Leicester NUT Section of the NEU

Teachers and their Union in Leicester 1904-1914

"A Life Of Continuous Strain"

Researched by Steve Ruffle

1. Aims of Leicester and District Teachers' Association (Rules 1902)
2. Leicester Association During the 1900s - overview
3. The Press and the Ratepayer
4. Consultation.
5. Trade Unions
6. Women's suffrage.
7. Other Campaigns
8. People in the Association
9. Presidential speeches

Messrs Croft and Boulter
Mr Boulter is on the right. Mr Croft moved a motion of sympathy with unenfranchised women teachers at Abersywith Conference in 1911. As a result, there broke out the wildest scenes of disorder and conference was stopped for 30 minutes.

Foreword by Andrew Hind, Joint Secretary 1991-1996

The mid to late 1990s were a busy and significant time for the City of Leicester Teachers' Association. It was finally announced that Leicester City Council would be granted unitary status, and once again would be responsible for education. The National Union Of Teachers celebrated its 125th anniversary. Amidst all this came the rediscovery of the Minute Books of the Association, which had been put in the loft of a former secretary Mr Chamberlain, and were rediscovered when his daughter Mrs A McQuone and her husband, both teachers and NUT members, were having a clear out. Suddenly we were in possession of an archive which recorded our history from the beginning of the century to the 1960s.

Steve Ruffle, a former officer of the Association, kindly agreed to do some research using this newly rediscovered resource and chose to concentrate on the period leading up to the First World War. There are many parallels between that period and the present day. Complaints about large classes, low pay, opting out and a hostile media can be found then as now. Another similarity is to do with local government reorganisation: in 1904 Leicester Education Committee took over responsibility for education from the old School Boards. In 1997 after 23 years of control by the County, the City Council has again assumed its responsibility for schools.

To fill in the picture from the Minute Books, Steve visited the Leicestershire Records Office many times to look at old newspapers; he visited Union headquarters at Hamilton House to see contemporary editions of 'The Schoolmaster'; and I joined him on a trip to Warwick University where the national records of the union are archived.

The personalities of the officers of the Association some eighty years ago became more and more vivid as we made further discoveries. To our amazement we discovered that one of them, Mr John Boulter, was the grandfather of a recently retired member John Peachey, who possessed some interesting memorabilia including the illuminated address presented to Mr Boulter's widow on his sudden death in the 1920s. A fund of family anecdotes added to our picture of the leading officer of the Association in the first quarter of the century, not all of them, it must be said, to the credit of Mr Boulter!

All these facts and discoveries remind us that there have been themes running through the experience of teachers since at least 1869 when the Association was founded. Our predecessors negotiated and fought for the benefits we now enjoy. They engaged in similar struggles. It is hoped that we can continue to espouse the aims outlined in the first chapter, and that our successors will feel that we did not let them down. 128 year after our foundation we are still going strong, but as always it is the members rather than officers who represent the real strength of the Union. As Mr O'Neill, President, said at Medway School in October 1905, "Committees are powerless unless strongly supported by the members generally."

Aims of Leicester and District Teachers' Association (Rules 1902)

The objects of this Association be:

  1. to promote the causes of education.
  2. to afford opportunities for the discussion of educational and professional topics.
  3. to encourage social intercourse among its members.
  4. to further the professional interests of teachers.
  5. to support the Provident, Benevolent and Orphan Funds in connection with the Union, for the benefit of the Scholastic Profession.
  6. to raise teaching to the dignity of a profession by means of a public register of duly qualified teachers for every class of schools.

Leicester Association During the 1900s - overview

Committee often met in a cafe or coffee house, sometimes the Turkey Cafe and others the Clarendon Restaurant or Victoria Coffee House (but never the Marquis!). Members often voted for who would be on committee though officer posts went unchallenged. Much committee business dealt with elections for office, conference and subcommittees - names of new members and those people the Executive had excluded from membership, were read out.Correspondence was discussed and wreaths agreed to be sent to deceased members, often with a collection for the family. General meetings, often held on Saturday afternoons always had at least one speaker and motions were discussed, sometimes won and sometimes lost. Business was conducted in a formal and efficient manner - dates and times of meetings were even properly voted on and passed.

In 1909, one hundred and forty members listened to an address on ‘the soul of the child’. In 1911, One hundred and seventy members heard Miss Agnes Cameron talk about her visit to Canada, "illustrated by a hundred distinct stereopticon views from the travellers own camera". One hundred and thirty people listened to a talk on the Montessori method in 1913 and less attended a speech with the title ‘Our living language and its dead spelling’.

The speaker at a general meeting on 28th January 1905, in a speech entitled ‘Street Education of our Children’ claimed:

"the true aims of the teacher, are to train the children to love what is true, holy and beautiful - in fact to be good citizens, the teachers of the next generation. In respectable homes, children are often left to their own devices and no interest taken in their aims and objects; whilst in wretched homes there is no comfort, often worse and the street becomes their paradise. Here irregular habits are formed; a love of idleness, rudeness, coarseness, bad language and indecency are rampant."

