• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

School Inpectors Report of Peoples College in 1952

This article was written by Gerv Leyden and is a fascinating insight into how the school was viewed in 1952.


Report by HM Inspectorate of People’s College County Secondary School for the Building Industry, Nottingham Inspected 1, 2, 3 and 4th July 1952 

Nature and Scope of the school 

The school was founded in1846 by ‘certain businessmen’ to afford instruction to “the children of the class of people called ‘The working Class’ and to the young men and women of the same class.” 

Initial funding was raised through voluntary subscriptions and donations.  

The school was planned to provide a broad curriculum, including English, Mathematics and Science. Further study possibilities were to include Science, the Arts and general knowledge in order “to elevate the minds of the students.” The teaching of living and dead languages might be subordinate to “natural science and other more important branches of learning.” 

Eventually the school was established as a Senior Elementary School for Boys until it closed as a day school in 1940 after the outbreak of World War Two.  

People’s College re-opened for daytime teaching in 1942, when a Junior Technical Boys’ school for the Building Industry was set-up and re-named as a Secondary Technical School. Pupil Admission was via an examination in English, Arithmetic and intelligence, followed by an interview with the School’s Headmaster.  

At the time of the current Report there were 334 pupils on roll, 140 being drawn from the city and 104 from county Secondary Modern Schools at thirteen years of age. There are termly entrance and leavers’ arrangements. In 1951, 13 of the pupils took 5 GCE examinations 

We recommend that the age of entry should be 11 plus, although the current buildings are too small to permit this. However, under new premises the age-range could be raised to 11-16 years – or more.  

“The school is successful in arousing and maintaining a real interest in the Building Industry, and this is reflected in the employment of leavers. In the last three years only 97 out of 370 of them were employed in other than the Building Industry.” 

School Government

This follows the Nottingham City pattern of school organisation, into 6 geographical groups of secondary schools, each having a governing body comprising 3 Educational Committee representatives. The special nature of People’s College, requires direct liaison with the Building Industry.  


The school comprises 4 buildings situated on a half acre site.

  1. A.The original 1846 building
  2. B.The former girls’ school (‘The Ropewalk Building’)
  3. C.Circus Street Hall (PE and dining hall)
  4. D.The technical college plaster shop – “some distance away.” (Exact location not indicated in the Report). 

The lack of space, and the nature of the design (different buildings for different purposes with differing histories) is highly inconvenient. The original buildings were, in 1866, described as “Gothic Architecture.”  

One room serves as a passage way. There are only 2 exits from the first floor stairs, which are of wood and require a third escape.  

The three workshops are satisfactory, but evening use by the Technical College presents problems of storage and convenience. In practical sessions there is a need to take down the brick walls constructed as part of the student work to make room for other classes: “This hinders students’ opportunity to take pride in their workmanship.” 

There is no room for a central library – this should be taken into consideration in the planning for any ‘new building.’

Circus Street Hall now has good, fixed and portable apparatus. But there is a sloping floor and changing facilities. “The windows are unguarded which restricts boys vigorous activities when using footballs.” 

The Report concludes: “The site is totally inadequate by present-day standards. The usefulness of the very small playground is further reduced by the paved surface not being on one level.” 


This is generally satisfactory. But there is a need for a mortar mill when re-using bricks to also enable them to be ground down for smooth, more workmanlike mortar. (There is further coverage of this an other issues). 


(Throughout the Report no staff were mentioned by name. However teachers (or ‘Masters’) could generally be identified by subject (e.g. Plumbing, Metalwork, French….though that might be one of two?) 

There were 18 ‘Masters’. Three were graduates, including Science and French specialists. All technical ‘Masters’ have trade/ industrial experience as well as educational qualifications.  

Their work is consistently and efficiently carried out. Though not all staff had high academic qualities, they produced satisfactory results: “Especially noteworthy is the good work of the plumbing master.” 

The Report also notes the “high organising capability of the Headmaster.

