Friday, 15 July 2016

Deansfield (and Gordon School)

Original post: ww1greenwichwomenatwar.org/2016/07/15/deansfield-school

No schools were planned for the estate itself, and so all the children arriving in 1915 had to be accommodated mainly in the two nearest local schools – Deansfield and Gordon.  The Admissions Register for Gordon School has not been lodged at the London Metropolitan Archives, but that for Deansfield has, and the year 1915 just comes within the hundred year rule (more recent personal information cannot be accessed), so it is possible to look at all the children who were admitted from the estate in the autumn of that year.

The school opened late in October, having adjusted its buildings to accommodate all the additional children.  As the iron classrooms weren’t authorised until December 1915, it seems that two one-storey buildings formerly used for the secondary school had been adapted for 320 senior and 360 junior pupils.  They opened on 11th October. The vast majority of the children admitted in October, November and December 1915 were from the estate. Overall 1300 children of elementary school age were expected on the estate. At the Gordon School over 300 children were also being provided for with temporary classes in the hall for children aged over five.

In the register there is a column for the name of the parent or guardian.  Except in a few cases this is a man’s name, though we might assume that it was the mother who undertook the registration.  In the following column the father’s occupation is given.  This is how we can see that the majority of men on the estate were indeed working at the Arsenal. Sadly, the register doesn’t throw light on the work of the women generally, a point that will come up in another blog.

We have to assume that new teachers were appointed: the appointment of a new Head Teacher and five assistants is referred to in the London County Council minutes.  The new Headteacher for the Junior and Infants was a Miss K.M.Crouch, who I believe was a Katherine May Crouch, a certificated teacher working for the London County Council in the St Pancras area in 1911.  She would have been about 30 when she took up her post at Deansfield and still a single woman as required by the profession.  In 1919 she was still living in the Eltham area in Everest Road, but she might have eventually married in 1929 in the area where she was born around St Pancras.

By 1917 the women of the Well Hall Pioneer Circle were very concerned at the distance the youngest children had to walk to school; they felt that the walk of half an hour in all weathers was too much for the five-year-olds.  The women were in favour of a nursery for every neighbourhood and had been informed about a school in Paris for the young children of women munition workers (2 – 6 year olds) where meals were provided, teachers were trained nurses and health was an important consideration in the daily routine.  (Later in 1917 the women visited the “Rachael McMillan Baby Camp at Deptford with which they seemed to have been very impressed.)

Also of concern was the size of the school – they estimated that 1500-1600 children were attending the Gordon School at that time and were worried about the impact on health and education this overcrowding had.  A motion was sent to the L.C.C. Education Committee and the Minister of Education requesting the setting up of a new school.

Map showing Deansfield and Gordon School in relation to the Estate

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