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August 10, 2019

School Without Rules: Welcome to Burgess Hill aka Beat School, Where You Can Do Whatever You Want in the 1960s

England has long been famous for its educational establishments, the freedom of choice of schools and for their political and social toleration. But here’s a boarding school where youth is not merely allowed but encouraged to have its fling.

Burgess Hill was a boarding school in Hertfordshire, England in the 1960s. A progressive school run by a Cambridge graduate, it allowed the kids to do what ever they liked!

Shots from the footage show children arriving at school. Some arrive on their own motorbikes, others jump out of a van. The kids wear casual clothes – jeans and leather jackets. A couple of the boys are “rockers” with quiffs and sunglasses, some might be called “beatniks”.

According to the narration from the clip, staff of the school believe that if you blindly forbid children to do something, then they will certainly revolt.

What follows is something that would probably give Ofsted a heart attack: A girl reaches for her pencil case and takes out a cigarette, which she then lights up. “The answer is to allow them to find out whether these conventions are good or bad. Besides, smoking calms the nerves.” – the voiceover adds.

Table manners are discussed over shots of pupils having their dinner. It is very relaxed, some don’t even sit at tables, a girl eats a piece of chicken with her hands. The rock chick gives the dog a piece of food.

The grounds of the school are shown. “Here without danger or worry to anyone the youngsters run and play.” Various shots of the children playing on ropes - hanging from a very high rope and swinging from tree to tree. Youngish boy walks along smoking a cigarette and playing a harmonica.

Drama lessons are very popular at the school as self expression is paramount. Some pupils performing in a play using “method acting”. One of the rockers holds a pistol in his hand. He pretends to be shot and lights a cigarette with shaking hands. Boys riding motorcycles move into shot.

Classmates young and old dressed in beat uniform dancing to the twist, Chubby Checker. Skirts swirl to reveal stockings and suspenders. A few boys ride their bikes around the room through the dancers.

Narrator states that when asked about their schooling one of the pupils says that “we learn no more than we would at an ordinary school. But there are compensations, like being happy.” The narrator ends with the wry comment: “Like being happy? Well we wonder.”

(via British Pathé)

1 comment:

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