- freely available
Genealogy 2019, 3(3), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy3030039
1.1. Susan Isaacs-Key Facts
‘Few can have had a greater influence in our time on the upbringing and education of children; indeed, the modern trend towards full recognition of the human aspect of nursery school and subsequent education owes much to her work.’
1.2. The Current Context of Early Childhood Education
‘Several of the proposals set out in both reviews have the potential to begin the process of constructing a curriculum which is more responsive to the ways in which children believe they best learn. The immense care taken by both reviews to acknowledge and take account of the voices of children, parents, local communities, head teachers, teachers as well as researchers and educationalists has produced a set of recommendations in which a wide constituency of stakeholders have played an important part.’
2. Late Victorian State Schooling
We might maintain that the thrust of those policies, despite their enforcement ethos, was the widening of school access and improvement of young children’s life prospects and a more egalitarian view of how society should develop. According to Shuttleworth (2010) the child began to be seen as the bearer of the future rather than as a commodity or mini-adult. By 1890, the payment by results policy was questioned and although not immediately ended we can see that as schooling had become compulsory, a more collective societal responsibility for education was emerging. In fact, following the Acts of 1870 (the first major Education act), the Factory Act of 1878 which prohibited child labour before the age of ten, the Education Act of 1880 (when school attendance between the ages of 5–10 became compulsory) and 1882 when the Mundella Code emphasised enlightened teaching methods and a variety of subjects, schooling gradually became the norm for the majority of young children. Schools had been inspected for some time and Arnold who served for many years as a school inspector wrote about the tensions of the sometimes conflicting views of government, schools, the Church (who ran so many schools) the inspectorate itself (see Campbell 2013) and was thus contentious then as now. Following the Education Acts and the advent of compulsory schooling, the inspection framework became an annual event and the School Boards also visited to evaluate whether any grants should be paid. In this way, there was an attempt to monitor a fledgling national system and to establish some norms of quality in matters of attendance and standards. The terms used by inspectors, according to one Midlands school for which we have an overview of daily log book data, centred on the intelligence of the pupils, the efficiency of the schools, the discipline and tone of the classrooms (Hodge 2008).‘By 1862, the Revised Code was introduced whereby grants were awarded to elementary schools, depending upon the achievement of their pupils. Forster’s Education Act of 1870 established school boards in areas where there was a lack of elementary school provision [,]’
‘My vision is to provide world-class education and care that allows every child and young person to reach his or her potential, regardless of background…… Children only get one childhood and one chance at their education, so there is a real urgency in our need to deliver’
3. The Environment in Turton
‘There are numerous cotton mills, print works, bleach works, dye works, and quarries. The land is chiefly in pasture. The Egerton spinning mills were formerly worked by a powerful water wheel. There is a disused paper mill at Chapeltown.’
‘according to Susan’s later recollection, someone came and led her away from her mother’s bedside. Her last memory of her mother was of her mother’s white face wearing an expression of deep distress that she herself had caused.’
‘One might have hoped that for a child suffering so much grief at home, school would have been a compensating experience. This was certainly not the case as far as her elementary school was concerned; here she was teased and found no pleasure in learning. This school was, by comparison with others of the day in the same city, poorly run. The teaching was regarded as of low quality and some of her teachers found difficulty in keeping order. Her secondary grammar-type school was more demanding and stimulating, but even here she was not happy. She remained a difficult and troublesome girl.’
‘“throughout her school years was characterised by obstinacy, noisiness, insubordination, seeking after boys, occasional stealing”. At seven years “she ate chalk… She used in school to blow her nose very loudly in order to annoy a woman teacher whom she much admired and loved”’
‘I remember periods of pinching and even of famine among the cotton workers… There was no unemployment benefit, no insurance, no general social responsibility for starving children, and skilled men could not find work. But fellow feeling was strong and direct… the chapel or the church called upon the lucky ones in half-time, if not in full-time work to pool their resources for the more needy. Many families who attended the Wesleyan Chapel in my own village deprived themselves for a week or a month of all butter on their own bread or sugar in their tea and paid the savings into the common fund for the help of their less fortunate friends.’
4. Isaacs’ Developing Theories
‘The child is not told what to do or think but is led to draw its own conclusions as a result of its own explorations, the context for which has been carefully arranged.’
‘For me, the school has two main sorts of function: (a) to provide for the development of the child’s own bodily and social skills and means of expression; and (b) to open the facts of the external world (the real external world, that is, not the school “subjects”) to him [sic] in such a way that he can seize and understand them.’
‘process of socialisation is gradual and continuous…… and that the “social instincts” which appear more marked at seven to eight years undoubtedly have, at any rate in part, an individual history…’
‘Perhaps such experiences were the beginning of her deep conviction that learning is one of the ways in which we achieve stability and happiness, and that young children need to be taught in ways which they can understand.’
‘We have been content to apply out new psychological knowledge of how the child learns, to the ways of getting him to learn the old things. We have not used it to enrich our understanding of what he needs to learn, nor of what experiences the school should bring to him.’
‘It is, for instance, so much easier from the point of view of space, of staffing and equipment, to keep the children relatively inactive and to “teach” them, than it is to arrange for them to “find out”.’
Conflicts of Interest
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