James Bolton was the master of Colne National School, assisted by his wife, from 1860 until their resignation in 1872. In their endeavour to teach hundreds of local children they were helped by some of the more able students who were employed as pupil teachers and monitors. On March 3rd 1869, Bolton recorded in the school log book, “Pollard becomes paid monitor with a view to becoming a pupil-teacher: salary £5.”
Subsequent entries suggest that the early career of Alfred Pollard did not run smoothly:
Mar 17 1869 – Third and fourth classes too much for Pollard
Apr 28 1869 – Pollard cautioned again for striking scholars
May 13 1869 – Pollard incapable of keeping fair order
Aug 6 1869 – Pollard seems to have forgot how to work
Mar 24 1870 – Pollard neglects closing yard doors
At only 11 years old, it is perhaps not surprising that Alfred initially struggled with his new responsibilities – he was little older than his charges. The money Alfred brought home must have been particulary welcomed by his mother Elizabeth, a boot, shoe and dealer and widow. Using children to teach children was far from ideal, but the system could present a few bright, working class youngsters with an alternative to the mills. Despite the inauspicious start, Alfred progressed to being a pupil teacher by 1873 and, in the 1881 census, his occupation is given as “elementary schoolmaster”.
Sources: Colne National School log book, Lancashire Archives reference SMCO 1/1; 1881 census.