King's College London
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Physical Education

Gymnastics training at Chelsea Polytechnic, 1930s (Ref: C/PH4/23)Gymnastics training at Chelsea Polytechnic, 1930s (Ref: C/PH4/23)The College of Physical Education, established in 1895, was one of Chelsea's most significant success stories, training women gymnastic instructors who were considered among the elite in their field and were in huge demand as professional teachers in girls’ schools.

In addition to the training of certified teachers, the College adopted a number of other roles. As part of their training, students ran physical training classes for children, both at elementary and secondary schools and in the gymnasiums at Chelsea Polytechnic. In addition, students ran girls' sporting clubs, provided games coaching in local schools, umpired sporting matches for outside clubs and provided recreational classes for adults at the Polytechnic.

Whilst the majority of Chelsea students obtained positions as gymnastic teachers following graduation, as a result of their broad range of teaching experience much variety was available later in their careers, with past students taking responsibility for Physical Education within Local Education Authorities and in private and industrial companies, lecturing in training colleges and universities, supervising School Clinics and Special Schools and obtaining seats on the Physical Training Inspectorate of the Board of Education.

Physical training at Chelsea Polytechnic, 1920s (Ref: C/PH4/23)Physical training at Chelsea Polytechnic, 1920s (Ref: C/PH4/23)During the Second World War, the use of part of the Polytechnic’s premises for Civil Defence and the difficulties of obtaining additional facilities for College departments in London led to the evacuation of the College of Physical Education to Borth in Ceredigion. The move received considerable support from the region, particularly from the the Principal and staff of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and local schools.

It was hoped that after the war the College would return to suitable premises in London, however the difficulties in arranging this proved insurmountable and in 1947 the College of Physical Education moved to a new and permanent home in Eastbourne, under the Eastbourne Education Authority.

The College retained its original name and the Principal of Chelsea Polytechnic, Mr F. J. Harlow, was elected as a Governor, thus preserving the College’s links with its Chelsea tradition.

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