Papers of Amelia Fysh (nee Bullen)

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the work of Amelia Fysh (nee Bullen), mainly at Beech Green Nursery School, Aylesbury, Bucks. Much of the material relates to her work on the relation of children's drawings to their development and includes originals and photocopies of the children's drawings, photographs of the children playing and working at the nursery school, and Amelia's research notes, papers and correspondence regarding her efforts to get the work published. The collection includes a copy of her publication 'Discovering Development with the 3-5s: a longitudinal study, 1964-1973', published c1997.

There are a number of personal files relating to Amelia's own education, her career in education provision, and her research into child development in other countries. These latter papers appear to have been created on an ad hoc basis during her travels abroad. There are also a number of publications regarding child development, pre-school education and education for children with learning and physical disabilities.

Administrative / Biographical History

Amelia Fysh (nee Bullen) (1922-2010) was brought up in Grimsby. She won a scholarship to attend the local grammar school and during the war worked in the Royal Signal Corps as a cipher operator. At the end of the war she was working in the War Office in London. Before being demobilised she was recruited to teach young male recruits. After the end of the war she entered the teaching profession through completing the Emergency Training Scheme. Her first teaching role was a reception class of 50 children in a school in her home town. Appalled by the class sizes in primary schools she entered nursery education, running the nursery class at South Parade Primary School, also in Grimsby. During this time she completed the Child Development Diploma at the University of London, Institute of Education. In 1966 she gained a Certificate in Education of the Handicapped Child from the University of Leicester, School of Education.

In 1956 she became the Headteacher of Beech Green Nursery School in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, which had been opened in 1942 by the Save the Children Fund, initially for evacuees and the children of mothers working towards the war effort. When Amelia joined the nursery it was already inclusive in its nature but during her time there Fysh was a pioneer of learning through creating an environment that fostered creativity, outdoor play and inclusive education for children with learning and physical disabilities. During this time the nursery admitted fifty children with disabilities including Downs Syndrome, cerebal palsy, spina bifida, autism, epilepsy, and hearing and sight impairments. Many leaders from other playgroups visited Beech Green to talk to staff about their work and Amelia devised an eight week course regarding the work that had been completed at the nursery. She left the nursery school in 1972 to become a teacher trainer.

Amelia Fysh has been described as a champion of introducing educational inclusion, particularly for children with special needs, decades before the writing of the Warnock Report in 1978. She did not conform to one school of theory but drew on the work of a number of different academics including Jean Piaget, Susan Isaacs and Tina Bruce. Her main line of thought focused on the importance of the individuality of children. She stated a child's development could be stimulated through creative learning and important activities including water play, building materials, dressing up, role play, painting and cookery. Over a nine year period (1964-1973) she tracked the development of nursery years children through asking them to draw a man with felt-tip pen on a 6 inch by 9 inch piece of paper. No child was requested to complete a drawing and drawings were completed on regular (but not time specific) occasions. These works showed how a child's development was not linear. Amelia's work was published in 199[7] in 'Discovering Development with the 3-5s. A Longitudinal study 1964-1973'.

In more recent years Power Drawing, an education programme of the Campaign for Drawing, has encouraged teachers to follow the work of Amelia Fysh, and to retain a collection of the work created as evidence of their development. In 2003, aged 81 she worked for Buckinghamshire Local Education Authority (LEA), participating in their training provision on inclusion and special needs for nursery and child care providers.


This collection has been organised into the following series and sub series:

AF/1 - Beech Green Nursery School

AF/1/1 - Research notes

AF/1/2 - Children's Artwork

AF/1/3 - Images of Children at Beech Green Nursery School

AF/1/3/A - Photographs

AF/1/3/B - Slides

AF/2 - Personal Papers

AF/3 - Publications

Access Information

Restricted access

Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Some files are closed under the Data Protection Act. Please see file level descriptions for further information.

Custodial History

Given by Amelia Fysh in January 2008.

Related Material

There are further papers of Amelia Fysh relating to the Grimsby Adventure Playground Association at North East Lincolnshire Archives

Records relating to Beech Green School are held at Buckinghamshire Archives (AR 58/2002).

The children's drawings produced between 1964 and 1973 are mounted on large sheets of paper and are held by the National Art Education Archive at Bretton Hall College, West Yorkshire