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The Hadow Reports: an introduction
Derek Gillard
September 2006

copyright Derek Gillard 2006
This article is my copyright. You are welcome to download it and print it for your own personal use, or for use in a school or other educational establishment, provided my name as the author is attached. But you may not publish it, upload it onto any other website, or sell it, without my permission.

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Gillard D (2006) The Hadow Reports: an introduction

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Historical context
Membership of the Committee
Summaries of the reports

ABSTRACT Under the chairmanship of Sir WH Hadow, the Board of Education's Consultative Committee produced six reports between 1923 and 1933. In this article I describe the background, summarise each of the reports, and conclude with some observations on the extent to which their recommendations were implemented.

Historical context

As England began to develop its state system of schools towards the end of the nineteenth century, education became a matter for serious enquiry and debate and government-appointed consultative committees were set up to report on many aspects of the project.

In 1896 for example, a committee was asked to look into the question of the registration of teachers. Ten years later, in 1906, another committee reported on Questions Affecting Higher Elementary Schools. From then on, reports came thick and fast. The 1908 report on School Attendance of Children Below the Age of Five was followed by reports on Attendance, Compulsory or Otherwise, at Continuation Schools (1909), Examinations in Secondary Schools (1911), Practical Work in Secondary Schools (1913) and Scholarships for higher education (1916).

After that, with the First World War dragging on into its third year, the operations of the Consultative Committee were suspended.

The committee was reconstituted by Order in Council dated 22 July 1920, and shortly afterwards the Board of Education referred two subjects to them for 'inquiry and advice':

(1) Whether greater differentiation is desirable in the curriculum for boys and girls respectively in secondary schools?

(2) What use can be made in the public system of education of psychological tests of educable capacity?

The report on The differentiation of the curriculum for boys and girls, published in 1923, was to be the first of six reports spanning a decade by consultative committees under the chairmanship of Sir WH Hadow. These reports - totalling 1,500 pages, around 650,000 words - covered issues at all stages of schooling from the nursery to the school leaving age.

Membership of the Committee

Sir WH Hadow

Born in 1859, (William) Henry Hadow was educated at Malvern School and Worcester College Oxford. In 1894 he became a Delegate of the Oxford Locals; Proctor in 1898, and an examiner in 1900. In 1909 he was appointed Principal of Armstrong College Newcastle, and in 1919 he became Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, where he remained until 1930.

He held many other posts, including lectureships in Glasgow and Cambridge; he was a member of the Royal Commission on University Education in Wales, and chaired not only the Consultative Committees which bear his name but also the Archbishops' Commission on Religious Education. He was awarded a knighthood in 1918 and the CBE in 1920.

He produced several books on educational issues, including The needs of popular music education (1918), Citizenship (1923), Landmarks in education (1927) and The philosophy of Lord Haldane (1931). With his sister Grace he compiled the first volume of The Oxford Treasury of English Literature.

In addition to his work as an educationist, he was a well-known music critic and musicologist. He was a prodigious writer, producing a series of Studies in modern music and books on church music, English music, sonata form, William Byrd, Richard Wagner, Beethoven's Op. 18 Quartets, and many more. He was a member of the Council of the Royal College of Music and President of the Federation of Musical Competition Festivals. He was awarded honorary DMus degrees by the universities of Oxford, Durham and Wales (information from Who's Who 1931).

He died in 1937.

Other members

Forty-two people served on the Consultative Committee under Hadow, including Hadow himself and RF Young, who was secretary for all the reports. As can be seen from the table below, about half this number served for each report.

Sir WH Hadow (Chairman)6
Mr PWH Abbott3
Dr JG Adami3
Mr SO Andrew3
Sir Graham Balfour2
Dr Ernest Barker4
Mr JW Bispham2
Dr M Dorothy Brock1
Mr WA Brockington3
Miss ER Conway6
Dr HW Cousins3
Rev Dr DHS Cranage4
Mr Evan T Davis3
Lady Galway2
Lord Gorell3
Miss Lynda Grier4
Mr Ivor H Gwynne3
Miss Freda Hawtrey6
Rev Sir Edwyn C Hoskyns2
Mr Percy R Jackson6
Rev Professor J Jones1
Sir Stanley M Leathes2
Mr FB Malim3
Dr A Mansbridge4
Mr RJ McAlpine2
Mr AJ Mundella4
Mr HJR Murray2
Dr Bertha S Phillpotts2
Dr RH Pickard2
Mr Frank Roscoe2
Mr EG Rowlinson1
Dr RP Scott2
Lady Simon1
Miss EM Tanner5
Mr RH Tawney5
Mr S Taylor3
Mr H Ward1
Mr WW Vaughan3
Mr WC Watkins3
Mr WH Webbe1
Mr JA White6
Mr RF Young (Secretary)6
Total on Committee222222212220

Notes on some of the committee members

John George Adami (1862-1926) was born to an Italian family but educated in England. He came to public notice in 1888 when he exposed himself to rabies and published an account of his treatment at the Pasteur Institute's vaccination clinic. In 1891 he moved to Canada to become Professor of Pathology at Montreal's McGill University. He returned to England during the First World War and was Vice Chancellor of Liverpool University from 1919 until his death.

Sir (Thomas) Graham Balfour (1858-1929) was an author and educationist. After a period spent travelling abroad, he returned to England in 1894 and settled in Oxford, where he wrote a number of books including his Educational Systems of England and Ireland (1898).

