Reading’s ‘Normal Department’

Reading has a long and proud history of teacher education and its roots can be traced to the creation of the University Extension College in 1892. At first, courses took place in the ‘Pupil Teachers’ Department‘, but in 1893 it became known as ‘The Normal Department‘ and the name remained until 1897.

The map below, published in the Calendar of 1893-4, shows the location of the Normal Department on the site of the Extension College in Valpy Street. Only a year previously the  department’s premises had been the vicarage of St Lawrence’s Church.

Edited Map of the Site of the University Extension College showing the Normal Department in blue (Calendar 1893-4)
The same issue of the Calendar contains an impression of the view from Valpy Street of the north entrance to the Normal and Science Departments.

 

Until 1899 when it became a Day Training College, the work of the Department was fairly limited in scope and focused on subject knowledge rather than pedagogy. In the first year of the Normal Department it covered three main areas:

    1. Pupil Teachers attended classes on Saturday mornings and on weekday evenings after school. They were entitled to an allowance of 3 hours per week private study at school. Fees of £2 per annum were paid by their schools.
    2. Uncertificated Assistant Teachers attended courses of instruction that included Algebra, Geometry, Arithmetic, English, Music, Geography and History. There were separate timetables for men and women: men were not offered Music and women were offered fewer subjects because they had no access to Algebra or Geometry. The timetables make no mention of science. Participants paid somewhere between 4 shillings and 6 pence and 10 shillings and 6 pence per term, depending on its length and whether or not students attended small-class tutorials.
    3. The College collaborated with Berkshire County Council to provide classes for teachers in rural Elementary Schools. Courses gave technical instruction in areas such as Agriculture and Hygiene over a period of three years. They were held at Didcot, Newbury and Reading.

The duties of the Normal Department were carried out by a staff of six, led by a Superintendant and assisted by a Senior Tutor. They are named in the extract from the Calendar of 1893-4 shown below and include W. M. Childs who was later to become the University of Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor.

Staff of the Normal Department – the Principal was H. J. Mackinder (Calendar 1893-4)

In his memoir ‘Making a University‘, Childs gives an interesting insight into the business of educating pupil teachers:

‘As for the pupil teachers, they almost defeated me … I had been told that until lately all these pupil teachers had been taught on traditional lines by their own head teachers in their own schools, and that herding them into central classes was not popular.’ (p. 3)

The students were prepared for the Queen’s Scholarship Examination by which the thousands of entrants were rank-ordered in order to determine admission to training colleges.

Childs was not impressed, expressing sentiments that would strike a chord in some quarters today:

‘Under this forced draught, competition became nerve-racking, and mental preparation a hot-bed of cram. All teaching was ‘suspect’ unless it ‘paid’ ; and no device of memorizing was deemed too sordid if only it would win marks.’ (pp. 3-4)

Nevertheless, Childs overcame his difficulties with the  ‘genial disorder of the handful of boys‘ and the whispers of the girls. And he claimed that all his teaching skill derived from these early years of struggling to manage pupil teachers’ attention and goodwill.

What was ‘Normal’ about the department?

I had never encountered the use of ‘normal’ in the context of UK teacher education before. I was, however, acquainted with the ‘écoles normales‘ in the French system. Professor Cathy Tissot, then Head of the Institute of Education, told me that both ‘Normal Department’ and ‘Normal School’ had been standard terminology, historically used, in the United States.

A survey of Google Books showed that during the 19th Century and the early decades of the 20th, collocations of both normal+department and normal+school were many times more frequent in US publications than in the UK and that  US usage fell towards UK levels after 1940. Later usages tend to be historical accounts of educational settings.

The Oxford English Dictionary records eight citations of this sense of ‘normal’ but they didn’t explain what was ‘normal’ about a Normal Department. So I sent a query to ‘Grammarphobia’, a blog based in the USA about usage, word origins and grammar run by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman. They pointed out that the term originally had to do with norms and standards and that the schools, departments, colleges and universities were normal in the sense of providing a model. Their carefully researched reply that encompasses usage in France, Britain and the US can be read in full here.

