Ukrainian supplementary schools and nurseries – regular weekend classes organised within the Ukrainian community in the United Kingdom for children and young people with the aim of fostering a sense of their Ukrainian heritage.
The earliest schools and nurseries were initiated in the late 1940s and early 1950s, mainly in the north of England where the greatest number of Ukrainians settled after the Second World War. They catered initially for children who came to the UK after the war with their parents, and later also for children born in the UK. In 1948, in Bradford, Vera Smereka organised a school which operated initially at the local branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), and, from 1949, under the auspices of the Federation of Ukrainians in Great Britain (FUGB) and the local parish of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Great Britain (UAOC-GB). In Rochdale, Maria Lukianenko ran a nursery at her own home from 1950 to 1952, after which the nursery was transferred to the local AUGB branch centre. At the end of 1951 the Bolton parish of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Great Britain (UCC-GB) established a school which was transferred to the local AUGB branch in 1956. In 1952 a school was founded in Oldham at the local parish of the UAOC-GB. In London, under a private arrangement with parents, professional teachers ran classes for children for a time at the AUGB headquarters. From 1953 the network of schools at AUGB branches began to expand, and by the end of 1954 they numbered 14, of which eight also had nursery classes.
The development of AUGB schools intensified after the formation, in August 1955, of the Association of Ukrainian Teachers in Great Britain (AUT) as an autonomous AUGB section (initially under the name Association of Ukrainian Teachers and Educators). Usually with the aid of parent committees set up at AUGB branches, the AUT began to develop a system of schools for children aged six and above, and nursery classes for three to six-year-olds. By the end of the 1960s over 60 schools had been set up at AUGB branches, though some of them were active for only a short time, depending on pupil numbers and the availability of teachers. 17 schools operated for less than 5 years, 18 for 5-17 years, 15 for 21-39 years, and 12 schools for 48 years or more (in Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Bradford, Coventry, Derby, Huddersfield, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Rochdale and Wolverhampton). In the mid-1960s there were over 40 active schools, and the overall number of school and nursery pupils reached a peak of almost 2,500 in the 1966-67 school year. Subsequently, the number of schools gradually declined, and in 1990-91 they numbered 16, with about 460 pupils in total.
In several towns and cities (including Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale) schools existed at various times at parishes of the UAOC-GB, at branches of the FUGB, or under the joint auspices of the UAOC and FUGB. In Bradford from 1958 there was also a school established by the local parish of the UCC-GB. It was run on Sundays by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate based at the parish, and continued to function until the 1990s. In the late 1960s it had over one hundred pupils.
For schools in the AUGB system the AUT drew up a standard curriculum which initially covered a reception class and six year groups, and was later extended to year group 10. The number of year groups taught in a school typically increased as older pupils progressed to higher classes and new pupils joined the lower ones. About ten of the largest schools were able to sustain the full range of year groups, while others only operated up to year group 7 or lower.
Lessons took place on a weekly basis (excluding holidays), on Saturdays in most schools and on Sundays in others, usually for three hours. Among the teachers in the early years were some with formal teaching qualifications, gained either before the Second World War or after arrival in the UK, and others who were not professional teachers but had an appropriate general education. In the late 1960s professional and non-professional teachers from the generation of descendants of the post-war immigrants began to teach in the schools, and by the 1980s they formed the majority of teachers.
The main subjects taught were Ukrainian language, the history and geography of Ukraine, and the history of Ukrainian literature. The schools used texbooks published in the UK (by the AUT) and in other countries of the Ukrainian diaspora. In the larger schools religion was taught by priests or nuns of the UCC-GB and priests of the UAOC-GB. In schools with teaching up to year group 10, leavers’ examinations were taken by pupils at the end of the final year. In some schools special classes were held to prepare candidates for the Ukrainian examination which was available in 1954-1997 as part of the UK’s basic secondary education qualification (General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level to 1987, and subsequently the General Certificate of Secondary Education). As part of their promotion of the Ukrainian national and cultural identity of pupils, the schools also prepared them for performances to mark the feast day of Saint Nicholas, Taras Shevchenko anniversaries and Mother’s Day.
After 1991 the schools continued, essentially, to function as before, although the number of pupils from among descendants of post-war immigrants continued to decline, as did the number of schools. At the same time, children of post-1991 immigrants from Ukraine began to attend some schools, particularly in the London area and in Manchester, and now constitute the majority of school pupils in the country as a whole. In the 2017-2018 school year there were eight active schools at AUGB branches, in Bradford, Coventry, Gloucester, Leeds, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Waltham Cross (though not all were under the oversight of the AUT). Of the almost 400 pupils at these schools, 196 were at the London school, 96 at the Manchester school, and 30 at the school in Waltham Cross (at the northern periphery of London). In addition, the large concentration of post-1991 immigrants in the London area has led to the establishment of new schools, including the Ukrainske Kolo privately-organised school founded in 2007 in south-east London (renamed Soniashnyk in 2017), and a school established in 2013 by the London parish of the UAOC-GB.
Teachers from Ukraine began to teach at some of the schools after 1991, and they now make up the majority of all teaching staff. In the younger year groups at AUGB schools, teaching materials produced in Ukraine are increasingly being used, while for year groups 6-10 the AUT has produced new materials, aimed at preparing pupils for the leavers’ examination in accordance with a new curriculum introduced in the late 1990s. The mix of pupils attending the schools includes children who arrived from Ukraine with their parents, British-born children of parents from Ukraine, and children of British-born parents. As a consequence, there is a significant disparity between pupils joining the schools with respect to their knowledge of Ukrainian, resulting in some schools running separate classes in Ukrainian as a second language.
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