Lost at School, 1979: A Glimpse into the Lives of Thamesmead Students

George Plemper’s Unveiling of Forgotten Photographs from Riverside School

In 1979, George Plemper, a teacher at Riverside school in Thamesmead, embarked on a unique project that would capture the essence of his students’ lives. Through his camera lens, Plemper documented the challenges, dreams, and realities faced by these young individuals. The resulting collection, titled “Lost at School, 1979,” offers a poignant and intimate glimpse into a bygone era. After being hidden away for three decades, Plemper recently shared these photographs on Flickr, reigniting interest in his work and sparking conversations about the education system and the lives of students.

A Teacher’s Perspective: George Plemper’s Motivation

Plemper’s decision to document his students and surroundings stemmed from his own frustrations and disillusionment with the education system. The title, “Lost at School,” reflected Plemper’s personal feelings of being adrift in a system that he believed often failed to adequately support and nurture its students. Through his photographs, Plemper aimed to shed light on the challenges faced by these young individuals and provoke a deeper understanding of their experiences.

Rediscovery and Online Exhibition: Unveiling the Forgotten Photographs

After being exhibited as a Half Moon touring show in the late 1970s, Plemper’s photographs were largely forgotten. It wasn’t until recently that Plemper decided to digitize and upload his collection to Flickr, making it accessible to a wider audience. The online exhibition breathed new life into these powerful images, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the lives of the Thamesmead students and reflect on the changes that have occurred over the past four decades.

A Time Capsule of Thamesmead: Capturing the Spirit of an Era

Plemper’s photographs serve as a time capsule, capturing the spirit of Thamesmead in the late 1970s. The images depict a community marked by both resilience and adversity. From dilapidated housing estates to moments of joy and camaraderie, Plemper’s lens reveals the complex tapestry of life in this working-class neighborhood. The photographs offer a raw and unfiltered glimpse into the everyday struggles and triumphs of the students, providing a valuable historical record of a time and place that might otherwise be forgotten.

The Power of Photography: Amplifying Student Voices

Plemper’s photographs not only document the lives of his students but also give them a voice. Through his lens, he amplifies their stories and experiences, shedding light on the challenges they faced and the dreams they held. The power of photography lies in its ability to evoke empathy and understanding, and Plemper’s work succeeds in doing just that. By sharing these images, he invites viewers to reflect on the broader issues surrounding education and the lives of young people.

Education Then and Now: Lessons from the Past

As we reflect on Plemper’s photographs and the education system of the late 1970s, it is important to consider how far we have come and the work that still lies ahead. While progress has been made in addressing some of the challenges faced by students, there are still many areas that require attention. Plemper’s work serves as a reminder to continuously strive for improvement and to ensure that every student has the support and opportunities they need to thrive.


“Lost at School, 1979” offers a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of the lives of Thamesmead students in the late 1970s. George Plemper’s decision to document his students’ experiences has provided a valuable historical record and a platform for their voices to be heard. As we engage with these photographs, we are reminded of the power of photography to capture the essence of a time and place, and to spark conversations about education and the lives of young people. Plemper’s work serves as a catalyst for reflection and a call to action, urging us to continue striving for a more inclusive and supportive education system for all.






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