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The BFE/SCEA: A short illustrated history

JessicaWomack16 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

UCL Special Collections Presents…

Helen FBiggs21 May 2018

We’re excited to announce UCL Special Collections Presents… – a day of talks and displays in UCL’s South Junction Reading Room on Tuesday, June 5th.

Join our team of friendly archivists and librarians at the South Junction Reading Room to hear about some of their favourite Special Collections items in an informal setting. Come face to face with exquisite treasures, learn about the work of our conservators, and discover which curious tomes our volunteers have been studying.

We are running a range of sessions throughout the day, including:

11am-11:30 and 11:30am-12pm:
Protest songs for equal pay
A balloon’s eye view: historical maps of London
Maps from the Jewish Pamphlets collection

12-12:30pm and 12:30-1pm:
A history of the book
“Confessions of a Down and Out in London and Paris”: gems from George Orwell’s archive

1-1:30pm and 1:30pm-2pm:
UCL’s student disruptors
Small Press magazines on vinyl

2-2:30pm and 2:30-3pm:
Jeremy Bentham and Lord Brougham, social reformers
Enid Blyton’s Teacher’s Treasury

3-3:30pm and 3:30-4pm:
Medical and Scientific Manuscripts and Rare Books
A 14th Century Haggadah, and other Jewish and Hebrew treasures

When: Tuesday, 5th June, 11am-4pm

Where: South Junction Reading Room, Wilkins Building, University College London, WC1E 6HJ

Book your free tickets now!

Advent Definitions: Archives, age, and the school nativity play

Helen FBiggs14 December 2017

“Nativity”, in: R 221 DICTIONARIES DYC 1748: Dyche, A new general English dictionary (London, 1748)

A substantial amount of Special Collections’ work is in teaching and teaching support across a broad range of subjects: classics, law, library studies, architecture, history, maths – the list goes on. Sometimes this is a single class on using historical and primary materials, but this may also be a series of sessions, as with the Archival Research and Oral History in Education (AROHE) module, taught at UCL Institute of Education.

This year AROHE students have explored the topics of international education, special educational needs, progressive education and multi-racial education, using items from Newsam Archives, to focus on areas like visual sources, curriculum, biography and learners’ voices.

One of the visual sources picked out by students was this photo from the Amelia Fysh collection:

©UCL Institute of Education Archives [AF/1/3/A/25]

Although they weren’t given any contextual or identifying information about the photography, it was immediately recognised as a school nativity play. Mary, Joseph and chorus of angels were all correctly identified, and after some discussion, so were the Three Wise Men and the shepherds. (The shepherds are very well dressed; fortuitously, the Three Wise Men can be distinguished by their crowns.)

However, when it came to dating the photograph, the students came somewhat unstuck. The wearing of costumes make it impossible to use fashion to estimate when the photograph was taken, and likewise most of the children’s heads are covered, so nor can their hair styles be used as a guide. In the end, it was suggested that the photo was probably “old”, because it was black and white.

This gave me something of a shock. Not the assertion itself; it may have been a little misguided (black and white film is still in use today, not to mention the black and white or sepia filters of digital photography!) but learning how to draw on others’ research, context clues and our own personal knowledge to understand objects is at the very heart of using archive materials. No – what stunned me was the realisation that many of today’s students are too young to recognise the product of a 1990’s style black-and-white photocopier…

In case you’re wondering – the image is from a booklet from Beech Green Nursery School, featuring photos from 1956-1973 (the booklet itself was created in 2002). Whether you think this can be considered “old” or not is up to you – although colour photography was definitely around by the 1950’s!

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