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The Burston School Strike re-visited

Year 5 pupils at Burston Community School have been re-living the experiences of those who took part in the longest strike in history.

Pupils at the Burston Community School in Norfolk have been researching and producing video sequences as part of their study into the strike that put their school firmly on the map.

The Burston School Strike was a momentous event in trade union history. Head teacher Annie Higdon, and her husband (also a teacher at the school) were a remarkable couple who were determined to challenge the authority of the landed ruling class and provide the children with an education which would broaden their horizons, rather than teach them to "know their place" and "respect their betters". They worked hard to develop a strong political awareness in the children, but this didn't go down well with the school managers, who accused the couple of lighting fires in the school (the building was heated by coal, use of which was heavily restricted for the sake of economy) without permission. They were also accused of hitting two pupils, though these were dropped after the intervention of the teachers' union. The couple was successfully accused of disrespectful conduct towards the managers, and was sufficient for the Higdons to be dismissed.

The Higdons had the immediate support of many villagers, 18 of whom were summonsed and fined for not sending their children to school. Local people started collections to help meet the fines outside the court and on the village green. Such were the labour shortages during the First World War that the fathers of striking children were unlikely to be sacked, as many of the families hired land from the church and it was on this that they grew food and reared livestock. However, they were evicted and their crops and property were destroyed, which caused inevitable hardship. As word of their plight spread - at first, nationally and then internationally, many people rose to help the striking families, including leading Labour, Trades Unions and Womens Suffrage figures of the era. By 1917, the substantial sum of £1,250 had been raised in support of the cause. With these funds land was obtained, and the now-infamous Strike School was built and equipped, at the heart of the village. It remained open, as a source of inspiration, until Tom Higdon's death shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939. The building remains to this day as a museum to the strike and people come from all over the world to see it.

Visit the CABER Digital Media Library to see some of the downloadable Quicktime movie clips that the children have produced.

Posted 9 Apr 2003 by Becky Draper

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An Open University Knowledge Media Institute and Living Archive project
funded by the East of England Broadband Consortium 2002
The Open University The Knowledge Media Institute The Living Archive