|Administrative History||Westhill College was founded in 1907 by Canadian Presbyterian George Hamilton Archibald (1858-1936), with the assistance of Barrow and Geraldine Cadbury. It began as a training centre for Sunday school workers, with the aim of improving Sunday school teaching through the application of Archibald's innovative educational theories.|
After leaving his career in business, Archibald attended the School for Christian Workers in Springfield, Massachusetts, and became a respected lecturer in the US (founded in 1885; the School was later renamed the 'Bible Normal College' and, after moving to Connecticut, ultimately merged with other Schools to form the Hartford Seminary). Archibald came to England in 1902, and following a successful lecture tour in connection with the Sunday School Union, set up a 'Model Sunday School' in Bournville at the invitation of George Cadbury. His teaching methods, underpinned by psychological principles, departed from conventional practice and made him a leader in the field - his supporters believed they should be taught to others. The Barrow Cadburys rented and furnished a house in Selly Oak known as West Hill, and the 'Training Institute for Sunday School Workers' opened in September 1907 with an intake of 12 students. The termly fee included tuition, accommodation and board, with reduced rates for those not in residence. Archibald was the first Principal and lecturer in psychology, his daughter Ethel (who had assisted him at Bournville) was Head of Sunday School Work. Bible Studies were taught at Woodbrooke College by Dr Rendel Harris. Most Sunday school students only came for one or two terms, but in 1909 West Hill started admitting students for the Froebel Teacher's certificate, a three-year course leading to a professional teaching qualification. A kindergarten was established to give students more opportunity to put their training into practice.
Initially West Hill was run and financed by the Barrow Cadburys and other interested individuals. It is reported in the first minute book that the Barrow Cadburys 'regarded the Institute as in the nature of an experiment and therefore liable to discontinuance'. However by 1911 the committee began to make plans to secure the college's future - by involving the Free Church denominations and the National Sunday School Union they hoped to establish the college's place in church education and expand its work. In a meeting of denominational representatives it was agreed that West Hill should be governed by a Representative Committee of Management, made up of members appointed from different branches of the church and the Sunday School Union. It was decided that West Hill should train Sunday school workers beyond the primary stage, and that new premises were required to expand. As a result, the management was reconstituted on a representative basis and a site on Bristol Road (donated by George Cadbury) became the location of the college's new buildings, which were opened in 1915. The college became Westhill Training College in 1919.
Over the next few years more courses were offered and student numbers increased. In 1916 the Westhill Certificate was instituted, to award Sunday school students who had studied for a full year and qualified in the theory and practice of religious education. 1925 saw the first short course for theological students, which continued into the 1960s. The annual Easter conferences organised by Westhill featured high profile guest speakers. In the 1920s Westhill began running one-week 'extension courses' in towns across the UK to promote modern religious education in churches. The number of male students increased, which led to the addition of a men's hostel in 1919. Westhill also attracted overseas students through missionary connections in Selly Oak and the international World Sunday School Association. During the 1920s the college buildings were developed and extended with the help of private donors. In 1922 Westhill was one of five foundation colleges (alongside Woodbrooke, Fircroft, Kingsmead and Carey Hall) to form the Selly Oak Colleges Federation.
In 1930 George Hamilton Archibald retired from the position of Principal and was succeeded by Dr Basil Yeaxlee. During the 1930s Westhill experienced financial difficulties - student numbers declined due to the depression, the college struggled with debts and at the same time had to pay a Principal's salary (Archibald had never claimed one) and more realistic staff wages. In 1935 the extension secretary resigned and was not replaced. The college organised various appeals for money and private donations continued, including from the Barrow Cadburys. Differences of opinion about the future of Westhill led to the resignation of Dr Yeaxlee in 1935, and he was replaced by Roderick Dunkerley. Ethel Johnston (Archibald) also resigned but remained involved with the college, lecturing and working at Bournville Sunday School.
During the Second World War Westhill hosted various groups of students from other institutions which helped the college manage financially at a time when it was difficult to maintain student numbers. Incendiary bombs were dropped on the roof of Melville House, students and staff often slept in air raid shelters and had to perform air raid duty. As government concern about young people increased during war time, the National Youth Committee was set up and Local Education Authorities were encouraged to work with voluntary bodies to provide services for young people. This created a greater need for trained youth leaders; Westhill started running courses in 1940 and appointed its first Youth Tutor during the 1943/44 session.
Reverend H. A. Hamilton became Principal in 1945, at a time when a number of changes offered Westhill more stability and a chance to expand. The youth work department grew as more people trained to work in the newly established youth clubs and centres, some of them funded by their LEA. In 1945 the Ministry for Education announced that students whose training was approved by the National Froebel Foundation now automatically qualified to teach in state schools. The Free Church denominations agreed that Westhill was their official training centre for Sunday school workers and youth leaders, and funded students to undertake one-term courses. In 1948 the Ministry of Education recognised the Froebel Department and the School, which meant that Westhill appeared on official lists of training colleges. More new buildings including a library, lecture room, handwork room and nature study room, were added to the college. As Westhill did not receive government funding, the building work was paid for through the college's own fundraising activities.
