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Higher education postcard: Furzedown College

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’ postbag takes you to Tooting. Or Streatham. Depending on whether you’re an estate agent
This article is more than 1 year old

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

Greetings from Tooting! (and, while we’re at it, power to the people!)

In 1915 the London County Council (LCC) purchased Furzedown House. This had been built in 1794 in the Georgian style, and had been extended in the 1860s with a substantial conservatory.

Residential development had been taking place in the parkland around Furzedown House since the early 1900s, with new streets being laid down. But the LCC wanted to convert Furzedown House to a Teacher Training College for women, bringing together existing colleges in Fulham and Clapham. In 1915 it opened its doors to its first students.

The College trained women to teach in primary and, I think, secondary schools. Its fortunes fluctuated with that of the wider economy (for example, when teaching salaries were low in the 1920s and 1930s, enrolment was lower), but perked up post war when the need for more teachers was recognized nationally.

In the 1960s the LCC sought to expand the College from 450 students to 600. A series of modernist buildings were added to the grounds, providing not only additional bedrooms but also a hall and dining rooms, music and science laboratories. The buildings have been compared to Le Corbusier’s government buildings in Chandigarh. Sadly, the postcard doesn’t show the modernist parts to enable us to compare.

The College offered Certificate in Education courses, awarded by the University of London. In the rationalisation of provision which took place in the 1970s, most of the 26 teacher education colleges in London merged into existing universities, but seven, including Furzedown College (which had by this stage merged within another to become the Phillipa Fawcett and Furzedown College of Education), were closed. The buildings are now used by a local school and as private student residences.

The University of London, as the awarding body, has a scheme to enable those who gained Certificates of Education from the closed colleges to trade in for an honorary Bachelor of Education degree.

Snippets from Furzedown

Firstly, an occasion in 1935, where students demonstrated contemporary versus Victorian approaches to physical education. Everybody likes dressing up, so this must have been fun. I have, I regret to say, no further details.

Physical education - ancient and modern

And secondly, a very important certificand: my mother, Dorothy, who studied at Furzedown before going on to a career teaching in Bristol and Sheffield. She has fond memories of Furzedown, not all of them relating to the teaching and learning which took place. Whilst studying at Furzedown she met my father, Bernard, who was studying at King’s College London. So in a very real sense the University of London has played a significant part in my life!

And it is her birthday this week, so please raise a glass and toast Furzedown, and Dorothy. Happy Birthday, Mum!

4 responses to “Higher education postcard: Furzedown College

  1. My Mum trained here in the early 1950s, a 2 year course. There was still rationing for part of it, though when she described the 3 meals a day and intermediate snacks of bread and jam it’s hard to understand how her fighting weight was under 8 stone. There was a curfew I believe and no gentlemen were permitted in rooms. She was a working class girl from Smethwick, West Midlands, her best friend from school also attended. I believe all her living expenses were covered by a generous local authority grant and they wrote to offer employment in the borough as soon as she graduated. She taught for over 30 years, mostly rising fives and reception.

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