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Disabled children during the Second World War
Author: Sue Wheatcroft

This book aims to bring attention to the group of disabled children and highlights their experiences during the Second World War, thereby correcting the current imbalance in the historical record. In doing this, the book discusses the policies and procedures that shaped the children's wartime experiences, and the personnel and institutions that were responsible for their welfare. It examines how the children coped on a day-to-day basis. The book first examines the five official categories of disability as defined in the 1921 Education Act. It examines the arrangements made for the evacuation of disabled children, beginning with the 'Munich Crisis' of September 1938 and including the 'main' evacuation one year later. The book then examines the experiences of those disabled children who spent their war years in a residential special school. Case studies of two residential special schools allow a comparison to be made between those established and maintained by the evacuation authorities and those run privately. The attitudes of government officials towards disabled people, including children, were ambiguous throughout the war years. The book discusses special day schools, hospital schools and training colleges, and it appears that it was with regard to the latter that negative perceptions were most evident. The postwar expansion of special schools and the position of teachers within special education are also discussed, as is the changing role of the voluntary sector in caring for disabled children.

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Sue Wheatcroft

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book presents a broad overview of the development of policy towards disabled children during the Second World War and the way they were dealt with in practice. It contains an extensive step-by-step account of the effect that the war had on British civilians, with a particular emphasis on the evacuation. The book examines wartime debates and postwar legislation including the Education Act, 1944, the Disability (Employment) Act, 1944, the National Health Service Act, 1946 and the Children Act, 1948. It aims to assess the extent to which the children's wartime experiences helped bring about change in respect to their health and educational provision and to future employment opportunities.

in Worth saving
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Sue Wheatcroft

Disabled children had been divided into five official categories for the purpose of determining their educational requirements in 1939. The categories were used by the evacuation authorities when arranging suitable accommodation in 'safe' areas. The five groups were: blind, deaf, physically defective (PD), epileptic and mentally defective (MD). At the outbreak of the Second World War several schools for partially sighted (PS) children had been established, but the partially deaf children had to wait until after the war. It is evident that disabled children were very much the 'poor relation' when it came to education in the years leading up to the Second World War. In order to understand more about how the children were perceived by the government, and the general public, it is necessary to discuss some aspects of the political and social climate.

in Worth saving
Sue Wheatcroft

The lack of large-scale accommodation in which to house disabled children presented problems for the evacuation authorities from the outset. This chapter presents a case study, which highlights the differences in local reaction to the two groups of children. It also provides a detailed account of the special school's evacuation to Cloverley Hall, a large country house in Shropshire. On 2 September 1939 the children of the Lancasterian Special School were evacuated to Cloverley Hall. Besford Court Roman Catholic special school for Mentally Defective (MD) children in Worcester was a residential special school housing approximately 250 boys aged twelve and over; the associated school at nearby Sambourne housed the under twelves. The chapter includes the testimony of a teacher, as well as former evacuees, all of whom were evacuated to residential special schools at some time during the Second World War.

in Worth saving
Sue Wheatcroft

This chapter focuses on special day schools, hospital schools and training colleges. Special day schools in neutral and reception areas managed, on the whole, to carry on as normal during the war years, while in evacuating areas they were re-established as residential schools in safer areas. As with residential schools, the reports of His Majesty's Inspectors (HMIs) have made it possible to gain an insight into the wartime lives of children in special day schools and hospital schools. There were numerous charities, of all sizes, set up for the welfare of disabled children before the Second World War. The vital part played by charities such as the Invalid Children's Aid Association (ICAA) and the Central Council for the Care of Cripples, and many other smaller bodies, is most evident in the case of the seriously physically disabled children.

in Worth saving
Sue Wheatcroft

This chapter focuses on the wartime developments in provision for two groups of children: the low-grade mentally defective and the emotionally disturbed. It examines the prewar activities of those seeking to make changes for these children and provides some examples in order to highlight the reasons behind the calls for change. Before the outbreak of Second World War, individual events were already bringing awareness of the problems faced by mentally disabled children. The hostel system for difficult children was a direct consequence of the war, and of the evacuation. The primary purpose of the hostel system was to fit children suffering behavioural problems with life into an ordinary community. Problems surrounding ascertainment and certification, together with a decreasing number of available places in both residential special schools and mental institutions, meant that an increasing number of children were being sent to approved schools.

in Worth saving
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Sue Wheatcroft

The change in attitude with regards to disabled people began, to a large degree, after the outbreak of the Second World War. It is inevitable that any discussion on children during the immediate postwar period will focus largely on the legislation that came into force during the years 1944 to 1948. This chapter discusses those acts that directly concerned disabled children with regards to their health, education and prospective employment opportunities. It focuses on the reforms of the Education Act, 1944, and the subsequent Regulations for Disabled Children, 1945, and the difficulties in implementing the changes due to the conditions of war. Much of the reorganisation concerning disabled children stemmed from the recommendations of prewar reports. The chapter highlights the ways in which change came about for disabled children not only in practical matters but also in regards to people's attitudes towards them.

in Worth saving
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Sue Wheatcroft

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book highlights the experiences of disabled children during the Second World War and analyses the debates and actions surrounding post-war change. For disabled children, problems associated with physical access, medical treatment requirements and the continuing stigma surrounding certain types of mental health problems meant that the children's education and even safety often depended on their particular 'category' of disability. Fortunately, advances in medical treatment, a better health care system and a welfare programme that was unavailable during the war have led to fewer children needing residential care. The Government Evacuation Scheme, with its successes and failures, brought awareness of the complex nature of disabilities and of the children themselves.

in Worth saving