A future post will look at the next significant stage in the development of Teacher Education at Reading that laid the foundations for what was eventually to become today’s Institute of Education. This was the creation of the Day Training College in 1899.

Thanks

To Prof Cathy Tissot for originally raising this topic.

To Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman for their excellent blog and their speedy response to my queries.

Sources

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Reading College. Calendar, 1898-99.

University Extension College. Calendar and general directory of the University Extension College, 1892-3.

University Extension College. Reading. Calendar, 1893-4 to 1897-98.

 

A Postcard Home

During the early days of the London Road Campus, a wide range of picture postcards was produced showing scenes of the College grounds and buildings. Many of these have been preserved in the University’s Special Collections and they include views of the cloisters, the front entrance, porters’ lodge and Green Bank. There are also interior shots of student hostels and halls.

Very occasionally a card turns up that has been written on, sent home and, at some stage in its long history, has been returned to the University and retained in its archives.

One such example is this card posted in 1907 that shows the sender’s room in St Andrew’s Hostel.

St Andrew’s Hostel (University of Reading, Special Collections)

The reverse of the card reveals that it was sent by someone called Alice to a Mrs Knapp in Penarth near Cardiff. 

The written message reads as follows:

Many thanks for letter & “Enclosure”. You will like to have this card of our room. I wish you could see a little more of it, it is rather like the photo on the wall! Did you like the hockey group? You did not mention it in the letter. Thank you for sending the Recorder. The concert went off well last night. I got an encore!!! Your photo is very prominent in the picture is’nt [sic] it!  The Principal has got “influ” – also Miss Morley & M. Salmon. My cold is much better. Much love Alice.’

Alice’s Postcard. The stamp shows Eward VII who ascended the throne on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. (University of Reading, Special Collections)

The three members of academic staff with ‘influ’ were:

  • The Principal:  W. M. Childs who became Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor in 1926;
  • Miss Morley:  Edith Morley who became Professor of English Language in 1908, the first woman to hold an equivalent position in the UK;
  • M. Salmon:  Professor Amédée V. Salmon, Professor of French.

So who was Alice? It seemed logical to assume that she was writing to her mother or close family member and I was convinced that I had seen the name Alice Knapp somewhere in the College records. 

Lists of graduates were published in the college calendars so it was a simple matter to discover that  Alice graduated in 1907 with a second class honours BA in English and French (hence the references to Edith Morley and Amédée Salmon).

The following year she was made an Associate of  University College Reading (with Distinction) by virtue of her honours degree.

Lists of committee members of College societies in the Calendars show that Alice was a student who enjoyed extra-curricular life to the full.

  • In 1906-7 she was:
    • Deputy-Captain of Women’s Sculling,
    • Lady Lay Member of the Hockey Club,
    • Lady Captain of Tennis,
    • Member of the Debating Society Executive Committe Calendar.
  • In 1907-8:
    • Vice-President of The Women Students’ Union (founded in 1906),
    • President of the Women’s Branch of the Students’ Christian Union.
  • And in 1908-9:
    • Secretary of the Debating Society.

I wondered why she was still on committees after the award in her degree. The answer is in the lists of Education students – she was training to be a teacher, and in 1908 she passed the one-year postgraduate ‘Certificate (Theoretical and Practical) of the Teachers Training Syndicate, Cambridge‘.

ST ANDREWS HOSTEL

With regard to Alice’s accommodation, note that the words ‘My room in Old St Andrews London Rd. 1907‘ above the addressee indicate that Alice was lodging in the original hostel in London Rd rather than St Andrew’s Hall on Redlands Rd (see map below). The site for the latter was offered to the College by Alfred Palmer in 1909 and formally opened in 1911 (see Childs’s memoir, p. 176). Originally called ‘East Thorpe‘, it is now occupied by the Museum of English Rural Life and the University’s Special Collections.

Detail from a Map of 1906 showing St Andrew’s Hostel in London Rd, and East Thorpe on Redlands Rd next to the College campus.

