“I started school from this address, Stroud Green I think it was called, I loved going to school as I suppose it gave me other kids to play with as I was the only child for the first five years of my life” (8). Below contains a picture of schoolchildren during the second world war. By this time, every British citizen was given a gas mask to protect themselves or in this instance to play with:
Although education was not a prominent theme in Patricia’s memoir, it did however give fond memories of growing up during and after the war. Patricia found herself in various schools before delving into the world of work. This blog post will look at her life within these various schools and significant events that happened during the 9 year period Patricia spent in the educational system.
Although it took up only nine years of her life, education was a very fruitful and positive experience for Patricia. It’s where she experienced friendship and a place where she can socialise with people her own age. However what Patricia faces at this young age is also pain and heartache through the death of her 13 week old sister. David Vincent argues that “if the event took place in early childhood the adult may have had no clear recollection or understanding of it” (1980, 242). This was indeed the case, although in Patricia’s defence this occurred when she was at a very young age.
Patricia attended a number of schools due to evacuation and the war. She names her first school as Stroud Green, situated in North London. (A small Victorian looking establishment which still stands to this day). It was here that Patricia had a real opportunity to “play” (8) and socialise with other children. Something she could not do at home being the only child at the time. (Below is a very vivid and eye catching picture of children outside an air raid shelter in 1939. This picture encapsulates the innocence of schoolchildren amongst the unnerving war.
From there she attended an unnamed School in “Blackstock road” (11) in Finsbury Park, London. This was indeed a very Patriotic school, where a pride in ‘Britishness’ and the monarchy was deeply encouraged. A clear example of this was empire day. As part of the school uniform on this day Patricia was “dressed in a white frock with red white and blue ribbons in my hair and sashes round our waists” (11). This day was not only important for Britain’s educational system, but also the self-education of Patricia. She recalls how her mother “was a staunch royalist who camped out all night for the queens coronation, me I’m afraid I reserve my judgement on that one” (11). It’s clear that Patricia wasn’t as Patriotic as her mother. If anything she hated Empire Day! Below is a picture of a few less than jolly looking children in school during empire day.
Then came the war. And with a new location to call home came a new school. This time located in “Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire” (14). (As seen below). Although now her third school was something vague in the memory of Patricia, it nonetheless helped her to discover her talent of writing. It was two years Patricia spent here although she fails to go into great detail about the education and schooling she had received. She then elaborates upon the few memories she had of the unnamed school:
“I don’t remember much about school here but do remember being sent parcels from America. What stands out were the marbles; beautiful colours, we thought Christmas had come early” (15).
Having spent almost 2 years in Buckingham, Patricia “was eventually brought back home” (17). This time however at a different address. “33 Barrenger Road, Muswell Hill” (17). Whilst living here Patricia attended Coldfall elementary school (see picture below). This school however had both its advantages and disadvantages. For one the “toilets left a lot to be desired, they always seemed filthy and of course always frozen up in the winter” (18). However, it was through this school that Patricia met her lifelong friend Joan. From this school Patricia had graduated from what she called the downstairs juniors to the upstairs seniors. Which in modern day terms basically meant transitioning from primary into secondary education. It’s also of note that Patricia’s education back in London primarily took place in “downstairs classrooms with the windows bricked up” (20). A daunting experience for any child as you can imagine!
Although failing to include where from, Patricia had left school having passed the grade at age 14. Bearing in mind this was whilst the 1944 education act was being implemented. Leaving school at such a tender age was normal for a working-class girl. Brief school education was also due to the working-class families dependence on the working class individual to provide some form of economic contribution towards the household. Reginia Gagnier argues that formal education oftentimes competed with the family economy (1980, 344). And this was indeed the case for Patricia as she gives no explanation as to why she left the educational system, as if it was ‘the norm’ to leave school, particularly for a working-class female adolescent. Selina Todd argues of how the family exert economic pressures towards “working class girls” (2009, 105) and how “formal education was clearly designed to prepare working class pupils for the job market” (105). Henceforth, education was designed for working class pupils to prepare for labour rather than to progress academically.
As Mike Savage points out: “For those from more humble backgrounds, university was practically unthinkable” (2015, 223). For Patricia this was the case. Beginning work for Patricia seemed quite an exhilarating rather than daunting kind of experience. Although schooling conditions were oftentimes terrible, the 9 years Patricia attended gave her a real perspective as to who she was through both friendship and the realisation that her own academic writing wasn’t all that bad!
Proofread by : Tom Dinsdale.
Written and Published by LJMU Student Brian McCloskey.
Gagnier, Regenia. “Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.” Victorian Studies 30, no.3 (1987): 335-63 Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3828397.
Savage, Mike. Social Class in the 21st Century. Great Britain: Pelican Books, 2015.
Saville, Patricia. “The Daughter I Never Had”, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4.
Todd, Selina. Young Women, Work, and Family in England 1918-1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Vincent, David. “Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class” Social History, Vol.5 No.2 (1980): 223-47 Available From: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4284976.