Portsmouth Royal Dockyard School


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Source: Hampshire Telegraph and Post, Friday, June 6, 1952

Not long ago there was a critical shortage of apprentices in Portsmouth Dockyard, but to-day, numbers are at last on the increase. Nevertheless, this vital factor in the defence programme - the training of tomorrow's skilled labour and, as past records show, some of the country's leading technical, administrative, and inventive brains - is still inadequate numerically.

In this article the Hampshire Telegraph describes the work and opportunities of the youths who are in the process of becoming the men who will keep the Navy's ships afloat and fighting fit - the men of the Royal Dockyards on whom Britain's naval might depends.

June is one of the three months of the year during which entries of apprentices takes place, so this will be a guide to them and their parents as to their future possible careers.

Any story of Portsmouth Dockyard's 1,000 apprentices must begin with the Dockyard School which for all its unimpressive new buildings near the Unicorn Gate has a long history of leadership in technical education. In the old school that was destroyed in the blitz of January 10, 1941, such men as Sir Phillips Watts (Admiralty Director of Naval Construction), Sir James Marshall (Admiralty Director of Dockyards and Dockyard Work), and Engineer Rear-Admiral W J Anstey (Admiralty Assistant Engineering-in-Chief), to name but three of a very long and impressive list, began their careers.

The building has changed but the traditions are the same - traditions that began on the February 1, 1843 when Her Majesty's Dockyard Schools were established and the Admiralty by their enlightened policy became the pioneers of organized technical education in this country and laid the foundations of training schemes for apprentices. This advance in education was closely bound up with the beginnings of a new epoch in shipbuilding, for the sloop Trident, the first all-iron warship of any size, was designed in 1843.

The Final Years: 1950 -71

Source: K H Allen - The Royal Dockyard Schools. IEE Engineering Science & Educational Journal August 1996

The major extension in further education opportunities after the war reduced the attraction of a dockyard apprenticeship for the brighter boys. In addition, Admiralty policy on the aims of the Dockyard Schools hardened. An Admiralty letter of 1950 made it clear that their aim was to provide the dockyards with the Draughtsmen and Technical Officers they needed plus giving a chance for the exceptional apprentice to go on to senior posts. It was not the Admiralty's intention that the Schools should be seen as part of the general technical training facilities of the country.

The Select Committee on Estimates of the House of Commons 1950/51 were very critical of the Admiralty's apprentice policy, which they saw as being too geared towards educating the few brightest boys, most of whom then left Admiralty service. In practice this meant more attention being paid to the lower achievers, from whom the bulk of the Draughtsmen and Technician posts were filled.

In 1952 the title of Dockyard School was abandoned and was replaced by the new name of Dockyard Technical College. 1956 saw major changes with the introduction first of Student Apprentices and, later, a better educated Technician Apprentice. Craft Apprentices were retained but were trained as craftsmen with limited promotion prospects. Changes were made to the syllabus with the new Technical College receiving recognition as a centre for ONC and HNC (Ordinary and Higher National Certificates) studies. After 1958, cadetships were only awarded to Student or, later, Technician Apprentices.

The end of the four surviving Colleges came as rapidly as they had been set up some 127 years before. Portsmouth and Rosyth Colleges closed in 1970 and those at Devonport and Chatham in 1971.

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