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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part II: The County of York - Chapter VII

Public Schools of the County of York.—Division of the County for Educational Purposes.— Extracts from Reports of Inspector Hodgson.—School Statistics.—Inspector Fotheringham's Report.

THE public schools of the County of York will compare favourably with those in other parts of Western Canada, and are maintained n a high degree of usefulness and efficiency. For educational purposes the county is divided into two parts, known respectively as the northern and southern divisions. The Inspector for the northern division is Mr. D. Fothering-ham, of Aurora. For the southern division the Inspector is Mr. James Hodgson, of Bloor Street West, Toronto. The report of the last-named gentleman, bearing date the nth of June, 1883, contains a good deal of interesting and useful information respecting the public schools in his division. " In the Township of York," he writes, " the standing and efficiency of the schools have, upon the whole, been well maintained, fourteen schools ranking in the 1. class, six schools in the II. class, and five schools in the III. class.

"In the Village of Markham a new brick school-house, containing four large, airy school-rooms, has been erected, and in S. S. No. 22, Markham, a new brick school-house also; the school accommodation in South York is now ample. In the Village of Parkdale the school buildings are decidedly superior, and all the appliances necessary for successful teaching have been provided by the trustees, and the staff of teachers of the I. and II. class undoubtedly entitle it to be made the Model School for the training of teachers in South York. The head master is a first-class teacher, holding a Provincial Certificate, and is an undergraduate of Toronto University. In the school building there is a room to be specially set apart for the accommodation of teachers in training, so as not to interfere with the ordinary work of the school; this requisite was never provided in the Yorkville Model School.

"For the above reasons, and also for the convenience of candidates for the teaching profession in South York, I have recommended to the Education Department that the public school in the Village of Parkdale should be constituted the Model or Training School for the southern division of the County of York, and I feel confident that such is the public spirit of the trustees and inhabitants of that village that nothing will be left unprovided to make it a credit to the entire county."

Salaries of Teachers.

The highest salary of a male teacher in the Townships of Scarborough and Markham was $525; in York, $900; in Etobicoke and Vaughan, $450. The lowest salary to a male teacher in York, $267; in Scarborough, $340; in Etobicoke, $300; and in Markham, $325.

The average of male teachers in the township was $422.56. Of female teachers in the township, $234.

Normal School Trained Teachers.

In York 23 teachers had a Normal training.
In Markham 11
In Scarboro' 4
In Etobicoke 2

In York 3 teachers held I. Class Provincial.
In York 22 teachers held II. Class Provincial
In Markham 15 teachers held II. Class Provincial.
In Scarboro' 7
In Etobicoke 2

In the County of S. York there were 16 teachers Old County Board, I. Class. Forty-three teachers New County Board, III. Class.

School Attendance.

In the whole of South York (not including villages) 40 children between 7 and 13 did not attend any school. On the Daily Registers 8,753 pupils of all ages attended school; of these 8,537 were of the ages between 5 and 16.

2,241 pupils attended 100 days, or 20 school weeks.
1,856 " " 150 " 30 "
1,916 " " 200 " 40 "
432 " " every day during the year.

Classes of the Pupils.

7,336 in Spelling and Dictation: 7,642 in Writing; 6,610 in Arithmetic; 4,648 in Geography; 3,274 in Grammar and Composition; 1,089 in Canadian History; 1,326 in British History; 943 in Hygiene; 247 in Algebra; 228 in Geometry and Mensuration; 376 in Bookkeeping.

76 Schools opened and closed with prayer. 47 Schools repeated the Ten Commandments with fair regularity. The Inspector hopes to be able to state in the next year's report a decided improvement in these particulars, as the keeping of the Commandments, and a regard to the Moral Law lie at the foundation of individual and social happiness, and there can be no security for our country's prosperity and well being without them.

Average Apportionment of Government Grant.

