By Mark McConville
STUNNING pictures have revealed the school that was on a boat and attended by children who lived on canal barges.
The incredible images show teacher Mrs Eva Shelton blowing a horn to call the children into school in 1948, children leaving for the school from their barge homes and a woman styling a girl’s hair aboard a canal boat.
Other striking shots show children playing Ring o’ Roses, pupils writing at their desks and learning mathematics.
These children, learning their ABCs at the Barge School, Southall, Middlesex, were lucky if they get in 25 days’ attendance a year.
They lived in canal barges, and go to the school when their floating homes call in for repairs or sailing orders.
The school is an old barge on dry land and teacher Mrs Eva Shelton loved her job in spite of never knowing who’s going to turn up.
The horn she uses to call the children into school is similar to one a boatman blows when he is turning into another canal or entering a tunnel.
Going to school was difficult for children living on narrow boats because they were always on the move.
The 1920 Boat Children’s Education Act stating that boat children had to go to school 200 days a year, the same as children who lived in houses. Despite this many boat children still failed to attend more than three weeks a year.
Some children were taught on land and returned to their families and boats in the holidays while schools on boats also opened in stopping places along the canal.
As education for the rest of the population became better after the 1948 Education Act, people tried to think of new ways to ensure boaters’ children the same opportunities as were given other children.
As there was less work and poorer pay on the canals in the 1950s, boaters had to work extra hard to make a living. This meant the children went to school even less. So hostels were opened, where children could stay during term time and have a full-time education.