Though there were one hundred members attendant to listen to the President, Mr O'Neill at Medway Street School, 21st October 1905, he complained that:

"The local association, though numerically strong - six hundred and fifty - was apathetic and lack the true spirit of unionism, ninety percent of its members were so in name only. Committees were powerless unless strongly supported by the members generally."

The first president of the Association was a Reverend Atkins. Mid-Leicester Association formed in 1905 and the two associations became separate. Miss Hawley (the first lady President) was the City President that year. Mr Jenk's honorarium in 1904 was twenty pounds, his expenses eight pounds. Expenses and honoraria could sometimes be a bone of contention. In 1914, a motion ‘to allow all delegates to conference two pounds expenses’ was amended so "that only railway expenses be allowed". This was the same year though that an Empire typewriter at the cost of twelve pounds and twelve shillings was purchased for the treasurer. The association instructed delegates to oppose increases in proposals to increase the salary of the General Secretary, Sir James Yoxall, at Conference.

The Catering sub-committee was a crucial one, tea was provided at most meetings and every summer, trips were organised. Some cycled and some went by train to visit the Midland Agricultural and Dairy Institute in Kingston upon Soar in 1904. A hundred people turned up for a picnic in Newton Linford in 1909 and though the "committee having stated its preference for Bourneville as a suitable place for the summer outing" for 1910, everyone eventually went to Woodhouse Eaves: "the party enjoyed to the full their ramble through the beautiful grounds thrown open for them". There were yearly socials for newly qualified teachers which many other teachers attended, they were called Conversaziones. The 1904 event consisted of music, dancing and two committee members acting as MCs. The Victoria Band was booked in 1914 and two hundred and forty people stumped up 2/6 each to attend.

The Press and the Ratepayer

The conflict between teacher and middle class ratepayer was constantly being pushed by the press.A Daily Post editorial of Wednesday January 20th 1909 entitled 'The NUT's Solution' reads:

"The typical ratepayer, rightly or wrongly, regards the schoolmaster as an enthusiast who is eager to realise his own ideal of small schools, smaller classes, abolished examinations, greatly increased salaries, diminished hours of teaching, multiplied holidays and half holidays, irrespective of cost".

The editorial of the Daily Post on Tuesday April 13th 1909, referring to the NUT's annual report, says some of their suggestions are controversial: "the abolition of the half time system and the raising of the school leaving age". The editorial claims that parents in the city need placating:

"the outlook of the teachers as regard their salaries... they cannot ignore the rapidly rising strain of these on the local rates and the inseparable protests of the ratepayers... the education rate is fast becoming alike extravagent and intolerable..so long as it [the Board of Education] has to find more of the money which has to be expended it will continue to succumb to the fuel of the faddists and the cry for more."

This anti-teacher polemic can be found quite regularily in the press. Here is the Post editorial of Wednesday April 28th 1909:

"Thanks to a vicious and prodigal system of automatic increases in salary, the ratepayers have to pay thousands of pounds more every year for teaching probably fewer and no iota more efficiently than years before."

John Stevens President of the NUT had a letter in the Daily Post of May 4th 1909 complaining about the paper's stand against teachers salary rises:

"Neither the British press nor the British public are fully away to the very real necessity for a national system of education, consolidated and progressive..Of course it is the number necessarily employed that makes the salaries bill a large one; but a city with 40000 children needs at least a 1000 teachers and should pay them ungrudgingly."

The editorial response the same day was just as strong attacking Steven's argument for "automatic increases in pay":

"The line must be drawn somewhere... there are limits to the financial capability of the average ratepayer. All meantime, must cordially recognise the characteristic ability with which Mr Stevens voices the admirable and elevated aspirations of the teacher."

Alpha joins the fray on May 12th about automatic salary increases, arguing that teachers are very unlikely to get jobs as heads and most inspector job go to people from Oxford and Cambridge:

"A decreasing attendance might necessitate a less number of teachers being employed, but the work of the individual teacher remains the same,whether the class be 40 or 80; infact the former means more work for it means real teaching and individual work, not simply controlling a class and compelling each child to do exactly what the teacher says."

On May 18th 1910, Alpha wrote that "class teaching is in itself now a profession and should carry with it a recognised status, commensurate renumeration and proper conditions of service."


The Leicester records begin with the end of the School Boards and the beginning of local authority control of education. In the Pioneer of July 4th 1903 is a letter from headteachers asking for salaries to be paid on the last day of the month. Alderman Marshall replied:

"It seems to me these people want to tell us what we are to do. At almost every meeting of the committee he had attended they had letters from teachers and he resented them.

Mr A. Baines also strongly objected, on principle, to teachers serving on committees. The teachers had their associations and could approach the committee as they had the school board by deputation.