The hostel in London Road was run by Mary Bolam, Censor of Women Students, as shown by the Student Handbook of 1908-9. 

Extract from the Student Handbook of 1908-9 (p. 37)
POST SCRIPT

I don’t know what happened to Alice Knapp when she left Reading. All I can find is the announcement of her BA in The Englishwoman’s Review (see below) under the heading of University and Educational Intelligence. It seems that the Review recorded the academic qualification of every woman graduate.

THANKS

To Professor Viv Edwards for locating the census records of the Knapp family in Penarth.

SOURCES

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions, Vol. XXXIX, No. 1, January 1908.

University College Reading. Students’ handbook. Second issue: 1908-9.

University of Reading. Calendar,  Issues from 1906-7 to 1910-11.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photos in MS5305: University History, Halls, Great Hall.

The Censor of Discipline

My previous post about the Censor of Women Students noted that Mary Bolam took up the position in 1901. It was not until 1906, however, that a male ‘Censor of Discipline’ was mentioned in the University College Calendar, although W. M Childs appears to have taken on the role in the Extension College and Reading College. I assume that he was responsible for the enforcement of the college’s rules and regulations.

It may be no coincidence that the creation of the post, possibly in imitation of Oxford University, took place in the same year that W. M. Childs and a small group of senior academics began plotting the long journey towards university status.

The position was occupied by Herbert Knapman who had been appointed to the Mathematics Department as Assistant Lecturer in 1903 and promoted to Lecturer in Geometry the following year. Despite being acknowledged as a brilliant academic, Knapman devoted himself to administrative duties rather than research and publication. As this profile from the Student Handbook shows, he combined the roles of Tutorial Secretary and Censor of Discipline: 

Profile of Herbert Knapman, Censor of Discipline, in the Student Handbook of 1908-09

From 1927 he supplemented these responsibilities with the position of University Registrar until his death in 1932.

Knapman was a close ally of the Principal, W. M. Childs, and one of the original band of six academics who from 1906 helped to develop his vision of ‘making a university’, In doing so he served as secretary to committees that investigated the feasibility of becoming a university institution (the Policy Committee of 1909-11) and the committee that prepared the College for university status.

From the start, Childs was impressed by Knapman’s efficiency:

The appointment of Herbert Knapman as Tutorial Secretary in 1906 meant that henceforth a mass of academic detail would be handled with a precision and promptitude never more valuable than in a period of growth and inquiry.‘ (W. M. Childs, 1933, p. 124)

A glowing tribute can also be found in Hubert Childs’s biography of his father, referring to Knapman’s ‘remarkable ability as an organiser’, his reticence, tirelessness, loyalty, humour and public spirit.

Herbert Knapman at the Degree Ceremony, July 1929 (University of Reading, Special Collections). See below for the full image.

Like Lucy Ashcroft, Knapman is mentioned by name in Reading’s Charter of Incorporation of 1926. On his death in 1932 his obituary was published in the journal Nature.

POST SCRIPT

Knapman must have been something of an amateur ornithologist. He was the one who compiled the list of 30 bird species spotted on the London Road Campus that appears in W. M. Childs’s memoir (p. 52).

THE GRADUATION PROCESSION, 6 JULY 1929
University of Reading, Special Collections

From left to right: Prof H. A. D. Neville (Agricultural Chemistry), Herbert Knapman (Registrar), Leonard G. Sutton (Vice-President of Council), W. G. de Burgh (Deputy Vice-Chancellor), Alfred Palmer (President of Council), the Mace-Bearer, William Macbride Childs (Vice-Chancellor).

According to Holt, This was Childs’s last degree ceremony.

SOURCES

Childs, H. (1976). W. M. Childs: an account of his life and work. Published privately by the author.

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years. Reading: University of Reading Press.

N., E. H. (1932). Mr. Herbert Knapman. Nature 130, 426–427.

University College Reading, Student Handbook, 1908-09.

University of Reading. Charter of Incorporation, 17 March 1926. 

University of Reading, Special Collections.  Academic Processions, MS 5305.