Tag Archives: education

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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At School No.5: Truancy and Criminality

The Story of… Victoria Law Courts

The Victoria Law Courts. BAH: WK/B11/4300.

Reading through some of the logbook entries might give the impression that there were many children running unchecked around Birmingham. The intention of a Logbook to predominantly record unusual or notable events in the school’s life meant that normal behaviour would not be recorded. There were sometimes incidents which led to the offenders appearing at Birmingham’s Magistrates Court, the Victoria Law Courts.

“… the old complaint of truancy cropped up + several boys under the leadership of Welch have been shoplifting rather extensively. I appeared at the Victoria Courts with Welch + Brookes who were charged as being the ringleaders in several robberies. They were remanded to the workhouse for a week.” [S68/2/1 17.11.1893]

The boy Welch seems to have often been in trouble with the courts, being locked up again a few weeks later for smashing shop windows and stealing. [S68/2/1 24.11.1893] Whilst truanting alone could sometimes permit corporal punishment, it was the criminal activities during this time which most often took children to court. Yet these children were sentenced in the same court room as adults, receiving no special care as would be expected for their ages.

In April 1905 Birmingham was groundbreaking in introducing the first Children’s Court in Europe, largely by the efforts of Mr J. Courtnenay Lord and the State Children’s Association. The SCA, formed in 1896, was a pressure group for children’s wellbeing and their campaign led to Birmingham Council setting up a sub-committee with Mr Lord as chair. A 1908 Daily Mail article tells much about the running of Birmingham’s Court.

This Daily Mail article was kept in a book of cuttings by the School Board. BAH: SB B/1/11 p.9

This special Juvenile Court for under 16’s, which was set up to meet on Thursdays at 10 o’clock, saw 25 names in its first session. A Mail article made note that these were all boys, and that the court’s aims were to be “a correctional court, more than a penal court.” [13.4.05 The Mail] For the first time there was an attempt to distinguish the juvenile offender in court from those more serious criminal cases, and to keep the court separate with a degree of anonymity between the children. Birmingham’s example led to a wider adoption of such approaches to child offenders in the UK, and indeed in Europe. These changes came too late for the miscreant Welch.

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At School No.3: The Weather and Attendance

Floodgate Street Infant Department’s yearly report for 1983 listed attendance as a major issue for obtaining good work [S68/1/1]. There are obvious reasons for the absence of children from school: illness and truancy. These will be looked into later in this series. Outside of these, one of the biggest factors for school attendance seems to have been the weather and the school building’s inability to adapt to this. A warm summer brought with it unusable classrooms. Classes were dismissed early at Floodgate Street School Infants as the fastened windows and broken fan made the air bad. [S68/1/1 19.10.97] The Coal strike of 1921 also caused problems, the lack of fuel causing the Mixed Department’s Ventilation System to break down by the afternoon. [S68/3/1 25.5.1921]

Children building a snowman, Bissell Street, Quinton, 1962. BAH: WK/Q1/110.

Equally, the colder weather left those in the Mixed Department unequipped to attend:

“The snow and cold has kept a large number of children – who are unfortunately very poor + badly clothed – at home” [S68/2/1 22.1.92]

The failure of heating equipment made winter a problem at Tinker’s Farm Road School too:

“Heat is circulating through the school today but the highest temperature is 48 F + the lowest 46 F.” [S199/1 9.2.1940]

Yet clearly truancy and lack of motivation were issues too, and a little incentive went a long way:

“Had an invitation for children to attend the grand Pantomime on Monday next. I promised to take all the regular children. The improvement in the attendance this week is most marked.” [S68/2/1 21.2.96]

“Took 250 children who had made 40+39 attendances to see the skeleton of a whale…” [S68/2/1 16.12.1892]

Those that didn’t get to see the Pantomime or visit the skeleton of a Whale were often off doing things they shouldn’t have been instead, and these will be looked at next week.

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At School No.2: The Curriculum and Learning

“I scarcely know how to describe. 26 girls had all their sums wrong, 10 had one correct, 7 did two correctly + 1 girl only had 3 right. The sums were not difficult ones, + I was greatly surprised at the utter failure of the girls to do them. The spelling in this class although very weak was certainly better than math.” [S68/2/1 4.5.1900]

Whilst the logbooks do not often record in detail the subjects studied at school, what they sometimes record are anomalies, successes and failures. Floodgate Street School was in a deprived area of Birmingham and often the academic work of the children reflected this. Reading was as big an issue as maths, with over 20 children in one class unable to manage any word more than three letters. [S68/3/1 25.8.26] The examinations are occasionally recorded, such as the words used for spelling tests (Leather, Cotton, Monkey, Snake, Squirrel, Mole…), and often covered broad skills:

Children at their desks, Floodgate Street Board School. BAH: Floodgate Street Board School misc photos.

