Friday 2 December 2011

At the archives... nursery, lather-boys, school ships and dinner ladies

Yesterday was spent having lots of laughs with the staff at Bradford Archives as I uncovered some hidden gems of information.

Before that an update – the archives service is up and running as near normal service just in a different location within Bradford central library. The Bradford local studies library, now next to the archives is running a reduced service, you have to order books 2 working days in advance. On the positive side they have now managed to find a space for one microfiche which is bookable and have brought down the Telegraph and Argus newspaper microfiches. The staff have coped well under the difficult circumstances we just hope that the issue is resolved soon.

During 1920 the first nursery school was opened in Bradford at St Ann’s School. It had accommodation for 80 children aged 2-5 at a charge of 6d per day for children. Two more nursery schools were in the course of being built. For those that are interested there is a book The Nursery School, Bradford [St. Anne’s Nursery School, Broomfields] available from the local studies library.
 “It provides an account of a day’s activities at a nursery in an impoverished area of Bradford. Written in the early 1920s, this slim publication provides a historical and social study of the resources available at the time for disadvantaged pre-school children.”

The Education Act 1918 and the amendments to the Employment of Children Act 1903 came into effect on 1st April 1920 and resulted in a new set of bylaws for Bradford passed on 10th April 1920. At the time they were passed 165 children were being illegally employed and 271 offences against the Act and bylaws were being committed. The provisions of the Act were carefully explained to all persons found employing children and warnings were issued to those committing offenses with one exception where the employer was prosecuted and fined.
“One gratifying effect of the bylaws has been the abolition of the lather-boy and the substitution of adult labour in his stead. During the period only one boy was found to be employed in a hairdresser’s shop, and though at one period there was much talk of passive resistance, the hairdressers as a body have loyally observed the bye-laws.”

LATHER-BOY - a young lad who put the shaving foam on the faces of men in barbers shops, ready for the barber to shave. 

“Another noticeable feature has been the passing away from the streets of the city of the street trader of school age. Prior to the first of april there were 171 children licensed to trade in the streets, but at present only 12 persons under 16 hold licenses.”

The 1920’s also saw the introduction of lunchtime supervision in the school playground
“It has been deemed advisable that children who either stay at school for dinner or who on account of home circumstances return to school some considerable time before the opening of the afternoon session should be allowed to use the school premises under proper supervision. Head teachers should report back on progress and in all schools where there is a necessity for supervision teachers are requested to volunteer to undertake the duty. The teachers who take the duty for a week at a time in turn are paid a fee for their services.”

So teachers were expected to undertake the dinner lady role monitoring outside play at lunchtime. But it begs the question of what happened to the children previously did they feed them dinner then chuck them onto the street until school reopened in the afternoon?

Finally for today, the council seriously considered whether they should purchase a school ship in 1920 costing of £250,000. According to the National Archives currency converter that is equivalent to £5,302,500 in today’s money! They considered that it could actually be used to transport cargo to support it financially. An alternative was to put boys on existing cargo ships but this was ruled out due to the lack of educational facilities on board normal vessels. I knew that boys from the workhouses were often sent to “training ships” but I had not heard of a council wanting to purchase a ship for educational purposes before. It’s not like Bradford had its own port! The Ministry for Education did not completely dismiss the idea but considered that a decision should be deferred until more normal times returned.

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