Education in Jersey - Part 2
Decades of decay 1920–1950
These were years of decay in the history of Jersey Education. An indelible stain that was the cause of incalculable loss in human potential and fulfilment in a whole generation of the Island's children.
This blight on the pages of our educational history is all too dramatically portrayed by the fact that Grouville Elementary School was the only States School built between the two world wars. This was at a time of drastic overcrowding, persistently reported by HM Inspectors, in the classes of many elementary schools, particularly in the town of Saint Helier.
The example of the distressing overcrowding at Saint James's Elementary School was symptomatic of the deplorable stagnation. The Comite d'Instruction Publique recorded in its 1925 Report to the States that the Espace disponible pour Ie nombre d'eleves at Saint James was one hundred and two girls in five classes in one room. There was no political outcry.
Growth of private schools
The inevitable outcome of this tragic neglect in education of the Island's children was the mushroom-like growth of private schools in every corner of the Island. In 1925 there were 38 States public elementary schools and the official census recorded 55 fee paying private schools offering a form of elementary education.
In December 1925, HM Inspector reported to the Public Instruction Committee:
- "I have now visited 33 of these private schools, educating some 1,500 children (at this time there were 4,173 children in States elementary schools). Of the remainder, a few in which a comparatively high fee is charged, are satisfactorily taught and equipped. The majority fall considerably below the standard of the States public elementary schools in staff, premises or equipment, if not in all three.
- ”That so many parents are found willing to pay fees to send their children to these schools, and in many cases to keep them there considerably beyond the age of compulsory school attendance is I think a clear indication that there is a demand for something more than the public elementary school professes to supply.
- ”For some educational facilities intermediate between those afforded on the one hand by the public elementary schools and on the other by the two Colleges. The private schools profess to meet this demand but in most cases are unable to provide adequate staff, premises and equipment. Nor is the demand likely to be satisfactorily met, unless the Committee undertakes to provide it."
The 1920 law
A most encouraging Acte des Etats dated 7 May 1920, received the Royal Sanction and the Loi (1920) Sur L'Instruction Publique was registered in the Royal Court on 9 November. (The last meeting under the Presidency of the Bailiff was held on 1 October 1920). It was a bold and enlightened law following in the wake of the most devastating and cruel war in the history of the world.
Under the law the name of the committee became all-embracing. Instead of Comite d'Instruction Primaire it became the Cornite d'Instruction Publique. Under the articles the States accepted the legal obligation of meeting all the expenses of education as outlined in the Law of 1912 and the new 1920 Law. These included the costs of:
- Primary instruction
- Victoria College
- A secondary school for girls
- Technical instruction
- Teacher training
- Medical and dental treatment
- A special school for handicapped children
- Bursaries for boys at Victoria College and girls at a secondary school
Under Article 3 of the law the States directed the committee to buy a site for the construction of a girls secondary school or enlargement of an existing school.
Also the committee was required under the law to nominate a Director of Education, and staff, to administer the law. The first fully qualified Director of Education, however, was not appointed until 1953.
States failure to fulfil the obligations of the law
Evidence abounds that the States failed dismally, and disgracefully, to fulfil the promises set out so clearly and forthrightly in the law. Nothing whatsoever was done to alleviate the unacceptable overcrowding in urban elementary schools, mainly caused by the building of many small houses at Saint Luke, First Tower and Saint Clement.
In 1937, 17 years after the registration of the 1920 Law, the Comite d'Instruction Publique reported to the States the distressing conditions in many schools and recommended that the Finance Committee be charged to provide the necessary legislation for a Loan Bil,l not exceeding £100,000, for the purpose of tackling some of the problems.
One efficient building was Brighton Road Elementary School, but its full use was frustrated by the need to accommodate the Intermediate School, known formerly as the Teachers'Training Centre.
The 1937 Report described the conditions at Saint Luke's School as deplorable and Clearview Street School, a building that had been condemned, was reoccupied.
HM Inspectors had persistently stressed the need for a new secondary school to accommodate the Intermediate, thereby releasing modern classrooms for the children from Clearview Street and Saint Mark's Elementary Schools. However, stalemate continued.
Medical and dental inspection
There can be no doubt that the introduction of medical and dental inspection in schools proved to be a great blessing. This service had been adopted in the United Kingdom following the disturbing evidence that came to light on the adoption of conscription and medical inspection at the outbreak of the first world war.
Malnutrition was found to be widespread and medical research had shown that it was the cause not only of physical disabilities but of mental retardation.
The changing role of HM Inspectors
Symptoms of hypocrisy were clearly portrayed over the years by the education authorities. The services of HM Inspectors (Independent and Crown appointed) were retained by the States in 1912 at the time of nationalisation of all elementary schools and they became, in practice, the professional advisers to the education authorities to whom they reported annually.
Initially those reports were based on the question of efficiency, on which States and Church schools (all-age) depended for grants from the Privy Council.
The Annual Reports of HM Inspectors were included in the Rapport du Comite d'Instruction Publique to the members of the States and were persistently harsh and critical particularly after the 1920 Law.
In 1926 the future of the Teachers Training Centre came to the fore, owing to new regulations passed by the English Board of Education. It was then proposed that the centre should be converted into the Intermediate School, offering a three to four-year course to the more intelligent children from 12 to 15n or 16 years of age.
The policy in England and Wales, however, was to build new modern schools offering a course of full secondary education for pupils up to the age of eighteen with the purpose of developing a strong sixth form.