In his latest report, presented on the 9th of June, 1884, Mr. Hodgson, referring to the statistics presented during the previous year, remarks as follows: "I find, upon comparison, very little change in any of the statistics above named, and it has been to myself a source of unfeigned pleasure to witness the earnestness manifested by the teachers generally in their school work, and the increasing efficiency exhibited by them in the discharge of their onerous duties. A great deal has been said of late in favour of what are called ' Uniform Promotion Examinations.' I am not going to trouble you with arguing the question at length. It is one of the hobbies of the age, and, of course, has its admirers and advocates. My decided opinion is that the teacher is the proper person to make the promotions from one class to another. He knows, or ought to know, what strangers cannot possibly know, the real standing of every scholar, the ability of each, and the temperament also; and I hold him responsible for all promotions, and can never willingly consent to remove that responsibility from the teacher, and place it upon an irresponsible committee, however talented. I very seldom find any particular ground of complaint for improper promotions. My practice is to advise any new or fresh teacher, on taking charge of a school, not to make any changes in classification in a hurry, but to wait and thoroughly understand and find out the merits and standing of each pupil before attempting any changes whatever. I have full confidence in the candidates trained in our Model School for South York, that they will exercise suitable caution in this respect, and what 1 conceive to be the needless expense incident to uniform promotions will be avoided altogether.

"Of all the drawbacks affecting the success of our public schools, irregular attendance is the greatest, and seems to be the most difficult to be grappled with. Could not something be done effectively by giving prizes in books for regular attendance only, irrespective of attainments, or even what has been termed good conduct ? The great object to be aimed at is to get the children to attend school, trusting the teacher to see to it that every thing be done on his or her part to secure their improvement or advancement in knowledge. The daily register would be the criterion for deciding as to the reward. Here there could be no favouritism shown; and superior talents could not carry off the prizes, as is often the case, thus giving a premium to ability instead of real merit, and often discouraging and sometimes crushing the spirit of more deserving pupils.

"The following note was attached to the annual returns of one of the School Sections in Etobicoke, 'The undersigned trustees wish very respectfully to say that they consider the School Law, in its present state, as regards the attendance of children between the ages of seven and thirteen years, as impracticable, at least in rural districts, as it requires the appointment by the Trustees in each School Section of a public prosecutor, to prosecute delinquent parents. Such a person cannot be found in a majority of rural sections. And while we think the attendance of the children in question very desirable, we think the end would be better, and much more effectually reached by the Trustees being required to examine into each case, and, if they found the non-attendance to be inexcusable, that they be directed to impose a penalty to be collected as a tax through the local Council, or otherwise. The end, in our opinion, would be more effectually reached in this way, without the odium and expense of going before a magistrate.' I concur most fully in the above opinion, and think it very desirable that some such change should be made in the School Law by the proper authority and remedy, as far as possible, the evil of non-attendance, which is too prevalent in almost all the rural School Sections, as well as in many of our villages."

The last report of the Inspector for the Northern Division, which was presented to the Municipal Council in June last, embodies a comparison of the state of public school education in 1871 and 1883. It also refers to other factors in educational work, not established in 1871, and not therefore open to comparison, but which now add considerably to general results from year to year.

"It is," says Mr. Fotheringham, "over twelve years since the administration of school matters was put into the hands of County Inspectors, and since the law and regulations were so modified as to begin what may be styled the New Era of Education in Ontario. The period since 1871 is so considerable as to justify conclusions and inferences of comparative reliability; and, in this way, a vantage ground may be reached from which to look forward and plan for the future wisely and liberally.

"From these statements gratifying progress in most directions is evident. "The population, not accurately reported for 1883, owing to an error in printing the annual returns, but about 7,000 has fallen off in about the same proportion throughout the Province, as indicated by the annual report of the Minister of Education. Put increased facilities have been provided for attendance as shown by the addition of eleven school houses and eight school boards since 1871. That this has been appreciated is evidenced by a rise in the average attendance from 37˝ to 45 per cent.

