy loam. The plot is well fenced.
This school aims at being self-supporting for School feeding.
There was a fair amount of winter food available.”
Report on Llansawel School by HM Inspector of Schools Mr M H Davies Mar 12 1940
“Since 1913, the number enrolled at this school has fallen from 76 to 32. The upper group of 19 children is taken by the Head Master in the main room; the lower class of 13 pupils occupies the class room and is taught by an uncertificated woman assistant.
Heating, lighting and ventilation are satisfactory, but the school interior needs redecorating. The garden & playing field add appreciably to the general amenities but the school lacks game equipment. Water is within easy reach but the school is not connected to the source nor are the offices on the water carriage system.
Facilities for the display of illustrative material at eye level are needed in both classrooms, particularly in the Infant room. Lantern slides are used to supplement the Geography teaching; equipment for the teaching of Art & book craft is good. A well selected library of English and Welsh literature has been acquired. The school has no piano, gramophone, wireless set or percussion band.
Apparatus for the teaching of elementary subjects is carefully devised and a variety of means are employed to foster free expression. Language training receives close attention and children achieve commendable clarity and confidence.
Weaving has not yet been introduced, and girls have no opportunity to take domestic science. Music has recently received added impetus and sound progress has already been registered.
The Head Master maintains contact with current educational movements and has created in this school an atmosphere of purposeful activity, courtesy and friendliness.”
The Children Shown in the Photographs
Brenda Davies lived at Erwlas until 2010 when she moved to Llandaff. Her sister Marion, also pictured, also now lives at Llandaff. Betty Williams now lives at Cilgwyn Crugybar. Denzil Williams, undertaker and builder, now retired, still lives in the village, as does Alun Davies, who has returned to Y Felin, his childhood home. Emlyn George now lives at Llanwrda.