Soon after the 1914-1918 war there was an upsurge of interest in the whole field of education in England and Wales. The most vital document, known as the Hadow Report, came from the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education.
Its two principal recommendations were the raising of the school leaving age to fifteen and the introduction of secondary education for every child, following six years in primary education. In 1931 HMI states: "If the Hadow Report becomes articles of faith to your Education (in Jersey) a central site will have to be found to build a secondary school".
At this time the incompatibility of HMIs and the Jersey eucation authorities was truly exposed. In the situation of advisers (Directors of Education) the inspectors nominated by the English Board of Education were naturally promoting the recommendations accepted by education authorities in England and Wales.
The 1931 Report stated:
- "It is true that no school building has been undertaken on a large scale for many years (in Jersey). In other words, apart from one large classroom at one rural school, the present generation has contributed little to the supply of accommodation ... The Island has in fact reached a point where it is living upon the work carried out by previous generations. Here lies the danger. Problems of the first magnitude are steadily, indeed rapidly, approaching."
The reply to this devastating account of affairs in local education was written down in the first lines of the first paragraph of the 1931 Rapport du Cornite d'Instruction Publique to Monsieur le President et Messieurs les Membres des Etats:
- ”Le Comite à le plaisir d'informer les Etats que le progrés indique l'année passée s'est maintenu dans tous les departements de son administration".
In fact stagnation reigned.
Referring to the report of HMI:
- "Le Report est tres interessant au point de vue d'un Inspecteur de Sa Majeste que fait sa critique basee sur des idees anglaises. 11 est bon de noter que notre administration en general et le personnel de nos eccles meritent un eloge". It was indeed a shameful time of neglect, deprivation and hypocrisy.
Purchase of Ladies College
In 1880 a private secondary school for girls was founded in Roussel Street as a limited liability company. The school soon outgrew its premises and the foundation stone of a new building in Rouge Bouillon was laid in 1887.
In 1928 the school was taken over by the Church of England Schools Trust. The College fully co-operated with the States by admitting a limited number of scholars from elementary schools. It also had boarding facilities.
The Jersey College for Girls, as it had become known, was purchased by the States in 1935. The College provided facilities for girls similar to those provided by Victoria College for boys. In 1936 the average number of pupils was 278 with 44 boarders.
The occupying forces took over the premises late in 1940. The College was transferred first to La Coie Hall and then, in 1942, to Mount Pleasant. The College re-established itself quickly and smoothly after the Liberation. It was to play an important and distinguished part in education in the Island.
This first post-war Education Report was presented to the States on 7 October 1947, debated on 10 February 1948, and adopted. Not a single statistic was provided in the whole report justifying the Public Instruction, Committee's recommendations. The first priorities for new Schools were:
- A technical modern school for boys
- A technical modern school for girls
The report declared that a site already existed for the boys technical modern school on the field known as Hautlieu, Wellington Road. If approved this school would have accommodation for 500 boys, drawn from the town area, but attended also by boys from all over the Island who were following a technical course.
Victoria College during the Occupation
It was the first ever state visit of a monarch to Jersey, that of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846, that revived the interest in the building of a college as a fitting memorial. The foundation stone was laid on Queen Victoria's birthday, 24 May 1850, and Victoria College opened in 1852.
The College soldiered on gallantly during the German Occupation. Forty pupils had evacuated and continued their studies at Bedford School. College House became the headquarters of the occupying forces.
Regretably five members of staff were deported to Germany. Within a matter of three years after the Liberation the College numbers had reached the pre-war figure and the Preparatory School was full.
The revival was a daunting task accomplished with skill and a determination to develop the School with all its accumulated traditions in the classrooms and on the playing fields.
End of Intermediate School
In the 1947 report the Intermediate School for boys and girls, opened in 1929, was to be closed. Starting as a Teachers Training Centre in 1917, its curriculum was widened to take students up to 16 and 18 years of age, who were seeking further education.
Under devoted and inspired headships the school in 1938 (accommodated in rooms and corridors shared by Brighton Road Elementary School) had 146 students, drawn Island¬wide by selective examination. Its undoubted progress was thwarted by lack of space, staff, educational facilities and playing fields.
The school had fully justified itself and had won an enviable reputation throughout the Island. As previously related, a new school building to accommodate the increasing demand at the Intermediate was one of the priority recommendations of HM Inspectors.
It was the unaccountable recommendation of closure of this flourishing school that was to be one of the instrumental factors in promoting the prolonged and determined debate on future policy which changed the Island's educational history.
During the five years of enemy occupation, from 1 July 1940, to 9 May 1945, the Island was governed by a Superior Council, replacing the committee system, and, by order of the occupying forces, no political activities were permitted.
With the return of life-giving freedom to some 40,000 people, and 13,000 islanders who had returned from evacuation, the cry for reform went up loud and clear. It came quickly.
Following a report of the States, in March 1946, on proposed constitutional reforms and the recommendations of the Privy Council Committee, which sat in public in the Royal Court for three days to hear from all persons wishing to submit evidence, the States adopted, on 17 February, the States of (Jersey) Law, 1948, in which the 12 Jurats, elected for life, and the 12 Crown-appointed Rectors, were excluded from the House.
In future the States would be composed of 52 elected Members fully representative of the people and all subject to the return and discipline of the ballot box.
It was indeed a momentous time in our Island history. With the birth of true democracy, so soon after the Liberation, the voice of the people in all walks oflife called for change and for social justice in health and housing and equal opportunities for their children in education.