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This entry appeared in the Letters column of the "Kettering Leader" for the week ending July 7th 1956. Transcribed by Sally Crane.

Church Tensions over Education

Apropos my notes of a week or two ago mentioning the revival of a connection between the Church and education, a correspondent sends this letter recalling the “bad old days”

George Rowe’s article on “The Church and Education” in last week’s paper is entirely one-sided. There is another and far less pleasant side which some of us know to our cost.  I refer to Church treatment of Free Church teachers and scholars.

At one time there were no less than 8,000 schools in the country maintained by rates and taxes where men and women having excellent qualifications were debarred from the headships and indeed from any position simply because of their Free Church principles.  The management of these schools was entirely in the hands of the parson and his set and they doggedly kept it so at all costs.  In the nearby town of Burton Latimer you have an example of this.

The majority of children attending were of Nonconformist parents, but when they asked for a representative on the management committee they were bluntly refused time and again.  Not only so, but promising lads and girls of these parents who wanted to enter the teaching profession were told they must renounce their Nonconformity and become members of the Anglican Church.

I know this to be a fact because it happened to me.  When my father approached the parson on the subject he was told I must first be christened and confirmed – a request which was rejected with indignation.

As the school managers remained obdurate, feeling in the town became increasingly strong at the injustice of the situation.  The townspeople demanded a vote of the parish on the question of a School Board for Burton, which resulted in the decisive victory of 80 for it.  And eventually as there seemed no other way of getting justice, the Free Churchmen determined to end the intolerable position by building schools themselves.  This they did.

A very fine block of schools costing thousands of pounds was built.  It was a great struggle to raise the money.  But Free Churchmen all over the country responded to the appeal.  Many working men in the town set aside week by week a portion of their wages in support.  And when the schools were opened upwards of 200 children filled the classrooms.

Only in this way were young people wishing to become teachers freed from clerical domination and sectarian narrowness.  It was a bold brave step to take but it succeeded.  This is the other side of “the Church and Education”, and how many of the other 8,000 parishes lacking a strong bold lead, had to endure the sectarian domination and clerical injustice for themselves and their children?

Oliver Ayres
63 Park Grove
Bristol 9

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