In 1944 Selective education came into play and Primary schools were formally established. The Ministry of Education was introduced, which increased the power that the Secretary of State had in comparison to the Educational policy as well as over the Local Educational Authorities (LEA). Another requirement of this Act was to ensure adequate facilities for teacher training. In the same Act the ‘Tripartite System’ was setup. Secondary schools became Grammar Schools (generally for the brighter students), senior schools became Secondary Modern Schools (for the majority of students). Secondary Technical Schools (for those thought to have technical/scientific ability) were created although only a few of this last group of schools were ever opened. It was decided which school the children attended by the eleven plus results.
In the 1960’s there was quite a lot of rapid change: Comprehensive schooling and equality of education were introduced. The acceptance for a vast expansion of higher education was proposed in the Robbins Report entitled Higher Education (1963). The 1964 Education Act allowed three-tier systems to be set up which then legalized the establishment of middle schools. The Plowden Report 1967, entitled Children and their Primary Schools (1967), became very important to primary education, as this clearly supported child-centred approaches in education. The ending of the eleven-plus untied the curriculum of the junior schools.
In the 1970’s various papers called The Black Papers were published. These were written by right-wing educationalists and politicians and they demonstrated the start of “‘the general disenchantment with education as a palliative of society’s ills'” (A Consultative Document, DES (1977)). Callaghan requested a public debate on education which was to give employers, trades unions, parents, teachers and administrators, a chance to give their own opinion; it was thought that the curriculum did not pay enough consideration to the basic skills of the three R’s. It was also believed that the teachers did not have enough skills and did not know how to discipline the children with good manners and teach them how to work hard.
In the 80’s the main frame set up in 1944 was still present. The 1980 Education Act was established on ‘partnership with parents’: there were more parents on governing bodies and the parental right to choose schools, appeals procedures, the assisted places scheme and the publication of exam results came into place. The 1981 Education Act came after the publication of the Warnock Report. This changed the idea of special needs and gave parents new rights. In 1986 the LEA’s lost some of their importance as schools were able to ‘opt out’ after the white paper entitled “Better schools”.
The Education Reform Act, otherwise known as ‘The Baker Act’, came into place in 1988: this was thought to be the most important Act since 1944. The idea of league tables were thought about, as children were being assessed on many different levels and attainment targets were set. In the 90’s SAT’s started to be published and league tables were produced; this was thought to give parents free choice to which school their child attends. One thing that is not taken into consideration by the official statistics is the amount of children with learning difficulties in some schools and the effect of learning.
Part one: Selective Versus Comprehensive The debate around comprehensive versus selective education is an important one, not only in education but also as a political and social discussion. In order to look at selective education versus comprehensive I need to first look at what each type of education provides. I will start by looking at the advantages and disadvantages to both types of education and what they include; then I will look at any facts and figures that have been published.
The arguments for comprehensive education include the fact that it is thought that it will encourage children from all social groups to interact which would then increase a shared understanding. The knock on effect would be less hostility in the workforce later. Other advantages include: children not being labelled as failures with the eleven plus, equal opportunities to higher education, the fact that specialist subject teachers can be employed (for instance language teachers) because of larger school sizes. As there are larger schools better facilities can be provided, for example swimming pools or sports halls. The last argument for comprehensive education I could find was that primary schools will be freed from the eleven plus and will be able to concentrate on other skills.
On the other hand, there are several arguments against comprehensive education: more academically minded children may be held back by less able children, there are less opportunities for those less academic to gain higher standards and/or access the higher responsibility jobs, it is thought that standards of dress may decrease and become a norm and this will reduce standards over all.
Some advantages in selective education include the fact that, as there are fewer pupils that tend to go to these schools, there are smaller class sizes. This means that more time can be spent with each pupil on an individual basis. Generally children from higher classes are able to attend these schools. The disadvantages in selective education could include that pressure is put on the children in order to pass entrance exams. If a child failed the 11+ it could be quite damaging and it may leave children feeling a failure. Private tutors may be hired and this leads you on to the question: can money buy good education?
Ross McKibbin felt that there were three arguments against selective education. “The first drew on evidence that selection led to a huge waste of national potential”. This was about how failing the 11+ may be damaging on children and the fact that attending a comprehensive school meant that you had ‘failed’, His second argument was that it was “political” as it seemed that the relationship between classes would widen and those higher class families had the ability to pay for ‘better education’. His last argument was a “practical one”, where a selective educational system had created a social gridlock: as it was thought that comprehensive schooling was just for the lower social classes, the middle classes were under a lot of pressure. This links back to my earlier question about money and education.