Monthly Archives: April 2012

At School No.10: Corporal Punishment

Truanting; fighting; punching; disobedience; smoking in school; careless written work; being an annoyance; swearing at a teacher; writing swearwords on a wall. These were all offences recorded as reasons for the use of corporal punishment in Tinkers Farm School punishment book [S 200/2].

A list of offences and punishments from Tinkers Farm Road School, 1934. BAH: S200/2.

Corporal punishment was outlawed in UK government funded schools in 1987. The school logbooks from the 1890’s provide ample examples of its use in daily school life. The careless written work had demanded one stroke on the right hand, presumably the offending hand, whereas swearing was punished by two on each. In 1892 Floodgate Street School was unusual in obtaining permission to inflict corporal punishment on girls, but it was still mostly boys who were recorded as receiving punishment.

The language used to describe corporal punishment at Floodgate Street School is notable, with the headmaster being “compelled to cane several boys for truanting and lying” [S68/2/1 15.5.95], and writing that he “Had to cane persistent late comers” [S68/2/1 25.11.92]. It implies that the headmaster had no choice other than to physically punish those misbehaving.

Punishment at school could become controversial if the child was seriously hurt, and would occasionally cause problems for the teachers inflicting it if parents become involved:

“Had four complaints from parents about teachers inflicting corporal punishment. Called the staff together + called their attention to board regulations.” [S68/2/1 14.3.92]

There are numerous examples of punishments being claimed as excessive and often the head teacher investigated these. Sometimes these complaints had to be referred to the School Board for jurisdiction. On one occasion at Floodgate Street School this involvement became complex and the head teacher’s decisions challenged. These entries will be posted next.

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At School No.9: Violence and Injuries

The Story of… A Gymnasium Incident

Often the injuries at school were accidents, or the result of hitting and fights. However, Tinkers Farm records one particularly disturbing act of violence at school. [Due to the nature of the event people’s names have been removed]

“This afternoon at about 4.50pm a boy (3c) persuaded a teacher to go up to the gymnasium “where these was a man who wanted to see her!” 

When the teacher was right inside the gymnasium the boy attacked her with a policeman’s truncheon, inflicting severe head wounds – cuts extending several inches – and much haemorrhage. First Aid was rendered – the police and ambulance summoned and she was conveyed to selly oak hospital where she was detained.

The boy was arrested at 1am 14.10.44 on his return to his home, where he intended to spend the night in the lavatory.” [13.10.44]

This extreme violent act has no recorded motive attached to it and left the teacher off school for four months – the first three weeks spent at Selly Oak hospital. The boy went before Birmingham’s Juvenile Court a month later, pleading guilty, and was remanded for 14 days. The court record’s specifically list the need for a doctor’s report. [PS/B/1/1/1/1]

Despite the shocking and morbidly fascinating nature of this case it does not appear to have been reported in Birmingham’s local newspapers. The circumstances leading up to this attack will therefore probably never be known. For instance, where did the boy get a policeman’s truncheon from? Why this teacher? What did the doctor’s report recommend afterwards?

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At School No.8: Violence and Injuries

Most people can remember at least one occasion where either they were hurt at school, or someone else was. Chipped teeth, bloody noses, flying board rubbers: this violence in the form of injuries was and is an inevitable part of the school experience. The Logbooks of Floodgate Street and Tinkers Farm School witness these same experiences in the late 19th and early 20thCentury.

Children Ice Skate in Canon Hill Park. The logbooks record many injuries sustained on ice! BAH: WK/E1/921.

Most of these incidents were evidently accidents. What is worrying is the time it occasionally took for an adult to realise a child was hurt, such as at Tinkers Farm School:

“A child fell on ice before morning school + broke his collar bone. This was not discovered for 3 days when the family doctor sent the boy to Selly Oak Hospital.” [S199/1/1 25.9.1957]

A similar case occurred when a child fell from a ‘chute’ in the playground, with the headmaster recording:

 “It appears that what apparently was a simple bump is a fractured skull + the child is detained in the children’s hospital.” [S199/1/1 22.7.1948]

However, some of these injuries were probably the result of fights, such as the boy whose glasses were smashed cutting his eyelid, or whose eyeball was pierced by another scholar’s pen. [S200/1 1.3.1933 & S68/3/1 15.10.30] Injuries weren’t exclusive to the boys either, with the broken noses of girls being recorded. That the entry records the nose as “broken in the playground” suggests the involvement of others. [S68/3/1 5.10.32]

Hopefully these events also acted as cautionary tales for those who witnessed and experienced them. It is unlikely that the girl who swallowed a pin would ever do it again after having to spend five days in hospital. [S199/1/1 6/12/45] However, the Logbooks do occasionally record genuinely violent events, as will be seen next.

