1st April marks the one hundred anniversary of the start of the Burston School Strike.
The background to the strike stretches back through the life and experiences of Tom and Kitty Higdon, who were both teachers.
The Higdons’ first employment in Norfolk was in 1902 at Wood Dalling County School, where they came into conflict with the school managers over the conditions for both children and farm workers. Kitty campaigned for improvements in the school buildings and Tom supported the Labourers’ Union. In 1910 the Higdons and a number of labourers stood for election to the Parish Council and won seats.This eventually led to them being offered the choice between dismissal from their teaching posts or transfer to another school. Their choice was to move to Burston.
Unfortunately,the situation that the Higdons found in Burston was similar to that in Wood Dalling, and eventually,Tom and a number of local labourers were elected to the Parish Council,to the annoyance of the Rector and farmers whose seats they won.The previous Parish Councillors remained in control of the school management body,and inevitably,friction occurred, leading to a request by the Managers that the Higdons should be transferred.In response, Tom and Kitty demanded an inquiry,held by the County Education Committee. They were given three months’notice.
On the 1st April most of the pupils went on strike, refusing to attend school and marching around the village with banners demanding to have their teachers back.The Higdons continued to teach the striking children elsewhere in the village and the County school continued to teach the small number of pupils who hadn’t gone on strike. Both schools continued until 1939, when Tom Higdon died and the strike school closed – thus ending the longest running strike in history.