By Jessica Womack, on 16 October 2018
The IOE holds the archive of the British Forces Education Service/Service Children’s Education Association. The BFES/SCE provided education for the children of British Forces personnel initially in Germany, but later worldwide. The Association was established to enable BFES/SCE teachers to keep in touch. The collection contains papers from countries all over the world including Germany, Belize and Hong Kong. With the withdrawal of British troops from Germany over the past few years we have received many new items for the archive. I recently created an exhibition on the history of the organisation for the Assocation’s reunion dinner and thought it would be good to share a short version of it here.
On 9 February 1946 a meeting was called at the War Office where a working party was established to investigate the how to create a Central Education Authority to work under the Control Commission for Germany and Austria. At this point, the question of whether the families of British Service personnel serving in Germany should join them, had not been decided upon. A survey was undertaken by the Chairman of the Working Party, Lieutenant Colonel F J Downs and Mr W A B Hamilton, Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Education.
The results showed that the total number of children aged between 0 and 15 in these families would be about 6000. The greatest requirement would be for primary education. In June 1946 the Cabinet agreed that families should join serving personnel as long as the education the children received was ‘at least equal to’ that they would have received in the UK. At this point the British Families Education Service was established by the Foreign Office.
Local Education Authorities were asked to co-operate to help recruit teachers to work in the schools in the British Zone of Germany. It was estimated that the number needed would be 200. Two thousand applied and the first teachers arrived in Germany in November 1946. British families started arriving from August 1946 onwards and small informal schools were set up in some areas before official BFES schools opened. The first official BFES schools opened in early 1947.
Although the BFES originally provided education for the children of British Forces families in Germany, in the following years BFES/SCE schools were opened in countries across the world including Hong Kong, Cyprus, Malaysia and Mauritius.
A change of hands
In the winter of 1951-1952 the Service was taken over by the Army and became Service Childrens’ Education Authority (SCEA). In around 1989 a new administration was introduced and in the short-term the organisation was named Service Children’s Schools (SCS) before adopting its current name Service Children Education (SCE).
The BFES Association was founded in 1967 to enable BFES teachers to keep in touch. In the 1980s it merged with the Service Childrens’ Education Association (SCEA), which had changed its name to SCE, to become the BFES/SCE Association.
The Archive at the UCL Institute of Education
While the collection documents the history of the organisation very effectively, its richness comes from it being mostly collected by teachers who worked for the BFES/SCE. This aspect of the archive gives researchers an insight into the lives of those who were part of an incredible organisation.
The collection comprises:
- Administrative papers of the BFES/SCE Association including minutes of meetings, papers regarding events and publications;
- Recollections, diaries, photographs and school publications of former BFES/SCE teachers working in Belgium, Cyprus, Germany (West Berlin and West Germany), Egypt, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Yemen;
- Records of the BFES/SCE itself including teaching resources, information for staff and families living abroad, and publications. Most of these papers have been donated by members of the BFES/SCE Association but relate more generally to the work of the BFES/SCE rather than the work of individual schools.
- A small number of publications issued by the British Forces and community
Researchers can arrange to access the collection at our reading room at the UCL IOE.
By Angela Warren-Thomas, on 28 September 2018
Written by Laurent Cruveillier
UCL Special Collections possesses a collection of medieval and early modern fragments, including 157 manuscripts and nine early prints.
Most were recovered from bindings of other manuscripts or early printed books, where they had been used as spine linings, paste-downs or covering material.
The conservation process of the printed paper fragments is now nearing completion, and more will be share on the theme, but along the way, one particular set of four 16th century, probably Italian, fragments of Aristotle’s “Ethica Nichomachea” (PRINT FRAG/4) behaved in such an endearing way that it inspired one of the involved conservators to produce a short clip.
In this film, one sees how providing the tiniest amount of moisture helps the paper fibres finding their original position, in an almost organic and live motion, as if they had kept the memory of how they were laid, centuries ago.
Witnessing their movement was such a thrill that we wanted to share it with you.
