In response to growing tension and technological advances in war, the British government set up the Evacuation Sub-Committee, part of the Imperial Defense Committee in 1931. (Jackson,8) The threat of war, and also the fear of bombing and gas attacks on Britain's major cities led the Government to plan the evacuation of four groups of people, comprised of 11-13 million citizens; (A) children from five to eighteen, (B) children under five, (C) expectant mothers and (D) handicapped citizens.
(Jackson,10) The government divided the United Kingdom into evacuable, neutral, and receptor areas, and on the weekend of the 30th September 1939 after the outbreak of war on the 3rd of September after the German invasion of Poland, evacuation began. This was to be the first of many relocations from the urban to rural areas, and children were evacuated either individually, or with their parents, or with their schools.
Many children ended their journey in the wrong county, because of poor organization from the sub-committee and also in part due to war hysteria and xenophobia, which gripped the nation and caused the removal of all road and rail signs, making it even more difficult for the children to reach their destinations. (Gosden,15). This sudden evacuation caused an influx of city children into country areas from towns, putting a great strain on educational services.
Furthermore, those children left behind had no education at all for approximately six months because the government closed all urban schools as an incentive for parents to relocate their children. (Gosden,19) The mass evacuation of school children from cities to country areas disrupted the British school system. As a result of this, how did the evacuation of children aged 5-18 from British cities effect the education of all children in the United Kingdom between 1939 and 1945, and what impact did the evacuation have on the British school system after the war?
The first evacuation of September 30th, 1939 had little effect on the nation; for the government only succeeded in moving about half of the children in evacuable areas to safer areas in the country, and many parents of these children requested them home in the following six months, due to poor educational arrangements. (Gosden,94) The government encouraged group evacuation, or of the evacuation of children in their schools, including the teachers not enlisted in the army.
The public transport rail system transported the children, or "evacuees" as they were later named, to their billetsi, but confusion ensued because of the British Government's orders to remove all road and rail signs, in fear of foreign spies. Larger schools were split up into four or five different areas, to minimalize the stress for the receiving authorities- church groups, village councils, and local education authorities. (Gosden,15) The children, upon arriving at their country areas, found that, indeed, the government had not arranged for extra campuses or materials, essential to give the children a less stressful move. In J. R.
Barnes' war memoirs he comments "there was no real plan in existence, other than the initial transfer to the reception area. " All efforts to gain extra materials were dismissed, due to "war time pressures," and once the bombing of large cities commenced, the need for supplies grew with the increased number of children. (Gosden,50) This excuse was well founded, as there was a submarine blockade of the United Kingdom for most of the war. Britain viewed the children's safety as a priority over their education at this time, and the government foresaw virtually none of the problems that would arise through the relocations of British Youth.
Classes did not start immediately; the evacuated children and teachers needed time to settle down in a new environment, a new school and a new family, and when classes did resume, they were short, and not in the best of conditions. (Brand) Upon the initial evacuation of the 30th of September, the government did not pair evacuated schools with similar local schools to which they could share classes. (Gosden,16) Poor planning on the part of the government led to turmoil at the schools destination point, where only then would classes be paired up, and school buildings shared.
Teachers held classes in cloakrooms, on the playing fields outside, and in the gym. ii Most of the time, schools would share the property, with the local school and the city school shortening the school day by half so both could optimize the available space. Some children attended school for two, often at the most of four hours schooling a day. (Cooke) Due to the fact that local authorities split up larger schools, evacuated teachers often found themselves teaching subjects in addition to those they were qualified for, affecting the quality of teaching that some evacuated children received.
(Gosden,102) Education was not kept foremost in the authority's plans, and so a child could find himself miles from their destined school, and often could not attend due to the length of the journey. (Gosden,15) This problem was remedied when it could be, and the children were moved closer to their schools when spaces were found for them in homes, but this also meant that the disruption in any one child's life was extreme, moving three or more times in a single year. Although private schools were mostly matched based on gender and specialty, religion was rarely considered.
