England's first open-air school opened in 1907. The schools gained popularity in the 1930s as a means to combat tuberculosis, a disease then rife.
Children considered to be at risk of developing the disease - identified by stunted growth and mental 'dullness' - were sent to the schools. By 1937, 96 open-air day schools and 53 residential schools had been established across the country.
A 1912 publication, 'The Open Air School', had set out the blueprint for how such schools should be run. The regime included vigorous exercise, rest periods during the day and a wholesome diet with plenty of meat, dairy products and vegetables.
Outdoor subjects included horticulture, bee keeping, natural history, woodwork and meteorology (schools had their own weather stations). Academic lessons were based around these activities on desks and chairs in the open - assuming it was not raining.
But by the 1950s, the schools had begin decline. The BCG vaccine was introduced in 1953 and antibiotics became widely available after WWII. Together with slum clearances, the Clean Air Act and the NHS, the threat of tuberculocis was radically reduced, and the schools had lost their imperative to exist.
"On an occasion some of us will not easily forget, the ink became solid in the ink-wells, snow blown into the classroom in the morning was swept out in the afternoon, dinner was served with snow sauce, for there was no means of keeping snow out of the dining shed.”
“Vigorous physical exercise should precede sitting-down lessons, overcoats and rugs will serve to retain the natural heat of the body.”
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Text and curation: Amanda Uren