Learn more about the collection:
By Rebecca J Webster, on 20 August 2018
Posted on behalf of Adersh Gill – a UCL student volunteer with Special Collections
Volunteering with UCL Archives over the last year has been really enjoyable. I was given the opportunity to improve the archive catalogue on the Santa Rosa Milling Company, a British owned milling company that operated in South American in the late 19th and 20th Centuries. The goal of the project was to make it easier for researchers, whose likely focus is on the economic history and development of South America, to gauge whether learning about the Santa Rosa Company’s history would be useful for their work.
The Santa Rosa Milling Company kept extensive documentation and I was asked to improve the archive description for the company’s minute books. The minute books recorded the monthly meetings of the company’s directors. This particular project required someone to be able to summarise the minute books with enough detail to be useful to researchers but not too much that it would take too long to read. Perhaps the main challenge was being able to decipher the hand-writing of the various secretaries recording the meetings, fortunately the archives team were always happy and willing to help whenever I ran into trouble.
The project offered a rare way for a student to learn about the history of South America particularly Chile, using the Santa Rosa Company’s history to gain an insight into the development of the regions. The Santa Rosa Milling Company also offers a case study about an early form of globalization, the company was headquartered in London whilst the majority of company activity occurred in South America; in addition one can learn about the less obvious impacts and ripple effects from the defining historical events of the period through the company’s response to them. The processing of reading through the minute books was in itself a learning experience for me. In particular the company’s post WWII history provides a valuable example of how global companies operated under the Bretton Woods era, when capital flows and currency exchanges were much more tightly regulated. Going through the minute book and seeing how a company on a day-to-day basis had to interact with various regulatory agencies provided a deeper level of understanding for a financial regulatory system which can seem quite abstract when described in a textbook.
Overall the project far exceeded my expectations both in what I expected to learn from it and how enjoyable I found the cataloguing, not to mention how welcoming and nice it was to work with the archives team. This is definitely an activity I would recommend to curious students.
By Vicky A Price, on 15 August 2018
Last week saw UCL Special Collections hold its first Widening Participation Summer School. For four days, a group of twelve 17 year olds from in and around London explored archives, rare books and manuscripts here at UCL, guided by colleagues within Special Collections.
We had brilliant time, and were impressed with the students’ ability to link collection items to areas of their own knowledge and contextual understanding. We also spent a day at The National Archives, visiting their current exhibition, Suffragettes vs. The State, and discussing the notion of authenticity in relation to exhibition interpretation. The participants then got to work researching collection items from UCL Special Collections, developing interpretation for a public exhibition on the final day.
You can see examples of their work in this video:
We would like to thank everyone at Library Services for accommodating the group, whether that be in the Science Library or the Institute of Education Library, and for Special Collections colleagues who offered their time and expertise.
By Nazlin Bhimani, on 10 August 2018
I have been doing some research on some of the women teacher trainers at the IOE in order to understand their contribution to pedagogical practice in London during the interwar years. One of the teacher trainers I have been most intrigued with is the relatively unknown Clotilde von Wyss. Von Wyss taught at the London Day Training College (which became the Institute of Education, University of London in 1932), from 1903 to 1936. The following presents a mere glimpse into her contributions to pedagogical practice during the early 20th century.
As was typical in the late 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, most women became qualified teachers in order to have a professional career, and many women remained unmarried in order to retain their independence. Many women teachers progressed in their careers by taking up headships and some, mainly the ‘intellectually gifted women’ from the middle classes, went into teaching in higher education. Von Wyss followed this path and trained as a teacher at Maria Grey College, Brondesbury and gained a distinction in her Cambridge Teachers’ Certificate. Prior to her appointment at the London Day Training College (LDTC), von Wyss taught at various schools including St. George’s High School in Edinburgh from 1894 to 1897. During this time, she was also an external student at the Heriot-Watt College where she took classes with the distinguished naturalist Sir Arthur Thomson.