At the committee meeting of 9th July 1906 "Mr Boulter gave an account of the interview with Mr Gould re. the periodical conferences between the council and representative teachers." On 24/7/1906 Mr Gould proposed joint conferences between teachers and councillors: "The teachers would have no difficulty in choosing their representatives for their had already their national union." So in 1906 the Education Committee agreed that NUT not the Headteachers Association was the right body to approach.

Resentment about lack of consultation still continued within the association. Alpha on Wednesday January 27th 1909 writes: "Leicester has always seemed adverse to consulting its teachers as a body", and at a committee meeting in 1911

"Miss Hawley asked if the Leicester Teachers Association was represented on the Coronation Committee in Leicester. Much discussion followed and some members expressed their opinion that the Leicester Teachers Association was never or very seldom asked to send representatives to the various public committees of the town and that it appeared as if someone was working behind the scenes to keep the NUT from being recognised."

Trade Unions

Stephen Yeo's book Religion and Voluntary Organisations in Crisis (1979) gives an excellent overview of the plethora of groups, unions and professional bodies and their changing nature in the 1900s. In the 1900s, the NUT was one amongst a plethora of voluntary organisations, trade unions and socialist societies that were the mainstay of Edwardian public life

During this time, the NUT managed to maintain a national identity for teachers within a union. A letter in the Daily Post of 2nd July 1903 outlined the 4 associations of teachers, and of the 4 said that the Leicester and District Teachers Association which included certified teachers whether heads or assistant teachers, embraced nearly every qualified teacher in town. The City Association records show that in 1904, of 618 certificated teachers, 469 were members and 149 were not (62% members, 38% not). The NUT locally and nationally was keen to get all teachers to become members and therefore allowed for semi-autonomous sections to exist within the union.The NUT's various sub-associations probably began as semi-autonomous groups: the Headteachers Association, the Assistant Teachers Association,the Secondary Teachers Association and Church Teachers Association.

In 1905 because of the particular circumstances of church teachers, the committee allowed the formation of a quasi-independent church teachers organisation. which became a sub-association in 1908. At the Committee meeting of 9th July 1906 Miss Hawley spoke of the "desirability of inducing the Head and Assistant Teachers' association becoming part of the Association" in the interests of unity. All three met as a grand committee to put forward their views.

The tensions and differences between some of these associations were reflective of differences of opinion within the NUT and teaching body as well. The Assistant Teachers Association had close links with the Labour movement and in 1913 its Executive voted to become affiliated to the Trades Council (Daily Post 16/12/1913). Its secretary William Morris was also President of the NUT during the same year. The Executive member of the NUT, Mr Boulter was secretary of the National Federation of Assistant Teachers, a section of the NUT, which pushed for more links with the Labour movement. Even Alpha admitted in November 24th 1909 that

"some trade unions wouldn't cooperate with teachers "until the teachers organisations fell into line with these by joining labour organisations."

Local media, unsympathetic to teachers, was convinced the socialist had infiltrated the NUT. The Leicester Advertiser on January 12th 1912 reports:

"There is probably no more socialistic body in the UK than the NUT... its leaders deny that socialism has a place in the union's propaganda. Yet practically every member of the union is a socialist."

In the Daily Post of February 19th 1908, Alpha disputes the claim in the Mercury "that most strenuous efforts are now being made by the socialists to capture the National Union of Teachers." He says that though there is a Teachers Socialist Society their numbers are small.

There was also number of resolutions in 1908, saying the secular solution is the only one coming to association, all of which were defeated! From the NUT's point of view, attempted neutrality was attempted to be retained in political matters, The Daily Post of Wednesday January 5th 1910 reported that the NUT had put 6 questions to all the parliamentary candidates and members were give a copy of the reports but no voting recommendations were made.On May 18th 1910. Alpha wrote about the non-political nature of the NUT - Mr Yoxall the General Secretary was a Liberal MP, Earnest Grey the Deputy General Secretary a Tory MP and Mr Goldstone the Labour MP was on the Executive. Alpha though saves most praise for the later though who "came up straight from the ranks unlike Yoxall."

The Association maintained its political independence though. When it received a letter "from Newcastle and District Association asking our association to oppose at Conference the Executive resolution empowering them to adopt or support suitable candidates for parliament who are members of the NUT, the following discussion showed that the committee were against secretly subsidising members of parliament as the system has a tendency to lower the standards of public morality." The Association attracted political figures from all parties to speak at its public meetings. The Chair of the Education Committee presided over one such meeting on May 31st 1906. Councillor Hubbard was the first speaker:

"Our elementary schools and our elementary school system was vital to the life of the national and our elementary school teachers came nearer to the life of the people that any other body of workers did" (Daily Post, June 1st 1909)

Ramsey MacDonald also spoke, claiming that:

"if he had not been to hard up in the earlier years of his life, he would very likely have been a schoolmaster and most certainly a member of the National Union of Teachers" (applause)

Ernest Gray Liberal MP and NUT Deputy General Secretary also spoke.

