Post Memories: Dagenham pupils learn about Ford on historical motor trip

Bobbi with her car

Bobbi with her car - Credit: Archant

It’s been 86 years since Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, cut the first sod on the reclaimed marshland that would become home to a towering giant in the motoring industry.

Bobbi with her car

Bobbi with her car - Credit: Archant

From the mass movement of workers to Dagenham in 1931, through its millionth car landmark, the sixties’ sewers’ strikes and end to its vehicle manufacture in 2002, Ford has somehow mirrored the dizzying social and industrial change all around it – and weathered the storm.

Now youngsters at Monteagle Primary School are putting Dagenham’s proudest industrial chapter back into the driving seat with an in-depth historical journey.

Year 2 teacher Tom Sheffle said the project – taking place just four miles from the Ford engine plant – was the “perfect context for historical learning”.

“This topic was chosen because it provides opportunity to learn about a company that has an international footprint and a significant cultural presence now and historically.

The first vehicle off the assembly line in Dagenham on October 1, 1931

The first vehicle off the assembly line in Dagenham on October 1, 1931 - Credit: Wieck

“Ford also has tangible links with a number of the families of pupils here in our school.”

Over the course of 20 weeks, the budding historians have made trips to Valence House to dig deeper into the lives of those who worked there, and received visits from past and present Ford workers.

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Glen Barker, a Ford employee for more than 30 years, visited grandson Jayden Webb’s class, describing the different roles he held in the company.

Meanwhile engineering interns illustrated to the youngsters the importance of the assembly line – pioneered by Henry Ford to speed up production – and spoke about the impact the motor giant has had on the area.

“I loved asking questions to our visitors from Ford and learning about the production line,” said Nifemi, six.

Alya, seven, added: “I loved our trip to Valence House Museum, it was so cool and I liked dressing up and discovering new things about Dagenham.”

The pupils have also got into artistic gear, creating model cars, sketches and their very own production lines for the culmination of the project. Their exhibition at Valence House Museum will focus on the comparative study of Dagenham now and 100 years ago, as they explore not only Ford but the history of the area in a broader context.

“Year 2’s learning about Dagenham and Ford is an excellent example of our approach of making learning meaningful and memorable for children,” enthused school headteacher Paul Campbell.

“The children have loved it and are now fonts of local knowledge.”

Head to the Valence House exhibition between December 18 and January 2. Visit for directions and opening times.