From 1897 to 1900 she taught biology at her old school, North London Collegiate, after which she took up a lectureship at the Cambridge Training College. In 1903, she began to work on a part-time basis at the London Day Training College (LDTC) where she taught biology, hygiene, nature study, art and handicraft. She was soon appointed as a full-time member of staff supporting the Mistress of Method and Vice-Principal, Margaret Punnett (another eminent female academic), with the welfare of the women students.
Von Wyss’s pedagogical contributions are significant. The 1929 issue of the student magazine, The Londinian, reviews the annual biological exhibition which von Wyss organised and provides evidence of novel teaching methods including the use of visual illustrations, objects, story-telling and peer-learning to communicate complex concepts. Her students presented these concepts to other students using the items on display, which included a dissected cat, the digestive organs of a rabbit, and a frog which was used to detect a heartbeat. There was also a section where the students learnt about amoeba and another which focused on genetics or the ‘principles of heredity’ and the role played by chromosomes:
Miss Gascoyne … was demonstrating the principles of heredity by means of charts…[and the] story of the black gentleman cat who married a sandy lady cat was touching in the extreme. How he longed for his little boys to be tortoiseshell, something like him and his dear wife! But they never could. That distinction was confined to the girls of the family. And all because of a wretched chromosome with a hook in it!
She was a progressive educationalist and expected the trainee teachers to demonstrate aspects of child-centred learning in their teaching practice. Her written comments on her observations of student teachers’ classroom teaching practice are held in the IOE’s archive. They give a sense of what she considered to be the necessary characteristics for a teacher and ‘good’ teaching. Of utmost importance was for teachers to understand the world of the child so that they could see things from the child’s perspective. She was critical of students who derived teaching material from text-books, particularly if they imparted it in a mechanical way. She wanted the subject to come alive for the child and recommended first-hand observations.
Von Wyss was also known for her innovative use of new technology in the creation of audio-visual learning materials – two letters from the mid-1930s confirm the arrangements she made for showing the film ‘Wood Ant’ at the Autumn meeting of the School Nature Study Union at County Hall and later at the LDTC in which ‘her ants’ which she had nurtured for the students to observe were featured.Her lessons for the BBC’s Broadcasts to Schools made a profound influence on science teachers throughout the country. Many teachers used her biology and nature studies textbooks which contain her own illustrations.
Von Wyss built up a reputation as a formidable naturalist. Her editorship of the School Nature Study Journal, in which the educational merits of nature study, a syllabus for the subject and the appropriate teaching methods were discussed. She had the backing of such influential people as L.C. Miall who was Professor of biology at a Yorkshire College (later part of the University of Leeds), J. Arthur Thompson, the renowned naturalist under whom von Wyss studied in Edinburgh, the writer H. G. Wells, C. W. Kimmins who was the Chief Inspector of the London County Council, and Sir Percy Nunn who was director of the LDTC/IOE during von Wyss’s tenure and who also chaired the Union from 1905 to 1910.
Her contributions to the study of science were acknowledged publicly when in 1914, she was appointed Fellow of the prestigious Linnean Society.  She also was a member of the textbook selection Committee at the London County Council Committee and assessed nature study and hygiene courses at other teaching colleges. Her obituary in Nature describes her as a ‘brilliant and inspiring teacher’ whose students ‘went out to teach with a feeling of power and confidence’ and ‘teachers of many years standing still remember her with affection and gratitude’. She ‘never lost sight of the interdependences of theory and practice’ and ‘like all true teachers, she was also continually a learner’. 
Given this, how can we ensure that women academics such as von Wyss (and Margaret Punnett, Susan Isaacs, Marion Richardson, Geraldine Montmorency, etc), do not remain hidden? One suggestion is to name one of the recently refurbished rooms at the IOE after them. I can quite easily imagine walking into ‘The Clotilde von Wyss Lecture Theatre’. Their names would certainly arouse curiosity and may even result in further research.
 Apart from E. W. Jenkins’ work on The Nature Study Movement(1981) in which he introduces von Wyss, Richard Aldrich’s biographical introduction to her in his Centenary History of the Institute of Education(2002), and some passing references to von Wyss , there is little of significance with respect to a study of her pedagogical practice.