WA Brockington was Director of Education for Leicestershire.

FB Malim was a Cambridge scholar (President of the Union Society in 1894) and a housemaster at Marlborough School. At Sedbergh School (1907-1911) he encouraged science and fell-walking. He went on to become Headmaster of Haileybury and later Wellington.

Dr Albert Mansbridge was one of the founders of the Workers' Educational Association and wrote An adventure in working class education, being the story of the Workers' Educational Association 1903 - 1915 (1920).

AJ Mundella (1859-1933) was Secretary of the National Education Association (formed to promote non-sectarian and free national education) from 1898 until his death. He was Secretary of London County Council's Committee on Children's Care and Chairman of the Committee on Wage-earning Children. He wrote many newspaper articles and publications, including Labour exchanges and education (1910) and The cry of the children: a reformer's diary (1912). He was the nephew of Anthony John Mundella (1825-1897), the Liberal MP for Sheffield Brightside after whom the 1880 Elementary Education Act (The Mundella Act) was named (information kindly supplied by Robin Houston).

Richard Henry Tawney (1880-1962) was a noted economic historian, educator and activist. Born in Calcutta, the son of a Sanskrit scholar, he was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College Oxford. He spent thirty years at the London School of Economics, becoming Professor of Economic History in 1931. For more on Tawney see Mark K Smith's Richard Henry Tawney, fellowship and adult education (infed website).

Professor Sir Cyril Burt (1883-1971) was not a member of any of the consultative commmittees but contributed much information and advice, especially for the 1924 Report on Psychological tests of educable capacity. Among other appointments he was Psychologist to the Education Department of London County Council from 1913 to 1932; Professor of Education at the University of London from 1924 to 1931; and Professor of Psychology at University College London from 1931 to 1950. His views on intelligence have long since been discredited, as John Parrington points out in The intelligence fraud (Socialist Review April 1996). See also the Wikipedia Biography of Cyril Burt.

Summaries of the reports

For historians, the Hadow reports are invaluable documents. They not only paint a vivid picture of schools and the society in which they operated in the early twentieth century, but as each one begins with a historical chapter, they also provide a wealth of information about life and schooling in the nineteenth century.

The best known of the reports - The Education of the Adolescent (1926) and The Primary School (1931) - are particularly worth delving into. There are clear pre-echoes of Plowden here - many of the views expressed are surprisingly progressive. The 1931 report, for example, suggests that 'a good school, in short, is not a place of compulsory instruction, but a community of old and young, engaged in learning by cooperative experiment' (Hadow 1931:xvii). It goes on to argue that 'the curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored' (Hadow 1931:93).

1923: Differentiation of the Curriculum for Boys and Girls

Terms of reference

To investigate 'whether greater differentiation is desirable in the curriculum for boys and girls respectively in secondary schools' (Hadow 1923:ii).

The report

The report begins with a history of the curriculum in secondary schools. The first part looks at boys' schools, beginning with grammar schools in the period up to 1825 and ending with the state of the curriculum in about 1868. The second part examines the curriculum in girls' schools, from 'the conventional course of instruction for girls up to about 1860' (Hadow 1923:21) to the increasing provision of secondary school accommodation for girls from 1902. The committee notes that 'the girls' curriculum in its existing form is only about sixty years old, whereas the boys' curriculum represents the outcome of centuries of development' (Hadow 1923:44).

Chapter 2 outlines existing official requirements regarding the curriculum and criticisms that it is too academic, over-burdened and rigid, and that the curriculum in girls' schools is modelled too closely on that of boys' schools. Arguments are noted for the development of the 'aesthetic side of secondary education' (for both sexes) (Hadow 1923:67) and for an acknowledgement of 'The proper place of Domestic Subjects (including Elementary Hygiene) in the Girls' Curriculum' (Hadow 1923:70).

Chapter 3 examines differences between boys and girls in terms of anatomy, physiology, social environment and social function.

Chapter 4 presents a general review of the evidence and the committee's conclusions. It is constructed around a series of eleven questions, including: Is there sufficient evidence to suggest the desirability of any differentiation in the curriculum on anatomical and physiological grounds? Does the available psychological evidence point to the advisability of differentiation? Should the attitudes of the sexes, or differences in the environment and social function of boys and girls, be taken into account in planning the curriculum? Should girls' education be influenced by the burden of home duties or their potential future careers?


There are six appendices to the report. These include lists of witnesses and publications, a digest of 'certain points in the evidence relating to coeducational day schools', a treatise 'on the position of music and art in school examinations' (Hadow's own interest in music is clearly evident here), a memorandum by Dr JG Adami on anatomical and physiological differences between the sexes, and some examples of school timetables.


The report lists 24 recommendations. It argues for greater freedom in the curriculum of both boys' schools and girls' schools, more especially the latter; for more time for pupils - especially senior girls - to develop their own individual interests, for more flexibility in advanced courses and for the relaxation of some university matriculation requirements.

Hadow's own interest in music is evident in the suggestion that there should be greater emphasis on aesthetic subjects, both in school and in examinations. Maths and physics teaching and the provision of manual instruction should be improved in girls' schools; English teaching should be given greater priority in boys' schools. Girls should have the same freedom as boys to organise their own games.

The committee was clearly anxious about the pressures on girls. The report recommends that external examinations should be reduced and that girls should take the First School Examination a year later than boys; that girls should be protected from 'physical fatigue and nervous overstrain' (Hadow 1923:139); that they should be required to do less preparation (homework) in view of 'the relatively heavy domestic duties often performed by them in their homes' (Hadow 1923:140); and that the morning session in girls' schools should not exceed three and a half hours.

