|THE HISTORY OF THE WESTERN PARK OPEN AIR SCHOOL SITE
The first experiment in Open Air Education was carried out at Charlottenburg in 1904. This combination of educational work and hygienic treatment was so successful that Special Schools for debilitated children were soon started both abroad and in England.
In the early days of the Opcn Air School movement many Authorities were impressed by the brilliant cures that Dr. Rollier effected by open air treatment in Switzerland,
A movement grew up whose principle was that fresh air, rest and good food was the panacea for a lot of ills. At the time there was extreme poverty (unimaginable today), malnutrition and serious illnesses such as tuberculosis, diphtheria and respiratory infections. Modern drugs and treatment have largely eliminated most of these illnesses, but at the time many children spent long periods in hospital recovering from operations and illnesses, often in sanatoriums.
In Leicester there were many parents who readily testify too the striking benefit which their children have derived from attending the Residential Open Air School at Mablethorpe. The experience of this School fully justifies the establishment of a Day Open Air School in Leicester.
A far larger number of children can receive similar treatment at less cost, and under more direct medical and educational supervision than at a distance. A school of this character has therefore was erected in the City of Leicester's Western Park, and was opened on November 7th, 1930, by the Lord Mayor, Mr. Councillor W. E. Hincks, O.B.E., JP, who is Chairman of both the Health and School Medical Service Committees.
To satisfy them selves that the site, building's and equipment of this new school are suitable for their purpose, it was essential, in the first place, to know what are the natural forces of the open air which produce such an invigorating effect; what is their relative value, limitation and method of employment.
The new school has been placed in an idleal situation within a public park which covers over 150 acres of undulating and possesses some exceptionally fine specimens of English forest trees. This park, which is comparatively little used except on holidays, is at the West end of the city and is situated partly within the boundary and partly in the county. Opposite the entrance is a tram terminus, and at a short distance frorn this spot the Open Air School has been erected on a meaclow of 24 acres. This portion of the park has at no time been used by the public, but it has been kept separate as a grazing ground for the horses used in the park.
The site is secluded from the City by a spinney and raising ground, which also screens it from the North and Ease wind, the meadow has a sunny and sheltered appearance. It falls rather rapidly to the south, ensuring a maximum amount of sunlight to the buildings placed upon it.
To level the somewhat steep incline of the land for building purposes involved a certain amount of excavation and removal of soil, this was a rather expensive undertaking, but, on the other hand, there was no expense with regard to road making which is often a serious item in country districts. Drainage was not a difficulty since the sewer passed through the middle of the site and the City supply of water, gas and electricity was in the vicinity, so that all these necessities were readily available at no great cost.
The building site its self is made up of sand with a clay subsoil. Broadly speaking it has been laid out in three terraces directly connected by concrete steps and indirectly by broad inclined pathways. A considerable area has been levelled and asphalted for a playground.
Which is surrounded by shrubberies and flower garden? The excavation left rather high and steep bands leading on to the playground so that a low retaining wall was necessary. This has been built of suitable stone, and so arranged as to keep the soil in position and at the same time, forms a very pleasing rock garden.
Another attraction to the garden, both for the children and the birds, is the bird table which was presented by Mrs, Bernard Ellis, who. For many years, has taken a keen interest in the establishment of an Open Air School in Leicester.
The remaining part of the land has been prepared as a vegetable garden, and has been divided up into plots for lessons in gardening. In addition to the land attached to the school, a large area of the park is available for games and a public footpath, across fields, leading directly from the park, can be used for nature rambles.