The 1914 Herefordshire Teachers’ Strike

During the winter of 1913-14 the discontent felt by school teachers in Herefordshire, as the poorest paid anywhere in the country, took a more militant turn when teachers resigned en masse while demanding increased wages and a new pay scale.

The immediate reaction of the Local Education Authority (LEA) was to bring in scab labour to replace strikers. Many of the strikers were popular members of the local communities and not all students were willing to be taught by the strike breakers.

On the first day of the strike students at Ledbury Girls School arrived to be greeted by the LEA scabs. The first sign of trouble was at morning break when 40 students marched into the town demanding their teachers back and chanting “we want a strike”. Upon returning to school it was reported that they upturned inkpots and desks, and “amused themselves on the piano”. Thirty students then followed the new head teacher into town during the lunch break jeering her as they went. When the teachers returned for the afternoon they found the student ‘strikers’ were blocking the main entrance and refusing to move, many sang songs in support of the strike and demanded the return of their own teachers. Other students gained entry to the school via the back door; they pulled down blinds, rang the school bell incessantly and threw clothing out of the windows. By 3 o’clock, with no chance of gaining entry to the school, the scab teachers accepted defeat and left the school, again followed by a jeering crowd of schoolgirls.

Similar scenes were witnessed at Ross Boy’s School where two scab teachers were left in charge of approximately two hundred students! Needless to say they lost control completely. During the morning most of the older boys left the school via doors and windows and marched through town chanting “Strike boys, strike”.

Most of the students returned to school but 40 stayed outside the main gates chanting and writing “Strike boys, strike” on walls, the pavement and even passing vehicles. Buy mid afternoon things were completely out of hand with all two hundred students chanting and jeering outside the main gates.

The pressure that the strike put on the LEA and the council ultimately proved successful and a settlement was reached with an improved pay scale that increased wages to a level similar to the rest of the country. Now, almost 100 years later, public service workers are again facing financial pressure from those in power.

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