There were three issues in particular during the 1900s that focused on whether the NUT was a labour organisation or not, and one of the most divisive (as now) was around the role of the sustentation fund. The Sustentation Fund and its role was the source of major discussion within the union during the period from 1906 onwards and is part of the overall consciousness of the union and its membership whether it was a trade union or not. Subscriptions began to rise dramatically from 1907 to 1909 (from 7 shillings to 12 shillings), the main reason being the big increase in a sustentation fund - 4s6d of the subscription in 1909 (2s for legal, 2s for parliamentary).

In West Ham, the union supported members who objected to salary reductions. These members were sacked but continued to be paid by the union. There were fears that this situation could repeat itself around the country with local authorities reneging on salaries and dismissing hundreds of teachers. There was therefore a proposal to add 2s (from 1907) to subscriptions for sustentation fund. Mr Yoxall wrote to all members: "there are scores of other local authorities, which feel, and will act, in sympathy with the ideas generated by the pressure of rate payers in Eastham." There was another big hike in subscriptions in 1909 and in a circular from the national union, comparisons were made with the situation of other working class unions.

In Leicester, 103 members attended an Extraordinary General Meeting on 5th March 1906 at Medway Street School to discuss a proposed new sustentation fund for the union which would increase members' annual subscriptions by 2/-. Granville Road School Staff had written a letter opposing the proposal but after a lot of discussion, a motion supporting the fund was carried with only one dissension. Mr Boulter successfully argued the Executive's case and the problems in West Ham and how they could widen. Miss Hawley supported him, saying 'lady teachers' in particular were being picked on for two reasons:

  1. "the proposed taking out of school the infants under 5 which would cause scores of lady teachers to be dismissed"
  2. "the increased custom of putting all departments under a headmaster"

The following year though, committee recommended only a rise from 9s to 10s and Mr Boulter's and National Executive recommendation was lost on a vote of members at a general meeting.

Tensions between the left and right within the union were extended in 1909 with new Government regulations insisting that classes have a maximum of 60 children. Class size was the big issue of the year 1909, getting the highest number of votes for discussion at national conference and the ruling Liberal group on Leicester Council refusing to implement this law because of its expense. Alpha supported the Labour group's stand against this, arguing that:

"localities which ask for the withdrawal of the circular[Circular 709] are making a huge mistake. Their policy should be to insist on its retention and compel the national exchequer to give more." (The Post, May 5th 1909)

"Let the Trades Council as representing various workers organisations at once take steps to call a special meeting to consider the question and if they require expert assistance it may no doubt be forthcoming from the teacher's organisations." (The Post, May 19th 1909)

On May 26th Alpha reiterated that large class size was a "workers issue and the trades council should be involved".

Unemployment amongst the teachers was the political 'hot potato' of the following year. On 1st June Alpha wrote:

"I see that a member of the NUT executive speaking in Lincolnshire last Saturday stated that already statistics had been gathered showing that over a 100 certified teachers were either unemployed or were being paid as uncertified teachers."

On September 21 1910, a motion of support for unemployed teachers was carried unanimously at an association meeting. In the Post of Sept 26th 1910 an article entitled ‘UNEMPLOYED TEACHERS: TRAFALGAR DEMONSTRATION TO BE HELD’ announced a mass demonstration on October 26th with speakers Sir John Gorst and Marshall Jackman.

Women's suffrage

Miss Hawley was on the National Ladies' Committee which constantly expressed concern about involvement of women members:

"The committee discussed the matter at great length. They were of the opinion that their is a great dissatisfaction among the mistresses of the country, as they feel that the union has not done all that it might to protect the women teachers" (22nd June 1907)

Even though opposed by the Executive of national union, the Committee still had its own national conference which Miss Hawley was involved in.

Unfortunately, most placed people in the local NUT were against the union being involved in suffrage campaigns.In the Post of April 7th 1909, Alpha writes that "women's place is essentially in the home. I see no difference between the factory and the school room in that respect".

Some of the suffragists were particularly concerned in showing their respectability and social conformity. In the News of 14th September 1910, Alpha says Mrs.Cleghorn Vice President of the NUT ( booed at National conference 1911 for her pro-suffragist position)was:

"very emphatic in her condemnation of mixed schools for children over the age of 11 and this condemnation was based on 4 grounds - educational, moral, physical and professional."

Leicester Assocation voted on November 28 1909 by 22 votes to 17 for Miss Cleghorn to be nominated as Vice President against the Labour man,Mr Jackman. Miss Hawley was the proposer. Conference of 1911 was suspended for half an hour because of opposition from delegates concerning the idea of discussing votes for women. Whenever someone tried to speak on the motion, there were constant shouts of ‘no politics’. The motion was heavily defeated on a card vote (For: 12276, Against: 40653).

