The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Primary Schools in East End

Category: Educational System

“These kids have lost before they even begin,’’ was a sentiment expressed by a primary school teacher in Stoke Newington, a working-class area on the border of London’s East End.

Poverty and lack of education are the root causes of distress in this area. Single parent families abound, emotional and financial difficulties combining to drive one or other parent to walk out, leaving the children, and especially the girls, with even greater domestic responsibilities. Some of them, only ten or 11 years old, are dealing every day with the adult cares of family life.

Many children exist on an inadequate diet, fish and chips every evening being a case in point. Although most children now have lunch, unofficial estimates are that at least half a million have stopped taking school meals since the rise in price. Large numbers of children are clothed from second-hand stores.

The school itself offers little opportunity for relief or escape. Built in the early 1900s it has never been enlarged to cope with a rising population, classrooms are all too small and hopelessly overcrowded, and what equipment there is, is completely outdated in terms of modern teaching.

There are no art or craft rooms and the library is to make way next year for another classroom. There are two halls, used for assembly, physical exercise, TV lessons, drama, music and two sittings at dinner, and each child can only use them for two 30-minute periods each week.

The teacher compared this unfavourably with a previous job she had held in middle-class Berkshire (county in the south of England) where all children had an hour every day in te hall as well as an opportunity to use a large playing ield.

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