Schools and the First World War

Page 4 – The School Journal

In May 1907 New Zealand pupils were for the first time able to read a schoolbook published in their own country. The New Zealand School Journal was initiated by Education Department head George Hogben to provide schoolchildren with a free magazine containing information on history, geography and civics. Each year one of the 10 monthly issues was dedicated to Empire and Dominion, with material selected to develop ‘an appreciation of the higher literature … an admiration of truth and goodness in daily life, and a high conception of patriotism and national service.’

During the First World War the School Journal played an important role in encouraging ‘patriotism’, ‘self-sacrifice’, ‘obedience’ and support for the war effort among schoolchildren. There were feature sections on Gallipoli and the Western Front, and reports on children’s fundraising efforts. In July 1915, as the casualties at Gallipoli mounted, the Journal included a stirring letter by the Earl of Liverpool, Governor of New Zealand, on the importance of children’s contributions to the war effort: 

You children previously helped by subscribing the handsome sum of £2,289 for ambulance equipment on land. With this sum motor ambulances and other requisites were bought, but at the present time it is impossible to give full details. In response to His Excellency’s appeal, too, many of you have worked devotedly making articles that were so much needed. May your labor of love reap its full reward in the comfort and relief it brings to our sick and wounded.

Earl of Liverpool, New Zealand School Journal, July 1915

By 1915 children could read about the trenches that had become homes for so many men. The Journal noted that living conditions could be rough, and reminded children that the soldiers were ‘very thankful to anyone who tries to make their life more pleasant.’ First World War battles were named in the ‘key dates’ section of the School Journal as significant days or months that should be acknowledged and commemorated in classroom and school ceremonies.

Many teachers pinned maps onto the walls of the classrooms and tracked progress at the ‘Front’. Children were constantly reminded in class or at special assemblies of the sacrifices that ‘old boys’ and brothers and fathers were making in their name. They were also reminded that when they were old enough they could be expected to be called upon to make the same sacrifices.

The School Journal increasingly found subject material in the war, mixing moral fables, stories of heroism and battles, and poems and songs to promote patriotism in the schoolyard.