EDUCATION OF POLES IN EXILE DURING AND AFTER WW2

 

Throughout WW2 the Polish Government in Exile recognised its responsibility for education and, in the most difficult of circumstances, sought to provide a broad range of educational facilities – from primary schools to university degree courses – for soldiers, their families and civilians fleeing from both the Russians and Germans. 

 

Following Poland’s defeat in the September Campaign it set up primary and secondary schools in France to cater for those who had escaped to the west via Hungary, Rumania and Italy.  After the defeat of France in June 1940 the Polish Government, and many of those who had escaped to France just nine months earlier, found themselves in England.  Initially the government advised Poles to send their children to English schools limiting itself to funding three hours a week of Polish Language tuition but, as the numbers swelled, Secondary Boarding schools for both boys and girls were set up.

 

After Hitler’s attack on the USSR on 22nd June 1941 hundreds of thousands of Poles released from Soviet prisons, gulags and places of exile escaped to the Middle East with gen. Anders' army and presented the Polish Government with a fresh educational challenge.  This was met by setting up quasi military cadet schools attached to the Polish Forces as they travelled across the Middle East and later fought in Italy, and also purely civilian schools in some 50 displaced persons camps scattered across the Middle East, India, Africa and later Italy and Germany.  To support these schools many thousands of Polish textbooks were printed in Palestine and later Italy.  In the U.K. the Polish Government was successful in establishing Polish faculties at British universities; medicine at Edinburgh in 1941, architecture at Liverpool in 1942, veterinary studies at Edinburgh in 1943 and law at Oxford in 1944, at which young men and women could complete the studies that had been interrupted by war.

 

The Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain

 

When war ended, as a matter of political expediency, the British Government withdrew recognition of the Polish Government in Exile in favour of the puppet communist regime set up by Stalin in Poland but it still needed to cater for the needs of some quarter of a million Polish servicemen, their families and civilian displaced persons.  To this end, in April 1947, it established an autonomous Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain, staffed by both British and Polish members and chaired by Sir George Gater, working under the auspices of the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947.  Publicly funded it became responsible for the previously mentioned Polish faculties at universities as well as adult, nursery and primary education in National Assistance Board Camps and a number of grammar and secondary modern boarding schools which, by 1949 amalgamated into four main  schools, two grammar schools, one for boys and one for girls, and two secondary schools. There was also a Technical School and a boarding school for Polish orphans aged between five and eleven, this school also catered for young children, on a temporary  basis,  who's parents were ill in hospital or unable to look after them for other reasons.  The Committee's task was to ensure that both mature and young people were equipped with language and work skills so they could earn their living in the UK and that, for the younger children, there was a smooth transfer into the British education system.

From 1951 the number of pupils in the Committee's boarding secondary schools started to decrease and the Committee carried out a gradual amalgamation of its schools. In September 1952 the Secondary Modern girls from Diddington were sent to  Stowell Park where they joined up with their Grammar School neighbours to form a bilateral secondary school. The  Bottisham boys joined the boys in Diddington.  In 1953 the Diddington boys were moved, joining the boys in  Lilford and  in September 1954 all Polish secondary school pupils, boys and girls were formed into one school at Lilford. The girls were housed in Lilford hall the boys were housed in the Nissen huts as they completed their final courses. 

 

The Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain carried out its work in a spirit of admirable harmony and, having completed the bulk of it's task, was wound up on 30th Sep. 1954.

 

The main source for the information on the school pages is a booklet "EDUCATION IN EXILE" published by the Ministry of Education 1956

 
 
Stowell Park
Gloucestershire
Girls Grammar and
Secondary Modern School
 
 
 Bottisham
Nr. Cambridge
Boys Grammar School
 
 
 
 Diddington
Huntingdon.
Secondary School for
.boys and girls 1949
 
 
Lilford,
Northamptonshire
Technical School for boys.
 
 
 
Shephalbury School,
Stevenage
For children five to eleven
 
 
 
 

There were also two independent boarding schools in the UK.

Pitsford Northamptonshire  for girls run by the Polish order of the Holy Family of Nazareth closed in 1975.
Fawley Court  Henley on Thames. Opened in 1953/4 The school closed in the 1980s.
 
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