Back to School?

September means the start of a new school year and, as ever, the newspapers are full of stories related to education.

Students at the Municpal Schools for Boys and Girls, based in Pelham Street and York Place, taken from school magazines published in 1911-12
Students at the Municpal Schools for Boys and Girls, based in Pelham Street and York Place, taken from school magazines published in 1911-12
Students at the Municpal Schools for Boys and Girls, based in Pelham Street and York Place, taken from school magazines published in 1911-12
Students at the Municpal Schools for Boys and Girls, based in Pelham Street and York Place, taken from school magazines published in 1911-12

A hundred years ago this month, however, journalists were talking not just about exam results, or who should be taught what, but about pupils up and down the country closing their books and going on strike. It seems that Brighton and Hove were not affected by this extraordinary wave of school strikes – during which pupils demanded free pencils, shorter hours and an end to corporal punishment – but this did not stop the local press taking issue with the strikers.

Brighton Gazette on 13 Sept 1911
Brighton Gazette on 13 Sept 1911

According to the Brighton Gazette,

‘The latest news from the strike area is that the revolt has collapsed and that the strikers, on returning to their classrooms, received very conclusive proof that the use of the cane was still in operation.’ The report went on to conclude, ‘The vision of a national strike of schoolboys is a fearsome one indeed…So, all things considered, it is just as well that the schoolmaster still wields an instrument of repression.’

Brighton Gazette, Sat September 30 1911
Brighton Gazette, Sat September 30 1911

On a lighter note, later that month the same paper highlighted what was described as ‘an epidemic of marriage…among the lady teachers under the Brighton and Preston Education Authority.’ Citing the coronation of George V as one reason for this wedding fever, the report goes on to say: ‘Though everyone recognises their intellectual qualities, there is no reason to suppose that lady teachers have enjoyed a monopoly of the attention of the Brighton gallants, who must be congratulated on having falsified an impression that they were fighting shy of the nuptial bliss or the responsibilities of conjugal life.’

Kate Elms, Brighton History Centre

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