Children at School (1937)

An important film about conditions in schools – made by Basil Wright, a major figure in Britain’s 1930s documentary movement.

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Film details


Children at School is a crusading documentary about conditions in Britain’s schools shortly before World War II. Sponsored by the gas industry, it was one of several films of social concern to be funded from this perhaps surprising source (the most famous was 1935’s Housing Problems).

Director Basil Wright was one of the leading lights of the British documentary movement of the 1930s and 40s, and Children at School was one of the first films to be made by his recently founded independent production company, the Realist Film Unit. Many modern viewers may find the film both wonderful and cringeworthy. Weaker points include the presentation of the film as an ‘illustrated’ lecture by starchy Spectator editor H. Wilson Harris, and some equally stiff ‘acting’ by schoolmasters.

The glories are the children themselves. Remarkably empathetic camerawork conveys something of the rhythms and sights of their now long–vanished schooldays. Film critics have often referred to a ‘poetic’ touch in Wright’s films. It contributes to the poignant but fleeting flavour of Children at School.

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