Fascinating insight into life for deaf children in 1954

Last week my father bought to my attention two videos that had been uploaded to YouTube of a documentary into life at the Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate from 1954. Unfortunately, the videos were not subtitled so Teresa Quail and myself set about the task of transcribing the videos and re-uploading them for all to enjoy.

The video is particularly close to my heart because in part two it features my mother, Catherine, as an eight-year-old girl enjoying class with her friend Linda Fincham who has remained a friend of our family for years.

It’s provides a fascinating insight into school life and the approaches to educating deaf children sixty years ago. In the second part of the film, the children are discussing a book called ‘Little Black Sambo’ which was popular in the first part of the 20th century. Since then the book has fallen out of favour in schools because the language and illustrations are not appropriate today. For more information on this book, please see it’s Wikipedia entry.

Please click the ‘CC’ button at the bottom right of the screen to access the subtitles.


5 thoughts on “Fascinating insight into life for deaf children in 1954

  1. Many thanks for these beautiful videos with captioning added for us (we millions of deaf, deafened and people with hearing loss who do not use sign language), not to mention hearing others :-), which leads to this question please: in the 50's there, no sign language was taught at all?


  2. Thanks so much for captioning this :D. I saw this originally and was a bit frustrated by the lack of subtitles.

    I wonder what happened to the children in the film? Did they go on to sign or lipread or both? They must be well into their 60s by now.


  3. My mum is in the video and went on to marry a deaf man, she worked in a bakery making cakes for a while before becoming a mother and raising three hearing children. She now has four grandchildren.

    She's tagged in the post so you can see an interview she gave with Yours Magazine recently.


  4. Oh my God – how lucky we are today and how dreadful it was if you were Deaf just a few decades back. My heart shrivels inside me when I see what an oral education forced on Deaf children just a short while ago.

    I've been aware of this terrible regime for years but seeing these films reminds me of the dreadful dark ages for the Deaf community which the 1880 congress of Milan ushered in (when sign language was banned in Deaf education).

    It's very, very difficult to watch but something we all should watch. Thank you PDDCS for uploading this and for providing captions.

    And thank you to schools and units like that at the Jack Hunt School in Peterborough which insist that their TAs/CSWs are fully competant in BSL for those Deaf students who require it. And – (aplogies for so many thank yous!) thank you for the wonderful Deaf adult role models who work with and teach our incredible children 🙂


  5. As recently as 2003 my Deaf son (then ages 5) underwent this type of education until I realised what was going on and withdrew him immediately from his educational setting. He was then out of school for 5 months while I argued with the Local Authority for a BSL supported placement. (The LA was not Peterborough).


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