Christmas in the Archives

It’s three days before Christmas, and the university is fairly quiet at the moment; so, I felt the most practical use of time would be to peek around the archives for some holiday related documents…

When I searched the term ‘Christmas’ in the archive catalogue, 133 unique files popped up: from Christmas cards, to school pageants, and holiday programmes, the festive season has always played a fairly big role in education and schools.  Here is one such example…

Arthur Sporne Archive Collection: Christmas Letters

Some of the most compelling aspects of our collection are those documents which reveal student voice.  The Arthur Sporne archive collection includes essays and letters written by pupils to their teacher, Sporne.  ‘Story of My Life’ essays written by 14 year olds in July 1914 give insight into the lives and hobbies of children on the brink of the First World War; whereas similar essays from pupils in 1952 illustrate childhoods defined by the Second World War.

Today I wanted to share a letter from 1917.  Sporne had recently taken up a teaching position at Fulham Reformatory School, and pupils wrote letters to him, discussing the end of the school term, the Christmas holidays, and plans for the following term.


End of term letter written by Albert Day to Arthur Sporne (December 18, 1917). Document Reference: IOE Archives, SP/4

Common themes include thanks for Sporne’s genuine interest in the student’s academics, his love of sports, and nearly half of the letters mention the probable absence of Christmas pudding given the food shortages of the First World War.  In addition to Albert’s letter, another pupil echoed similar sentiments, ‘we wont be able to make a very big christmas pudding this year because currants and raisins are so dear…’

If you’d like more Christmas in the archives, head to our catalogue.  And in the meantime, we hope you all enjoy the holiday season!

The IOE closes Tuesday, December 23rd at 4.30pm, and reopens Monday, January 5th, 2015. The Archive Reading Room reopens Monday, January 12th (after a week of stock-taking).


Some big news…

We have two fairly big announcements to make!

Firstly, some of you are likely up to date on this, but the IOE has now officially merged with UCL.  As of December 2nd, we are now the IOE Archive at the UCL Institute of Education. For more information on the merger, visit here.

Secondly, our Archive has been awarded National Archive Accreditation status (which was also made official on December 2nd… December 2nd was a pretty big day around these parts)!  The IOE Archive is the first archive of an educational institution in London to be accredited.

Accreditation is the new UK quality standard that recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery. To achieve accredited status, an archive must demonstrate that it has met clearly defined national standards relating to the management and resourcing of the care of its unique collections and the service it offers to its users.

The accreditation panel that made the award noted the following:

[They] were very impressed with the application and the range of ways in which the service is delivering its mission. They noted specifically the excellence of the documentation submitted, which reflects on the service’s strong management and planning. They congratulated the service on its achievements and innovative good practice in many areas, specifically developing outreach, broadening the volunteering offer and tackling digital preservation issues which many larger and better-resourced services have struggled to address.

We are so pleased to now be fully accredited, and want to thank the accreditation team for all of their help and support as we went through the application process.

For more information on accreditation, head to the National Archives.


Parliament, Stars and ‘Suffragette’

One of my favourite things about the NUWT collection is the range of causes members were involved in throughout the first half of the twentieth century.  Obviously the issue of equal pay for women teachers was the driving force of their campaigning, but that didn’t stop them from becoming involved in a range of causes – including the interwar peace movement; the education of girls; the impact of cinema on children; the nationality of married women issue; and women’s suffrage.

If you’re interested in any of the issues that pop up in our NUWT archive or this blog, you’ll probably also be keen to see the new film, currently titled ‘Suffragette’, currently shooting in London.  While filming has primarily been taking place in East London, the film is also set to shoot in the Houses of Parliament at Westminster.  The fact that this is the first commercial film to be given filming prvileges in Parliament says a great deal about the value of sharing this very significant period in history (I cannot even imagine the bad press for Westminster if they had said no to filming scenes for ‘Suffragette’).  The film stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep as suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst (see photos of Streep in costume as Pankhurst here).


NUWT members laying a wreath at the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst outside the Houses of Parliament c1932.  Doc Ref: UWT/G/2/39

While we don’t necessarily need a star studded film to appreciate the women’s suffrage movement, it is nice to see it being recognised. Also, in the often male dominated film industry, it is pretty great to see such a talented female cast under the direction of Sarah Gavron.

*Also, a huge thanks to our volunteer, Jeremy, for making documents – like the photograph seen above – more accessible.  As part of our HLF project, Jeremy, who has been with us since January, spends Monday afternoons on an NUWT digitisation project.  He scans and organises the NUWT archive collection’s photographs (such as the one above) so that they are preserved and accessible for archive readers, regardless of geographical proximity to the IOE.  Thanks again, Jeremy!*

A Valentine for a Cause

Since it’s February 14th, also known as Valentine’s Day, also known as one of the most contested of ‘Hallmark holidays’, it’s an opportune time to share some Valentines from the NUWT archive collection.

In 1949, NUWT members took the opportunity to add an activist twist to Valentine’s Day, when they arranged for every MP to receive at least one Valentine, reminding them of the pressing issue of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’…

Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

NUWT Valentine to MPs, Cover.  Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18


NUWT Valentine to MPS, Inside.  Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

The Valentine campaign caught the attention of both MPs and the press…

Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Card from MP Harry Legge-Bourke in repsonse to Valentines sent on behalf of the NUWT. Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Inside of card from Legge-Bourke, quoting T.S. Eliot.  Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Response from MP Sir William Darling.  Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Here, a clipping from the Tuesday, Feb. 15, 1949 issue of the Daily Telegraph & Morning Post reports on the NUWT’s intentions for the Valentines.

Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

Document Reference: UWT/D/1/18

The text reads:

Every MP received at least one Valentine yesterday. The National Union of Women Teachers took a novel opportunity to inform the Commons that they do not think the “Equal Pay for Equal Work” campaign is progressing as it should.

Miss A.M. Pierotti, the union’s secretary, tells me that the card is meant to remind MPs that women are still waiting for action on a principle already accepted by the Government.

“It is really time,” she said, “that the Government implemented the words of Magna Carta: ‘To no one will we refuse or delay right or justice.’”

This quotation appears inside the card.  On the front… the moral is rubbed in by two others.  The first is Wordsworth’s:

“High heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely caclualted less or more.”
Then follows the couplet:
“Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.”

These words were written by the 17th-century poet James Shirley.  How he would have regarded their present application is another matter.

Teacher Dress Codes… 1919 & 2014

There’s been plenty of chatter this week regarding teacher’s dress.  On Tuesday, The Telegraph reported on the topic, which I first saw shared on Schools Improvement:

Education inspectors are to launch a clampdown on scruffy teachers amid fears adults may be setting a bad example to pupils by wearing casual clothes in lessons. Ofsted said inspections of teacher training would be overhauled to place a greater focus on “professional dress and conduct” in the classroom. – Graeme Paton, The Telegraph

In the past, Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has previously stressed the importance of teachers adopting ‘business-like’ attire. The changes, which suggest a focus on suits, ties and shirts for men and smart skirts or dresses for women, are reported as coming from a shake-up of the way Ofsted inspects teacher training courses.  Last month’s published figures, which showed four out of ten teachers fail to last longer than five years on the job, suggest teachers are poorly prepared for the demands of the classroom.  There is also the concern that too many new teachers struggle to control ‘unruly pupils’ and ‘conduct themselves properly in front of lessons’ (The Telegraph).

Having taught in several struggling schools in London, I always dressed professionally…  I also had my fair share of classroom management challenges that no number of wool pencil skirts could singlehandedly resolve.  We’ll leave this debate for another day – and this is in no way advocating a teacher dress code of jeans and t-shirts – but a focus on increased support for new teachers during the first years on the job is apt to do more for teacher success and retention rates than a dress code inspection ever will.

In the meantime, I want to share my very favourite advertisement from a 1919 issue of the National Union of Women Teachers’ journal publication, The Woman Teacher


Somehow, muffs and feathered hats didn’t make it on to the suggested teacher dress code for 2014.  Document Ref: UWT/H/1… The Woman Teacher, Vol. 1, Iss. 7, 1919.

Digitising The Woman Teacher

Caveat: given my lacklustre tech saviness, our archivists or volunteers are probably the best ones to be discussing this topic, but here’s an attempt to share what we’ve been up to…

As part of our HLF funded project, New Perspectives, we are digitising the first six volumes of the NUWT’s journal publication, The Woman Teacher.  Each volume contains 44-45 issues.  The fact that these women were able to publish a journal on a weekly basis… in addition to teaching… and campaigning… is making us all seriously re-evaluate how we spend our free time.

We have been beyond fortunate to have a wonderful group of volunteers who have recently become a part of our Archive Team.  Since joining us six weeks ago, they have been hard at work making The Woman Teacher accessible and available for research online.  Because of our highly efficient volunteers, we are just half a volume away from having all six volumes scanned!

In addition to the basic scan, each copy has Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software applied to it.  OCR involves electronically converting scanned images of handwritten, typewritten or printed text into encoded, searchable text.  Essentially, with OCR, the text sits behind the image and makes any scanned document searchable.

Once all six volumes are ready to go, the volunteers will apply the meta-data, which embeds information directly into the PDF.  With the meta-data, important information about the document and the PDF are never separated, ensuring the document is more (for lack of a better word) ‘findable’.

Archives for the 21st century audience (though, it's hard to beat actually holding the documents in your hands)

Archives for the 21st century audience (though, it’s hard to beat actually holding the documents in your hands…)

After the meta-data and ongoing quality control checks are all complete, we can put everything online so it’s available to anyone with an internet connection, further widening access to archive collections.

To view a (searchable!) PDF of the very first issue of The Woman Teacher, click here… The Woman Teacher Vol. 1 No. 1

The next paragraph may be a bit of a bore if you’re not interested in the logistics of OCR software…

Since this is a new process for everyone, there has been plenty of trial and error as we and the volunteers experiment with the OCR software to find the best approach.  While we have been using specialist OCR software, it turns out our fancy scanner actually does a more accurate OCR on its own, in terms of creating an accurate, text-searchable PDF.  However, as anyone involved in digitising archives will likely agree, it seems to be a case by case – or archive by archive – basis as to what works best.

‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November’

Just in case last week’s Halloween treats weren’t enough… some Guy Fawkes / Bonfire Night recipes from the archive collection of the British Families Education Service / School Children’s Education (BFES/SCE) Association. I promise to now take a (temporary) break from posting calendars and recipes!

Guy Fawkes (Document Reference: BFE/B/3/16)

Guy Fawkes
(Document Reference: BFE/B/3/16)

Bonfire Night Recipes (Document Reference: BFE/B/3/16)

Bonfire Night Recipes
(Document Reference: BFE/B/3/16)