World War I

When war was declared in 1914, school life continued much as ever. Some of the male teachers and staff at the Cass Institute (the further education college set up by the Foundation) volunteered to fight – some of them were never to return. For example, the minute books tell us that Mr S E Hill of the Cass Institute was killed in 1916.


At the Cass Institute as in organisations all over the country, women took over the jobs of the men who had gone to war, often doing the same work for little more than half the pay.


Britain had been at war several times since the school was set up, but this was the first time that a war had affected children and their families directly. And this was the first time since 1066 that London had been attacked.


When air raids began – the first was on Christmas Eve 1914 – it was shocking as well as frightening. War was being brought home to Londoners. One writer of the time commented “even the very birds and animals developed air raid nerves”


By 1917 the raids were taking their toll on everyone. John Perkins, the headmaster of the Cass school wrote:


“In consequence of air raids by day and night during the past term a large number of children have been sent into the country and 47 are now attending school elsewhere….long period of absence on the part of some combined with serious nervous and mental disturbances on the part of many have seriously affected the character of the work and made normal progress quite impossible”.


Many families all over London sent their children away to the countryside where it was safer. Neither the government nor individual schools organised this officially, so there are no records of exactly how many children were involved. But at the Cass school, pupil numbers dropped to the point where in 1918 an amalgamation with the St Botolph Parish School was agreed in order to increase the roll once more.