LETTER - ‘Did Burston School dispute actually involve a literal strike?’
The impression is often repeated that the Burston School dispute, which ran from 1914 to 1939, was a strike by employees against their employers. No strike by employees occurred.
The school’s management committee had been at variance with the two teachers who ran the school, especially with the teacher’s liberal views, and matters came to a head when the management committee decided to dismiss the teachers because of the latter’s decision not to allow children out of school to work on farms during term time.
The two teachers, head and wife deputy, had considerable support from both children and parents especially as the teachers gave support to agricultural workers and their children during the teachers’ employment.
Of the 72 pupils, well over 60 attended an alternative education residence with the teachers and was continually supported for almost 25 years with new children attending.
The alternative educational set up was very similar to the “Hedge” schools established in Ireland by the Catholic Church in the 19th and early 20th century.
Often literally, education was conducted around hedges on land. At Burston therefore, no employee was on strike vis a vis employer but children and parents were on “strike” by keeping the teachers at alternative sites.