In 1947 Westhill became a constituent college of the Institute of Education at University of Birmingham. Westhill students benefited from the connection: those who gained the Froebel certificate were also awarded by the University, and when the Institute established a certificate in Youth Service in 1951, Westhill youth students were also able to receive a double qualification. In 1954 the Ministry of Education offered to fund 15 students for the second year of the two-year of the youth course, which marked a major breakthrough for the college. In 1957 Westhill celebrated its 'Jubilee', and launched an appeal to raise £50,000 for the development of the college.
Despite the improvements in Westhill's status, the college still struggled financially and questions remained over the need for a denominational institution. Another factor that impacted on the college was the termination of the Froebel Certificate in 1958, as Westhill had long depended on its intake of Froebel students. Reverend R. T. Newman, Principal of the college from 1954 until 1971, oversaw major changes at Westhill. In the late 1950s it was decided that Westhill needed to apply for full recognition as a voluntary teacher training college, eligible for grant aid money, in order to survive. In 1960 the Ministry of Education granted recognition for an initial period of 5 years. The college was eligible to receive a 75% grant towards approved expenditure on the extension of buildings and purchase of equipment. In addition, the Ministry accepted responsibility for the cost of teaching, feeding and accommodating recognised students. The Ministry set the condition that the college admit 240 students for teacher training. Westhill wanted to continue the youth leadership course (the 1959 Abermarle Report had revived interest in this area and commended Westhill's work to date) and the Sunday school courses. This meant that the student population would rise from approximately 100 to 300 students. The college needed to grow rapidly, and the Westhill Expansion Appeal was launched with the aim of raising £100,000. Around £25,000 set aside from the Jubilee appeal was put into the fund.
Westhill spent about £750,000 on its building programme. The college bought an old children's home (Middlemore Homes) with land for development. The home became a new teaching centre, with new halls of residence, kitchen and dining rooms, and a gymnasium also being built. The new buildings were officially opened by the Minister for Education Anthony Crosland in May 1965. One loss was the Westhill School (which developed out of the kindergarten opened in 1909), which closed in 1960 due to falling pupil numbers.
The management structure of the college was also changed. The Westhill Council was reconstituted, becoming the (smaller) Board of Governors. As Westhill was now a state-funded college, the Governors had to comply with Ministry regulations. An academic board was set up to oversee academic matters within the college. There was a major revision of courses and assessment procedures; one result was that the Sunday school courses became the 'Church Education Department'. In 1965 Westhill was renamed Westhill College of Education. Whereas previously the college had focussed on training students for Christian education work in churches, Sunday schools and youth clubs, the majority of students would now be going on to teach in state schools. The college hoped to hold on to its original purpose and identity, and a lot of students specialised in religious education, but as numbers increased, inevitably not all students and staff were committed Christians. Although more staff were hired there were now many more students to staff than previously. A staff-student council and student union were established to meet the needs of the increased numbers and to handle the shift in relationship.
Building work continued in the late 1960s, including the construction of Mary Burnie house, opened in 1969, to house the youth and community department. In the 1960s the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children raised concern about the few facilities available to train teachers in the education of children with disabilities. The Mayor of Birmingham Frank Price launched an appeal to set up an independent college for this purpose. However, after long negotiations, Westhill took on the role of training specialised teachers and the ESSN course began in 1970. The funds from Frank Price's appeal were used to build the Price Building on the Westhill site, which opened in 1973 alongside Selly Oak College's new Central House. In the same year a new library and administration block were also opened.
In 1971 Alan G. Bamford became Principal, a position he held until 1986, when he was succeeded by Reverend Gordon Benfield. Building and development programmes continued at Westhill, including the opening of a newly-constructed Students' Centre in 1977. As teaching became more professionalised Westhill increased its provision of higher degree level courses, with an emphasis on B.Ed teacher training, and in 1979 Westhill was formally affiliated to University of Birmingham. Jack Priestley, Principal from 1991-1997, oversaw the expansion of Westhill's degree level courses (although the B.Ed was phased out), and by the 1995/96 session all of Westhill's programmes were delivered in modules and semesters. Westhill aimed to improve its status as an academic and research-led institution: in 1994 Westhill's courses were fully accredited by the University and in 1996 the college made its first submission to the Research Assessment Exercise. When Priestley retired in 1997 John Briggs became Principal. Westhill entered an 'Academic Alliance' with the University in 1999, and ultimately merged with the University's School of Education in 2001.
Sources: Westhill College archive including 'History of Westhill 1907-1982' by Constance M. Parker and 'Brief history of Westhill 1907-1971' by Ralph T. Newman (box 255); 'The Rise and Development of the Sunday School Movement in England 1780-1980' by Philip B. Cliff
|Custodial History||Transferred from Westhill College to the Orchard Learning Resources Centre in 2000, with additional material added to the deposit in 2006, and a further accrual transferred from the Orchard Learning Resources Centre to the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections in 2012, and subsequent accrual transferred from Westhill Endowment Trust in 2021|