Inner-London Schools 1918-44: A Thematic Study

Author(s): Geraint Franklin

The subject of this report is school building between the 1918 and 1944 Education Acts, with a focus on inner London. The period 1918-44 saw a movement from a parallel system of all-age elementary schools for the working classes and secondary schools for a largely middle-class minority, to the progressive stages of nursery, primary and secondary. The government suggested a break in schooling at 11 and the extension of the educational franchise to secondary schooling in the form of a tripartite model of secondary education comprising grammar, modern and technical schools.1 The design of school buildings diverged and specialised accordingly. The period after the First World War also saw school building catch up with major shifts in practice and policy affecting health, hygiene and educational theory. School plans accordingly loosened up or split into a series of single-storey wings or blocks, increasing lighting and cross-ventilation. Important experiments were made in temporary, prefabricated and light construction. The glazed area was increased, and the provision of direct access from classroom to playground sometimes reduced corridors to openair verandas or galleries. Such reforms in planning and construction were usually accommodated within a neo-Georgian style. Bold reforms and experiments in school planning and construction, and a shift from the monumental to the functional, were often achieved without recourse to architectural rhetoric, such as that of the Modern Movement. The schools of the London County Council illustrate the reaction of a typical local education authority to these changes. The LCC school-building programme was split between the increased provision of secondary, nursery and special education; rebuildings of obsolete Board schools and school building in the new LCC estates. Greatest progress was made in the newer school types such as the nursery and open-air school, where policy was at its boldest and designers comparatively unhampered by regulation, standardisation and the wei

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