Coventry city has experienced the destructions of war, three recessions and major declines in the city’s main industries, in particular the motor industry. However, what has brought city hope and growing appeal is its focus and highly regarded educational facilities and focus on making use of technological advancements. This feeling is also reflected in the poem my Grandfather wrote, years ago in 1985 ‘But soon we will arise, technology is with us now’. I began researching education within Coventry through history, recognizing the initial problems post war and its growth and utter success since.
The outbreak of war was to add tremendously to the difficulties of education in Coventry. A total of 8187 school places were removed; 2716 places were taken over by civilian services and 1284 places were converted into air raid shelters. Due to evacuation teaching and educating children was disturbed as people had to move job to job and leave city to city for safety. Around 3000 children in Coventry were also seriously backward owing to the process of evacuation, return, re-evacuation and transfers from one school to another. Truancy and casual absences were problems throughout Coventry and the rest of the country. A great effort was required to bring the Coventry education back to the standard prior to the outbreak of war, however, even this were wanting improvement.
Many changes were made under the Butler Education Act of 1944 the Ministry of Education. The word, ‘elementary’ was abolished by stature and education was to be divided into primary and secondary and the school leaving age became sixteen and the start of ‘secondary’ would for pupils eleven and over. The promises of education for all pupils would be according to age, aptitude and abilities and there was a popular feeling that great advances in education were about to take place, and they were! The Committee also paid attention to the findings in the Norwood Committee, 1943. The Committee recommended the creation of three different types of schools; grammar, technical and modern. Selection procedures would be established in order to place all pupils in the most fitting school. In 1946 Coventry city submitted to the Ministry of Education its first education development plan drawn up under the new Act where they proposed to create ten to eleven multilateral schools. These plans were achieved and are all evident in Coventry today.
The comprehensive schools are now such an established part of the Coventry landscape that it’s difficult to imagine the hardships they had to deal with in school building. There are sixteen comprehensive schools, four of them Roman Catholic, one Church of England representing the continuation of the old Blue Coat Charity. The others are directly maintained by the local authority and stand on large sites around the edge of the city, Tile Hill Wood and Woodlands in the west, Caludon Castle and Woodway Park in the east, President Kennedy in the north, Finham Park in the south and so on. All are purpose-built and some are quite pleasant in appearance, many have safe guarded old buildings and natural beauty. For example, the secondary school I attended in the city, Tile Hill Wood is engulfed with lush trees and a large pond, making for a peaceful environment. Coventry has fully shared in the astonishing revolution in primary schools also, 80% of the city’s primary schools is now accommodated in buildings erected in 1950, during the rebuilding of Coventry. It becomes clear that Coventry is very much planned in regards to education and improving the futures of the city’s children as well as creating more teaching jobs. I believe it to be a great feature in the Coventry landscape and people. It appeals to people nation and worldwide and is a great platform for any student.
The new comprehensive schools were only one of the signs that education in Coventry was beginning to move forward again after the long period of stagnation before the war and the difficulties during and after. A further sign has been a steady growth in the number and size of the establishments for higher education in Coventry. The city of Coventry is in the centre of England, easily accessible from all directions making it the ideal place for people from all over the country to come and study here. It also contained many empty hostels after the war, which was available for any purpose, many of which were converted to teacher training centres. Recognizing the cities ability to create more higher education facilities, which could improve the cities economy, bring the city nationwide and worldwide acclaim and attract more people to visit Coventry, a plan was soon underway.
In 1948, Coventry Education Committee submitted another Development Plan for Further Education. This put plans in place for the city to have a new College of Art, College of Technology and College of General Education. Eventually by 1958, the City Council accepted the idea of establishing a university in Coventry. The city now not only has one university but two, Coventry University and Warwick University. I will now draw my attention more closely to the plans and establishing of Coventry University but through this research into the history of education in Coventry, it’s become clear how much it’s apart of this planned city, probably the most prosperous part to date.