Table of Contents
2 The Development ofthe Education Act
2.1 World War II and its Impact on Education I
2.2 Cycles of Reform
3 The 1944 Education Act
3.1 Part I: Central Administration
3.2 Part II: The Statutory System of Education
3.3 Part III: Independent Schools
3.4 Part IV: General
3.5 PartV: Supplemental
4.1 World War II and its Impact on Education II
4.2 Strengths of the Act
4.3 Weaknesses ofthe Act
6 Works Cited
6.2 Web Publications
In the last decades, the educational systems ‘widened’ steadily. Learning opportunities and participation are on the increase. Particularly the number of people that remain in the educational system beyond compulsory education rose considerably. This expansion continues: Following an almost universal taking part in secondary education, tertiary education registers a continuous perpetually participation rate (OECD 31-32).
The responsibility for the education in England lies with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) led by the Secretary of State, Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP. This year’s progress report states that parents want the best for their children. They want them to be safe, happy, healthy, doing well in a good school with high standards, and able to get good qualifications and eventually a good job. [...] The world is changing, and so are the skills, attitudes and aspirations that children and young people need to succeed in a changing global economy (DCSF 3).
This shows that nowadays education is given a high priority in the English society. It has not always been like that. The present English educational system is the result of a historical development for centuries. The system certainly has features of recent foundation, but its most basic aspects persisted directly and visibly from the nineteenth century. A key moment in educational reform seemed, and still seems, to be the Education Act of 1944. “It is a very great Act which makes - and in fact has made - possible as important and substantial advance in public education as this country has ever known.” (Dent 1).
This paper shall deliver insight into the reforms of the 1944 Education Act. In this regard, I would like to enlarge on its roots and aims - especially concerning the influence of World War II. Furthermore, I will introduce the Act itself, its strengths and weaknesses, and its potential impact on the present English education system. There are certainly several more interesting aspects regarding the issue, but due to the restricted number of pages, I will not be able to go into all of them.
2 The Development of the Education Act
The passage ofthe 1944 Education Act accompanied some of the most dramatic events of the Second World War. The debate on its Second Reading
in the House of Commons coincided with D-Day, as Allied troops invaded occupied France. The Committee stage began soon after a major strike by a flying bomb in West London. Delayed over the summer, the Bill did not receive Royal Assent until 3 August (McCulloch 6).
Preceding was a remarkable cycle of reforms that greatly impacted the education system in England and Wales, and has to be taken into consideration in order to completely understand the Act.
2.1 World War II and its Impact on Education I
“If war had severely disrupted schooling throughout 1914-1918, its impact in the early years of the 1939-1945 War was much more extensive.” (Gordon, Aldrich, Dean 34).
The Second World War caused enormous dislocation in the educational service. In order to reduce the effects of the bombers, there was a huge evacuation programme leading the people to the countryside or smaller towns. In some places, the idea of home teaching emerged. Still it was difficult to provide schools with basic requirement. Furthermore, the evacuation revealed divisions between classes and regions. The Board of Education found itself trapped between depriving much- needed education and the reopening of schools. The latter probably would have caused a great mass flight from the safe areas. War also altered social attitudes. Collectivism was linked with co-operation and a new sense of shared identity. People began to dress alike in the same utility style and share the common experience of war. A new meaning of national unity began to form and there was determination to plan for a better future (Lowe 4-5).
2.2 Cycles of Reform
A general desire for better educational facilities and opportunities came up in early 1941. Suddenly post-war education was in the centre of attention and the term of ‘social and educational reconstruction’ resounded throughout the land. After all, the existing structures had failed to prevent the war. There were cycles of reform, which culminated in the Education Act of 1944.
During the 1930s, the Board of Education had tended to resist initiatives to reform the education system. The Spens committee on secondary education [...] recommended several important changes [...]. But its financial implications, and fears that it would endanger the academic and liberal traditions [...] meant that it was more or less shelved even before the outbreak of war [...] (McCulloch 25).
Two milestones were set up by the coalition government led by Winston Churchill in the early 40s, which prepared the ground for the 1944 Act. In 1941 the Board of Education, led by Herwald Ramsbotham, launched a presumably confidential document to all interested parties. The so-called ‘Green Book’ was the fundament for a discussion about the change ofthe education system and education after the war. What followed was a far-reaching controversy, with churches, professional associations, political groups, teachers’ organisations and many others taking part in. When Richard Austen Butlergot head ofthe Board in 1941, he published a summary ofthe proposals. Included topics were the rise ofthe school leaving age, a more precise definition of primary and secondary education, tuition, youth service and nursery schools, the position as a teacher, and creating a system to link schools to universities. “There were three specific proposals: raising the school leaving age to 15, establishing day continuation schools 15-18, and ensuring that every child after age 11 could be guaranteed a place in a post primary school of a suitable type.” (Lawton 40).
Butler aimed for a wider discussion but was defeated by Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee. Churchill preferred all major reforms to wait until the restoration of peace, recalling the religious divisions caused by the 1918 Education Act. Therefore Butler needed to work carefully. He then allied with his Parliamentary Secretary, James Chuter Ede. Two years later in July 1943, these attempts resulted in the ‘White Paper’ on Educational Reconstruction. It proposed a tripartite policy based on the perception, that education is a constant process, which has to be aimed at in stages. The government proposed to set a new school leaving age of fifteen, though it was aiming for sixteen, as soon as circumstances permit. Primary education should cover children from five to eleven, and secondary subsequently. Further, schools would supply meals and milk, and at the secondary stage enhanced accommodations and amenities. There also should be precautions concerning the time after the school leaving age by granting the options to either attending full-time secondary school or part-time college. Moreover “new financial and administrative arrangements for the voluntary schools” as well as “an effective system of inspection and registration of schools” were in discussion (McCulloch 25-27).