"That liberality in the support of education is growing throughout the Inspectorate is evident from the very large amount expended on building, from the marked advance in the average salaries of both male and female teachers, and from the higher rate per pupil paid in the county. The average per pupil in the public schools of this Inspectorate is now §6.65. Throughout the Province it is $6.42; $6.03 in rural districts; §8.81 in cities; $6.86 in towns. In Toronto the cost per pupil is $9.31. The average cost per pupil of the High Schools is $27.56 throughout Ontario. The average attendance, 45 per cent., in North York, is the same as in all the Province. Waterloo County has an average of 49 per cent, -the highest among counties. The per cent, of attendance in Hamilton is 66; in Toronto, 64.

"The average salary of male teachers in the counties of Ontario is $385; of female teachers, $248; in cities, of male teachers, $742; of females, $331. In York (N.), male teachers receive an average of nearly $425, and females, $265.62.

"School property has been largely renewed, and has more than doubled in value ; while the accommodation has greatly improved in character as well as in space. The teaching staff has kept pace in this march of improvement—in training, in literary attainments, and in efficiency. There are now 48 or nearly half of the teachers Normal trained ; and the 43 third-class teachers have also received training, though of a more limited character, m County Model Schools.

"These conclusions may be reached and confirmed through facts to be observed in another direction. The classification and work of the schools are shown to be more efficient by the large increase of successful candidates at the half yearly Entrance Examinations to the High Schools, and also by the numbers that have passed the Uniform Promotion Examinations which have now been held in the Inspectorate three times. After an impartial and careful examination last March, 430 out of about 800 candidates for promotion were successful, and secured certificates.

"It is due to the County Council to say that after three half-yearly examinations for promotions in the schools of North York, these have more than realized my anticipations. They have given general satisfaction, and have proved a healthy and powerful stimulus to both teachers and scholars. So long as they deserve this character, you will not hesitate to make the usual half-yearly appropriation, which is hereby respectfully solicited.

"The High School Entrance Examinations, established thirteen years ago, have done much to stimulate to thorough work in the higher classes of the public schools ; and never more than at present. About sixty at Newmarket and forty-five at Richmond Hill present themselves on each occasion, and an increasing percentage is successful from time to time. These places are, however, so far from some of the rural districts that the task of leaving their own neighbourhood, the cost of travel and board, and the nervousness produced by mingling with strangers at an examination, have deprived many of the advantages of the Entrance Examinations.

*To meet this difficulty I enquired in the schools of North Gwillimbury and Georgina, as to the number who might attend were an Entrance Examination held in Sutton, and was encouraged by the estimate of about twenty. I next secured the sanction of the Hon. G. W. Ross, Minister of Education, to this proposal, similar to an arrangement in Peel, where several special examinations are held, and the results found excellent. I then explained the matter to the Warden of the county, who also favoured the plan, and undertook to guarantee the expense, as the Council could not be consulted in time to allow the necessary advertising to be done. When I state that I have now applications from forty-jive candidates to be allowed to write to Sutton, all of whom would either not have written at all or would have gone to High School out of the county, I am sure the Council will see the wisdom of this new departure, and readily provide for the necessary outlay, about one dollar per candidate. The plan I propose is to appoint one, or, if necessary, two competent persons to preside at the examination for two days ; then to have all the papers sent to myself; and, with the Newmarket Head Master, I will examine and value the work done. The School Board of Sutton have kindly and readily placed their building at our disposal for the examination, without charge. Should this experiment prove satisfactory, I anticipate your approval of its repetition from time to time. It will afford much better facilities for pupils on the Pake Simcoe Branch Road, as well as for those in the two northern townships; and, at present, several from Mount Albert will attend who otherwise would go out of the county.''

Further interesting information with respect to the schools of the County of York will be found interspersed here and there throughout the sketches of the various townships.

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