At a special meeting to discuss conference resolutions for 1912, the main motion put forward by Miss Davey and Miss Vincent, "that this conference expresses its sympathy with those members of the National Union of Teachers who desire to possess and exercise the parliamentary franchise but because they are women, and for that reason alone, are by law debarred from it" was defeated by an amendment proposed by Mr O'Neill and Mr Morris, 2 past presidents:

"That the Association is of the opinion that the obtaining of the parliamentary franchise for women does not form one of the objects of the NUT. It further considers that the discussion of such a subject should have no place at Conference as it hereby instructs its representatives to Conference to the taking up of time of conference by the consideration of any resolution relating to woman-suffrage".

Other Campaigns

Promotion to School Inspector

At a special meeting called on April 6th 1911 called by 26 members of the association, Mr Thorpe proposed an angry resolution opposing the Government circular which favoured university men getting administrative jobs in favour of primary teachers. Many members were particularily aggrieved because Mr Yoxall the NUT General Secretary did not defend the teachers' cause in the Commons.

"Mr Thorpe said the policy of belittling teachers existed before the introduction of the circular."

Teachers, said Mr Sharpe, "should look to inspectorships both local and government as their right". Mr Eastwood said it was "a case of masses versus classes and every man (or child) should have the opportunity to rise with every other man (or child)."

A motion was passed unanimously and read:

"The Leicester teachers desire to express their thanks to Mr Runciman MP for having appointed primary school teachers to the positions of Inspectors of Schools. They note with regret however that candidates for these appointments are being selected from those who have little, if any, practical experience in teaching in a primary school. They suggest, therefore, that all candidates for future appointments as Inspectors should not only possess the necessary educational qualifications but in addition, should be teachers of exceptional ability, who by their long and varied experiences, are likely to command the respect and confidence of those they inspect."

At the next association meeting, letters were received from the Prime-Minister, Mr Runciman and local MPs acknowledging the union's concerns. A public meeting was arranged, and 200 large posters and 10000 handbills were produced advertising the meeting in the Temperance Hall on May 31st 1911. Adverts were placed in 5 newspapers - the Mercury (18/-), Mail, Free Press(7/-) and Pioneer(7/-). The meeting was very successful and the 2 policemen present were not needed to quell disturbances. Total expenses of the meeting were £20 6s 7d.

Opting Out

Opting out is not a new problem. A Special committee meeting was held on April 1st 1908 to discuss whether to have a public meeting against contracting out in new Education Bill. Most people (apart from Mr Boulter) opposed holding it and so it wasn't held. Alpha in Daily Post of February 19th 1908 reported that the NUT adopted the following resolution:

"In view of the probability of the forthcoming Education Bill containing clauses which enable non-provided schools to be withdrawn from the control of the local education authority and from the benefit of rate aid, the executive of the National Union of Teachers wishes to protest in advance... such contracting out would be fatal to the efficiency of the school and injurious to the health, comfort and education of the children."

On Wednesday 28th 1909 Alpha attacked Councillor Loseby (of the Progressive Party) and ‘a certain correspondent in the press’ who hoped for the ‘retention of the non-provided schools’.

"No Councillor Loseby, the true democrat says ‘fair treatment and justice for all children with no favour to class or caste.’"

People in the Association

Below are some notes of some of the personalities involved with the association. The little bits I did find out made me wanting to know more about the people who were involved in City of Leicester NUT between 1904 and 1914.

Mr Boulter, the Executive Member

Mr J. T. Boulter lived in Warwick House, Warwick Street and then 338 Fosse Road North. He worked at the Council School on Belgrave Road and was transferred to Catherine Street Junior School in 1908. He was a class teacher and an active Executive member from 1900 to 1913. He often brought motions to the Executive and proposed many of the motions the local association would support at conference. £5 yearly was paid for his Executive Candidacy by the local association. He was the Association President in 1914 but lost the Executive elections the same year. Because of the war effort, he withdrew his attempt supported by the local association (with £10 expenses) to be National Vice President in 1915.

He was also an active secretary and convenor of the National Federation of Assistant Teachers until he became a Headteacher in 1912 and had to resign from the Federation. He ran on a class teacher platform as Executive member, writing in his election material that "class teachers feel that one seat out of the three should be occupied by their number". The tensions between the NFAT and the NUT and the classteacher/headteacher divide are revealed in numerous letters in the Schoolmaster. With Mr Goldstone(soon to be a Labour MP) as Chairman, the Federation's views often remained minority ones in the NUT. The NFAT tried to develop connections with Trades Councils and actively supported the West Ham teachers. It also sent resolution to conference to try and get the union registered "under trade union act and affiliation to national labour movement". Equally, members of the NFAT were concerned "on the sectional gathering of the members of the Executive at the liberal club".

