In the Classroom at Centre Vale School
Although strict by modern standards, Mrs Fielden did not follow the common practice at that time of caning, and was prepared to say that she thought it achieved nothing. Her pupils were taught to speak well and to be clean and well dressed. Darned pinafores were tolerated, but torn pinafores were considered a disgrace. Classes were controlled largely in silence by means of “The Signal”, as explained below.
Pupils were required to write a letter to Mrs Fielden on her birthday, with a fine example here by a boy named Lord Sunderland.
Brian Law, in his definitive book, writes of the “method of teaching children to talk and read, almost without accent and with appropriate emphasis and understanding; this was achieved with practice and repetition, with constant exercises performed in response to signals from the teacher”.
Rose Evelyn Mountain, in her memoirs, tells us that “Mrs Fielden was very interested in education and went to Germany to study their methods. One idea she brought back from Germany was a wooden signal that could be clicked and it was used for the teaching of reading so that the teacher didn’t need to speak at all”.
Rose also mentions Mrs Fielden’s unorthodox disciplinary method!
Much information for the section about Centre Vale School has been obtained from: Fieldens of Todmorden – Brian R Law – 1995