It urges that further research should be undertaken into the relative susceptibility of boys and girls to mental and physical fatigue, and into the intellectual and emotional differences between the sexes and their implications for the curriculum.

Finally, the report concludes that 'the various subjects of the curriculum should be taught in closer correlation with one another' (Hadow 1923:141); that school work should be more practical and vocational; and that women should be 'adequately represented on all committees and examining bodies which deal in any way with girls' education' (Hadow 1923:141).

1924: Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity

Terms of reference

'What use can be made in the public system of education of psychological tests of educable capacity?' (Hadow 1924:ii)

The report

The first chapter - which is long and detailed (61 pages) - consists of a historical sketch of the development of psychological tests. It traces the origins and development of experimental and individual psychology, physical methods of diagnosis and mental testing, the use of simple sensory tests (touch, hearing and vision etc) and of simple motor tests. It notes some negative conclusions in respect of these earlier methods. It describes tests of higher mental processes and the diagnosis of mental deficiency, the various revisions of the Binet-Simon Scale, group tests, performance tests, standardised tests of scholastic attainment, tests of vocational aptitude, and tests of temperament and character.

Chapter 2 summarises the available evidence 'bearing on the problems connected with the various types of psychological tests of educable ability'. It notes the 'observed discrepancies between ability and attainment' (Hadow 1924:63), considers various hypotheses regarding the nature of 'general ability' and asks what tests of intelligence actually measure. It assesses the merits and disadvantages of various types of test, ponders the connection between emotion and general intelligence, and assesses the value of standardised scholastic tests and vocational tests in determining educable ability. It warns of the danger of 'coaching' for such tests (Hadow 1924:103) and notes calls for the establishment of a central organisation to develop new tests and to collate experience (Hadow 1924:106).

Chapter 3 considers the possible applications of psychological tests in the public education system. It reviews the use of intelligence tests in connection with ordinary examinations primarily intended to test ability and assesses the value of standardised scholastic tests, vocational and physical tests, tests of memory, perception and attention, and temperamental tests. It notes that teachers, school doctors and others need training in using such tests, and argues that psychologists, teachers and statisticians need to cooperate in applying psychological and statistical methods to education. Finally, the chapter lists the committee's conclusions and recommendations.


There are nine appendices, including a list of witnesses, an account of recent experiments, a description of the use of tests abroad and a list of recent publications. There are notes by Dr Cyril Burt on standardisation and norms and on 'correlation as applied to mental testing', a note by AE Twentyman on grades in American schools, and some comments from psychologists on the factors involved in 'general', 'special' and 'group' abilities. Appendix VIII gives some examples of psychological tests 'selected for the committee by Dr Cyril Burt'.


The committee does not appear to be have been entirely convinced of the value of widespread testing.

The report contains 37 recommendations. It lists the different types of test (intelligence, scholastic, vocational, temperamental etc) and notes that 'the distinctions involved in the above classification are themselves founded on hypotheses, and, however convenient for purposes of analysis, should not be interpreted as if they were finally valid' (Hadow 1924:136).

It urges that only 'recognised experts' should devise and interpret the tests and that such experts 'should take counsel with those who are in close touch with school life' (Hadow 1924:136).

Intelligence tests, it says, 'are of value as supplements to, but not as substitutes for, the present methods of estimating individual capacity' (Hadow 1924:138). In particular, it stresses that 'when individual tests of "intelligence" are applied to subnormal children with a view to ascertaining whether they are mentally deficient, the data derived from the application of such tests should never be regarded as finally valid in themselves ... no child should ever be treated as mentally deficient solely on the evidence afforded by the application of "intelligence" tests, or of standardised scholastic tests, however carefully they may have been administered and marked' (Hadow 1924:139).

It warns against over-reliance on 'mental ratios' (intelligence quotients): the mental ratio of any individual child 'should always be used with discretion and in association with the information available from other sources' (Hadow 1924:142).

It argues that 'one of the most important uses of the data obtained from such tests is to make the teacher reconsider his estimates of individual pupils, which often tend to become stereotyped. A pupil's success or failure in the tests would probably suggest to the teacher the desirability of modifying his judgements of the mental powers of individual pupils and possibly of changing his methods' (Hadow 1924:143).

It dismisses tests of memory, perception and attention as 'of little use to teachers', physical tests as 'of very little use to teachers' and tests of temperament and character as 'practically useless to teachers' (Hadow 1924:144).

Finally, the committee urges 'that the Board of Education ... should set up an advisory committee to work in concert with university departments of psychology and other organisations engaged in the work of research' (Hadow 1924:144).

1926: The Education of the Adolescent

Terms of reference

'To consider and report upon the organisation, objective and curriculum of courses of study suitable for children who will remain in full-time attendance at schools, other than Secondary Schools, up to the age of 15'; and to advise on arrangements for testing pupils' attainments at the end of their course and for facilitating 'in suitable cases' the transfer of pupils to Secondary Schools 'at an age above the normal age of admission' (Hadow 1926:iv).

The report

Chapter 1 presents a sketch of the development of full-time post-primary education in England and Wales from 1800 to 1918, covering the beginnings of higher primary education from 1800 to the Revised Code of 1862, the 1870 Elementary Education Act and the development of 'Higher Grade' schools, the Cockerton Ruling of 1900 and the 1918 Education Act.

