The Red Hill School Collection has documentation relating to Red Hill School, East Sutton, Kent, between 1934 - 1992. Founded by Otto L Shaw in 1934, it selected pupils of an above average intelligence with disturbed backgrounds, with the belief that successful therapy would release their full potential. It was an example of a progressive school / therapeutic community, which placed therapeutic work above academic work to 'cure' disturbed or delinquent children, so that they would go on to live “balanced, happy and contented” lives.
Otto L. Shaw is recognised as one of the early pioneers in working with disturbed children. The therapeutic work he advocated is well documented in the books he wrote, "Maladjusted Boys" (1965), "Youth in Crisis" (1966), "Prisons of the Mind" (1969), which are largely based on the work and personal research he collected at the school from the 1940s to the 1960s. Otto Shaw described himself in a school prospectus as having "a reputation for success with sexual cases, asthma, nervous afflictions, stealing, untruthfulness, aggressiveness, bedwetting, night terrors, apathy to school work, backwardness at school, and speech difficulties." (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/06/02).
The language and terminology describing Red Hill School's history reflect the times and the official terms recognised by the Ministry of Education / Department of Education and Science. When the school first opened it was described as "a private boarding school for a limited number of difficult children". During the 1940s Otto Shaw says "Red Hill School is organised for the treatment and education of neurotic, delinquent and otherwise maladjusted children of both sexes". Following the 1944 Education Act it is recognised as "a school for maladjusted boys of superior intelligence", as a "grammar school ... for the psychological treatment and education of boys of superior intelligence who are delinquent or otherwise maladjusted" in the 1960s, and by the 1980s, "a non-maintained residential special school for boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties".
The Collection is divided into two sections: documentation created by the community (UP/RHS/COM), and documentation regarding the formal administration of the school (UP/RHS/ADM).
Documents created by the pupils and the community cover the period 1944 – 1992 (UP/RHS/COM).
A unique characteristic of Red Hill School was the structure of self-government, allowing pupils considerable control over decision making through the School Court, Bench, and Citizen's meetings. Decisions made at the meetings are recorded in the Court Minutes, Community Minute Books and other Minute books, (Ref: UP/RHS/COM/01), which usually give details of the community members involved, punishments and fines issued. Although there is not a complete run of these volumes, they offer an insight into the issues that were concerning the community day to day, and the committees that were charged with community duties, such as the Maintenance Committee, and the Smoking Committee . A formal description of the system and examples of the type of cases brought to Court can be found in the book “School Discipline”, written by Otto Shaw (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/30/01).
A small collection of documents covers some of the extra-curricular activities that went on at Red Hill School (UP/RHS/COM/02). They include Sports Day results, comic revues for Christmas parties, comic sketches on staff and pupils, programmes for special events such as Guy Fawkes Night and Halloween, and programmes for school plays.
There is also a substantial collection of nearly 400 school magazines (UP/RHS/COM/03) created by the pupils of Red Hill School: Axis, The Eye View, New Habit, Library Christmas Review, The Uppers Usual, The Misnomer, Red Hill Independent Press, Fiesta, Herald, Cosmag, Fortnightly Dump, Concept, Cosmos. These give an insight into the popular culture of the period, the interests and hobbies of the contributors, satirical sketches and poems about staff, cartoons and illustrations, and in-jokes that would have been relevant to the community at the time, as well as the technical equipment that was at hand to reproduce them.
Otto Shaw placed significant emphasis on the use of art as a form of therapeutic expression. Three 'Magic Eye' exhibitions were held at the Cooling Galleries, New Bond Street, London, between 1946 – 1962, to display and sell pupils' work. Posters, exhibition catalogues and newspaper cuttings document each of the exhibitions (Ref: UP/RHS/COM/04).
Documents created as part of the formal administration cover the operational and therapeutic aspects of the school (UP/RHS/ADM). Because of the confidential and sensitive nature of particular records, they are not all open to the general public, and individual enquiries are at the discretion of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust.
