Creating childhoods : ideas of child and school in London 1870-1914
Lee, Imogen Claire
- Publisher: Goldsmiths, University of London
This thesis provides the first comprehensive examination of how children’s abilities were ‘classified’ and managed in London, following the creation of school places under the 1870 Elementary Education Act. It explores how new schools (known as Board Schools), shaped and were shaped by the diverse social, physical and mental capabilities of London’s children. I argue it was only through administering the 1870 Education Act across such a diverse city that a right to schooling was shown to be not enough, children needed a right to learn. Yet learning was not uniform and different authorities could not agree on how and what children needed for successful learning. The idea of the Board School and its students would become increasingly pluralistic.\ud In 1874 the School Board for London (SBL) described it as its ‘duty’ to educate London’s near half a million child-population. In order to realise this duty ideas of school and child were challenged. This thesis examines how these ideas developed from the implementation of the Education Act in 1870 to the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 prior to the Great War. I unpick how children and their learning began to be classified by teachers, inspectors, doctors and local and national government bodies. In so doing I demonstrate how children’s abilities and disabilities, their origins and impact, could be both challenged and reinforced by the education system. Legislation and reports of Royal Commissions and government departments provide some of the voices and context for this study, but it is only by focusing on individual schools within The Capital that the day-to-day realities of classification emerges. Such focus reveals how and why the identification and treatment of children with perceived physical and mental ‘defects’ is a history which must be seen as part, not set apart, from the development of elementary schooling.
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