Children often missed school for different reasons, some examples are given below. Attendance was so bad, there was an attendance officer whose job was to chase up absentees. During the late 1800’s, prizes were given to try to encourage better attendance.

School Fees

Parents paid a fee each week for their children to attend school. A small fee of two old pence (less than 1p) per week had to be paid for each child until 1891 when fees were abolished. In October 1878, the school fees were raised from 2d to 3d per child per week.

Children often missed due to bad weather such as rain, snow, sleet and hail because they had to walk to school.

Very wet weather caused a drastic reduction in attendance. The main reason for this was the appalling condition of the roads and the distance the children had to walk. There are mentions in the log book of children walking from as far away as Otford and Kemsing.

The failure of the children to get to school in wet weather suggests poverty. Did they not have suitable clothes or footwear?

25 Apr 1894:  Very wet morning. Children from a distance could not attend.

14 November 1894:  Very heavy rains today caused a large number of absentees both in the morning and afternoon. Many who came were quite wet through.

14 January 1895:  A heavy rain and cold thaw this morning caused a very poor attendance – only 54 present in the morning and 59 in the afternoon.
22 January 1895: A heavy fall of snow this morning had the effect of keeping many children away in the afternoon. Only 53 were present.

In Victorian times, children missed school for special events such as a Circus visiting the town, Tea Parties, a Jubilee (25 June 1897) and a Royal Wedding (7 July, 1893). A national holiday was given on 21 May 1900, to celebrate the “Relief of Mafeking” (when Baden-Powell ended the 216 day siege against the Boer forces). The school was also used for concerts, plays and choir practice, which the children were often given a half day holiday for.

18 April 1876:  Half day holiday as Circus in town
24 April 1874: Sevenoaks Races many boys away
1 May (May Day): More than twenty boys away following their own devices carrying flowers etc.
6 May 1875: Ascension Day holiday
21 May 1900: Schools closed to commemorate the Relief of Mafeking.
12 June 1877: Half day holiday: Sports on the Vine
21 June 1897: Schools closed till Thursday for Commemoration Day (Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria)
21 May 1887:  Holiday given 50 year reign of the  Queen.
6 July 1893: Whole holiday today in celebration of Royal Wedding
19 &27  July 1875: Fete Day – half of boys away
2 August 1875: Fete in Greatness park  school closed
10 August 1874 – Foresters Fair

Helping at Home
Children also missed school to help their parents at harvest time with hay making, berry picking and helping bring in the corn.  Many boys didn’t return after whitsun holiday (from May/June) because they were employed in the fieds.

17 August 1874:  Many boys away. Most of them are employed in the harvest fields.

16 October 1874: Many boys still not returned since “hopping”.

27 August 1875: Closed school for the Hopping Holiday – reopens 4 October

25 July 1884: 40% of the school missing picking fruit in fields e.g strawberries

26 June 1885: Hay fields – boys according to the by-laws are allowed to be away during the hay season.

9 June 1905: Proposal for dividing Summer holiday – 2 weeks fruit picking and 3 weeks for the hopping season

Other jobs

24 March 1875: Application made by Mrs Read that her boy Richard  may leave school daily at 11:30 to deliver letters (mi-day post) Granted.


Some children stayed away from school without their parents knowing. 

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