Shrewsbury Road Special Day School

In the year 1924, Newham became home to the Shrewsbury Road Special Day School. Originally built in 1887, nearly forty years later it was decided by the East Ham Education Committee that it was imperative to have a school for scholars with special educational needs.

The derelict building was repainted and remodelled to finally give birth to the Special Day School. Over the years, the school became a thriving educational body. A range of classes were assigned for boys and girls, including extra-curricular classes such as wood work, boot repair, gardening, and music lessons. Classrooms were fitted with woodwork benches, plots of land were allocated at Durban House for the students to learn gardening, connections were established with the youth unemployment centre to teach the students boot repair skills.

As well as this, a pianoforte was provided for the school as early as December 1924, merely months after it officially opened, adding musical flavour to the now buzzing atmosphere. Unlike the cold and lifeless image of any standard school from the early 1900s, the Shrewsbury Road Special Day School was a colourful and vibrant institution that catered towards celebrating and encouraging students to achieve their true potential. The end of every academic year meant constructing an exhibition within the school grounds to display the hard work of its students alongside an awards ceremony. With an air filled with pride for their accomplishments, both teachers and parents would be present and prizes were handed out to all of the students. Much of this lively atmosphere was thanks to the dedication from all of the school’s staff towards providing a nurturing and enjoyable learning establishment for children who were regularly overlooked by society as a whole.

A great deal of this passion for education came as a result of its Head Mistress, Miss J.V. Bright. Miss Bright advocated for the acknowledgement of her students as valued members of British society and campaigned for the inclusion of her students' written works in the Lifeboat Association's annual essay competition in 1929. Thanks to her persistence, despite the rejection she faced from some members of the East Ham council, a student by the name of Millicent Catermole won a prize for her essay and had it published in the Lifeboat Association Journal.

The support did not stop there as the charity itself also published a personal letter openly supporting Miss Bright's enthusiasm and dedication to her students as well as advocating for the council to respect and honour the inclusion of her students within British society as valued members. Despite the school shutting down during World War II, over the course of nearly two decades the Shrewsbury Road Special Day School brightened the lives of many students and aided in nurturing life skills and hidden talents that otherwise may have been overlooked.

The School, alongside its teachers and students, were yet another colourful thread in the woven tapestry that is representative in both the historic and present day community of Newham.

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