1st May 1942. ‘Education’ for All?
Welcome to the Month of May
From the goddess Maia, called Mains in the Julian Calendar, when it had 31 days, the same as the Republican Calendar.
In Anglo Saxon times it was tri-milchi-the month when the cows were milked three times a day.
‘Rough winds do shake the Darling Buds of May’ Sonnet 18 (Shakespeare). (1)
The 1930s had been a frustrating time for education reformers, with spending limitations, so by 1938, 80% of pupils still attended all-age Elementary Schools, with a tiny minority attending university.
Then in 1941 Tory R.A.B. Butler was side-lined from Foreign Secretary to the Board of Education, but soon realized he could make a name for himself.
He knew that for success, the support of the then powerful churches was needed, in particular the Church of England. Thus it was Today in 1942, which was to see a crucial meeting between the Education Minister and the Anglican, Archbishop William Temple.
By 1943 a White Paper had been produced on Educational reform, later to result in the 1944 Education Act, which received the Royal Assent on August 3rd.
The great sticking point was always to be freedom regarding the nature of a daily act of worship, concerning Catholics and the Established Church, which was resolved, along with an opt-out clause, and sweetened by the State agreeing to repair and build schools.
The Act built on what had gone before, having developed from the 1938 Spens Report, to be supplemented by the 1943 reactionary Norwood Report.(2)
So the 1944 Act cannot be seen entirely as resulting from wartime social change, though this would have speeded things up. It was to involve Labour’s Chuter Ede, and the discreet support of deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, members of the wartime National Government.
The 1944 Act, though Tripartism was not obligatory, attempted to sort sheep from goat, with Grammar, Secondary Modern and Technical Schools, catering, by different curricula, for supposed varying abilities.
The old Board now became a Ministry of Education, which abolished fees to Grammar Schools, but in retrospect was condemned by its 11 Plus Exam, based on dubious psychological tests, which condemned 70% of children to a second class status.
Local Authorities were now under obligation to provide school playing fields, gymnasia and swimming baths, along compulsory religious education and daily religious assembly.
Twenty years after the Act the number of Technical Schools opened was minimal, most apprentices opting for the local ‘Tech College’.
School leaving age was raised to 15 in 1947.
(1) Shakespeare’s sonnets were entered in the Stationers’ Company Register on 20th May 1609.
(2) The 1943 Norwood Report, to paraphrase, said: Grammar Schools were for those children who could develop an argument and destined for the professions; Technical for those looking for applied subjects, whilst he in the Secondary Modern is only interested in present concerns, which should be regarded as the only way of awakening his interests, abstract thought is not for him.
Ref: The Passing of Protestant England: Secularisation and Social Change c 1920-1960 SJD Green, CUP.
Ref: Pic. Ref.re school Getty Images as shown with BBC article below.
Ref: Pic: jessicamorrell.com/googleimagessearch.
Ref: bbc.co.uk/schoolreport. 17.1.2014. Sir Michael Barber.