The social world of the school

Education and community in interwar London

Author: Hester Barron

What were schools for, why did they matter and what do they tell us about society? In this compelling account, the lived experience of the classroom illuminates the social history of interwar Britain. Drawing on a rich array of archival and autobiographical sources, it captures in vivid detail the individual moments that made up the minutiae of classroom life. Focusing on elementary schools in London – where global, imperial and national identities competed with local and family interests – it creates a mosaic of the educational experience across the capital between the wars. Interwar schools were not cut off from their surroundings: they were lynchpins of social life. This book charts the growing role they played in communities, the lives of young people, and the lives of their parents. It builds a story of the social relationships that shaped modern Britain: the overlapping interests of children, guardians, neighbours, teachers, school managers, inspectors, welfare workers, medics, clerics, local businesses and government officials. In doing so, it centres schools as key drivers of social change. By exploring crucial questions around identity and belonging, poverty and aspiration, class and culture, behaviour and citizenship, this book shows that schools were an integral part of interwar society. It provides vital context for twenty-first century debates about education, exploring how the same concerns were framed a century ago.

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