Like many other schools, the village school at Old Marston, Oxford, relied heavily on what was known as the ‘School Pence’ to balance its books.

Every pupil had to bring a penny on Monday mornings for the privilege of being taught.

The school’s only other income came from the Church, the Government’s capitation grant, and some voluntary contributions.

Accounts books from the mid-19th century, revealed in Marston Village School 1851-1954, a book compiled by former governor Jan Sanders, show how some of the money was spent.

A glazier was paid a shilling, coal cost £1, ink a shilling, window blinds 9s 6d, a scrubbing brush 1s 3d and emptying the privies cost £1 5s.

A male teacher was paid £50 a year, whereas a woman teacher received £35.

Absenteeism was often a problem. In a farming village like Marston, there was great pressure on children to help in the fields.

The book records: “In spring, the potatoes and cereals had to be planted, then hay made. When the crops ripened, they had to be harvested, and finally the potatoes had to be dug.”

Many children also suffered ill-health, as a result of living in homes of poor hygiene.

“Almost every year, epidemics broke out of measles, chickenpox, whooping cough or scarlet fever, all potential killers.

“The school had to be shut sometimes to try to prevent the outbreak spreading, or just because numbers were so low it wasn’t worth opening.”

In the mid-1860s, the school – now known as St Nicholas – appears to have gone through a particularly challenging period, with poor attendance, unruly behaviour and criticism of standards by inspectors.

The head, Mr Moulding, lasted just 18 months before heading for pastures new.

More on the school soon.