London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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London County Council 1912

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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Annual Report of the London County Council, 1912.

During the year ending the 31st March, 1913, the number of classrooms provided within the 40 and 48 maxima were:—

Council schools.Non-provided schools— rooms with 40 or 48 maxima.
In new schools, enlargements and adaptations (8 schools)57(1 school) 5
By modernising (3 schools)503—
By minor structural alterations (47 schools)260(13 schools) 9
By writing down the accommodation of existing large classrooms (10 schools)94
Total, Council and non-provided schools505

Two new schools were completed during the year 1912-13, enlargements were carried out in 5,
adaptations in 2, and modernising in 3.
During the same period action has been taken to minimise the nuisance occasioned by noise
from street traffic, railways, etc., in four schools regarded as noisy, viz., Holmes-road (St. Pancras, N,W.),
The "Hermitage" (St. George-in-the-East), the Highway (St. George-in-the-East), and Waldronroad,
Wandsworth, and it is proposed to take action immediately in six further schools for this reason.
Inasmuch as complete and recent records of the sanitary and hygienic conditions of all school
buildings in the Council's area at present exist it is proposed in future to obtain each year detailed
routine reports from the school doctors upon only a portion of the school buildings in their charge in
such a way that every school will be reported upon once in five years.
The fact that a progressive programme of adaptations, modernising and minor alterations is in
progress in connection with the new standards of accommodation ensures that the hygienic conditions
of the school buildings will come under review by the medical department at times when the necessary
alterations can be most usefullv insisted upon.
The establishment of open air schools has demonstrated the possibility of teaching out ot doors
and a natural result has been the rapid development of the system of playground classes in London.
Fresh air and physical exercise are now regarded as essential conditions. Physical drill is included in
the curriculum of every elementary school. Organised games demanding free space are becoming
more and more general. As a result of this tendency the playground in connection with the school
building has assumed increasing importance.
In connection with the evidence to be given by the Council's representatives before the Departmental
Committee of the Board of Education on Playgrounds, the school medical officer was instructed
to report upon playgrounds from the point of view of health and hygiene. It was pointed out that
the development of the child depends largely on the exercise of its powers of movement. For efficient
nourishment abundant physical exercise is needed, especially during the first dozen years of life. The
exercise of very young children should be intermittent, but occasionally the child should extend his
physical strength to the utmost, unless this is done there is incomplete development of the child's reserve
powers, the respiratory capacity remains low, the circulation is feeble and there is a tendency to lymphatic
congestion resulting in poor resisting powers to the attacks of disease with liability to catarrhs and
tuberculosis. Such children are debilitated and ill nourished, suffer from enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and
from excessive prevalence of external eye diseases and suppurative ear trouble. At all intervals during
school time the children must have offered to them abundance of freedom for romping, running, jumping
and other active and intermittent exercise if they are to be in proper health, and no other provision than
sufficient room immediately around the school building can ever replace this want hygienically.
In great towns the provision of playgrounds for children is becoming a serious need. All available
free spaces such as unoccupied grounds and churchyards should be used as playgrounds, and during
daylight all school playgrounds should be made available under proper supervision. The covered shelters
in school playgrounds have hitherto not received the consideration they deserve. Many of those
erected in London are dark. ill-ventilated and unsuitable for any purpose. In fact they are very
often avoided as though they were plague spots and in effect merely reduce the playground accommodation.
More airy, higher and lighter sheds forming suitable protection for open air classes need to
be provided in place of many of the present structures. The drinking arrangements in playgrounds
should not be by cups, but by water jets ; one going constantly, others to be turned on when necessary.
From the hygienic point of view, opinion should be thoroughly opposed to any relaxation of
rules about playground space. In the case of some schools a much greater requirement of space than
at present is necessary. The original design of the schools for the physically defective did not take
into consideration that over 80 per cent. of the scholars are able to take exercise under supervision and
that in some districts many of the children are tuberculous and of the type especially needing fresh air
treatment. Stagnation of air takes place when many buildings are crowded together. Ventilation is
insufficient at times in nearly all schools and all the air possible is wanted that can be obtained by free
space around the school. The shadows of surrounding buildings should not fall upon any part of the
window surface of a school; particularly is this necessary in infant departments, and yet there are class
rooms on the ground floor in a large number of schools in London where no direct sunlight can