Cloughfold Mentally Defective School

I was idly browsing through the Discovery catalogue of the National Archives, as you do, when I chanced upon file ED 32/471 containing records regarding the Mentally Defective School at Cloughfold. Interesting, I had no idea such an institution had ever existed.
Ten days and a trip to London later I was presented with the records in a slim blue folder. There were 20 documents, mainly correspondence between the Education Board and the Education Committee of Rawtenstall Borough Council, and Inspector's reports. These charted the history of the school from a request that an internal gallery be removed in 1934 through its moving to a room within Cloughfold County Primary School in 1937 with the problems consequent on that to its eventual closure in December 1941. The school had apparently opened in October 1926 but that was sadly not recorded.
The history of the school itself will be recorded on the education pages in due course. However I love primary sources and the file was fascinating on a number of levels:
1. the history of the school itself
2. the attitudes to learning disability in the 1930s and the language surrounding this:
An Inspector's report in 1934 commented that two of the children 'were Mongols and should not be there'
  • A memorandum of interview between the Educational Board and the Local Authority in 1937 suggested: 'eliminating as far as possible the really low grade cases' and transferring some of the remaining children into a 'dull and backward class' in a Public Elementary School
  • A memo of the Education Board in 1937 referred to the 'best of the children' being 'only retarded and not mentally defective'
  • A summary of an inspector's report in 1941 referred to four 'ineducables' who had 'nevertheless been given educate certificates'
  • And so on.
This reminded me of some inpatient records I saw as a medical student which referred to people as 'an imbecile' or 'an idiot' or 'a moron'. Each of these had a precise definition in terms of IQ.
3. The process of closing a school. It became evident in 1937 that the school was not fit for purpose where it was but the numbers were such that building facilities fit for purpose could not be justified. All agreed that the school was non viable but the issue was the continuing provision for the remaining pupils. By October1941 a Dr Henderson, Schools Inspector, submitted a report which was scathing but nevertheless recommended that a letter be sent to the Local Authority congratulating them on the 'excellence of their service'!
This report led to a memo requesting that a 'Mr Bosworth Smith' would 'look at' the report. Sadly his thoughts were not documented. By now the school 'must certainly close' with a beautiful note in the corner by another hand from 'Miss Elliott': 'I agree. It is an extraordinary state of affairs which should not have been allowed to go on all this time'. Indeed.
The Education Board and the LEA came to simultaneous but apparently separate decisions that the school should close at the end of that term. This was followed by a decision for it to remain nominally open until the start of the next term to allow the teacher to be paid over the Christmas holidays. The school closed for instruction in December 1941
Despite this, the Education Board reissued the school with a certificate in 1942. They later described this as 'inadvertent' and requested that it 'be destroyed'.
4. The effects of WWII, with the Education Board operating out of a hotel in Bournemouth. After closure, a memo from the Education Board suggested whether or not the vacated premises would be suitable for refugees. the response is unknown, but refugees were taken into the area during WWII, including some in Springhill itself.
Sadly, I don't know where the school was located before its move to Cloughfold County Primary.