In the early days of education for all, attendance was a huge issue. Schools were financed by the government according to the number of pupils present over a year - a financial package that included the salaries of the teaching staff.
Brixham Church School (or Brixham National School as it came to be known) was founded in 1820 to provide free education using two ancient endowments. Girls entered their upstairs schoolroom from Windmill Hill - boys approached the lower floor from Bolton Street. In 1902, a new Act of Parliament brought the school under Local Authority control, funded from local rates.
After 1902, the two schools came to be known as the Church of England Boys' School and the Church of England Girls' School. Infants attended a separate school known as the Lower Brixham National School.
The original Brixham National School (whose Prize Day this was), was supervised by an elected Board of local people who had the power to intervene in almost every aspect of the school much to the head teacher's annoyance. However, in the matter of school attendance, these frequently conflicting sides came together as one. The various School Boards of a town jointly contributed to the wages of an Attendance Officer, always referred to locally as "The School Board Man" who roamed the streets after the school day had begun, collecting up truants and recording evidence to use against parents for future prosecution.
On this particular day in 1901, the proceedings began with an explanation by the presiding Chairman of the basis on which Brixham schools awarded prizes - a small number were awarded for oral knowledge of the Scriptures, examined by the local Vicar, and for general classroom work, but the entire occasion was really a celebration of the number of times each child had been present during the past year thus securing financial stability for their school during the following year.
Medals, prizes or certificates were awarded and this had led to some mutterings among parents. The mutterings had obviously reached the Chairman's ear for, as he explained, some parents thought their children ought to receive medals on account of their being home for just half a day on account of illness but, he explained, medals could not be awarded under these circumstances because the words "Never absent" were embossed on them.
Miss F. E Perry was head mistress of the school at this time. The majority of the girls below were aged between 6 and 12 in March 1901. The 1901 census return is a useful guide for researchers and, for example, reveals that Nellie Goad was 11 and Lena Mortimer was 9.