Consequently, schools advertising themselves as Catholic or Protestant found themselves paired with schools that had no church nearby, or a church designated for other religions; this misunderstanding of religion caused great offense to teachers, parents, and religious leaders, another aspect of the evacuation's poor organization. (Gosden,17) Among the interference in schooling, a poor attitude toward schooling took hold and child truancy rates among evacuees went up. (St. Loe,18) Compulsory schooling was still enforced, but the children, evacuated without parents, defied the authority of foster parents.
Some evacuees returned home due to their parent's discomfort with their children's living and educational conditions, but teachers stayed in the posts to which the government appointed them. Those evacuees remaining found their schooling greatly improved, as individual attention skyrocketed and class sizes decreased. Those that returned home to urban areas found themselves faced with little or no schooling, as the teachers that should have been employed in the cities to balance the ever-changing class sizes were posted instead in the country.
(Gosden,18) The scarce classes the urban children attended had such inflated numbers that efficient teaching was not possible in these areas. This constant fluctuation in class sizes caused disruption for the evacuees and teachers, and negated all the effort the government had put into keeping schools together as a support structure for the evacuated children. (Gosden,18) The lack of materials and classroomsiii was dealt with remarkably well; teachers proved themselves versatile by reconstructing their syllabi to focus on the war, and the country around them.
When classes could not be held inside, teachers instigated "nature walks" for the evacuees, of whom most had not seen much wildlife growing up as they did in heavily urban areas. (Gosden,80) Syllabus emphasis was removed from subjects such as Mathematics and English due to the absence of paper and pencils, and diverted to subjects such as Geography and Biology, as there was ample opportunity to study the streams and hills around, not to mention the trees and plants.
In-class subjects remained focused on everyday life, but as everyday life had changed, so did the emphasis of written subjects. (Gosden,80) Schools managed to relate many of their subjects back to the war; war problems were calculated in Mathematics, and in English, children were asked to write essays about what war meant to them, or what evacuation was like, and what they missed. These essays proved especially useful later on to social historians as primary sources (viewed in original documents, Reading Room, Imperial War Museum, London).
In classes such as home economics, the girls would knit socks and scarves as the rest of the nation did, and send them to soldiers,(Gosden,86) while in conjunction with Britain's "Dig for Victory" campaign, the children would plant vegetables in parts of the school grounds. (Gosden,85) Learning was somewhat absent from this aspect of the curriculum here, but it can be argued that during this period the children were taught a great deal about aspects of life that would not have been readily accessible to them in urban areas.
The history syllabus of the schools expanded to include the countries that Britain was allied with (France, the Americas, the USSR, China and the British Empire) broadening the children's horizons, and allowing them to gain a worldwide perspective rather than a more provincial view of Britain. (Gosden,87) The Board of Education supervised the provision of specialized schools for the mentally and physically handicapped.
In 1943, out of the two hundred and thirty three hostelsiv provided in the country for those of the handicapped who evacuated, sixty had psychiatric advice available for its students, and eighty five had made arrangements to instigate psychiatric aid for the handicapped, but were not carried out because of the end of the war. The government began to be more aware of the deep psychological marks the evacuation, and the war, could leave on an entire generation.
The Board set up behavioral schools, and teachers found that their roles had expanded from teaching their students academic subjects to becoming a mental support for the evacuated children. However, schooling was not flexible in the slightest, and those suffering from mental difficulties such as dyslexia at this time were not recognized, and thus, teachers did not give pupils suffering from them the attention they needed, and the children were left behind in their studies. v(Titmuss,382)
In the towns, those parents who had decided not to evacuate their children, due to money issuesvi or feeling that there was no civilian bombing to comevii, were left with no schooling for their children. (Titmuss,157) The government had decided to close all schools to add further incentive for parents to evacuate their children, and these campuses were usually taken over by government forces to use as Air Raid Protection warden training areas, or as rest centers for those that had lost their homes when the bombing finally came.
(Titmuss,94) By January 1940, the civil or military sectors of the war effort had put into use 1588 schools around the country. During this time the children had little or no education, with what little given them set up by teachers and parents remaining in the cities in a sort of tutoring workshop. On the 1st November, 1940, the government realized that school closure was no longer effective to encourage parents to evacuate their children, given the amount of children that were not receiving an education because they had not been evacuated, and opened urban schools for city dwellers. (Titmuss,146)