Tom and Kitty Higdon
When a West Country teacher went to Norfolk and sided with agricultural workers he was sacked, along with his wife. This set in train the longest school strike in history.
Tom Higdon was born into a farm labouring family in 1869 in East Pennard, Somerset. He married Kitty Schollick, a teacher and the couple moved to Norfolk in 1902 to teach at Wood Dalling School. As Christian Socialists, they were shocked at the poor conditions of the farm labourers and challenged farmers for forcing children to work instead of attending school.
Tom helped organised the Labourers’ Union to the annoyance of the employers who were also the School Managers. Under threat of dismissal the couple moved to Burston School where they continued to support low paid farm workers.
Tom stood for election to the Parish Council and topped the poll. He beat the local Rector who sought revenge by making allegations about the way Tom and Kitty ran the school. The Rector and farmers had lost control of the Parish Council but not the School and Tom and Kitty were sacked.
It was 1914 and 66 out of the 72 children refused to attend school. Supported by their parents they started a strike that lasted twenty five years. With union support, an alternative school was built, the Burston Strike School and the Higdons led the teaching that proved very successful.
Tom died in 1939 and,unable to carry on alone, Kitty retired. The children were transferred to the local council school.
The events of the Strike School are celebrated every year in September with the annual Burston Rally.
Burston School Strike
See more here: Burston School Strike