Mr Boulter was also Vice President of National Finance Committee during 1900s and regularly chair of Rota Sub Committee.He was also on the Library subcommittee and the subcommittee on Sustentation of Members. Mr Boulter's expenses per month were roughly £7 and he usually did 2 pieces of case work a month.

Alpha, the Press Correspondent

The Association formed a Press committee on 5th October 1906. ‘Alpha’ was directed by the Press Sub-committee. Alpha had a free hand in the Leicester Daily Post between 1908 and 1910 writing articles every Wednesday entitled 'education notes'. Whether he or she was an individual or not I am uncertain.

Alpha begins writing in the Daily Post on June 19th 1907. He mentions the Assistant Teachers much more at the start and doesn't mention the NUT. His first mention on 11th December 1907 is a criticism:

"The local association of teachers, which I understand is 500 strong, only meets 3 or 4 times in the year and then has far too much domestic business to do to attend to the real function for which it was called into existence. It is no use crying for the moon"

On 5th February 1908 he writes his first big proactive NUT article supporting them but still writes "unfortunately teachers are such busy people... they don't leave themselves to much time for the discussion of educational topics as perhaps they ought."

Alpha defends educationalists constantly. On April 21st 1909 in an article entitled ‘Is our educational system a failure?’ he defends it against

"placed persons who take up educational matters as a hobby and these are an extremely difficult class to deal with, especially when led by fads and fancies and imbued with narrow class prejudice."

He is concerned that teachers' organisations and trades councils do not work closely enough together enough. His final article is on the 8th February 1911, entitled ‘What is Education?’ and he disappears. There are no explanations for this in the paper. NUT minutes say that the Press Committee had resigned:

"The Editor of DP had refused to contribute towards the expenses of the Press Committee in connection with the Educational Notes written by Alpha. The General Committee came to the conclusion that contributions should be paid for and Alpha's notes should not be dropped."

The Press Committee's resignation was accepted. A year later, it was reported at Committee that the Daily Post remained unwilling to pay for Educational Notes. The Press Committee - Mr Boulter, Mr Page, Mr Hollis and Mr Jenks - was to look at ways forward. They proposed in September 1912 to change allegiance to the Mail: "the Mail to pay expenses but be allowed to cut out any notes against the view of the paper." This motion was carried on a proposition from Mr Boulter "that the present Press Committee select the committee for writing the articles."

A new name and a new paper: it is now Sigma's (and not Alpha's) expenses that are mentioned from then on. Articles signed by Sigma begin appearing in the Leicester Mail from February 13th 1913 and every Thursday.

Mr Gould, the secularist

Mr Gould regularly wrote articles and letters in the early 1900s in the Pioneer. He was a Labour man and a secularist with progressive educational ideas:

"Why can't the children be let out of their cages? Why treat them like canary birds?"

The committee minutes of 9th July 1906 say he approached Mr Jenks (secretary): "Mr Gould wished to become a member of the association if it were thought by the Committee that it would be advantageous". On 24th July 1906 he proposed a joint conferences between teachers and councillors: "the teachers would have no difficulty in choosing their representatives for their had already their national union".

Miss Hawley, first woman president

Headmistress of Moat Road Infant School in 1901, Miss Hawley was nominated by Association with £3 expenses to Benevolent Council. On 30th May 1905, when speaking at an association meeting about the opposition to teaching by doing, Miss Hawley said that Leicester teachers were ‘too conservative’. In 1906, she was appointed onto the National Council of the B and O Fund and she retired in 1912.

Presidential speeches

Below are some excerpts from presidential speeches during this period.

Sham education: its true causes

"Probably none more than the teachers recognised the fact that the timetable under the present conditions was too crowded but it certainly was not on the initiative or the advice of the teachers themselves that such crowding had taken place. Almost invariably they were the last persons to be considered in such matters. The departmental authority, the theorist, the faddist, all had a voice in the matter, the teacher rarely... personal contact, intellectual and moral, between teacher and taught, is the essence of true education. One could with truth say that the excessive number of pupils to a teacher was the parent of most of the ills from which the schools were suffering - ills on both the discipline and instruction side." (Mr Eastwood. Medway Street School January 20th 1904. 70 members attended.)

