Wood End Hostel: Education of boat children

Life Afloat: NarrowBoat, Winter 2008

Hugh Potter

Hugh Potter looks at Wood End Hall Hostel in Birmingham, specially opened to enable boat children to attend school

The education of children who lived on boats was beset with difficulties, as Wendy Freer described in ‘A Tale of Two Classes’ in Summer 2008 NarrowBoat. Most of the schools set up specially for boat children were in the London area, but attendance was of necessity sporadic. There, and elsewhere, children would go to school when their boat arrived, but could be taken out only a few hours later if their boats were ready to leave. They might not return for days or weeks. This is well shown by the Ellesmere Port school registers found by Cath Turpin (see Letters pages). As school attendance fell with the declining trade in the 1950s, there were proposals to set up ‘hostels’ where boat children could stay and receive a more conventional full-time education. The one planned for Bulls Bridge was never built, but one was opened in Birmingham, possibly based on established boarding schools for boat children in The Netherlands. Wood End Hall was inaugurated in November …

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