Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Decorated School: a great project

I was lucky yesterday to attend, as a complete amateur, a day conference in Welwyn Garden City (where I’d never been) in a 1950s primary school by the innovatory school architects of Hertfordshire County Council who, although in straitened financial times, specified that 0.3 of 1 per cent of the building fund for each school had to be spent on work by a contemporary artist. The artists were straight out of art school and so not too expensive, but some of the work was wonderful.

Here, for instance, are murals by Pat Tew in Templewood School, where we were yesterday.

This is from the very rich blog of the Decorated School project, a network of educationists, art historians, architects and architectural organisations, coordinated by Dr Catherine Burke, a historian of education at Cambridge, and and Dr Jeremy Howard from Art History at the University of St Andrews. See the impressive list of partners on the project blog.

The blog has lots more great images, historical comment and storied of rescues. (Note Little Red Riding Hood at the top of the first page.)

It was a great conference because it included one (at least) of the original architects, people who knew Pat Tew and experts of a great variety of kinds, including an American academic, Roy Kozlovsky, who talked about how colour featured in post-war primary schools as symbolic both of the freshness of childhood and of a revolution in education.

Part of the project’s purpose is to discover and save from destruction all the works by artists in schools in England, Scotland and some European countries. Great initiative.

We also learned about the wonderful collection of works similarly purchased by Hertfordshire County Council at the period, which they were trying to catalogue until they were recently sacked.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Standing up to speak in class

I just saw a clip of old German film (1950s?) showing a class of 10 year olds in a lesson. It was striking that the pupils stood up in their places to answer a question or read out what they’d written or make a contribution to discussion. I've often seen the same thing in American films.

(Colleagues point out that this was the practice in Russia, too -- with the variation that the pupil addressed not the teacher at the front but the rest of the class.)

Was standing up to speak ever the practice in English schools? Within living memory, even? I don't remember it from my schooldays -- we always answered, and volunteered, while remaining seated.

On the historical research project Social Change and English: A Study of Three English Departments 1945-1965 we’d be interested in people’s memories relating to our schools: Walworth/Mina Road, Hackney Downs, Minchenden.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Poetry taught at Walworth/Mina Road

Someone who was a student teacher on teaching practice at Walworth in about 1957 was invited by the head, Mr Rogers (who was an English teacher), to watch him teach a poetry lesson to a third or fourth year class.

The poem he taught (probably from a book) was the following and I wonder whether anyone else remembers that poem being taught either by Rogers or any other English teacher -- and what was the poetry book?

To a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Any memories, please send them to us (the Walworth history research project) at

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Can’t manage a decent posting but here are a few from my wandering along the canal and my trip on the ferry on the Elbe, a river I've never seen before. It’s vast and powerful -- however did the Allies think they’d bridge it -- and did they, or didn’t they have to?

Thursday, 9 June 2011


It’s three weeks since I came back from a jaunt to Provence with a plenitude of photos, of which these are by way of down payment and an apology for recent neglect. I’ve had no time to do anything with them -- and now I'm off again so it will be another couple of weeks’ wait at least.

These are Corbusier, Unité d’Habitation, in a suburb of Marseilles, and Auguste Chabau, Avions, 1912-14, from Musée Cantini in Marseilles.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

KFC at last

How many years has KFC been around? that’s how many years I've kept away from it, assuming it to be unhealthy junk food, nasty and unappetising.

Drinking after an academic event in Bloomsbury, my two companions and I decided we were hungry. I knew and suggested some nice and inexpensive restaurants but the others had but one thought: KFC. Setting aside my misgivings I joined them and it was tasty and thoroughly nice, excellent in fact and just what the doctor ordered after my pints -- except that doubtless it really is as unhealthy as I thought. So now I eat my words, or long-time thoughts since I may never have voiced them, on top of my chicken fillet in a bread roll.

Pictured isn’t the one we went to (that was Tottenham Court Road) but my local in Surbiton, which too might now attract my custom once in a while.

What next? McDonalds?