“Term Examinations in Reading, Composition, Dictation, Arithmetic, + Drawing are being taken in all classes this week.” [S68/3/1 26.4.1921]

Yet what the logbooks also record are those additional activities that were part of a child’s education. Needle work is often recorded as interrupting the normal pattern of lessons at Floodgate Street Infant’s [S68/1/1 6.5.92], and Class IA of the Mixed Seniors even went on a geographical observation to Lickey Hills [S68/3/1 8.6.1932]. In 1896 the Birmingham School Board received a report from the Special Inquiry Committee which calculated that teachers had 22 ½ hours, or 1350 minutes, of teaching hours per week. [SB/B 1/1/13 p.282] They were investigating whether there were too many subjects for the teachers to cover, although ultimately nothing was changed. However, The Board did feel it necessary to issue an 1895 report on handwriting in schools. This report detailed everything from the style of teaching to the shapes of the individual letters. [SB/B 1/1/13 p.137]

The children at Tinkers Farm grew plants as a project. BAH: Tinkers Farm Road School misc photos.

On one occasion the headmaster found it necessary to record a lengthy report on teaching techniques, which emphasised the correction of common mistakes on the blackboard as well as encouraging maths problems that challenged the child to work out not just the answer but also what operations to use [S68/2/1 3.4.1896]. Other staff would also “criticise” subject lessons of training teachers at the schools, providing feedback to help improve lessons. Clearly the adults as well as the children were learning whilst at school.

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At School No.1: An Introduction to Logbooks

As part of the Children’s Lives project blog we will be blogging a series of posts “from the logbooks”. The logbook entries are selected from two Birmingham schools, Floodgate Street School and Tinker’s Farm Road School. These records are now part of the School Records Collection held at Birmingham Archives and Heritage.

A class photograph at Floodgate Street Board School. BAH: Floodgate Street Board School misc Photos

Floodgate Street Board School was built in 1890 and opened on the 9th November 1891, coinciding with the year that elementary education became free. It accommodated some 1,115 children. Originally comprised of an infants and mixed department, in 1931 the school was reorganised into an infants and senior mixed department.

Tinkers Farm Road School. BAH: misc photos, schools, Tinkers Farm

Tinker’s Farm Road Council School opened in 1930 in temporary accommodation for 384 infants. Permanent buildings were opened a year later for 432 junior and infant children, with a senior mixed department opening in the temporary buildings. New senior accommodation was built in 1933 and a new infant block was opened on April 5th 1937.

It was the responsibility of the head teacher to keep a logbook of notable school events. The exact rules and regulations were part of the first pages of Floodgate Street School Infants logbook, S68/1/1.

Instructions for Keeping a Logbook. BAH: S68/1/1

Over the coming weeks the logbooks will give an insight into the lives of those children who studied at these schools, albeit through the eyes of those teachers who taught them. Their entries tell stories of attendance and truancy, criminality and punishment, poverty and disease and of schooling during the World Wars. Some of these tell the story of a whole school and some of those individuals involved, but they all help to further our understanding of Children’s Lives and what it was to study as a child in these schools.

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Royal Institution for the Blind

A school for the blind was first set up in Birmingham, on Ruston Street, in 1846 by Miss Elizabeth Bache Harrold and her friend Miss Mary Badger. As the numbers of pupils increased it was deemed necessary to move to a property on Ryland Street and then later to Broad Street. In 1848 the school was established as a public charity to be called ‘The Birmingham Institution for the Blind’. The following year two acres of land were leased from Lord Calthorpe, allowing the Institution to build a larger school on Carpenter Road, Edgbaston, which was officially opened in 1852. A lending library of Moon’s embossed books was established (Dr William Moon developed Moon type after losing his sight at the age of 21. He became a teacher of blind children and developed a touch reading scheme of raised curves, circles and lines). In 1880 Braille was introduced in the school. As in the Royal School for Deaf Children, manual work featured heavily within the curriculum, primarily carpentry and basket-making, but towards the end of the 1890s machine knitting, boot-making and typewriting were introduced.

BA&H: MS 1700








Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the archive for the Royal Institution for the Blind (MS 1700). Appointments to view material can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.