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At School No.7: The World at War

…Staying at School

The Education Committee admitted in 1939 that education for those left in the evacuation areas would not be as good as for those in the reception areas. [BCC 1/BH/1/1/1/38 p.15] Providing suitable education and protection for those that had not been evacuated became essential. Tinkers Farm Road School reopened on a voluntary basis on 26th October 1939, and on a compulsory basis in January 1940. During this time air raid shelters were built. 9 shelters were built at Tinkers Farm at an estimated cost of £1,085.

Air raid shelter figures included accommodation for 850 children at Tinkers Farm. BAH: BCC BH/1/1/1/38.

A later report lists Tinkers Farm protection as accommodating for a maximum of 850 children. [31.5.1940 BCC 1/BH/1/1/1/38 p.252] However, the children did not seem too bothered by these new additions to school life:

“This morning’s + this afternoon’s shifts were given an A.R. practice. The children accepted the rehearsal as an enjoyable experience, being curious to see inside the shelters + not at all nervous.” [S199/1/1 23.1.1940]

Tinkers Farm Senior Logbook records many of the air raid warnings during the 1940s, including one event during morning assembly where a plane and gunfire were heard. [S200/1 5.9.1940] The Head Teacher also recorded the falling of bombs in the neighbourhood. [S200/1 13.11.1940] Birmingham’s surviving air raid maps show a cluster of bombs near Litchfield on this evening.

Birmingham Air raid no.46 fell close to Tinkers Farm Road School (top right). BAH: LS/8/29.

Bombing raids on Birmingham were most prolific during 1940 and 1941. In 1944 evacuees arrived at the local rest centre fleeing from the Flying Bombs, V-1’s, which first hit London on 13th June 1944:

“A number of children from the flying bomb area have had to be admitted today.” [S199/1/128.8.1944]

“112 Evacuees arrived from London.”  [S200/1 31.8.1944]

Yet despite these hardships school continued, and there was even the occasional treat:

“City of B’ham Orchestra (40 players) visited the school this afternoon + played to the whole school. The concert consisted of The Caliph of Bagdad, Seventeen Come Sunday, Dance Macabre, Fingal’s Cave, + Shepherd’s Hey – with introductory remarks by Dr Desond Macmahon, conductor. Everyone was delighted.”[S200/1 6.10.1944]

A National holiday was declared on the surrender of Germany to the allies and the signing of the Armistice on 8th May. The Logbook notes that many children were still off the day after as the celebrations ran late into the night. [S199/1/1 10.5.1945]

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At School No.6: The World at War

…Evacuation and Service

Evacuees at Snow Hill Train Station. BAH: WW2 Home Front/Box 2/Print 15.

Floodgate Street and Tinkers Farm Schools’ Logbooks cover between them both World Wars, yet there is relatively little mention of the Great War whilst much is recorded of events during the Second World War. Perhaps this was due to Birmingham falling victim to sustained air raid attacks during the Second World War. The evacuation of many school children became a priority before Britain officially declared war on Nazi Germany following the invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939:

The press were critical of the fact that more children weren't evacuated. BAH: MS 396/11.

“School opened this morning, Saturday, to prepare for Evacuation Scheme – school open all day – also on Sunday 27th.” [S68/1/1 26.8.1939]

The sudden threat of war led to an ultimatum a few days later from the Education Office:

“Final notice from Education Office that Evacuation of School children to safety should take place on Sept 1st.”[S68/1/1 31.8.1939]

30,000 children were evacuated from Birmingham and the immediate area and schools closed until further notice. However, the Birmingham Post ran an article on the 2nd September 1939, a day after the evacuations, arguing that a further 40,000 children should also have been evacuated.

Children were scattered all across the surrounding country. Floodgate Street Infants Department Logbook records:

“130 children entrained at Bordesley Station at 9.28 am for Ross-on-Wye.” [S68/1/1 1.9.39]

In 1940 two large school camps were set up for senior boys and girls in the midlands area: a boys’ camp at “Shooting Butts”, Pipewood, near Blithbury, Staffs, and a girls’ camp at Penkridge Bank, Cannock Chase. The Education Committee produced a list of items each child should bring with them, and a notice from St. Clement’s C. of E. Primary School, Nechells, survives:

A notice for the Parents of Evacuees. BAH: S157/1/9.

However the onset of the “Phoney War”, a period with no major ground offensives between the warring countries until May 1940, meant that the first raid to target Birmingham was not until the 8th August 1940. By the end of September 1940 the Education Committee extended the evacuation area in consequence of bombing raids. [Education Committee Minutes 27.9.1940 BCC 1/BH/1/1/1/38].

The movement of many children during the evacuation meant that Floodgate Street School was closed for the duration of the Second World War. However, as will be seen in the next blog post, Tinkers Farm re-opened and provides a great insight into schooling during the war.

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