The present situation is analysed in Chapter 2, which sets out 'the nature of the problem' of post-primary education (Hadow 1926:36), presents a statistical summary, and notes the steps taken by local education authorities to deal with the problem.

Chapter 3 suggests some 'lines of advance', urging a 'regrading of education' (Hadow 1926:70) to provide a new classification of the successive stages of education before and after the age of 11+. It recommends the use of the terms 'primary' and 'secondary' education.

Chapter 4 argues that 'The curriculum should be planned as a whole', that it should be planned 'with a view to arousing interest and at the same time ensuring a proper degree of accuracy' and that it should be planned 'with a due regard to local conditions, and to the desirability of stimulating the pupils' capacities through a liberal provision of opportunities for practical work' (Hadow 1926:104). It stresses the importance of preparation both for pupils' future occupations (Hadow 1926:109) and for the development of 'interests which will continue through after-life and will enlarge the opportunities for a fuller enjoyment of leisure' (Hadow 1926:110).

Chapters 5 to 7 deal with the question of vocational bias in the curriculum, staffing and equipment, and the admission of children to secondary schools.

Chapter 8 considers 'the lengthening of school life', Chapter 9 debates the question of a leaving examination, and Chapter 10 reviews potential administrative problems involved in changing to the proposed new nomenclature of primary and secondary.

Chapter 11 presents a summary of the committee's conclusions and recommendations, followed by 'suggestions on the teaching of the several subjects of the curriculum in Modern Schools and Senior Classes'.


There are five appendices to the report, including lists of witnesses and others who provided opinions and information; notes on educational nomenclature; statistics; notes on the provision of post-primary education abroad, and a list of publications.


The report makes 38 recommendations.

Primary education, it says, should be regarded as ending at about the age of 11+ and all 'normal children should go forward to some form of post-primary education' which should be designated 'secondary education' (Hadow 1926:173).

In non-selective schools there should be an emphasis on 'opportunities for practical work ... closely related to living interests' (Hadow 1926:174) and staffing ratios in these schools should be at least as favourable as those in grammar schools (Hadow 1926:177).

The school leaving age should be raised to 15+, if possible by 1932 (Hadow 1926:178), and new forms of leaving examinations should be developed (Hadow 1926:179).

The structure of local education authorities should be rationalised to take account of the new arrangements (Hadow 1926:180).

1928: Books in Public Elementary Schools

Terms of reference

'To inquire as to the selection and provision of books for public elementary schools and to make recommendations for the improvement of their quality and supply' (Hadow 1928:iv).

The report

Chapter 1 presents a historical survey of the provision of books in elementary schools from 1810 to the 1920s.

Chapter 2 examines the function of books in elementary schools and assesses the volume, quality and character of the current supply in relation to the various curriculum areas. The committee notes the conclusions of the Report on Welsh in Education and Life (1927) on the supply and quality of Welsh school books.

Chapter 3 discusses the provision of books for pupils and teachers and reviews the practices and methods of various local education authorities.

Chapter 4 notes the range of different libraries provided by local authorities - public, school, urban, county, teachers' reference etc.

Chapter 5 assesses the sources of guidance available for teachers in the choice of books and considers general questions relating to the production of books for schools.

The cost of school books and various questions connected with their use both in the school and in the home are dealt with in Chapter 6.

Chapter 7 contains the committee's principal conclusions and recommendations.


There are six appendices, including lists of witnesses and others who provided information; notes and statistics relating to the practice of some local education authorities (including those in London and Scotland) in the selection and provision of books for pupils and teachers in public elementary schools; a comparison of expenditure on books in various areas; and statistics on the publication of new books for schools.


The report lists 43 recommendations. It urges greater expenditure on books for schools, especially in those administrative areas where it is 'seriously insufficient' (Hadow 1928:107). It makes a number of recommendatons relating to the administrative arrangements for controlling expenditure on school books.

It recommends that every school should have a library with 'adequate accommodation' (Hadow 1928:109). It stresses the importance of cooperation between public elementary schools and urban and county libraries.

It urges that 'the books used in elementary schools should be excellent in quality as well as adequate in numbers. The children should learn from them to admire what is admirable in literature, and to acquire a habit of clear thought and lucid expression' (Hadow 1928:112).

Recommendation 33 is revealing of the committee's progressive and generous attitudes: 'every pupil should be allowed, at least in school, to retain possession of all the books which he is constantly using, and that they should remain in his keeping until the end of the term or year in which he requires them ... older scholars from the age of 11 and upwards should in addition be encouraged to take books home ... books on certain subjects in which individual pupils have displayed special aptitude or interest might, towards the end of their school life, be given to them as a privilege or reward' (Hadow 1928:116).

The report makes several recommendations relating to the training of teachers and the provision of advice for them in the matter of book selection, and recommends that 'the Board of Education should convene from time to time a Central Advisory Conference ... to deal with general questions relating to the supply, quality and content of books for Public Elementary Schools' (Hadow 1928:119).

1931: The Primary School

Terms of reference

'To inquire and report as to the courses of study suitable for children (other than children in Infants' Departments) up to the age of 11 in Elementary Schools, with special reference to the needs of children in rural areas.' (Hadow 1931:iv)

The report

Chapter 1 presents 'the history of the development of the conception of primary education above the infant stage' from the beginning of the 19th century to 1930.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe the physical and mental development of children between the ages of 7 and 11.