The Supply of Teachers

"The supply of teachers is seriously short of demand... every other calling is overcrowded.The profession of teaching, in itself one of the noblest callings, and inherently one of the most attractive to almost all types of mankind, fails to attract. The causes... fall under 2 heads: (i) inadequate renumeration and prospect; (ii) bad conditions of service. We are often accused of being a selfish body, in that we are always agitating for increased salaries. My reply is that the labourer is worthy of his hire, that the deficient supply of teachers goes a long way to prove that the particular labourer under notice does not get his hire... Other considerations apart, a sufficient supply of well qualified teachers would then be forthcoming - teachers free from harassing pecuniary troubles, free from the necessity of supplementing an inadequate income by extraneous, free to keep themselves up with their work and to repair exhausted nerve force by rest and recreation... I must add that my remarks on salaries apply almost entirely to the men teachers. Viewed from the pecuniary standpoint alone, the teaching profession is probably at least as good a calling as any other open to women... the supply of women teachers has been equal to the demand. As to bad conditions of service... the life of a teacher is one of continuous strain... The classes are far too large for real education to be carried out... often in our large schools classes will run to eighty or ninety or even more children... Contrast this with the practice of other countries: in Denmark 30, in America and the colonies 30, in Holland 40, in France and Switzerland 50... Under such conditions as these the teacher's time is fully taken up in marshalling and arranging (drill instructor's work) in enforcing some semblance of attention to work and imparting instruction. He has little time or opportunity to educate, to develop the faculties of the children committed to his care; above all to mould the character of the youth of today to fit him for the citizenship of tomorrow." (Mr W.O.Neill. 28th January 1905. Medway Street School. 60 members attended)

The Evolution of the Educational Ideal

"Education was the whole training of body, mind and heart; the drawing out of all that was noblest and best in the human being; the fostering the habits of purity, of self control, of sacrifice, of service, the training of hand and eye; the imparting of knowledge; the discovery of nature's secrets, that the life of the individual might be fuller of interest and delight... There are two crucial terms ‘savoir faire’ - knowing to do, and ‘savoir vivre’ - knowing to live... The educational ideal for a child was to have it so trained, so instructed, that it would be well equipped for the work which lay nearest to it... Real education never did anything to make a man or a woman unfit to work. What hindered education? Bad air, bad parents, bad homes, badly managed schools, badly arranged schools, crowded schools and many other things they could think of including cast iron syllabuses.(hear, hear)If they were going to have children of all kinds filled full of facts without regard to their physical or mental nature, then their ideal was going backwards instead of forward. Children were real human plants and they must have plenty of fresh air, sunshine and cheeriness and then they would grow. What helped education? ... place the whole cost of education on the taxes instead of on the rates (applause) - this would prevent the starving of the schools in a poor locality... The settlement of the unemployed question would have a great effect on the education of the country. It was impossible for a child, badly fed or illfed to benefit it by the teaching given it at school... There were large numbers of social reforms which would directly benefit education - reforms of housing, reforms of the drink traffics, reforms of a large number of things they had all been thinking about of late. There was no class in the community which believed more strongly in the necessity for real religious education than teachers (hear, hear). But personally... the subject as a subject should be struck out of the timetable, because a book was valuable, but a human book, in the shape of a good, honest, truthful pure minded teacher was infinitely better, and that when they got that reform they might hope for other educational reforms (applause)." ( Miss Hawley. 3rd February 1906. 66 members present)

40 people at the General meeting of January 26th 1907 heard the new president Mr Lilley speak on ‘the Catholic attitude to the Late Education Bill and the question of secular education’.

The Position and Prospects of the Teacher Socially

"the present juncture was to a certain extent, epoch making. There were signs and warnings that trouble was approaching and it behoved them to be ready to meet any disturbances and, if possible, to place matters on such a footing that an uprising might be averted... Trade unionism, dignity of the profession or the Civil Service. In Leicester a short time ago they seemed to be making for trade unionism but, rightly or wrongly, decided not to make it even a port of calls, though there was no doubt had they made that port the West Ham hurricane would not have battered them so severely... (He) did not think trade unionism would suit them... It was looking at the matter from an educational point of view that he thought trade unionism would not be so beneficial... The refuge which seemed to him to be preferable was the Civil Service for the whole teaching body... Furthermore their business would not be made the common dumping ground for anyone, though they had no convictions with regard to the dignity and nobility of teaching, were willing to take it up because it seemed a nice, clear occupation... The barriers that seemed to be rising between secondary and elementary education would be broken down... they must make up their minds which they should go for, next they must unite to gain those ends." (Mr Gordon. January 31st 1908. Medway Street School. 80 people attended)

Present Day Education in Leicester

"there was a dead level of dreary mediocrity... The result of the system broadly had not been to teach people either to think or to reason... we still retained an examination system in Leicester as a form of the old and vicious system of payment by results which was an incentive to cram instead of educate... Parents today were in many cases almost at the mercy of their offspring" (Mr Stevens.January 29th 1909. Alderman Newtons School. 70 people attended.)

