Last week, our school librarian found a treasure trove of archive material, though, I should point out, as our school is only 19 years old, we are not exactly talking Howard Carter and King Tut.
No matter. With three school generations of pictures and reminders of important moments, there was much to marvel over: pupils' fashions, despite school uniform, have changed considerably; certain staff seem either unaccountably young then or mysteriously old now – depending on how you look at it.
Like any family album, smiles and tears were conjured up as we reflected on these faces who had been the embodiment of the school community over the past two decades.
Then, at the bottom of a box, we found two black bound "Log Books". These turned out to be the day-to-day record of one of our predecessor schools – covering its entire history from 1969 till the early 1990s.
Formerly, it was a requirement that all headteachers kept a daily log of all that happened in their school. The fascination provided by these fading pages of carefully inked reports was, as you would expect, the combination of the mundane and the extraordinary and the predictable and the shocking. In short, they captured in a unique fashion the reality of daily school life.
The outside world provided a backdrop to school events – so a broken boiler would share page space with a visit to Murrayfield to see Pope John Paul; weeks of inclement weather or teacher unrest are punctuated by sprained ankles on the sports field, or school concerts.
The local community features strongly, reminding us the focus on schools and community is not such a recent phenomenon. Indeed the symbiotic relationship between the school and the places in which its pupils lived is a feature of these logs; in both staff and pupils, familiar names return again and again and local folk support the school in many different ways.
If the pupils are recorded in all their glory, then so are the staff. Every staff appointment and departure is faithfully recorded: those noted as probationer teacher at the opening of the school, will now be at the end of their careers; half remembered names are woven through the careful script – promotions, retirements, illnesses and, occasionally, tributes to deceased staff. As used to be suggested elsewhere – all human life is here.
It is strange to reflect that, despite our current mania for recording the minutiae of our life digitally in photos, on social media sites, and through messaging, there is a human angle to these handwritten records that brings the reality of past days to life far more effectively than any spreadsheet of statistics or glossy newsletter.
We have come a long way in the collation and presentation of educational records, but I wonder, in so doing, if we risk losing the sense of humanity which these log books somehow preserved.
It has long been held that the devil is in the detail. In these relics of a bygone time, you could also claim it's the detail that recalls the people who made our schools.
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