The District Inspector's Observation Book 1877-1931

Scoil Muire, Doireglinne

By Mary Kyne

Scoil Muire, Doireglinne is fortunate to have in its possession the old Registers, Roll Books and the most interesting book of all, “The District Inspector’s Observation Book” dating back to the foundation of the school in 1877. These books were printed in 1870 at “Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.”

I have taken various significant and informative extracts and comments from the book relating to the period 1877–1931. You may find them interesting and you might like to comment on them.

24th May 1878

School Report by Inspector Edmund Downing:

Total number of children present for examination: 55 in total, 20 boys and 35 girls.

“The Infants are already up to the requirements of the programme. Some of the 1st Class children are also up already to the requirements of their programme but, a great many others are very backward. Most however, can make a fair attempt at reading “First Book’ and they spell remarkable well.

The proficiency of 2nd class is satisfactory under all heads. Some of the girls worked Arithmetical exercises expertly beyond their programme.

The one girl in 3rd class is fairly up to the requirements of the school programme, as is also the girl in 4th class. The girl examined in 6th class is very poor at Arithmetic and Parsing.

I found on entering the school the business proceeding with judicious regularity. I am well pleased with the manner in which the teacher is conducting the school. The copy books are very neat and orderly and the copies carefully written.

The schoolroom and premises are in excellent order.

Observation 17th September 1878

Roll: 68 children

“ The room is not nearly large enough for the attendance.” On this occasion several children were absent. On making inquiries the Inspector discovered that they had left to attend a neighbour’s funeral and their names were recorded on the ‘Leave Slate.”

Report December 11th 1878

I find the proficiency of all classes and in all branches except grammar of classes of 4th and 5th very satisfactory. The school continues to be conducted in a most efficient manner, with excellent order and discipline. Miss Farrell deserves great credit for her success.

Inspected by Edmond Downing

23rd March 1881

Out of a total of 69 pupils only 9 were present.

Inspector’s Comment

“The attendance is very insignificant to day. The morning was severe: yet I should expect more of these hardy children to be present.’

The school rule at the time was; Children absent for more then 13 consecutive weeks had his/her name struck off the Roll Book. If a child is absent to day for three weeks then his/her name is removed.

Report 1877-1920

Reading through all the reports it is safe to say that all school reports in this period were deemed to be highly creditable and the conduct of the children together with the cleanliness of the school were admirable. One observation of the Inspector states: ‘ More attention might advantageously be given in future to explanation of words occurring in the Reading lessons, and the teachers should bear well in mind that it is not the long unusual words that should be explained to those Irish speaking children but, words that other children do not require to have explained at all in school.’

 Head Inspector – M.B. O Newell’s  Report – 3rd February 1887

“What the 1st class require to be taught by the teacher is Mental Exercises of a suitable kind. They will learn the slate work themselves.’

‘It might be well to get some simple ballads for the Junior children, such as those sung by Christy’s Ministrels.’

February 1889

‘Desks should be kept parallel to one another. The names of the boys and the girls should be entered separately on the Roll Book.’

1890 Monitor’s Conditions in schools

At this time there was one teacher and two monitors employed in the school. Monitors were assistants aged between 15-16 years of age. They were examined by the inspector in the school and if deemed satisfactory then the Inspector would recommend the candidate to sit the ‘King’s/ Queen’s Scholarship.’ They usually attended a Teacher Training College.

Report 28th February 1890

‘ The members of the staff consisting of the teacher and two monitors devote themselves with energy and success to the discharge of their duties. The pupils have been carefully instructed in all the ordinary branches of the programme and have a fair knowledge of vocal music. They are also attentive to neatness and personal discipline. The moral tone of the school is excellent.’

November Report 1890

A new inspector arrives – Mr. Morgan.

‘According to the Time Table the girls of all classes should be engaged in Needlework from 2.30 to 3.30 (observe the closing time). Yet when I arrived at the school to day at 2.40, none of them were engaged in that subject.’

1892 Recommendation

‘ Some pegs and nails should be put up in the porch for the shawls of the children.’

25th October 1893: W.H. Welby (Inspector)

23 pupils were present.

‘Teacher should not turn her school into a nursery; and small children should not be brought to make noise and distract the work of the children.

 School plot is not yet in a satisfactory condition. Beds of cabbage plants covered with bushes of whitethorn in it are totally irregular.

Barrels should be removed from the playground.’


‘The teacher is requested to observe that no preparations of any kind can be permitted in the Needlework, in which branch all the work must be executed by the pupils on the day of examination. Coloured thread is desirable.”

25th June 1896

1.     School clock 20 minutes slow

2.     I’m glad to find that ‘LETTERS” have been so regularly written by the senior pupils. They should be trained to address and write them to persons in the locality such as clergymen, magistrates, shopkeepers etc.’

June 1899

‘Time Table should have Manager’s signature. In my opinion the passageway leading from the residence into the school plot should have a gate to it, to prevent fowl from straying into the playground. Letters should be frequently re-written after correction by teacher. This is a very useful exercise and for beginners especially is more useful than a new letter on a fresh subject.’  Present day school children would identify with this observation – it is now known as ’re-drafting.

11th January – Formal School Planning 1900

‘Henceforward a weekly syllabus of work is to be made out beforehand to show the amount of work to be done by each class in each subject during the week. This table to be suspended in school and preserved for subsequent inspection.” This is the first indication of formal school planning.

New Education Programme

A New Education Programme is introduced into all Primary Schools which include – Bills of Parcels (I really do not know what this entails), Singing, Drawing, Drill, Analysis of Sentences, Penmanship, Dictation exercises were examined. Slate Exercises, Mental and theory of Maths were examined. Grammar, Geography, and Needle Work were also part of the programme.

