Tag Archives: tinkers farm road school

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.4: Truancy and Criminality

Extract from the School Board Report received at Floodgate Street School 30th June 1892:

“This new school is situated in the midst of one of the roughest and most irregular populations of the town, and presents more than ordinary difficulties in many ways, which have been met with energy and satisfactory success.” [S68/2/1]

 If the attendance was hard to keep up because of the weather, then truancy and criminality made this job even more difficult. The School Board Reports, which

School Board Truancy Figures. BAH: SB/B/1/1/13 p.13.

had to be copied into the Logbooks (See An Introduction to Logbooks), often made reference to the challenging area that Floodgate Street School was in. The Birmingham School Board Appeals Committee dealt with Truancy, and its figures were recorded by the School Board.

Truancy was often linked to poverty and the living conditions of the child at home. Sometimes the children were employed selling goods, such as in 1891 where they were selling “Xmas novelties” [S68/2/1 18.12.1891] Sometimes these children would “Sleep out” at night, often around the market place [S68/2/1 8.4.1892]. There are repeated entries for boys stealing in the market place and being punished for it:

“I have had to recommence my visits to the market as the truant season shews signs of beginning again. I brought in seven on Wednesday afternoon.” [S68/2/1 26.3.1897]

Perhaps due to Floodgate Street School’s close city location, truanting and stealing around the marketplace were evidently a regular part of the school year.

Yet criminality didn’t just take place outside of school. One girl stole a half sovereign from the purse of a teacher after the purse was left on a classroom desk. [S68/2/1 24.10.1902] In this instance the punishment seems to have been a word with the mother. Some crimes also went unpunished, with a regular attack on the toilets:

“Have been unable up to the present to catch the thief who robs the girls’ lavatory.” [S68/2/1 15.5.95]

 On one Christmas the headmaster had to confront two children at the Christmas party:

“I refused to accept Kathleen Coleman at the party as, while under an attendance order, she has not appeared since dec 9thWilliam Griffiths (who has truanted 31 times this term up to date) also arrived on party day after a week of truancy. I put him in my room with some work to do and he escaped through the window.” [S199/1/1 22.12.1942]

Occasionally these misdemeanours were serious enough for a child to end up in front of a judge, and Birmingham’s groundbreaking law courts will be looked at next.

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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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