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Next entry: Babel Primary
Previous entry: Ray Lewis: I approximately told you so
Saturday July 05 2008

Last night I chanced upon a really interesting BBC4 TV documentary, fronted by Huw Edwards, on the subject of Sunday Schools. 

This blog liked it too:

It’s not just learning the words to Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, says Huw Edwards. Early pioneers rocked the boat by teaching poorer children to read, and football clubs like Everton owe their existence to the religious classes.

Mention Sunday school today and many will think of an institution that feels fusty, cosy and quaint. Some might even feel outright hostility. But others remember kindness, rich storytelling and singing - happy memories of some of the best moments of childhood.

This remarkable movement, founded in 1774 with the first class held in a house in Gloucester, has had a deeply radical effect on British society. In the early days, it was seen as dangerous and subversive to give the tools of literacy to the lower orders. In Victorian times, Sunday schools helped shape future MPs, women teachers and a large number of the current Premiership football clubs.  And well into the 20th Century, Sunday school students parading at Whitsun could turn out in their thousands, bringing city centres to a standstill.

I daresay not all pupils will remember Sunday School quite as fondly as the talking heads reminiscing in this show all did.  But a convincing case was made that Sunday Schools, in their time, made quite an impact on the life of the nation, most of it beneficial.  The sheer kindness of these places came over very strongly, which meant a great deal to children who, especially in the early days of Sunday Schools, were typically working for pay and not much of it, for the other six days of the week.

For another response, go here.

UPDATE: It’s being shown again Sunday night (July 6) at 8pm.