Pressure to reduce school leaving age for boys

PRESSURE TO REDUCE THE SCHOOL LEAVING AGE FOR BOYS DURING THE WAR TO 13 YRS

 

Although the national school leaving age was only twelve years of age there were local differences and in Birmingham the Education Authority imposed a leaving age of fourteen.

At the end of 1915 the Chamber of Commerce urged Birmingham Education Authority to reduce boys school leaving age by a year from 14 to 13 years during the war to increase the amount of labour. (This was with parents’ permission.) The Education Authority stood firm and said that ‘the employment of school children should not be resorted to except as a last resource’.

Three months later both employers and parents campaigned for the City Council to reduce the school leaving age because of the shortage of labour.  They cited areas adjacent to Birmingham which allowed scholars to leave school at 13.  Once again the City Council refused and said that the existing exemptions already gave children permission to leave before 14.  In place was the Labour Examination in Standard VII.  If the child passed they were awarded a Labour Certificate allowing them to leave school and work full-time. Children between the ages of 12 and 14 could work full-time but only children over the age of 13 years could work full-time in a factory. How stringently this was observed, we can only guess.

A change occurred  3 months later in June 1915 when the Education Committee allowed boys between 13 and 14 years to be employed on farm work if the farmer was able to prove he was unable to find workmen because of the war.  The resolution was passed on the understanding that the Committee had to be satisfied as to the conditions under which the child was employed.  Unfortunately the Minutes don’t detail what was considered satisfactory!

Cathie Paton

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