Headmasters were finally allowed to reopen their schools to the public, even fewer schools than were expected were available for teaching. In London, out of the original six hundred and forty schools, three hundred were considered undamaged enough to be acceptable for reopening. Upon further inspection, it was realized that only one hundred of these had not been requisitioned by local authorities, and of those hundred, sixty were acceptable for reopening (the rest were too severely damaged by air raids).
(Gosden, 22) The problem of re-requsitioning these buildings back to school grounds became very difficult. (Gosden,30) Finally, after one year, schools were back in session, class disruptions due to air raids were immense. (Downs) Due to insufficient air raid shelters, if a school was hit casualties were high and survivors few. viii It was also increasingly hard to repair fully or partly damaged buildings due to the lack of available materials, and the rationing of certain products for the war effort.
By July of 1941, almost twenty percent of primary and secondary schools had been destroyed or damaged, and by September 1943, an estimated four thousand schools had been destroyed by bomb or incendiary attacks. (Titmuss,331)ix Eventually, due to several direct hits on school buildings the Ministry of Home Security provided Anderson and Morrison (air raid) shelters to build around or in schools. (Gosden,59) This too brought problems, as schools spent vast amounts of time in the shelters, with nothing to do, compromising the education of children in urban areas. (Downs)
The teacher shortage also affected many schools, sometimes with one teacher teaching up to sixty five students. Teacher availability was disproportionate, often with many in the country, helping the evacuees, because during the first evacuation around half of the children in the cities left, along with all teachers for that area. There were also many teachers in military service at this time. (Gosden,48) On the 1st of September in 1944, the director of education for Sheffield reported that there were four hundred and thirty one classes out of one thousand three hundred and thirty eight contained more than fifty children.
Liverpool reported over six hundred overcrowded classes in October of 1943, Birmingham over one thousand in October of 1944, and in Sheffield the following year, four hundred and six classes had over fifty children and sixty classes with over sixty pupils. In October 1944 there were three thousand eight hundred and twenty three classes with over fifty students, compared with two thousand one hundred in 1938. (Titmuss,406) A study in 1940 estimated that there remained only three hundred teachers in London, while over one thousand teachers were teaching in the country.
(Titmuss,405) This overcrowding caused a decrease in effectiveness of teaching, a smaller class being easier to control and also easier to create teacher-student relationships. The increase in class sizes was not due to an increase in the number of children from five to eighteen, as the population of schoolchildren decreased by 366,000 between March of 1938 and January 1946, (see appendix 1) due in part to civilian casualties, but mainly due to the military’s legal conscription age of sixteen, with the army often accepting young men of fourteen for service.
The Chief Inspector for elementary schools stated in 1943 that he believed the most serious problem affecting the education was the shortage of teachers. (Gosden,102)x The use of public broadcasts met, in part, the problems caused by a lack of specialist teachers, and by the end of 1941, between eleven thousand and twelve thousand schools listened to the radio as part of their school day, twice as many as had listened a year previously. (Gosden,79) There was also a severe lack of non teaching staff in schools.
(Gosden,104) The government foresaw this problem in part, and the Board of Education issued advice to teachers in 1939 to remain with their schools. The Board advised women not to apply to any army force, and only male teachers under the age of twenty five were told to consider volunteering for the army. Due to the dire need for soldiers, the government amended this, and allowed those under thirty to volunteer in May 1940, and eventually all male teachers were allowed to volunteer, unless they were otherwise entailed with the evacuation of their schools.
(Gosden,105) Schools lost an estimated twenty to thirty percent of their male staff,(Gosden,106) due to this extended call up of teachers, and consequently, when the civilian bombing, better known as “The Blitz”, finally came attendance of schools in major cities dropped to zero to five percent After eight months of war (May 1940), a study was conducted finding that only half of Britain’s’ children were enrolled in full time primary education, in England and Wales. In primary school, thirty percent of children had half time education, and ten percent had less, or had home schooling (provided by either single parents, or groups).
Ten percent of children this age attended no school whatsoever. In secondary school, eighty-seven percent of the children attended full time education, eight percent half time, and five percent none. In Scotland, sixty percent of all school children attended full-time school, thirty four percent part time and four percent none. (Titmuss,406) Although these figures do show the drop in attendance levels in Great Britain, and so the volume of education the children received, they have no bearing upon the quality of education given to students at the time; students moved schools, homes, teachers and classes.
On top of this there was a shortage of books, supplies and personal attention from teachers (due to army recruitment). (Gosden,80) The information can be partly explained by the loss of school medics. Before the war schoolchildren were required to have a full medical examination, but during the war, the government transferred school medical staff to other posts, usually overseas to help in the war. The medical staff had previously identified children with infectious diseases, such as scabies and head lice, and when the medical staff left to support field medics overseas, their absence was followed by the quick spread of infectious diseases.
Those children infected had no choice but to stay at home, provide their own treatment, and wait for the infection to subside. (Titmuss,424) Child welfare in the country also suffered, because although the government evacuated children with their teachers, the government foresaw no need for school nurses, dentists and other medical officers, putting a strain on local reception medics; the aforementioned problem of British medical workers signing up for war made this strain even greater.