Chapter 4 examines various arguments about the age range for the upper stage of primary education and concludes that it should include children from 7 to 11 years old.

Chapter 5 is concerned with the internal organisation of primary schools; Chapter 6 considers provision for 'retarded' children of primary school age.

Chapter 7 deals with the curriculum and makes some surprisingly progressive suggestions. It notes the traditional practice of treating the primary school curriculum in terms of 'subjects' and argues that 'what is needed ... is a new orientation of school instruction which shall bring it into closer correlation with the natural movement of children's minds' (Hadow 1931:101). It recommends the adoption of 'the project method' but warns that this 'cannot be brought into operation with success except gradually and cautiously' (Hadow 1931:104). There is a necessity, it says, for a thorough grounding in reading, writing and arithmetic through 'regular and systematic practice' (Hadow 1931:105).

Chapter 8 reviews the staffing of primary schools and the training of teachers; Chapter 9 is concerned with premises and equipment; and Chapter 10 considers what sort of examinations are appropriate for children in primary schools - both for seven year olds on entry and for 11 year olds on leaving.

A summary of the committee's principal conclusions and recommendations is presented in Chapter 11, and the report ends with 'Suggestions on the teaching of the various branches of the curriculum of primary schools'.


There are three appendices to the report: a list of witnesses, a memorandum on 'the anatomical and physiological characteristics and development of children between the ages of 7+ and 11+' by HA Harris, and a memorandum on 'the mental characteristics of children between the ages of seven and eleven' by Professor Cyril Burt.


The report lists 70 recommendations, divided into nine main sections: the historical background; age limits and organisation; children's physical development; their mental growth; the curriculum; retarded children; the staffing and training of teachers; premises, equipment and playing fields; and examinations, school records and reports.

The committee reiterates the view it expressed in its 1926 report that 'primary education should be regarded as ending at the age of eleven' (Hadow 1931:133) and adds that 'primary education may be said to fall into two well-marked stages - one extending up to the age of seven plus, and the other comprising the period between the ages of seven plus and eleven plus' (Hadow 1931:133). It recommends separate infant schools where this is possible but urges close cooperation between infant and junior schools. It stresses that 'the needs of the specially bright and of retarded children should be met by appropriate arrangements' (Hadow 1931:134-5) and approves of mixed primary schools 'provided that due regard be paid to the differing needs of the boys and girls in the matter of games and physical exercises' (Hadow 1931:135).

The report notes recent research on children's learning and suggests that, up to the age of eleven, 'school subjects and their presentation should be kept closely related to the children's concrete knowledge and their own immediate experience. At this stage the teaching should still be based directly upon what the pupil can perceive or recollect at first hand, usually in visual form, and not upon abstract generalisations or theoretical principles' (Hadow 1931:138).

The main purpose of the primary school curriculum must be 'to supply the pupils with what is essential to their healthy growth, physical, intellectual and moral, during this stage of their development' (Hadow 1931:139). Famously, recommendation 30 says 'We are of opinion that the curriculum of the primary school is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience, rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored' (Hadow 1931:139).

The committee favours the 'project' or 'topic' approach to the primary curriculum. 'The traditional practice of dividing the matter of primary instruction into separate "subjects", taught in distinct lessons, should be reconsidered', it says, subject to the rider that 'provision should be made for an adequate amount of "drill" in reading, writing and arithmetic' (Hadow 1931:140).

The report makes a number of recommendations relating to the education of 'retarded' children - principally that the extent of their retardation should be investigated and responded to appropriately; that special schools for the more severely retarded should be 'closely related to the general educational system' (Hadow 1931:142) and that classes containing retarded children should be small.

On staffing, the report states bluntly that 'none of the classes should contain more than 40 children' (Hadow 1931:143). It recommends that mixed schools should include 'an adequate number of men' (Hadow 1931:143) and that the practice of employing uncertificated teachers as heads should be ended (Hadow 1931:143).

Teacher training courses should be adjusted 'to suit the new organisation of schools' (Hadow 1931:144). All courses 'should afford adequate practice in methods of individual and group work' (Hadow 1931:144) and teachers should be trained to cope with the special needs of retarded children.

The report makes a number of recommendations regarding the provision of adequate buildings, equipment, libraries and playing fields.

On testing, it says seven year olds should be assessed on entry to junior schools by means of intelligence tests, school records and consultation between teachers, but it warns that 'the classification of these young children should be regarded as merely provisional, and should be subject to frequent revision' (Hadow 1931:147). It looks forward to a time when examinations at 11 for selective secondary education will be unnecessary, or at least diminished. For the time being, however, it recommends tests in English and arithmetic plus 'carefully devised group intelligence tests', though it warns that 'in our opinion it would be inadvisable to rely on such tests alone' (Hadow 1931:147). It recommends that a 'continuous record of each child's progress should be kept in primary schools' (Hadow 1931:148).

Primary schools should give parents termly or annual reports on their children's progress and, in the child's final year, information about secondary education in their area.

1933: Infant and Nursery Schools

Terms of reference

'To consider and report on the training and teaching of children attending nursery schools and infants' departments of public elementary schools, and the further development of such educational provision for children up to the age of 7+.' (Hadow 1933:iv)

The report

Chapter 1 provides a sketch of 'the history of the development of infant education as a distinct part of primary education in England and Wales' from the beginning of the 19th century to the 1930s.

Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the physical and mental development of children up to the age of seven.

Chapter 4 gives an account of the prevailing age limits and organisation of infant education.

