A Completely New Problem

In 1972, after a series of consultations and confrontations, the Inner London Education Committee, as successor to the L.C.C. Education Committee, published a Green Paper proposing either the closure of the Grammar School in 1975, or amalgamation in 1976. Lord Denning searched the precedents to find a way of blocking the move, but failed to find one. The path was now clear for a major building programme, but slowly the plan for an educational campus stretching from Penfold Street to Cosway Street was shown to be futile, for a completely unexpected reason.

Where Had All The Children Gone?

Before the Second World War, Marylebone and Paddington had been full of small industries. Conveniently close to the West End shops with their demands for thousands of specialist goods, there were dozens of small factories in side turnings and hidden mews buildings. Old directories list mantle makers, gunsmiths, feather bedders, ostrich feather merchants and other exotic luxury crafts, besides a mass of more mundane firms. The district was densely packed, with much overcrowding.

During the War the area, full of railway stations and marshalling yards, was heavily bombed. Small businesses had closed when their owners were called up; failed for lack of materials or the closure of specialist markets; or when their premises were bombed, had been relocated outside London. In the period of austerity after the War, raw materials were still not easily available, as priority was given to more essential goods and to mass exports. In addition, there was a deliberate policy to zone industry, moving it away from residential districts instead of them being side by side in a hugger mugger confusion. Lastly, the choking fogs of the 1950s led to the Clean Air Acts, which banished industries such as metal casting from London. Large grants were offered to manufacturing firms to move out of London. As a result, Industry left London.

How did this affect the new School Campus, so carefully protected over decades? Comprehensive schools have to cater for widely different abilities, from highly intelligent children to slow learners. They must also offer a very wide range of subjects, including the traditional grammar school subjects, commercial and craft ones, as well as remedial work. This requires a lot of children if the groups for each subject are to be big enough to justify the teachers' salaries. Normally too, it demands an extremely large building.

When the ILEA was ready to build, the Education Committee found themselves in the position of the town councilors of Hamelin when the Pied Piper had led all the children away. There, only a single crippled boy who had not kept up with the happy throng of dancing children, was left. In London, the movement of firms to green field sites and the building of houses in New Towns had taken away the younger workers and their children, leaving only the grandparents behind. The children had gone. There would be more children in the future, but when and how many and how could the schools wait?

 

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Updated July 5, 2011