Tuesday, December 8, 2009

School Attendance Medals

The BBC reported on Monday that Kingston-upon-Thames Council in London has given medals to two boys from New Malden for not missing a day of school for five years.

It goes on to say that medals for good attendance were introduced in London schools in the 1880s (actually 1887) - with special medals for any pupil maintaining a perfect attendance for more than three years.

See the BBC's full article.

Schools all around Britain gave these medallions out and the attraction for family historians that they usually carry the pupil's name and the school's name and the date - surely a treasure if it's one of your ancestors.

Some schools gave them out as prizes for scholastic achievement too.

In most cases they are made of white metal, an alloy of antimony and tin, copper or lead, and they have a silvery colour.

Some schools used copper or bronze, usually getting a die-stamper to strike them a stock of medallions with the school's name and or crest; and then having each winner's details engraved at the time.

Others, particularly, the fee-paying public schools had their stock of medallions struck in silver, or even in gold.

There's one in the National Museums Scotland of a Selkirk Grammar School silver medal awarded to Elizabeth MacKenzie in 1827 for excellence in English composition.

Perfect attendance records for shorter periods were often marked by the issue of a book to the pupil with a suitable inscription. I saw a book relating to a prize given by Ednam school recently. Such books used often to be seen, however, as they were usually of a Christian nature, bibles, Sunday school stories, or accounts of religious figures, they aren't much sought after, and frequently get thrown away.

If you would like to know whether your ancestors received medals or other prizes, the best place to look is in the school's log book, though they are sometimes mentioned in the local press too.

Keep an eye out for them at car boot sales, too.

If you know your ancestor was awarded a prize, and you would like to find it, do let us know in the forum, somebody may be able to help.

To comment on this article, please click the 'comments' link below. 


John Wood said...

I've seen in school log books that some of my ancestors received medals for school attendance, but one also received a medal for being Dux, and medals for athletic achievements.

If I were to see medals/medallions in a car boot sale, how much should I expect to pay for them ?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is just the modern equivalent of medals or perhaps it reflected a less affluent school, but my uncle at school in the 1940s received certificates for 1 year, 2 years and 3 years perfect attendance.

They are very ornate, and are framed and on the wall of his study, but not as nice as a medal.

Peter Munro said...

School attendance medals values ?
That's a really difficult question to answer, because the price depends on the rarity, the condition of the medal/medallion, the school, its attractiveness, the winner, the metal and the award for which it was given.

However, I'll stick my neck out and try to give an idea; though I expect that sellers will complain that I'm trashing their stock by setting values too low, and buyers will complain that I'm setting prices too high.

Generally they are extremely common, and just not much collected.

Essentially, medals on their own are a buyer's market.

It's generally very difficult to found out much about the winner's later life, unless you know something about the family.

Because there aren't many collectors, it's not profitable for sellers to research the winner (as is common for military medals), so one white metal medal is worth the same as the next one.

For London school attendance medals, I expect to pay no more than 50p to £2 each.

Bronze medals are less common, and worth a bit more, £1 to £3, gilt bronze a bit more still, say £1.50 to £4. Silver ones are generally much rarer, and of course, with silver bullion currently trading at about £10.50 per ounce, part of the price needs to accommodate this, so I think £20 to £30.

I hope that helps, nevertheless, I'd be happy to hear what others have paid or want to sell at.

Peter Munro said...

Contrary to my blog entry, London schools also gave white metal medals for one or two years' perfect attendance. I think medals stopped being given out in London after 1920, and certificates or books were used after that time. In other places, the switchover was at a different time.

Most of the paper certificates I've seen are finely engraved usually with the person’s name handwritten.

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