‘The school had an appearance of freshness and tidiness, everything seemed quiet and under control’ (pg.1) – Robinson, C. (1982) These We Have Loved
Claude Robinson’s career in education is a long and fascinating experience to read about. This memoir is a testament to the dedication he had for his job, because across the span of it his patience with the schooling system is clearly pushed to its absolute limit. Robinson depicts his experience in the field of teaching as one met with many obstructions, with these roadblocks ranging from the staggering effects of WW2 to the County Councillors incompetent stance on the finances of Jarrow School. His political views intermingled almost naturally with his working life since those in charge of education in Jarrow, those who ruled over him and his colleagues, seemed to care little for the children in the years prior to the second world war. Because of his grappling with a system that was corrupt and indifferent to the needs of students and teachers alike, Robinson’s portrayal of his time as a teacher is a largely negative one. Glimpses into his passion and enjoyment in the job are few and far between in this memoir, as onwards from the 1930s and into the 1950s, he was fighting an uphill battle against inspectors and governors who were naïve and absurd in their expectations for a school that was barely staying afloat with little to no government support.
‘They spoke of no shower baths but did not mention that there was no hot water anywhere in the building’ (pg.15) – Robinson, C. (1982) These We Have Loved
During the various inspections that the memoir covers, Robinson is keen to point out the defects in the conditions of Jarrow School. How could he not acknowledge the lack of hot water or the fact that a changing room was used by both boys and girls? The conditions of the school were not surprising to hear about during a time of depression and war, yet according to Robinson, the reports of these inspections were unfair and used ‘evasive language.’ He was at odds with these inspections for many years as headteacher of Jarrow School, dealing with ‘savage economic conditions’ that hindered his ability to run the school effectively. There was little Robinson could do since he was not allowed the chance to refute any claims in these reports that were in any way evasive or ignorant as to the reason why conditions in the school fell to the brink of ruin. ‘Inhuman’ is what Claude Robinson branded the treatment of his school; in a time in which help was required most of all, Jarrow School was left to fend mostly for its self in a sorry state in which he and his colleagues were blameless, yet they were blamed all the same. There is a warranted sense of bitterness in this period of the memoir, as Robinson retroactively tries to fathom how things were allowed to get so desperate for Jarrow School. Unfortunately for our author, these inspections continued into the years of the war and things were only about to get worse for he and his school before they got any better, and in the next blog post we will explore a bit of Claude’s political past as well as the dire situation that wartime brought to Jarrow.
Robinson, C. (1982) These We Have Loved