The Forster Act of 1870 required schools to be set up in areas not already serviced by a school whilst the Elementary Education Act of the same year made attendance for children between the ages of 5 and 10 compulsory. Education was not free and in rural areas parents often needed the help of their children at busy times, even if they could afford to send them to school.
West Grinstead National School was opened on the 13th January 1873 with Mr Charles Banbury as the master.
The log book illustrates the issues facing the school and its master as these excerpts from the school's first year show.
January 31st - The progress made in the school so far has been quite good as I could expect. There is still a great dislike to home lessons of any kind.
February 7th - The most common excuse for not being regular at School is having to mind the baby. This is also given as a reason for not learning Home Lessons.
March 6th - Walter Dancy was punished today for refusing to come to school when requested by his mother. He was fetched by two of the older boys.
March 26th - Alfred Ford punished to-day for refusing to do his home-lessons.
March 31st - James Tullet, after an absence of 9 weeks returned to school today
April 8th - 63 children present this afternoon being the highest number since the school opened.
April 28th - William Worsfold punished to-day, in the presence of his father for playing truant 3 days last week.
May 2nd - The reading of the children is not at all satisfactory. They read in such a singing tone and this has got such fast hold upon them that it will be a very difficult task to improve it. It is peculiar to the district, the people talk & learn in this tone, when in coversation &c.
June 6th - The School has been thin the whole of this week. Several boys at work including one (Henry Mitchell) not over 8 years old.
June 17th - No singing to-day, the master having a bad head ache.
June 20th - The final Class very thin, hay-making having commenced.
July 16th - I still experience Great opposition to home Lessons, messages are continually brought which show there is a determination to get rid of them if possible. E.g. Louise Comber brought word to school this morning that she should leave it if she had lessons to learn. She has learnt them till the last fortnight. The only excuse is "mother says I shall not learn them".
July 18th - One boy in the 2nd class is still unable to do simple Addition notwithstanding I have given more personal attention to him than any other viz. James Hillman.
July 22nd - Received a note from Mrs Comber threatening to take her step-daughter Louisa away from the school unless the "home lessons are discontinued".
September 12th - Annie Bacon left to go to service.
September 17th - Annie Bacon not going to service and returned to school.
September 29th - School thin today, some excused for gathering fruit. The most probable cause is a cricket match on the common.
October 13th - The attendance is thin to-day being wet.
December 8th - There has not been any school since November 25th. The master was taken ill that evening but has commenced again today.
January 9th - The Attendance is not so good as was the week previous to Xmas. We complete the first year, since the school was opened to-day. The progress of those children who have attended well, during the year is to my satisfaction with very few exceptions. As a rule I find those who pay an extra fee attend very badly.