Although not a formally trained psychoanalyst himself, Otto Shaw undertook the majority of the psychological care of the pupils through formal psychoanalytic-based sessions. Shaw was particularly interested in the long term effect of his work and kept in touch with former pupils, recording whether they had been 'cured', or otherwise, once they had left. There are no individual case files as part of the Red Hill School Collection [it is understood that there was a formal system of destroying case files 10 years after the pupil had left the school (See Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/01/22)]. However, from 1947 – 1970, there are individual psychotherapeutic reports on each pupil leaving the school (UP/RHS/ADM/01). They are probably written by Otto Shaw, and become increasingly more detailed and analytical over time, giving an insight into Shaw’s developing therapeutic knowledge and professional interests over a 25 year period. The summaries include the name, date of birth, period at the school and IQ for each pupil, with a description of their case, their development, and outcome when they left. Subsequently, the therapeutic care of the pupils was delivered by external consultants and residential staff (UP/RHS/ADM/16, 18) and the information becomes more ad hoc. Shaw had a confidential relationship with all the pupils for the therapeutic sessions, and in respect of this, these particular records are subject to a 100 year closure, and are not open to the general public.
Otto Shaw was the Founder, the Principle, the Bursar, and school psychotherapist, which put him in a unique position. During his time, the collection does not contain a regular set of minutes, and with the main management roles centred around one man, it is possible that many operational decisions were not documented. However, the audited financial records (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/04) are relatively complete and run from 1935 to 1980, and are the few continuous records that cover the War and pre-War period. They offer interesting entries, such as the cost of the removals from Red Hill House to Charlton Court, and the few Income Tax returns list the current staff fairly comprehensively. Another useful source for the chronological development of the school is the set of Annual Reports running from 1947 to 1990 (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/05). It is probable that these were produced for the Ministry of Education, and cater to that need, focusing on an educational report and health report, as well as a summary of ‘After Histories’. They make interesting reading and show how the school develops and how the therapeutic work adapts, as well as evidence of social health trends. The annual returns to the Department of Education and Science also provide a snapshot of the bare bones of the school, stating numbers of staff and pupils (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/20). During Allan Rimmer’s tenure as Headmaster from 1976 a different style of management is adopted, and there are various ad hoc committee minutes, memos, office diaries,correspondence, internal procedures, and School Notices covering the period 1970 – 1992, which reference budgets, maintenance, recreational facilities, staffing, care provision, school discipline and curriculum. (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/02, 03, 07, 08, 10,11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 24, 26, 28)
Otto Shaw was astutely aware of the value ofpublicity for fund-raising, and frequently used radio and television to raise awareness. Between 1955 – 1960, Otto Shaw wrote a Christmas Appeal letter to supporters describing the therapeutic work at the school, plans for new buildings, and promoting television coverage about the school to raise funds. Along with the prospectus, these letters give an insight into the activities at the school (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/06). This publicity included the BBC television play "The Unloved" written by Colin Morris, and starring the actors Rupert Davies and Melvyn Hayes, broadcast in June 1955, in a drama - documentary directly based on, and segments filmed in, Red Hill School. The play was also performed at the Strand Theatre, London in September 1958. Between 1987 and 1991, there is also documentation relating to Open Days and Parents Evenings (UP/RHS/ADM/25) .
Any comparisons of the early days of Red Hill School to its later history should be considered against the backdrop of the external legislation and structures to which it necessarily had to adapt. The introduction of the Welfare State, the Education Acts of 1944, 1981 and 1986, the Education Reform Act 1988, the Children Act 1989, Trade Unions and Employment Legislation, and the general economic and political climate of the times, all had an impact on how the school was run (See Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/09, 21, 22, 23, 27, 30).
Besides his work at the school, Otto Shaw was a Magistrate in the County of Kent, and was actively involved in politics. He stood as a Labour Party candidate in local county council elections and as a Parliamentary candidate. The collection includes ephemera and newspaper cuttings relating to this activity between 1951 - 1967 (UP/RHS/OS).
Allan Rimmer arrived at the school in 1961, becoming Headmaster in 1976. Within the collection there are documents relating to exchange visits made by other international schools working with disturbed children, from Hong Kong (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/17), and Allendale School, Illinois, USA (Ref: UP/RHS/AR/01). Allan Rimmer was also a School Governor at Sutton Valance County Primary School (Ref: UP/RHS/ADM/AR/02), and the Association of Workers for Maladjusted Children (AWMC) representative on the National Council for Special Education (Kent Branch).
There are only three photographs (Ref: UP/RHS/P) as part of this collection, though there are some documents with integral images, noted in their item descriptions.
This collection is supplemented by oral history interviews with former pupils of Red Hill School.