Education and Recreation
Providing education during the war could be difficult, both for children evacuated far from home and those whose nights had been disrupted by the sound of the air-raid siren. Most villages had very small schools with only two classrooms: one for the infants and the other for all the rest of the children, up to the age of fourteen. There was not much space for an influx of evacuees. Even in towns with bigger schools, like Morpeth, special arrangements had to be made to make sure all the children, whether local or evacuated, got at least some schooling.
This section looks at the impact of the war on schools and the education of British schoolchildren, especially evacuees, as well as the effects of war on individual children.
Click on the thumbnails below to view the sources.
Morpeth Council School Log Book
Extracts from Northumberland County Council Education Committee Monthly Circular to schools and Northumberland County Council Minutes (1939)
PC/20/20 (A) and CC/CM/CC/50
Read Sources 1 and 2.
Divide a sheet of paper into two. On one side list the problems which schools receiving evacuees had to deal with. On the other side write down how they tried to solve the problems.
The Childrens Stories
It is important to remember that every evacuee story is different. Children came into Northumberland from all backgrounds and stayed in a variety of accommodation. Many of them soon went home and stayed there, others were re-evacuated when the phoney war came to an end and bombing raids took place on Tyneside. Some children stayed in the same billet almost to the end of the war.
Most children were evacuated in school parties and lived in private homes, but some schools took over large houses or hotels and operated as boarding schools until it was time to go home. Some children were evacuated privately, going to stay with family or friends. Others were sent to live in different parts of the British Empire, under the Overseas Reception Scheme, but this ended after a ship carrying evacuees was torpedoed in the Atlantic. Younger children were often accompanied by their mothers.
It was usual for children to go back home for school holidays although they could be in danger from bombing raids when they were there. If a child passed a special exam to go to secondary school when they were eleven, they may be moved to where their new school had been evacuated. Many children simply went to the same village school until they were fourteen, when they left school to find a job. At that point they would be sent home from the Reception area.
There were even special hostels set up to accommodate large groups of evacuees. There were two in Northumberland: Dukes House Wood Camp School near Hexham (for boys) and Brown Rigg Camp School at Bellingham (for girls). They were run by the Education Committee of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Listen to Stanley, Irene, Doris and Gordon talking about their experiences during the war.
T.538- Stanley's Story. NRO 5630-01 (1945-02).
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Stanley was born in Tottenham. London, in 1933 and evacuated with his older brother at the beginning of the war to a Cambridgeshire farm. After about 6 months they went home because there had not been any bombing raids, but when the Blitz started, they were re-evacuated to a village near Cardiff. The brothers were treated well in their first billet but had to move when their hostess fell ill. The second billet was less pleasant, so once again they went home. In 1944, Stanley was evacuated for the third time, without his brother, who had left school and started work, to live with family friends in Bedlington Station, Northumberland. He stayed there until the end of the war.
T.548 - Irene's Story.
NRO 7641/02: Irene and her hosts: Mr and Mrs Mather, outside their cottage in Whittingham
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Irene was born in 1934 in the Arthur’s Hill area of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was evacuated privately to live with the verger of St Bartholomew’s Church, Whittingham, who was an acquaintance of her uncle. She attended the tiny village school and stayed there until December 1944. Irene’s father died in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp and her mother remarried, so she returned to a new family life.
T.487 Doris's Story
NRO 7641/02: Doris and her sisters. Doris is on the left.
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Doris was born in Wallsend in 1931, the tenth of fifteen children. She was evacuated from Wallsend, to Ponteland, with two of her sisters. Their first billet was in a big house at Woolsington, next to the airfield. The lack of a bus service meant she was unable to go to school for 3 months but after Christmas Doris and one sister were moved to the home of the Ponteland village butcher. They were very happy there but the butcher was told he must take in army personnel, so Doris was re-evacuated on her own to Stocksfield. She did not stay there very long, preferring to brave the air raids in Wallsend rather than remain away from home.
T.493 Gordon's Story
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Born in Willington Quay, Gateshead in 1933, Gordon was initially evacuated, along with his older sister, with the Church High School and its kindergarten to Alnwick. At first they stayed in a private billet then Gordon was moved to Barndale House with the kindergarten while his sister lived at Alnwick Castle with the Church High School itself. After a while, Gordon was transferred to Newcastle Preparatory School, joining it at Eslington Hall, near Whittingham. He stayed until 1944, when the school returned to Newcastle.
a. Explain why the children’s stories are so different.
b. How useful are these sources to an historian who is trying to find out how the Second World War affected children in Britain?