Elementary Education and its Aims

"Physical conditions must receive the first consideration. Education should vary and rouse the spirit of wonder so that the desire form more was aroused in the mind... teach them self-control... The child would not work for work's sake. He was too healthy an animal for that and the time would never come when children would prefer to go to school rather than stay away and the mere fact that they were compelled to attend school would always make them somewhat unpopular." (Mr Hull. January 28th 1910.Newarke Street School. 48 members attended)

Handwork in Schools

"Two chief schools of thought, the utilitarians and disciplinarians... all practical teachers realised the necessity of combining both methods. For years no system of manual training was adopted in England... the illsucess which attended the handwork in our schools... this was a materialist age, an age of payment by results, and the focus of all vision was the examination day... It was not until 1903 when the Leicester Education Committee appointed Mr Bird that any real effort was made to introduce handwork into Leicester... now nearly 50 schools had manual subjects in every class." (Mr S.Scattergood. February 1st 1911. Alderman Newton's School. 80 members attended)

The Teacher and his Work Between

70 and 80 members came to Newark Street secondary School of February 15th 1912 to hear the new president Mr Hodges "one who had filled every office in the association, who had been a member of the association since 1872, had attended 27 conferences... for the fifth time took the presidential chair and addressed the meeting. This report is from the Daily Post of Friday February 16th 1912:

"educational improvements were our inheritance into which the young teachers of today came without realising perhaps the strenuous efforts by which they were attained... The Morant Circular... said elementary teachers as a rule were uncultured and imperfectly educated"

The Case of the Class Teacher

"the future of the nation depended almost entirely upon the personnel of the class teachers... the class teacher is the most vital part of the process of education... the supply of teachers had gone down (because)... teachers salaries had not been raised to meet the increased cost of living... A weakness lay with obsequious class teacher - men who appeared to have lost what manhood they ever possessed." (Mr Morris. February 7th 1913. Medway School. 55 members attended.)

The Child and the Teacher

"Whatever was done for the scholar or the teacher would also benefit the other, and in the long run would be beneficial to the community... instead of education now meaning to cram the broader conception obtained that it was a building up not only of the mind but of the body also. A child required a healthy mind in a healthy body and the State began to see this and admitted that it was almost worse than useless to attempt to educate a half starved or half-famished child. The next generation would see an enormous development in the direction of feeding, cleansing, medically inspecting and even in clothing, the children in attendance at the elementary schools. The schools would be of a more educational size, the classes would be made to approximate more to the size of those in the higher schools, the unqualified teacher would be abolished and playgrounds of large proportions and playing fields would be provided for the elementary schools as well as the high schools. As to the teacher he must be capable..the prospects and renumeration of the profession must be made more attractive. Local class teachers were asking for a maximum salary of £200 per annum for men and £160 per annum for women... it remained for the State to recognise fully that education was one, if not the first one, of the nation's lines of defence, and so should receive a greater measure of support from the State." (Mr Boulter. Medway Street School. January 30th 1914.)


  • The primary and inspiring source for this study was the Association Log Books recovered by a member this year. Particular thanks to Andrew Hind for his invaluable help and support and John Peachey for his 'findings' about his grandfather, Mr J.T.Boulter the Union's Executive Member.
  • Public Record Office
  • Leicester Mail, Leicester Post, The Pioneer Press Cuttings Book, 1900-1903 / 1903-1908 / 1909-1911
  • Modern Record Office, Warwick University
  • Finance Committee (Annual Minute books) 1905 (Membership fee: 7s. General Secretary's salary was £333 6s 8d. His expenses were roughly 10s a month)
  • National Federation of Assistant Teachers (Hamilton House Committee. Minutes.)
  • Lady's Committee Minutes
  • University of Leicester School of Education
  • History of Education 1985 Vol.14. No.1
  • Teachers in Dispute : the Portsmouth and West Ham Strikes.
    In West Ham tensions arose because "a small middle class ratepaying secion of the population had to pay for the social and municipal services of a large working class"
  • History of Education 1988 Vol 17. No. 1
  • Patricia Owen "Who would be free herself must strike the blow"
  • Discussion of splits within NUT over women's issues
  • Hamilton House, London
  • The Schoolmaster 1904-14
  • A lively journal edited by Mr Yoxall who even contributed a serial novel to the newspaper. There were reports from local associations, local authorities, reviews, queries and adverts for jobs
  • The Servants of the State. The Contested Control of Teaching. Martin Lawn. Falmer (1987).
    A romanticised Marxist text: "what is very clear from this study is the very way in which teachers begin to see themselves as workers." In 1900s NUT recruited only amongst certificated. "NUT... with a tendency towards a craft union approch despising the female, unqualified diluted labour." Discusses how this approach began to change from 1910 and lays emphasis both on the union conference of 1913 when a recommended standard scale of salaries for teachers was passed and the following strike in Herefordshire, the first time the union had taken up striking as a weapon.
  • Teacher Militancy, a history of teacher strikes 1896-1987.
    Robert Seifert (1987) looks at the major teacher strikes during the 1900s.
  • The Struggle for Education:A pictorial history of popular education and the NUT.
    Richard Bourne emphasises the breakdown of communication between Morant and the union during the 1900s. Argues he was driven from Minister of Education position with Minister Runciman because of personal campaign waged against him by the NUT. The union was particularily angry about his policy of filling board and inspectorate posts with public school and Oxbridge men and his restrictions on elementary education.

Many thanks to Steve Ruffle for the research and preparation of information on this page.