School Log Books – What they tell us about children

Head Teachers of all schools were required to keep a record called a log book under the provisions of the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act. This front page from the first Lecropt Primary School log book has the regulations from the New Scottish Education Code pasted into it that gives details as to exactly what was to be recorded in the book along with some examples of the kind of entry that should be made on the right hand page. Log books can be regarded as a diary of school life with the Head Teacher writing up everything that happens of note at the school.

The school log book was an important statutory record of the school and was regarded as confidential. Many books, such as this one from Muirlands Primary School, were fitted with locks as part of the binding and could therefore only be accessed by the Head Teacher who held the key. The information in school log books can still be regarded as sensitive because it can give personal details about children. For this reason, some school records are closed in order to conform with data protection law.

Log books do not normally give details of the activities of individual children, but how much detail is recorded was very much up to the Head Teacher concerned, so they vary enormously in terms of style and detail from school to school.

Here we have an extract from a log book for Lecropt School dating from 1906, where the Head Teacher mentions individual children by name throughout the record.

As a contrast to these detailed entries, here is a log book from Drymen Industrial School where the entries are extremely brief.

Log books also have the School Inspectors’ reports written up in them. The log was inspected as well as the children and teachers and then initialled by the Inspector to show that this had been done. As well as detailing absences through sickness and the names and appointments of teachers, school log books frequently give lesson plans, which are useful in helping understand what was studied and shed light on some of the comments in the Inspectors’ reports.

Here is a lesson plan from the first page of the first log book of Doune Primary School, dating from 1872. It gives the details of how the school day was organised. Note that in the afternoon the boys studied more arithmetic while the girls sewed!

School records sometimes include other records relating to the activities of the children. Here is a teacher’s log book from St Modan’s High School dating from 1935 that gives details of what literature and poetry the students were being taught at this time.

The Archives has lots of school records, why not come in and see what records we have for your school?