Chapter 5 examines the medical supervision, education and training of children below the age of five; Chapter 6 considers this provision in relation to infant and nursery schools.

Chapter 7 deals with the staffing of infant and nursery schools and the training of teachers for them; Chapter 8 considers the premises and equipment of the schools.

The committee's principal conclusions and recommendations are presented in Chapter 9.


There are six appendices to the report, including a list of witnesses; memoranda on the anatomical and physiological characteristics of 2-7 year olds by HA Harris and on the emotional development of children up to seven plus by Cyril Burt and Susan Isaacs; notes on typical nursery schools and classes; on Manchester's scheme for student nurse 'helpers'; and on practice in Europe and the US.


The report lists 105 recommendations - the largest number of any of the Hadow reports.

It recommends that the existing age limits for compulsory and voluntary school attendance should not be changed; that children should transfer from infant to junior classes between the ages of seven and eight; and that, wherever possible, separate schools should be provided for infants. It stresses, however, that 'the primary stage of education (i.e. from the beginning of school life to the age of eleven) should be regarded as a continuous whole' (Hadow 1933:174).

It emphasises the importance of 'detecting early signs of retardation in children and of discovering the causes' (Hadow 1933:176) but disapproves of retarded children being taught in separate schools at this early age. It deprecates any attempt to insist on the keeping of elaborate records but considers it 'very important that some simple forms of school record should be regularly made' (Hadow 1933:176).

It notes that effective cooperation between parents, teachers, doctors and school nurses has resulted in 'a marked improvement alike in the health and cleanliness of the children' (Hadow 1933:176) and urges that such cooperation should continue.

It expresses concerns about the poor diet of some children and its effect on their growth. It notes the need for 'a proper balance between exercise and rest' (Hadow 1933:177) and states that 'The most important single factor in reducing the incidence of infectious disease is that the school should be of open-air design' (Hadow 1933:177-8). Teachers should be alert for defects in vision or hearing and adequate medical records should be kept.

The treatment of children in the earliest years of life - including an 'open air environment' - is of utmost importance if later emotional development is to be satisfactory. Between the ages of two and five children should be 'surrounded with objects and materials which will afford scope for experiment and exploration' (Hadow 1933:179). The young child should not be expected to perform tasks which require 'fine work with hands and fingers' (Hadow 1933:180). The ideas presented to him should be 'very simple and few at a time; oral lessons should be short and closely related to the child's practical interests' (Hadow 1933:182).

The fundamental purpose of the nursery school is 'to provide an environment in which the health of the young child - physical, mental and moral - can be safeguarded' (Hadow 1933:182). Its aim is 'not so much to implant the knowledge and the habits which civilised adults consider useful, as to aid and supplement the natural growth of the normal child' (Hadow 1933:182).

The same principle applies in the infant school as in the primary school, that 'the curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored' (Hadow 1933:183). Practical and physical activities should be paramount. 'The principle underlying the procedure of the infant school should be that, as far as possible, the child should be put in the position to teach himself, and the knowledge that he is to acquire should come, not so much from an instructor, as from an instructive environment' (Hadow 1933:185). Freedom and individual work are 'essential' for the children, and 'freedom in planning and arranging her work is essential for the teacher if the ever present danger of a lapse into mechanical routine is to be avoided' (Hadow 1933:186).

The nursery school 'is a desirable adjunct to the national system of education; and ... in districts where the housing and general economic conditions are seriously below the average, a nursery school should if possible be provided' (Hadow 1933:187-8).

No infant class should have more than 40 children, and, where practicable, all the teachers should be certificated. Nursery teachers should have had 'special instruction in nursery care' (Hadow 1933:190) and 'helpers' should be provided to assist them. Nursery school heads ('superintendents') should be specialists 'in the charge of very young children' (Hadow 1933:192).

The design of the infant school 'is not yet in complete harmony with modern opinion regarding its function and activities' (Hadow 1933:192). The report urges a more generous floor space allowance than that for junior schools, and the provision of 'semi-open-air buildings' and 'garden playgrounds' to secure 'the essential conditions of fresh air, sunshine and light' (Hadow 1933:193). Lavatories should be within the school and supplied with hot water (something which had not been provided at my infant school twenty years later!) Classrooms should be furnished with light tables and chairs, a piano, 'possibly a gramophone and some instruments of percussion' (Hadow 1933:195) and should be 'adequately supplied with suitable books' (Hadow 1933:195).


The most important recommendations of the Hadow committees related to the structure of the school system and the curriculum. To what extent did these recommendations inform the development of education in England in the following decades?


The recommendations about the structure and nomenclature of schools were certainly influential, though it would be many years before they were fully implemented.

Early years

The committee urged the provision of nursery education. A nursery school, it said, 'is a desirable adjunct to the national system of education; and ... in districts where the housing and general economic conditions are seriously below the average, a nursery school should if possible be provided' (Hadow 1933:187-8).

Forty years later Plowden noted that 'the under fives are the only age group for whom no extra educational provision of any kind has been made since 1944 ... Nursery education on a large scale remains an unfulfilled promise' (Plowden 1967:116).


Education, the committee said, should be 'regraded', i.e. divided into two distinct phases to be called primary and secondary, with the break between the two at the age of 11+ (Hadow 1926:71).

This did eventually happen, though it took a long time. Primary schools became government policy from 1928, but the complete 'regrading' of the country's schools into primary and secondary had to wait until the 1944 Education Act, and it was not until the mid 1960s that all children were educated in separate primary schools.