(Titmuss,145) Along with the school medical services, government charity programs, such as the school meals service, which provided a meal at midday for children classed as poverty stricken, and the school milk service, aimed at providing all of Britain’s’ children with discounted milk to provide vitamins and prevent malnutrition, were also damaged; as a result children became illness prone and unhealthy. (Titmuss,149) Both in the country and in the town, illegal child labor rose.
In the towns, parents often kept their children to do errands that they had no time for, or to help out with certain duties that male family members would have done. Mothers employed in jobs usually filled by their husbands, or other males, kept their children at home to do the jobs they would have done in peace time – cleaning, or shopping- whilst they worked in munitions factories in the cities. In the country, an absence of young men, traditionally employed to work on fields and farms, meant that evacuees and village children were employed by farmers and shop keepers to do the jobs that men over sixteen would have done in peace time.
These children attended either a modicum of school, or none whatsoever. (Titmuss, 418) Furthermore, due to the increased risk of air raids in some of the larger cities, and the introduction of V1 and V2 bombs, school hours were shortened in order to avoid any possibility of civilian casualties. (Gosden,60) By the end of the war in 1945, once the people had recovered and begun to assess their damages, the government began to examine those that had been evacuated, and those that had remained in and around the evacuable areas.
Despite the loss of children aged 16 and above because of war fatalities, after 1941, the number of children remaining at school, or taking further forms of education increased. Here, the population of children over sixteen is compared with the number of entries for a Midsummer School Certificate, required by all secondary schools before commencement of further education. These results show, that despite a population decrease of around six point eight percent between 1939 and 1942, there is a decrease of Midsummer School Certificate entries of only five percent.
By 1945, despite a decrease of just under one hundred thousand children from those in 1939, the number of applications had increased by over ten thousand. (See appendix one) Further research conducted on the number of children attending secondary grammar schools between 1939 and 1944 show that in all areas, the number of children receiving secondary school learning also grew. There is a marked decline in 1940, but this is attributable to the aftermath of the evacuation and confusion suffered by parents, students and teachers alike.
(See appendix two). Officials believed it important to pinpoint the exact damage that the war had done to particular subjects. xi The army conducted a study of young adults joining the forces in 1946 and 1947. – Children who would have been affected by the upheaval of the war. Although the report showed no decline in levels of intelligence among the recruits, nor mechanical ability, it found that scholastically the boys tested were academically unsound.
There was an increase of boys classed as “educationally backward and retarded,” compared with the scores of boys who were recruited between 1925 and 1935, and joined the armed forces in war. (Titmuss, 409)Upon the reopening of schools in Southend, the authorities tested three thousand children (two thousand evacuees, one thousand of those that had remained against government advice) to determine their problems with schooling. Evacuees showed an improvement in reading, and those that remained in the city showed a setback of between three months to a year, distinctly longer than the schools in Britain had been closed.
(Gosden,74)xii It came to the Board of Education’s attention in 1943, that a high proportion of school leavers were illiterate , due in part to poor teaching during the war. (Gosden,73) Conclusion The education of children in Great Britain from ages 5-18 suffered a great deal as a consequence of the Second World War, and all parts of society were disrupted by it. Due to poor government planning and also to badly placed prerogatives within government budgets, the importance of educating the youth of the nation was not as great as funding a mass war involving every continent worldwide.
Schooling got caught up in the tumult and disarray of the home front in war, and lost importance when compared to the safety of the children of the nation. Education suffered due to teacher shortages, material shortages, confusion due to evacuation, and irreparable damage to buildings. Alone, a single one of these tribulations could be overcome, but cumulatively they crippled the schooling of British youth. xiii These children spent their school life growing up with the presence of war, the threat of invasion, and the certainty of losing loved ones.
The general setback of approximately one year is remarkable in view of the circumstances. The teachers at the time experienced a new method of teaching in the war, and the necessity to be flexible with the school curriculum and subjects made them creative. (Gosden,72) The Board of Education, before the war, had taken a more aloof standing in schooling, but with the onset of war, it had to take a more prominent position in education, and this involvement did not diminish even after the war, and still remains today.
(Gosden,237) Although education suffered incredibly from the onset of war, certain actions taken by the government benefited the public. Evacuation allowed children who would not have seen the country in their lives to experience new situations, and broaden their horizons; indeed the child mortality rates for this age would have been much higher if the children had stayed in areas of high aerial bombardment. Due to the teacher shortage, married female teachers were, for the first time, allowed to continue teaching past their marriage.
This change in law did not vanish after the teacher shortage was resolved, and combined with the new laws effecting women’s employment, was a major advancement in women’s rights. (Gosden,105) In general, the importance of schools as places of educational and civilizing agencies deteriorated during the war, and it was only after the war had ended that governmental workers realized what a large effect the war had had on the education of the nation’s youth.
Despite the problems encountered due to lack of foresight on the part of the government, the evacuation prevented the deaths of thousands of children who would have suffered from the extensive civilian bombing carried out on British cities in World War Two. At the time, the government saw that safety was a priority over education, and was mostly concerned with ensuring the survival of the next generation in this unprecedented manner.