His hard work, determined efforts and unremitting efforts, and his foresight establishes it (i.e. the school) firmly from the educational standpoint and has given both dignity to its life and poise to its pupils.” 

Organisation, Curriculum and Standards of Work. 

This section outlines the year grouping of classes then being trialled at the time of the inspection (e.g. 4L, 4M, 4M2 (I don’t recall that? To cope with additional numbers?), and 4U. It adds: “Perhaps it is time to considerer how the terminal leavers can be modified – for instance with an annual intake.  

“A GCE form, now included, again provides difficulties with boys being selected in the Spring term from 2 second year and one 3rd year form.” 

General Standards 

These were generally ‘satisfactory.’ Science, some aspects of English and Mathematics were ‘good.’ French and teaching methods might be reviewed. “It was strange that Social Studies supplants Geography”  

Much of the singing “is of a pleasing kind.” The proportion of boys with near tenor or bass voices is quite high. “The making of such reasonably tuneful music is an achievement.”


Religious Instruction 

This subject occupies 50 minutes per week, and is timetabled daily. The time is well spent. The staff work from a syllabus supplied by the Headmaster. “No ill-informed and facile arguments are expected.” 

Building Subjects 

More time should be spent on Building Construction at the expense of Technical Drawing. More local project work would lead boys to visit important buildings and building work, for instance, to prepare drawings and notes. 


The senior English Master delivers the curriculum supported by four others who are all qualified, but not necessarily specialist teachers. The standard of written work is good and high standards are expected. 


This subject was introduced to the school two years ago in order to strengthen the GCE curriculum on offer. The teaching arrangements are not yet sufficiently organised to provide and ensure sound foundations and satisfactory pupil progress. As indicated earlier, pupils only join the school at age 13 years, some in the summer term, which dominates preparation and the syllabus for the GCE examination. 

Social Studies  

This undoubtedly provides a useful background but cannot take the place of a sound course in geography.  


Six masters share the teaching of this subject. The syllabus has been thoughtfully planned and delivered and draws widely on examples and methods from current building practice. But there is little evidence of use of the boys’ own practical observations and experiments.  


The schemes of work were sound and well planned. The boys display keenness and the general standard of work is good., but the allocated time to this subject is insufficient.  


This is not extensively covered – and is only taken during the first year. The Master in charge is a marine engineer and qualified teacher and deals adequately with the present limited course.  


Each form, with the exceptions of 5 (S) and 6 has a single period per week. There is a great contrast between some good, freely imaginative painting with opaque colour, and much too formal work in pencil and water colour. Boys are encouraged to look for subtlety of colour in mixing powder paint and to use their brushes in a thoughtful way when painting large, bold pictures, or freely decorative designs, and their ready response to this side of the work should encourage the master to allow it develop even more fully. Perhaps to allow some boys to work with oil colour.  


There are two group rehearsals each week for the school choir during school hours. The master is particularly successful in dealing with changing voices, with budding tenors and basses developing well. 

Physical Education 

This subject has been meticulously prepared and delivered with zest by the master. This has ensured good quality and effectiveness. The organised games are also of good quality and organisation – pupils are fully and appropriately occupied. Not surprisingly, school teams enjoyed a succesful year of inter-school competitive matches.  

Corporate Life of the School 

The morning assemblies create a sense of unity within the school. Conducted with dignity by the Head Master, especially pleasing is the whole-hearted, virile singing of hymns and the reverend attitudes of the boys.  


The traditions of the ‘old’ People’s College are being kept alive by this newest development of its work. Under the influence of the Head Master the school appears to gain a maturity of outlook that affects favourably both the boys’ approach to their work and their standard of behaviour. 

Relationships with staff seem to be secure and pleasant. Without doubt much is being done which inculcates a high sense of values and the work of the school is already held in high esteem both by its present and past pupils, and by member of the Building Industry.


Summarised from the original Inspection Report of 1952 by Gerv Leyden 2011




Dedicated Cloud Hosting for your business with Joomla ready to go. Launch your online home with CloudAccess.net.