General observations as to discipline, cleanliness, repairs of house and school accounts were all examined at this time. The necessity of purchasing a blank map of Ireland featured as a recommendation in several reports.

It was noted that since the foundation of the school 1877 a large number of pupils (40-60) attended even though there were significant absences at times. Order, discipline and general training was always deemed satisfactory and received high praise from inspectors. Inspectors inspected the school annually as well as having incidental visits during the year. The Inspector at the time was Mr. Lehane

1905 Irish examination

‘Examined children in Irish’. This is the first mention of the Irish language in the reports.  The opinion of the Inspector was expressed by one of the following words; “Excellent’, ‘Very Good’, ‘Good’, ‘Fair’, ‘Middling’ or ‘Bad.

1906 Report of Mr. P. Dalton, Senior Inspector

1.     Schoolroom badly designed – much too narrow.

2.     Lessons not as silent as desirable.

3.     Schoolroom clean and tidy: and the teacher I am pleased to find has devised a good arrangement for keeping the supply of turf.

4.     Lavatory arrangements should be provided and set up in the porch.

5.     A suitable course of ‘Object lessons on Health and Habits’ should be outlined and commenced immediately.

1907 Annual Inspection in Irish

The school was closed due to an epidemic of fever. Inspection was re arranged.

This is the first reference to a full inspection as Gaeilge. The report was written in English. 

‘The Senior classes read and translate Irish fairly well. They are also able to make an attempt at composition in Irish. Their exercises in composition should however be much more frequent and extensive and formal grammar should be taught to 5th and 6th standards. The Junior Standards read and translated their texts fairly well.

 The teachers should speak Irish as much as possible in the Irish Classes.’

Inspector J.O. Neill

26th April 1910

Cookery and Geography was introduced to the school programme. This is the first mention of ‘Nature Study’ in reports; ‘ The lessons in Nature Study’ might be of a more practical character.’

17th November 1910

‘The room is too large to be heated by one fire. A stove at the other end would be very desirable. A partition should be erected.’ In another report the inspector requests that the fire be lit earlier in cold weather.

Margaret Bourke 1st Lady Inspector – (How well she noted the lack of heat in the room?)

July 1912

1.The supply of apparatus for Kindergarten is insufficient. 2.     Premises on the whole well and cleanly kept – pits need cleaning out. 3. Children seem to wander somewhat freely in front of the school and out of school bounds.

20th October 1915

It would be well if the use of ‘slates’ were discontinued.

Inspection of Irish as a subject by Seoirse Mc Niocaill.

On the whole the work shows earnestness and good treatment. Not however:

1. In Senior classes the bulk of the written work should be compositions; amount of dictation done should be reduced; transcription may be entirely dropped and parsing is best done orally.

2. Somewhat stricter attention to marking and corrections would be advisable; do not confine marking to verbal errors.

3. Oral answering of Junior Classes; Much training in alert and clear answering is needed.

4. Avoid as far as possible’ translation methods’ where most of the children have some native Irish this should not be necessary. Some of the compositions seemed to have been written in English and then translated; this will be fatal to good style.

5. Introduce Story Telling

11th November 1915

‘Teachers should be careful to provide the pupils with a change of reading books every year, as required by the programme. There is only one room for two teachers.

Fireguards are needed. No desks suitable for small children.

A few slates were missing form the school house and the outer offices.

A Map of the British was requested.

Great emphasis was placed on insisting that children speak distinctly in both languages with prompt replies to oral questions.

1920 Algebra is introduced into the school.

29th March 1922

An chéad uair a bhfuil cúntas scríobhtha as Gaeilge ag an gCigire.

The first mention of Geography appears on a report dated 13th May 1930.

Religion in School

In the ‘District Inspector’s Observation Book, there is a most unusual form for parents. ‘In case a parent or guardian should wish his child to receive religious instruction from a teacher who is of a different religious denomination from the Child, or, from a teacher who gives any religious instruction different from that which is in accordance with the creed of the Child, the parents then must sign a form of consent.’

Mí na Nollag 1995

Seo píosa as, ‘Tuairisc Scoile’ a scríobh an cigire, An tUasal Padraic Mac Donncha.

‘Bíonn ról lárnach ag na tuismitheoirí i ngníomhú na scoile, bíonn siad páirteach i gceapadh polasaithe ar na gnéithe scoile agus glacann said freagrachtaí cinnte in imeachtaí éagsula sa chaoi go bhfuil cmhoibriú dearfach idir páirtnéaraí éagsula.

Tá na daltaí agus an toide sona sásta sa scoil seo, braitheann agus comhoibríonn siad lena chéile agus tá dea-ghaol agus dea-chumarsáide eatarthu. Bíonn ról tioncharach ag  na daltaí i gceapadh rialacha agus clár léinn na scoile, sa gcaoi go mbíonn úinearacht acu ar obair an tseomra ranga. Is scoil bréa í seo dá réír agus gheobhann na daltaí taithi sona oideachais inti.’


Since the year 2000 the Chief Inspectors annual report is published on line and is available to the public. It contains as well as individual Inspectors reports on primary schools inspected an analysis of the performance of each school across the domains such as quality of school management, quality of teaching and learning, quality of supports for children with special needs, in put of parents, views of parents and students etc. The mission of Scoil Muire, Doireglinne was at all times to cater for the needs of the children and help them reach their potential as young people and as citizens of this country.

School Motto: Let us bring Love, Peace, Joy, Truth and Justice wherever we go.”




This page was added on 05/12/2013.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.