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Birmingham Historian Praises OSH English Project

January 25th, 2017

Professor Carl Chinn praised Year 8 pupils at OSH for their work on a project focusing on poor children growing up in the 1900s in the back to back houses of Birmingham.  Their work was shared at a public event at the Crescent Theatre with contributions from schools in the Birmingham Area.

“I was deeply impressed by Old Swinford Hospital’s understanding, empathy and abilities demonstrated in their digital presentation,” said Professor Chinn.  “I really liked the way Malala Yousafzai was featured.  They drew out similarities between women and children across the world at different periods of time”.

The Year 8 pupils had been learning about a forgotten aspect of local history, the ‘Birmingham Street Robins’ March’, in conjunction with the West Midlands Mantle of the Expert Network.

In Victorian times, the annual event known as the ‘Birmingham Street Robins’ March’ was held for poor children.  Around 5,000 children from a range of communities would gather in the Bull Ring and then march through the streets, bearing flags and banners.  After the march they were fed and took part in games and races.

Through the teaching method of ‘Mantle of the Expert’, which is a dramatic-inquiry based approach to teaching and learning, the class studied the history of the story and have wrote their own song to reflect the experiences of the time.

Carl Eastwood, English Teacher at OSH said:  “Pupils have enjoyed and benefited from a different way of learning.  We are grateful to Iona Towler-Evans, one of only five international ‘Mantle of the Expert’ trainers and herself trained by the ‘inventor’ Dr Dorothy Heathcote, for running the sessions.

“Pupils looked at the connection between history and modern day.  They identified that children had a poor education, and through research they found a book by Kathleen Dayus.  In ‘Her People’, the first volume of her trilogy, the author remembers her working-class childhood in Birmingham.  They then connected her story to Malala Yousafzai’s who fought for the right to have an education in Pakistan.”

The project was co-ordinated by Dr David Allen, Director of MAT who said “The student’s own voices, spoken and sung, juxtaposed with images presented, reflected the theme explored by pupils at Old Swinford Hospital, of children and their worlds. The presentation powerfully conveyed the connection between the poor children of the 1900s and children of our century.  It was well received by the audience at The Crescent Theatre.”

Pupils also benefited from the musical support of Birmingham musician Josh Herring.


About Mantle of the Expert:  In this method of teaching/learning, children are asked to think of themselves as if they are running their own company – for example, they might be scientists in a lab, or curators in a museum.  Through the activities and tasks the pupils gradually take on the same kinds of responsibilities, problems and challenges that real archaeologists, historians, and librarians might do in the real word.

Midland Actors Theatre:

Professor Carl Chinn MBE PhD is an English historian, writer and broadcaster whose working life has been devoted to the study and popularisation of the city of Birmingham