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The BFE/SCEA: A short illustrated history

By utnvwom, 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.

Beginnings
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.

From issue number one of the BFES Gazette, 6th August 1947. BFE/C/3/1

Expansion
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.

The staff of Minden Road School Hong Kong, 1957. BFE/B/5/7

School magazine, and school theatre production programme for Bourne School, Malaysia [then Malaya], c1960. Donated by Janet Methley. BFE/B/6/8

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).

SCEA Bulletin Number 2, BFE/A/3/1/2

The Association
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.

Map of locations of British Forces Schools in 2007. BFE/A/2/5

 

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.
ioe.arch-enquiries@ucl.ac.uk

4 Responses to “The BFE/SCEA: A short illustrated history”

  • 1
    Ilona Patricia Wewiorski wrote on 27 July 2020:

    Could you please tell me what British Army secondary school soldiers’ children living in Osnabruck would have attended? I am writing a play based on my experience as a young army wife in the mid ’80s and need this information as part of my research.
    Thank you inadvance.

  • 2
    utnvwom wrote on 29 July 2020:

    Hi Ilona, this sounds very interesting. I got the following information from the Honorary Archivist of the BFES, and the good news is you might have some choice! Let me know if you’re looking for any more information on these schools in case we have anything digitised that we can send you while we’re working from home. The archive contains most about Marlborough.

    “Osnabruck was the largest British Garrison abroad, with regiments from most arms/corps of the British army. In the 1980s we had four schools in Osnabruck; three were first schools, ages 4 to 8 and a Middle School for pupils aged 9 to 13. At 13 (Year 9) the pupils transferred to Edinburgh Comprehensive School, Munster where they became weekly boarders. The three first schools were Clive, Marlborough and Wellington and the middle school was Derby. In around 1989 part of Clive First School burnt down during the summer holidays and the pupils had to be quickly reorganised with Derby Middle School becoming an 8 to 13 Middle School and Marlborough & Wellington First Schools catering for the 4 to 8 year olds. The transfer of 13 year olds to Muster continued as before.
    All our schools in Osnabruck closed in the early 2000s.”

  • 3
    Keith Pascoe wrote on 3 April 2021:

    Is it possible to have a list of teachers who taught at the BFES Charlemagne School from 1979-1882?

  • 4
    utnvwom wrote on 13 April 2021:

    Dear Keith, please email our enquiry address with regards to this enquiry ioe.arch-enquiries@ucl.ac.uk. We are required to apply the Data Protection 2018 Act to all enquiries.

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