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Duration 08:45

Charley Junior’s School Days

The immediate post-war Labour government introduced many social reforms under the guise of the Welfare State and nationalisation. But steps to reform the education system had already been taken in the Second World War.

Conservative politician RA Butler was appointed by Winston Churchill to be President of the Board of Education, widely considered to be a backwater during wartime. Yet Butler proved to be one of the most radical reforming ministers on the home front, managing to shake up the education system with the Education Act of 1944.

While this was often referred to as the Butler Education Act, it was in fact the Labour Government that introduced the reforms. In 1945 as the country moved into a more peaceful state the most pressing educational needs were to provide 70,000 new teachers, 600,000 new school places and replace or repair the five thousand destroyed or damaged schools.

Country houses and military camps were rapidly adapted as emergency training colleges for teachers. By 1951 these colleges had produced 35,000 teachers by means of a 12-month crash course. In April 1947 the education system was placed under additional pressures. Following the decision to raise school leaving age by one year to 15, an additional 168,000 pupils had to be housed. This happened largely through the ‘Hutting Operation for the Raising of School-leaving Age’ (HORSA) programme.

The investment into education during this period led to 928 new primary schools being built between 1945-50. This led to around 7,000 HORSA classrooms – some of which are still used even to this day.


Nurse: Whoa! Just a minute, sonny, it’s not your turn yet. Why, you’d frighten your parents to death if you arrived now.

Baby: What’s “parents”?

Nurse: Well now, if you promise to be a good boy you shall have a tiny little look at them.

Baby: Goody!

Nurse: There’s your Daddy. And that’s your Mum, and they’re going to look after you and teach you all about the big world, down there, till you’re big enough to go to school.

Baby: What’s “school”?

Nurse: Bless it’s little heart! Why, that’s a school, duckie, and down there is where your Nursery School will be one of these fine days.

Baby: Why isn’t it there now?

Nurse: So many babies have been born lately, they’ve had to get busy building extra schools. There’s a new Infant School going up. You’ll go there when you’re five. And when you’re even bigger; when you’re seven, you’ll go to this school.

Baby: What’s that?

Nurse: Why, she’s a teacher.

Baby: My teacher?

Nurse: Oh, no, dear. Your teacher is just starting to be trained. There she goes, see, with lots of others, to get ready to teach in the new schools.

Baby: Why?

Nurse: Well, there’s not only a lot more new babies to be taught; when the time comes every boy and girl stays a year longer at school, too.

Baby: Huh?

Nurse: When you’re eleven years old or so you leave your Junior school and go to a school for bigger boys. There are three different kinds of school course, and you’ll go to whichever one suits you best, and no fees either. Here are some of the activities that go on in a modern school course. This is what goes on in a technical school course. And here are some of the things they do in a grammar school course. Daddy left school when he was fourteen, but you’ll stay on till you are fifteen, sixteen or even older.

Baby: Why?

Nurse: Because of the new law they’ve passed in Parliament.

Baby: What are they doing?

Nurse: 0h, well, they’ll have to see that there are all kinds of schools for all sorts of people. And all with governors and teachers to run them and staff them. Then, all those schools are going to need playgrounds and so on. And goodness knows what will be needed for teaching all the children. There’ll have to be canteens to cook you all nice hot dinners. Milk supplied for your ‘levenses (you’ll drink it up now, won’t you?). Doctors and dentists will be needed to see that, you all grow up big and strong, and that you all get proper treatment when anything is the matter with you. At last! My word, your Dad’s going to have a time with you! But you’ll be having a much better start in life than ever he had.

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