School leaving age

All children should stay at school until at least the age of 15 (Hadow 1926:148).

Legislation to raise the school leaving age to 15 was introduced in 1929 but defeated. It was agreed in 1936 that the age would be raised in September 1939 but the outbreak of war forced a further postponement. Finally, the 1944 Education Act set the leaving age at 15, and it was eventually implemented in April 1947 - 21 years after Hadow's recommendation.


The Hadow committees demonstrated some surprisingly progressive attitudes in relation to the curriculum. There was no perfect curriculum, they argued. The job of teachers and educationists was constantly to ask questions and seek to find better answers. 'The problems of curriculum, by their nature, do not admit of any final solution; each generation has to think them over again for itself' (Hadow 1923:ii).

The curriculum 'should be planned as a whole in order to avoid overcrowding; it should arouse interest while ensuring 'a proper degree of accuracy'; and it should be planned 'with a due regard to local conditions, and to the desirability of stimulating the pupils' capacities through a liberal provision of opportunities for practical work' (Hadow 1926:104).

Many of the committee's recommendations - restructuring the primary curriculum in terms of projects, focusing on children's interests, the use of discovery methods and the importance of collaborative work - would reappear forty years later in Plowden.


The committee saw advantages in thinking of the primary curriculum in terms of projects or topics which would appeal to children's interests, rather than as a set of discrete subjects: 'teaching by subjects is a mode of instruction which ... does not always correspond with the child's unsystematised but eager interest in the people and things of a world still new to him ... what is needed, therefore, is a new orientation of school instruction which shall bring it into closer correlation with the natural movement of children's minds' (Hadow 1931:101). Plowden reiterated this view: 'The topic cuts across the boundaries of subjects and is treated as its nature requires without reference to subjects as such. At its best the method leads to the use of books of reference, to individual work and to active participation in learning' (Plowden 1967:199).


Project work should encourage children to solve problems and make discoveries for themselves: 'the project would provide many openings for independent enquiries by children who might be attracted specially in one direction or another, or could bring special gifts, e.g. in drawing or modelling, to the illustration of particular points' (Hadow 1931:103). And again, 'The principle underlying the procedure of the infant school should be that, as far as possible, the child should be put in the position to teach himself, and the knowledge that he is to acquire should come, not so much from an instructor, as from an instructive environment' (Hadow 1933:141). Plowden agreed: 'The sense of personal discovery influences the intensity of a child's experience, the vividness of his memory and the probability of effective transfer of learning' (Plowden 1967:201).

Collaborative work

It should also involve collaborative group work. 'The work would take largely the form of cooperation between a group of children, all of whom would find they had something to learn from the work of their fellows' (Hadow 1931:103). Plowden was also in favour of collaborative work. It quoted a group of HMIs: 'The teacher has to be prepared to follow up the personal interests of the children who, either singly, or in groups, follow divergent paths of discovery' (Plowden 1967:200).


The committee was in favour of what would today be described as a child-centred approach to education. 'Even in a single school may be found a wide range of types of mind and of conditions of environment'. The construction of curricula, therefore, was 'not a simple matter': 'uniform schemes of instruction are out of the question if the best that is in the children is to be brought out' (Hadow 1926:102). Plowden took up this theme: 'At the heart of the educational process lies the child. No advances in policy, no acquisitions of new equipment have their desired effect unless they are in harmony with the nature of the child' (Plowden 1967:7).

A balanced approach

However, Hadow emphasised the need for a balanced approach. 'There appear to be two opposing schools of modern educational thought, with regard to the aims to be followed in the training of older pupils. One attaches primary importance to the individual pupils and their interests; the other emphasises the claims of society as a whole, and seeks to equip the pupils for service as workmen and citizens in its organisation ... When either tendency is carried too far the result is unsatisfactory' (Hadow 1926:101). Plowden also urged balance: 'We endorse the trend towards individual and active learning and "learning by acquaintance", and should like many more schools to be more deeply influenced by it. Yet we certainly do not deny the value of "learning by description" or the need for practice of skills and consolidation of knowledge' (Plowden 1967:202).

The children as individuals

Hadow urged teachers to see children as individuals. Plowden took this further. 'We found that the Hadow reports understated rather than overestimated the differences between children. They are too great for children to be tidily assigned to streams or types of schools. Children are unequal in their endowment and in their rates of development. Their achievements are the result of the interaction of nature and of nurture. We conclude that the Hadow emphasis on the individual was right though we would wish to take it further' (Plowden 1967:460).


Hadow recommended the appropriate use of look and say, phonic, and sentence methods. 'Each of these methods emphasises important elements in learning to read, and most teachers borrow something from each of them to meet the need of the moment or the special difficulties of different children' (Hadow 1933:134). Forty years later Plowden would similarly note that 'the most successful infant teachers have refused to follow the wind of fashion and to commit themselves to any one method' (Plowden 1967:212).


On writing, the Hadow committee urged that children should be 'encouraged to express themselves freely' (Hadow 1931:156) and that spelling lessons should be based on the words the child actually uses, or on the literature s/he is reading. Children 'should not learn lists of unrelated words. Any attempt to teach spelling otherwise than in connection with the actual practice of writing or reading is beset with obvious dangers' (Hadow 1931:160). Again, Plowden said much the same: 'In a growing number of junior schools, there is free, fluent and copious writing on a great variety of subject matter ... To this kind of writing ... we give an unqualified welcome' (Plowden 1967:219). 'The best writing of young children springs from the most deeply felt experience' (Plowden 1967:220).

