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Learning lessons from history

We’ve been hearing recently about the perils of re-writing history, in the wake of the removal of controversial statues, such as that of Edward Colston in Bristol. However, we should be engaged in constantly re-evaluating the past and re-interpreting the stories that we thought we knew. History is not just about finding out what actually happened but how we think about the past and our relationship to it.

Field Lane was founded out of the Field Lane Ragged School, in the Clerkenwell area of London, who’s proprietor was Dr Andrew Provan, a London City missionary. At that time, 1841, education was only available for those who could afford to pay. The ragged school – formed for “children raggedly clothed” (as quoted in the London City Missions’ annual report of 1840) – provided education to poor and destitute children. The plight of these children so appalled Charles Dickens when he visited the Field Lane Ragged School in 1843, he was inspired to write A Christmas Carol, to highlight the plight of the capital’s poor.

This free school movement was chaired by the seventh Earl of Shaftsbury and under his auspices became a respectable even fashionable cause for philanthropists. Universal free education for the working classes preceded the ragged schools in 1870 with the Elementary Education Act. The ragged schools had proved the importance of free education for the poor, not only academically but for health and wellbeing.

Field Lane, as it is today, grew out of the ideals espoused by Andrew Provan and his contemporaries. However, we have learned valuable lessons from understanding our history. What is most important for the clients we work with today, in terms of their needs and aspirations, is very different from the priorities of our Victorian predecessors.

We work with adults who have learning disabilities and vulnerable families. We do not just provide them with a place to live but we offer each and every client care and support. Our aim is to enable our clients to lead fulfilling and independent lives, often exceeding what society expects of them. We strive to be inclusive and give our clients the opportunities that are equal to others in terms of living life to the full. We believe both Dr Provan and Mr Dickens would be proud of how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved.

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