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World Health Day 2020 – International Year of the Nurse and Midwife

World Health Day 2020 - International Year of the Nurse and Midwife

This year's World Health Day celebrates the work of nurses and midwives, reminding us of the critical role they play as health professionals. In the current climate of COVID-19 their commitment to, and impact on, world health could not be more crucial.

The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham have a long tradition of supporting our country's nurses and midwives, which can be tracked back to medieval Birmingham. In the 15th century the Gild of the Holy Cross (the ancient institution out of which the modern Foundation grew) funded a midwife for the women of Birmingham, positively impacting women's health long before the professionalisation of nursing and midwifery.

[caption id="attachment_8387" align="alignleft" width="196"]Seal of the Gild of the Holy Cross Seal of the Gild of the Holy Cross[/caption]

Medieval midwives










If we fast-forward several centuries the following extract from the Beacon, the magazine of King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls, illustrates how a career in nursing was promoted to girls with a grammar school education. Writing in 1958, Old Edwardian, Marian Reed, rallied the troops:


[caption id="attachment_8389" align="aligncenter" width="451"]Excerpt from the Beacon magazine, 1958 Excerpt from the Beacon magazine, 1958[/caption]


For many years 'Nursing News' was a regular feature in the Beacon, celebrating the career successes of Old Edwardians:

[caption id="attachment_8390" align="aligncenter" width="448"]Nursing News, the Beacon, 1958 Nursing News, the Beacon, 1958[/caption]


Several of our schools have long supported the work of health professionals by raising money for the Cot Fund, the proceeds of which went to the Birmingham Children's Hospital to, quite literally, fund a cot.

[caption id="attachment_8391" align="aligncenter" width="414"]Camp Hill Girls visit the Birmingham Children's Hospital, 1932 King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls and Headmistress, 1932[/caption]


The earliest reference to the Cot Fund appears in the King Edward's School Chronicle, December 1907, when the school raised money by hosting a lantern-slide exhibition:


[caption id="attachment_8392" align="aligncenter" width="415"]Excerpt from KES Chronicle, December 1907 Excerpt from KES Chronicle, December 1907[/caption]


There are many references in the various school magazines to fund-raising endeavours, including a Cot Fund Dance, held at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in 1932.


[caption id="attachment_8393" align="aligncenter" width="365"]Excerpt from CHB Chronicle, 1932 Excerpt from CHB Chronicle, 1932[/caption]

Supporting the Cot Fund continues to this day in some of our schools and while there is no longer a need to fund individual cots, the money raised supports humanitarian charities making a difference to people's lives locally, nationally and internationally. Today, on World Health Day, the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham give special thanks to nurses, midwives and other health professionals who work tirelessly to keep us healthy.