WEEKE LOCAL HISTORY

National Education background

The origins of Sunday Schools are usually attributed to Robert Raikes in the 1780s in Gloucester. He was the editor and proprietor of the Gloucester Journal and used this to promote the idea of Sunday Schools. There had probably been some teaching of Bible reading and other skills on Sunday associated with churches before Raikes started his campaign. Raikes, however, formalised this idea and promoted it through his newspaper. He started the campaign in 1783 and by 1785 the Sunday School Society had been established to coordinate and develop the idea.

In many ways the establishment of Sunday Schools began the provision of formal education for the lower classes in society. By 1851 three quarters of all working class children were attending Sunday School whereas far fewer attended day school (URL20).

In comparison to the Sunday School movement the day school provision was generally following behind. The provision of day school for working class children was started with the formation of the National Society on 16 October 1811 in London with the aim: "That the National Religion should be made the foundation of National Education, and should be the first and chief thing taught to the poor, according to the excellent Liturgy and Catechism provided by our Church." This meant that children would be trained to perform their religious duties by an early discipline. As a secondary object it was defined that the schools should "communicate such knowledge and habits as are sufficient to guide them through life in their proper station", which meant imparting a limited amount of secular instruction.

The mission of the Society was to found a Church school in every parish in England and Wales. It offered grants to prospective founders, on condition that development was fostered on chosen lines, the Society funded the construction, enlarging and fitting-up of schoolrooms. It was involved with the foundation of the majority of Church of England and Church in Wales schools, which were originally known as National Schools. The Society was active in publishing suitable books and providing equipment as well as training teachers. Later the Society founded its own colleges and gave support to colleges founded by the dioceses (url21).

In August 1833 the Whig Government, rejected a Radical motion which would, in effect, have ended the system of voluntary education and replaced it by a State system centrally organized. Instead it voted an annual subsidy to assist the endeavours of the Church to provide for the education of the children of the poorer classes in Great Britain.

Against our modern educational system with all the resources of the community behind it, this may seem very inadequate and unenlightened. However, against the background of the ignorance and brutality of the England of the time, it was a step in the right direction, financed by private charity, and designed to provide some education to the poor and rescue the children of the poor, particularly in the new industrial and manufacturing towns.

There was a kind of rivalry between the Established Church and Protestant Dissent and Secularist Radicalism. Moreover it was the Evangelicals who, through the Home and Colonial School Society (founded in 1836), took the initiative in starting infant schools. The Committee of The National Society long remained something of a High Church preserve.

With the state beginning to supplement private and locally raised money after 1833 the number of schools increased. Before 1833 local schools were funded locally (usually through charitable grants of money and/or land and buildings) and the central government had no real involvement in the provision of local education. From 1833 a small (£20,000) grant was made towards the education of poor children in Britain. From this time onwards, and particularly after the Education Act 1870, local schools began to provide for the education of an increasing proportion of British children.

With the factories Act limiting employment of young children and various other developments Parliament passed the 1870 Education Act (Forster’s Act) which provided:-

  • (a) The country would be divided into about 2500 school districts;
  • (b) School Boards were to be elected by ratepayers in each district;
  • (c) The School Boards were to examine the provision of elementary education in their district, provided then by Voluntary Societies, and if there were not enough school places, they could build and maintain schools out of the rates;
  • (d) The school Boards could make their own by-laws which would allow them to charge fees or, if they wanted, to let children in free. Board schools could insist on the attendance of children between the ages of five and 13.

The 1870 Education Act allowed women to vote for the School Boards and they were granted the right to be candidates to serve on the School Boards. Several feminists saw this as an opportunity to show they were capable of public administration (url23).

By 1880 many new schools had been set up by the boards. This made it possible for the 1880 Education Act to make school attendance compulsory for all children up to the age of ten. Although a Commission of 1864-68 had identified secondary education as being inadequate, it was not until 1902 that the government made any effort to establish a system of secondary education (url25).

In 1902 the Conservative government introduced a new Education Act (Balfour's Act) that abolished all the school boards and handed over their duties to local borough or county councils. These new Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were given powers to establish new secondary and technical schools as well as developing the existing system of elementary schools. Th Act provided for two types of state-aided secondary school. These were the endowed grammar school and the municipal or county secondary schools. This set the basis for school education for much of the 20th century.

Under the 1918 Education Act school became obligatory for all children up to the age of 14. Other features of the Act included the provision of additional services in schools, such as medical inspections, nurseries and provision for pupils with special needs.

A further major shake-up of education provision came when the government passed the Education Act 1944. Under the terms of this act, both elementary and secondary education was to be redefined and reorganised and all Local Education Authorities had to submit development plans (url22).

The 1944 act involved reorganising schools into elementary and secondary. This involved a “comprehensive” education up to 11 then an exam, the 11 plus to stream pupils into “grammar” schools or secondary modern schools.

Comprehensive schooling was recommended in a document issued by the Labour Government in 1965 called the Circular 10/65. The system was developed in contrast to the tripartite system and was instead intended to suit pupils of all abilities.

In 1973 an Education Act raised the school leaving age to 16. The National Curriculum was introduced in the 1988 Education Act. It made all education the same for state-funded schools, ensuring that all pupils had access to a basic level of education. A selection of subjects was made compulsory including mathematics, English, science and some form of religious education. It also introduced sex education for the first time. Pupils were divided into Key Stages, depending on their age, Key Stage 1 for pupils aged 5-7, Key Stage 2 for pupils aged 7-11, Key Stage 3 for pupils aged 11-14 and Key Stage 4 for pupils aged 14-16. The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) was introduced to replace O-levels and the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE).

The National Literacy Strategy was introduced by the Labour government in 1997. It recognised that literacy standards in the UK had not improved since the 1940s and only 63% of 11 year olds were reaching the standard of English expected of them. It set a literacy target - that 80% of 11 year olds would reach a suitable standard in English by 2002.

The Labour government revealed plans to introduce City Academies in 2002 as part of a five-year plan to improve education. City Academies are designed to improve inner city education by building new schools, introducing new technology and changing the ethos of schools. The scheme is controversial since schools will only get academy status if they raise £2 million from private funds (url24).

Release 1.0 last update 02/09/08


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