Organised teachers and the labour movement 1900-1930

Lawn, Martin Andrew (1982). Organised teachers and the labour movement 1900-1930. PhD thesis The Open University.



This case study of organised teachers falls into three main parts. In the first section there is a discussion of the working conditions and problems of teaching which is followed by detailed histories of strikes in West Ham, Herefordshire and the Rhondda. These took place in the period between 1900 and 1919 and illustrate the build-up of tension between teachers and their employers culminating in the salaries campaign of 1916 to 1919. Strikes and disputes reveal in speeches,letters or articles the tensions which the teachers faced working in the education system and possible ways of resolving them.

The second part of the study is concerned with ideas which influenced teachers in trying to solve the contradictions of work and solutions generated by the Board of Education in devising a reconstructed system of State education. Teachers adopted or redefined various socialist strands of thought common in the first two decades of the century, in particular Fabianism, guild socialism and syndicalism and were influenced by practical examples of socialist reconstruction proposed by the Independent Labour Party or Trade Councils. Strongly expressed definitions of duty and the responsibility of teachers to the State promoted, among others, by H.A.L. Fisher were also attempting to influence teachers.

In the last section, newly formulated teacher demands for self government were opposed by a strong counter-attack from the Treasury and from the Board of Education on the teachers, which in turn, encouraged many local education authorities to break a national pay agreement and return to pre-war working conditions. Bitter strikes were fought with the help of a weakened Labour movement and a divided teaching force.

The case study is an argument for generating new theoretical categories to understand or examine teachers and opposes the theoretical straitjacket commonly applied to teachers, drawn from social mobility theory or neo-Marxism.

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