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THE PROVISION OF NURSERY EDUCATION IN ENGLAND AND WALES TO 1967 WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO NORTH - EAST ENGLAND

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Disciplines
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Law
  • Political Science

Abstract

‘The Provision of Nursery Education in England and Wales to 1967 with special reference to North-East England’ by John R. Bell The startling title of the Nursery School Association’s ‘Forgotten Two Millions’ (1965) stimulated a determination to trace the origins of this tragedy, and to ascertain the historical struggle involved, both nationally and in my home region of North East England. NSA publications and records of voluntary bodies together with local and national archives helped trace the growth and activities of the nursery school movement from 1923 and, together with the Tyneside Nursery School Association, gave an unbiased account of pioneering work in the region. Material was analysed, described, and evaluated, to explore inherent strength and weaknesses. Theory and practice of prominent educators and thinkers was examined to appraise the attention given to the ‘under fives’ and to concepts of childhood. The progression of the changing role of women in society, changing social and economic conditions in the 19th and 20th centuries and the pioneering work of enlightened philanthropic individuals demonstrated that early years education never existed in a vacuum. The slow ‘stop’/’start’ growth in provision, however, was shown to have reflected the state of local and national finance and, indeed, can still be seen today. Seven nursery schools in contrasting areas of industrial heritage of the North East were chosen as example case-studies, spread over a period of 30 turbulent years. The first was established during WW1 clearly in the vanguard with the McMillans and before the government legislation of 1918. Two were war-time nurseries and illustrated the emergency measures set up in 1942 to provide an essential service for mothers engaged in war work. All provided source material in their chronological, educational histories. The Plowden Report offered a new hope for the future. Any subsequent developments in the care and nurture of ‘under fives’ would therefore depend on the Government‘s political will, its financial allocations and socio-economic challenges, again seen today in the current climate. It is suggested that present day or future participants in any initiative on behalf of the ‘under fives’ may gain inspiration from this research or similar regional studies.

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