Educational Equity In Britain

The Policy Education Act 1944 was a post-war formation that was created due to demands for education and social reforms. It was written by Richard Austen Butler after his consultation with various stakeholders as well as spokesmen from all major positions and parties. The war showed the extent of social inequalities in Britain as well as the social gap affecting education which resulted in the demands for change. The Education Act involved thorough reorganization of the education system that laid a better foundation for education to all Britain and Wale children.

The education act brought about the introduction of the minister of education who replaced the existing Board of Education. The minister was to control and direct the local education authorities in order to ensure a uniform standard of educational opportunity throughout the country. All the local education authorities were expected to submit a developed plan for primary and secondary education as well as that of further education in their areas for the minister`s approval. The local authorities were required to provide free primary and secondary education for all the children (Betteson, 1999). The teachers` appointment and dismissal was the role played by the governors and managers of the schools. The compulsory age of attending school was set between 5 and 15 years although the government had the power to increase the compulsory age of school to 16 when the minister was contented that it had become practicable. The Education Act allowed voluntary and independent schools to be registered by the local authorities.


The Education Act organized the public education system in three advanced stages mainly in primary education, secondary education and further education. The reform in the 1944 act that required secondary education for all children meant that no school fees could be taken in any school maintained by the public authorities. The distinctions between the former elementary and higher education were replaced by a new classification that contained three progressive stages. The new stages were primary education, secondary education and further education (Parkinson, 2017). The secondary education was to be provided in association with ability, age, and aptitude. As deduced by the education ministry, there were three separate necessary schools that were, the grammar school, the technical school, and secondary modern school. All the separate schools could be placed under one school but the structure had to be big enough to accommodate all the three categories. A test was carried out as a mode of selection for the various schools once the child reached the age of 11 years.

The education system of Britain was partly complex due to the pioneering work was done by the voluntary bodies in the past and because of their desire to retain the voluntary section in the state system. There was the religious compromise that was articulated in 1870 as well as 1902, however, it was modified and elaborated after the serious consultation with the involved parties. According to the elaboration in the act, all the primary and secondary schools aided by the state would begin with collective worship by pupils. A religious instructor was also given to such schools (Parsons, 2013). The modification in the Education Act 1944 was a conscience clause that would ensure that no teacher suffers as a result of the religious conviction. The religious instructors were also given to the fully maintained schools just as the state-aided ones. There were also chances for religious training other than the daily collective worship. There was nondenominational in the religious offering in many schools while in areas that had a high number of non-Christians immigrants a consideration was to be given for alternative religious provisions.

The Education Act 1944 provided implementation system which started by the education minister then outlined the role of the local education authorities. The Education Act put much power for the local authorities as they were given the responsibility of providing the education although they placed in the system for accountability. They also provided the development plan since the policy did not establish or defined a particular curriculum that would help assist the learning in schools. Providing education for all as required by the act was a more of democratic approach in the organization of public education in the primary, secondary and further education. According to Saran (1973), the education act 1944 did not have an order that specified how the democratic approach of education for all was to be achieved which was what prevented its implementation.

The selection at the 11 years did not last as expected due to various developments. A significant number of children who were selected for grammar school failed the test. The success of the students that were in modern secondary school was as well a contributing factor for the fail of the 11-plus. Another factor was the report given by the appointed committee by the British Psychological Society. They agreed with the argument stating that education promotes intellectual development and intelligence tests do not measure genetic endowment but rather education achievement. The selection method for the grammar school remained an issue through the 1950s and 6os since there were questions whether or not the 11-plus selection should be retained. The parental choice was used as one of the arguments as well as the English tradition to retain a selective system. Another issue with the Grammar school was that some children could pass the 11-plus exam but they attended the school for a few years the drop out after the age of 15 as their parents required them to work. Others could not afford the even the uniform required for the grammar school and that alone could prevent them from attending school. The social barrier was slightly reduced but some were still affected.

The education also had an impact on outdoor education as the local education authorities when developing a curriculum taking into consideration the outdoor education and its advantages to children. The need for fitness for war was in the drawn up proposal for the 1942 but some of the people working on the 19944 act saw the need for radical change there. The outdoor education was believed to aid in character building and as the 1944 act was being implemented, Norwood`s report was used by the local education authorities to learn what should be taught and how it should be delivered (Cook, 1999).

The education act 1944 other than a provision for free education provided free meals for children in schools. Some of the current education policies have developed mainly from the 1944 act although there are numerous changes that have been made in the education system. The government centralized the education system but the local authorities had more power to determine what happen especially in their areas. Simon argues that the education policy is always a reflection of the outcome of the struggle between progressives who see reforms as the first step towards social change, and conservatives who prefer a stratified system which reflects existing social division (Simon, 2000) Education has been politicized from the past years. The 1944 education act was one of the times that people with a different view had an agreement to pass the act and for it to be implemented. There has been a problem between the central government and teachers on various occasions due to disagreements between them and problems between the locals and national politicians. The world war two was the triggered from the reforms which brought the major change. It had its failures as not all the stipulated policies were attained. However there was serious consultation and work on the issue before the act was passed and different people such as Leah Manning and Fred Clarke are to be recommended for their involvement (Barber, 1994). Most of the proposal listed in the 1944 act drawn by Butler`s predecessor was already in there in 1941 known as the green book.

It had been argued in the past that the education system is concerned with the transmission of the middle-class values. However, there are other reasons for the failure in education for the working class. For instance, a child keeps in school only for the compulsory school age and then leaves school for work while the middle- class stays in school. There is a chance for both to complete school but tone chooses to drop school and work. Other factors contributing to this can be cultural differences. Some culture can lead to a child’s drop out as different things are expected of them at a certain age. Despite the cultural differences, the education curriculum is defined as a selection for the culture of a society and should be able to accommodate every child.

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  • Batteson, C. H. (1999). The 1944 Education Act reconsidered. Educational review, 51(1), 5-15.
  • Chryssides, G. D., & Geaves, R. (2013). The study of religion: An introduction to key ideas and methods. A&C Black.
  • Cook, L. (1999). The 1944 Education Act and outdoor education: from policy to practice. History of Education, 28(2), 157-172.
  • Lawton, D. (2012). The politics of the school curriculum. Routledge.
  • Parkinson, M. (2017). The Labour Party and the organization of secondary education 1918-65. Routledge.
  • Parsons, G. (2013). There and back again? Religion and the 1944 and 1988 Education Acts. The growth of religious diversity, 2, 161-198.
  • Simon, B. (2000). Education and the social order: 1940-1990. Lawrence & Wishart.

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