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The cover of Michael Sadler's Report


"This report is the outcome of an inquiry made by me in 1904 on the invitation of the education Committee of the City and County of Exeter.

The following is a copy of the resolution, passed at a meeting of the Committee on December 17th 1903, in pursuance of which the inquiry was instituted:

"That in order to ensure a complete system of education in the City of Exeter, it is desirable that a return should now be obtained of all those institutions and school, whether public or private, which are giving secondary Education, and that an expert opinion should be obtained as to the best manner of co-ordinating and developing the work of both Primary and secondary Schools, so as to avoid waste of effort, money etc., and of supplying further educational facilities as the City may be considered to require."

Michael Sadler

MA (Oxon); Hon. L.LD (Columbia)



Five public Secondary Schools in Exeter were reported on. They were

The Grammar School (Exeter School - boys)

The Girls' High School (later The Maynard School)

Hele's School

The Episcopal Middle School for Girls (later Bishop Blackall School)

Exeter Cathedral School

The Episcopal Middle School for Girls was part of the Victorian Middle Class School system. These were schools set up to  provide a sound education,  based on the prevailing religious and social values, to the boys and girls of the Nation's  middle classes. At the time, the use of the word "Middle" would have sent a clear message to parents that, for this kind of education, they must pay fees, and provide text books and  uniforms.


This was not a brand new school when Michael Sadler visited. It had developed from the |Episcopal Charity Schools set up in the City in 1875 to "supply a sound and practical education in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England" with religious education playing the key role in the curriculum.


The Episcopal School c.1901

The Episcopal Modern School c. 1901

The hall (described next) ran the full width of the building on the upper floor . The dormer windows in the roof were ornamental only .


Dr. Sadler begins his report by describing the outwardly handsome building (situated at the bottom of Pennsylvania) as seen in this photograph. dating from  the same time as the report:


"The building stands on a good site in a residential quarter of the town and is a handsome modern structure. A great hall runs the whole length of the first floor of the facade. The  inconvenience of not having the hall on the ground floor is mitigated by the breadth and gentle gradient of the staircase.


The southern end of the hall has been shut off from the rest by a moveable wooden partition, and makes a very good classroom*. The corridors are very spacious - spacious enough, indeed, to be occasionally used for classes and drill. The cloakrooms and offices are quite adequate and are kept in excellent condition. Conveniently placed on one side of the entrance there is a large room - somewhat over-large, indeed - for the Headmistress, and there are small rooms for the staff and the student teachers upstairs.


Behind the building is a grass plot, just large enough for tennis and basket ball but insufficient for hockey."


*Known internally as the "Division Room"


However good the building looked  outside, inside there was a huge problem. Dr Sadler lays it out  at once  - there could be no hiding the fact that this school was grossly overcrowded.


"One great lack of the school is an adequate number of class rooms. Of these, there are but six - clearly an insufficient number for a school of 263 children divided into 11 classes.

Various devices are resorted to, to eke out the supply. The great hall is divided into sections by curtains and three, or sometimes even four classes are taught here at the same time; an arrangement which must be trying to both the teachers and the children.  The corridors are sometimes used for teaching, but in winter this is undesirable. Two classes are sometimes put into the same room - a most distracting arrangement - and the Headmistress sometimes takes a class in her own room.  The size of the latter makes this possible, but the arrangement entails the likelihood of interruption . Thus it will be seen that a considerable extension of the building will be required if the numbers in the school remain at their present level."




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