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

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London County Council 1930

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

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Below is printed an extract from the report of the medical officer of the Stormont
House open-air school:—
"Two school journeys were undertaken during the year, one of twenty-one boys to Whitstable,
and the other for the same number of girls to Bognor. It is fortunate that the headmistress
was able personally to take charge of both parties—a fact which certainly added to the
success. A holiday in some form or another is essential to many of the children, and I consider
that school journeys meet a need which would not otherwise be catered for. All the children
did well and thoroughly enjoyed their stay by the sea."
classes in
parks and
The number of open-air classes in connection with the elementary schools
actually held during the year was 195, an increase of 17 over the number for 1929.
Of these 15 were of type A (children selected for medical reasons from a group
of schools), 61 were of type B (children selected for medical reasons from the various
classes of a single school), 35 were of type C (consisting in a single class from one school
educated continuously at one open-air station), and 84 of type D (consisting of a
rotation of classes from one school occupying one open-air station). Of the 195
classes, 118 were held in school playgrounds while 77 were stationed in parks and
other open spaces at a distance from their parent school.
Forty-eight of the classes are being carried on through the winter. There are,
in addition, over and above the 195 "programme" classes, four permanently
established classes which do not enter into the annual programme figures. The
children in these classes are kept under special observation by the school doctors,
they are weighed and measured regularly and are given additional nourishment
when required. Detailed reports have been received in the case of 80 classes.
The general benefit accruing to the children is most marked, especially in those
classes where the children are selected on medical grounds as especially likely to
obtain advantage from open-air conditions. Although the equipment is of the
slightest and the classes were originally projected for the summer months only,
yet in many cases they have been continued throughout the winter months as well.
The conditions under which the classes are held vary greatly, and the degree of
improvement in health consequently also varies. In some neighbourhoods the poor
nature of the accommodation possible militates against the best results, but, nevertheless,
considerable improvement in health is noticed in the children. Dr. Edith
Robinson comparing two type B classes under her medical supervision, one of which
was held on the roof of the Forster School and one in Poole's Park, came rather
surprisingly to the conclusion that the children in the roof playground benefited
more than those in the park. The reasons she gives include the better arrangement
for mid-day feeding at the Forster School, the possibility of withdrawal into shelter
in bad weather and less distraction.
St. Mary's,
Putney, openair
Other reports which may be quoted are those of the St. Mary's school, Felshamroad,
Putney, of which Dr. McQuaid says:—
"This class has been a remarkable success. There were several extremely poorly nourished
children, and it is no exaggeration to say that they are unrecognisable they have improved so
much. The mothers of nearly all the children came to the last inspection to express their
appreciation of the improvement."
White Lion
Street openair
Of the White Lion-street school open-air class, Dr. McKeown reports:—
"During the year 1930 the general improvement in the physical and mental condition of the
children attending the open-air class has been well maintained. The number of children on the
roll at present is 28, and during the year the average number in attendance has been 30. The
attendance has been good and there has been no case of serious illness amongst the children.
On analysing the causes for absence it has been found that in a large proportion of the cases the
absence was due to illness amongst the family at home so that the child was kept at home to help;
or else the absence was due to some minor ailment or indisposition not lasting longer than three
days. There has been no case of infectious illness during the year and no case of developing
rheumatism. The class has not been obliged to be in the indoor classroom on account of the
weather since February, 1929.
"At the present time in this open-air class the children on admission show five principal
defects—anaemia (present in 80 per cent. of the cases), very poor muscular tone due to imperfect
nutrition and surroundings, defective posture as a result of the poor muscular tone, languid
aspect, poor air entry into the lungs. The first improvement to be noted in nearly every case
is the comparatively rapid lessening of the anaemia, with this there is an increase in appetite and
a brightening of the general aspect of the child. In those cases where the defective posture is
slight the recovery of muscular tone remedies it in a month or two. In the cure of some cases