Friday, March 13, 2015

Leader of the Lower School

Leader of the Lower School
By Angela Brazil
Published 1913

Text - Leader of the Lower School - Project Gutenberg

From the early 1900s up until the 1990's, the school system in New Zealand was modelled on the British system whereby the younger children had Primers (and Standards) in primary school and the older ones,  from age 11 onwards, had classes that were called Forms.

So 11 year olds were in form 1, 12 year olds in form 2 and so on up to 16 year olds in form 6. Since I was born and raised in New Zealand,  I myself went through these forms in the late 1970's and early 1980s.

Gipsy Latimer is a 14 year old from the colonies. She has been to 3 schools in the USA, 2 schools in New Zealand (her father is from New Zealand and her mother is American) and 1 school each in Australia and South Africa - before the Apartheid era.

Now Gipsy is at a boarding school in England, and to her independent mind, this new school is horribly stuffy and pretty much like a prison.

Gipsy loves making fudge, but noone at Briarcroft Hall has ever heard of fudge let alone eaten it. So when she politely asks the headmistress for permission to pop out and purchase a pan and some ingredients, she is most emphatically denied.

Not to worry - Gipsy is pretty independent, and she borrows the pan and some ingredients from the school kitchen and sets about making fudge over an open fire. That turned into a disaster, so no more fudge.

The School is divided into the Lower school and Upper school

 The Upper schools consists of the Lower and Upper 5th forms and the Lower and Upper 6th forms with a total of 22 girls.

The Lower schools had 70 students ranging from ages 11 to 15 and being sorted into forms 1, 2,  lower 3rd, upper 3rd, lower 4th and upper 4th.

Now, not being British born (although I am of british descent), I am not sure how these lower and upper forms work, and I doubt that one would spend the entire year in the same form. We never had these upper and lowers forms in NZ - not that I know of anyway. Everyone just went through form 1, form 2, form 3 etc up until form 6 or form 7. Completion of Form 6 is when the student could legally leave school. Students going into Form 7 were those who planned to attend university.

Anyway getting back to Briarcroft hall, the 5th and 6th form students (the upper school) ran all the offices of the school, including the guilds (or what we would call clubs) and while the seniors allowed the juniors to vote, the juniors never allowed to stand for office or participate in any other way. Every term the students were required to pay a shilling into the guilds as their subscription, but the lower school had no say in how that money was spent.

Gipsy decided that this simply was not fair, and so she organised a boycott. Quite simply, the lower school  stopped paying their  subscriptions to the seniors, and used their subscriptions to start their own clubs - including a lower school newspaper called the Juniors Journal.

When Gipsy had arrived at the school, her father had paid the fees for the first term and promised to make arrangements for payment of fees in a letter. But the promised letter never arrived. By the second term, Gipsy was kept on as a courtesy but missed out on a lot of extras since she had no money.

At the end of the second term, Gipsy spent 3 weeks holidays with the family of her good friend Meg Gordon.

At the start of the third term with still no word from her father, Gipsy was getting quite frantic with there being no word from her father, and the headmistress was becoming extremely hateful towards her. In fact. Gipsy was put to work (to earn her keep) and she was used as a servant to look after the 10 and 11 year olds, and to do anything else the teachers required. She was also still required to keep up with her own studies as well.

Things got so bad for Gipsy that she decided that it would be better if she ran away. So she did. she caught a train to Liverpool and started looking for the Captain Smith who had brought her and her father to England from South Africa in the first place.

While Gipsy was on the run, The summer coats were brought out of storage and a letter was found stuffed into a coat pocket. The letter was addressed to Gipsy Latimer and turned out to be the promised letter from her father stating that all financial needs were to be handled by a specified named bank.

Meg Gordons father called around all the steam ship companies in Liverpool, asking them to detain Gipsy if she ever showed up asking for a job or a ticket to South Africa. It just so happened that he called one particular company just when Gipsy was in the office, so the receptionist had Gipsy sit down and wait. Eventually Mr Gordon arrived at the office to take her back to school.

Once back to school, the missing letter was shown to her, the headmistress contacted the bank and submitted all previous bills and Gipsy finally had some pocket money again. Her work as a servant was immediately cancelled and nothing more was said about that. The principal did not exactly apologise for her poor behaviour, but the girl in whose pocket the letter was found, was raked over the coals for being so forgetful as to pass on a letter that was not hers.

To end the year, the school had a Festival during which the various junior Clubs and Guilds got to show off their activities.

Angela Brazil (not pronounced like the country - instead the emphasis is on the Bra and NOT on the Zil). wrote numerous formulaic girls school stories from the early 1900s up until world war two. Most of these are available on Project Gutenberg.

See Angela Brazil on Wikipedia for a list of Book titles.

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