Bedford Branch Seminar
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This paper investigates the work of Henry Morris (1889-1961), in particular his ideas on the Cambridgeshire Village Colleges. It is now ninety years since the first of these was founded in Sawston in 1930, and the paper aims to address the issue of whether Morris’s views on education and democracy encapsulated in the Village Colleges still have relevancy in the early twenty-first century. An overview of Morris’s career and the creation of the Village Colleges is investigated, using the work of Paul Hirst (1994) and associative democracy as a theoretical lens. It is argued that the Cambridgeshire Village Colleges do have some attributes of associative democracy, particularly their original emphasis as sites of local democracy and participation from voluntary bodies and private individuals. However, Morris’s role as Cambridgeshire’s Chief Education Officer (1922-1954) meant the local state (in the guise of the County Council) played a more significant role in the Village Colleges than Hirst advocates for his version of associative democracy. As English primary and secondary schools turn from local authority control to academy status, Morris’s vision for local schools of and for local people is becoming increasingly compromised. The paper ends with the work of Allen and Gann (2018), both influenced by Morris, who argue for a revitalised form of comprehensive schooling and lifelong learning that again sees educational institutions as sites of grassroots democracy.