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Parents, teachers and children’s well-being in London, 1918-1939
chapterposted on 2023-06-08, 23:15 authored by Hester BarronHester Barron
This chapter explores the everyday interactions between parents and elementary school teachers in interwar London. By the interwar period, half a century after the introduction of compulsory elementary education in England and Wales, the principle of schooling was widely accepted and there was little parental hostility to issues of curriculum or teaching. Instead, controversies centred over how far the responsibilities of the state extended into children’s wider upbringing. At what point did parenting end and the responsibility of the teacher begin? How far beyond the school gates did the influence of the parents stretch and vice versa? This chapter argues that the nature of the communities from which children came had a major influence on the parent-teacher relationship. The most constructive relationships developed when teachers understood and allowed for the home-lives of children and parents. This prompts a consideration of the nature of the ‘local’ state: in one sense, teachers acted as intermediaries in the implementation of state aims, but the way in which these were delivered varied according to the individual demands and priorities of each school. Parents themselves occupied a distinct place within the power hierarchy, and did have a limited influence over the conduct of teachers. What parents often objected to was not the legitimacy of rules per se, but the exercise of arbitrary power, reflecting a nuanced interpretation of what was acceptable, within the fairly broad parameters of the time. Much, of course, came down to the individual relationships between teachers and parents, which could vary widely. But rather than a constant state of mutual enmity or hostility these relationships were dynamic and fluid: they changed over time and depending on the issue at stake, they could improve as well as decline, and they could be constructive as much as confrontational.
Book titleParenting and the state in Britain and Europe, c. 1870-1950: raising the nation
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