Royal School for Deaf Children

BA&H: l-46.02_2

Birmingham’s Royal School for Deaf Children was established as a result of a lecture given to the Birmingham Philosophical Society in 1812 by Dr Jean Gabriel Marie De Lys, a physician who practised at the Birmingham General Hospital. The General Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb began as a day school with 15 pupils in Birmingham in 1814. A residential school opened in 1815 on Church Road, Edgbaston, part of the Calthorpe Estate. It was renamed the Royal Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb in 1887 and in 1929 as the Royal Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf. It became known as the Royal School for Deaf Children in 1935. A nursery and infants department opened at Laughern House, Martley near Worcester in 1942. The school closed in 1984.

BA&H: MS 1060-47_2

In 1880 the Milan First World Congress to Improve the Welfare of the Deaf and Blind voted to implement lip-reading as the sole method of teaching. This resulted in the rejection of sign language as a method of teaching and communication for deaf pupils. Photos from around 1900 held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage show the use of both methods but it seems that there was a gradual decline in the use of sign language after the Congress.

A quote from a pupil who attended the school in the 1920s confirms that sign language was actively prevented:

we were never allowed to sign in class at school . . . one day my teacher caught me signing to my friend under the desk. She was angry and said that I shouldn’t use sign. She said that I looked like a little monkey. That’s what they used to call us when they caught us signing, little monkeys.

Out of Sight: The Experience of Disability 1900-1950, Steve Humphries & Pamela Gordon, p. 84

As a result, campaigns were launched to reintroduce sign language and by the mid-1970s the Deaf Rights movement was established. In 2003 British Sign Language was officially recognised as a language in its own right by the British Government. The decision made by the Milan Congress was formally denounced in 2010 at the 21st International Congress for Deaf Education in Vancouver.

Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the archive for the Royal School for Deaf Children, MS 1060. Appointments to view material can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.

Selly Oak Nursery School

Archival material from the Selly Oak Nursery School in Tiverton Road was recently deposited with Birmingham Archives & Heritage (Acc. No. 2011/036).

The Nursery was formed in 1904 as the Free People’s Kindergarten by Julia Lloyd, a member of the Lloyd banking family. Lloyd’s involvement with nursery schools began in 1888 when she began studying under Miss Bishop of 316 Hagley Road. Bishop had been trained by Miss Schepel at the Pestalozzi-Froebel Haus in Berlin. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) was a Swiss education reformer. Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) studied under Pestalozzi and laid the foundations for modern education based on the recognition that children have unique needs and capabilities.

In 1895 Lloyd spent the year in Berlin at the Pestalozzi-Froebel Haus; she wrote that after her experience there she ‘felt a call or “a concern” in Quaker language, to return to England and open People’s Kindergartens’ (The Beginnings of the Nursery School Movement in Birmingham, Julia Lloyd, p. 11). On her return, Lloyd began working with Miss Bishop at The Froebel College,16 Harborne Road.

A meeting was held in 1903 at the residence of Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), principal of the newly-formed University of Birmingham, to establish the Birmingham People’s Kindergarten Association, later renamed the Birmingham Nursery Schools Association. In a speech given at the 1909 Annual Meeting, Lodge asked

how could we be content to let children grow up in slums, degenerating into vice and feebleness of every description?

For Lodge, the waste of child life was unspeakable, but the waste of child character was still sadder. He further remarked that

these kindergartens were a protest against the idea of the comparative unimportance of childhood’.

The Nursery opened in 1904 in a room donated by Mrs Barrow Cadbury at the back of the Friends’ Institute at 251 Warwick Road, Greet. “Home life” was the basis of activities and the aims of the kindergarten were:

To give natural healthy conditions for children under school age

To lay a foundation for life in the acquisition of habits of order and cleanliness – to build up character by opportunities for mutual helpfulness and through the fostering of life in plant and animal

To train hand-power and develop the muscles at an age when the instinct for action is strong

To give a basis for school instruction by experiences gained in connection with garden and domestic work and the care of pets

To re-act on home life through the training of children to habits of helpfulness and the appreciation of order and beauty

To give girls opportunity to learn practically and theoretically how to provide for the necessities of child nature

A second kindergarten was opened at the Women’s Settlement, 318 Summer Lane in 1907 and in 1918 a third nursery school was opened at Memorial Hall, Farm Road, Sparkbrook (although this closed the following year).

1919 saw the end of the Birmingham Nursery Schools Association. Clause 19 of the 1918 Education Act moved provision of ancillary services like nursery schools to the local education authority (LEA). The Settlement Nursery was closed but re-opened shortly afterwards under control of the LEA. The LEA also gave a grant to the Greet Nursery to allow it to stay open and in 1921 it moved to its present location at 26 Tiverton Road, Selly Oak.

 Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.