In 1911, the first Medical Inspection of schools in the Linlithgowshire and Kirkliston parishes took place. Extracts from this lengthy report were published in the West Lothian Courier and it gave a detailed description of the lives of school children during that school year. In 1913 there were 17,000 school-age children in attendance at either voluntary schools or public schools.
The Inspection in 1913, completed by a Dr John Hunter, covered clothing, the state of children’s shoes or whether they were bare-footed, malnutrition, verminous children, dental inspections, defective eyesight and ear and nose troubles.
These reports stopped being published in the West Lothian Courier after war broke out, but the inspections would still have taken place. Medical inspections originally began in 1907 but many poor families could not afford the cost of the doctor’s fees to get treated. It was not until 1912 that medical treatment was provided. However, many education authorities largely ignored the provision of free medical treatment for school children.
With many fathers, brothers and uncles being sent to fight in WWI, the affect this had on younger children and teenagers became a problem. This problem was exacerbated with the lack of male teachers, who were also away fighting at the Front. Many leading figures during this time highlighted that the lack of male role models was to blame for the rise in juvenile offences and the lack of discipline and how this may affect education and school life as well as endangering Britain’s future war success.
In 1916, it was proposed that children would have two weeks taken off their summer holidays to allow the children to help on farms during potato-picking season in October. This suggestion was not popular with parents and school boards. The need for children to help out on the farms was again, mainly due to the lack of farmers and farm labourers during the First World War.
Also in 1916, Dr Morgan, Principal of the Provincial Training College suggested that the age at which children should be allowed to leave school should be raised from 14 years of age to 15 years of age after the war had ended. He knew that this extra year in education would be met with opposition from parents and employers, but he believed that as well as giving children another year of education, this would free up many jobs for the men coming home from the war.
In June 1915, schools across Linlithgow closed for almost two months, allowing teachers to volunteer for war work during this time. Nearly 8,000 teachers from across Scotland took part in this. Early in the war, as well as teachers volunteering their time, many teachers asked to be allowed to leave their teaching positions and take up military service. These requests had to be approved by their School Boards. However, by 1917 after conscription was introduced in 1916, we notice more and more Headmasters appealing for teachers not to go to war. This was mainly due to the importance of having a male teacher in a school with children ranging from 12 to 20 years of age.
As a consequence to the lack of male teachers in our school many retired teachers came out of retirement to fill these empty positions.
Find out more about Linlithgow children, schools and wartime in the PDF document attached here.