Broad, relevant and practical

For secondary pupils, the curriculum should be broad, relevant and practical and should include a foreign language. 'A humane or liberal education is not one given through books alone, but one which brings children into contact with the larger interests of mankind ... it should include a foreign language ... and it should be given a 'practical' [i.e. vocational] bias only in the last two years' (Hadow 1926:84-5).


In the classroom

Hadow's views on the curriculum were largely ignored and forgotten. The elementary school lived on, even if it was now called a primary school. These schools bore all the hallmarks of the elementary system 'in terms of cheapness, economy, large classes, obsolete, ancient and inadequate buildings, and so on' (Galton, Simon and Croll 1980:33). They also continued to provide a curriculum based on the arid drill methods of the elementary schools, methods which were encouraged by the introduction of the 11+ exam for selection to secondary schools.

No wonder Plowden felt the need to say it all again. Twenty years after her report was published, Bridget Plowden wrote 'we did not invent anything new' (Plowden 1987:120).

She was right. If Hadow's recommendations had been implemented there would have been little need for Plowden, which reiterated much of what Hadow had said forty years earlier. Yet Plowden was still seen as dangerously progressive by many, especially the hacks of the tabloid press and the writers of the 'Black Papers'. The educational backwoodsmen needn't have worried. As Benford and Ingham pointed out, teachers had been 'concerned to play safe rather than inspire' and their inaction had 'necessitated the translation of Hadow (1931) into Plowden (1967). Each was welcomed in its own time. Each was subsequently neglected where it mattered most: in the classroom' (Benford and Ingham The Times Educational Supplement 6 March 1987).

In national policy

Hadow's recommendations concerning the structure of education were, as we have seen, eventually adopted by government and implemented. Its recommendations regarding the curriculum were not.

While progressive educational ideas had, by 1939, become the 'offical orthodoxy' (Galton, Simon and Croll 1980:35), politicians showed little interest. This was no doubt partly because ministers had long been expected to keep out of the 'secret garden' of the curriculum. But that changed in 1976 when Prime Minister Jim Callaghan gave a speech at Ruskin College Oxford which opened the 'Great Debate' about the purposes of education.

From then on, politicians decided that they knew all the answers and must impose their views on the nation's teachers. Hadow's plea that teachers should have freedom in planning and arranging their work so as to avoid 'the ever present danger [of] a lapse into a mechanical routine' (Hadow 1933:146) was rejected.

This process took a giant leap forward with the Thatcher government's imposition of the National Curriculum in the 1988 Education Reform Act and has been taken still further by Blair's New Labour governments, which have dictated to teachers not only what they must teach but how they must teach it.

The latest example of this is the decision to force schools to teach reading by the 'synthetic phonics' method - a decision based on one small, flawed experiment in Clackmannanshire, much criticised by experts like Dr Jackie Marsh, President of the United Kingdom Literacy Association (see her letter to The Guardian, Marsh 2005) and Professor Stephen Krashen's letter to The Guardian, Krashen 2005). So much for Hadow's sound advice to use a range of methods and Plowden's warning about following 'the winds of fashion'. Politicians, as always, know best.

Both the Thatcher and Blair governments have been obsessed with testing children and compiling league tables of schools on the basis of the results. Perhaps it is appropriate, therefore, to end with two warnings from Hadow:

The conception of the primary school and its curriculum must not be falsified or distorted by any form of school test whether external or internal.

We cannot too strongly deprecate the tendency to base a comparative estimate of the efficiency of schools upon the class lists of a selective 'free place' examination (Hadow 1931:132).

Now almost eighty years on, it would be good to have a government which noted the wisdom of these words and acted upon them.

The Hadow committees started from where people were and based their opinions on the facts as they were then understood. The reports were, to that extent, products of their age - something that is especially evident in their attitudes to gender issues and special educational needs.

But they were extraordinarily optimistic: 'We cannot but feel - as we unanimously do - that the times are auspicious, and the signs favourable, for a new advance in the general scope of our national system of education' (Hadow 1926:xix). That advance encompassed a vision of a future in which all children would enjoy 'the free and broad air of a general and humane education' (Hadow 1926:xxiii).

It was a vision in stark contrast to the sterile, utilitarian, test-driven curriculum which politicians have now imposed on the nation's schools.

And finally ...

If you need to remember the basic facts about Hadow - for exam purposes or whatever - here are some tips:


Think of the six reports as two trilogies. One trilogy deals with issues (23 Differentiation, 24 Tests, 28 Books), the other deals with structures (26 Adolescent, 31 Primary, 33 Infant).

This isn't completely true but you may find it a useful division. And note that the three reports dealing with structures are in reverse age order - i.e. the first deals with the oldest children, the last with the youngest.

Hadow in numbers



Galton M, Simon B and Croll P (1980) Inside the primary classroom (The ORACLE Report) London: Routledge and Kegan Paul

Hadow (1923) Differentiation of the Curriculum for Boys and Girls Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

Hadow (1924) Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

Hadow (1926) The Education of the Adolescent Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

Hadow (1928) Books in Public Elementary Schools Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

Hadow (1931) The Primary School Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

Hadow (1933) Infant and Nursery Schools Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

Krashen S (2005) Letter The Guardian 5 December

Marsh J (2005) Letter The Guardian 3 December

Plowden (1967) Children and their Primary Schools Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) London: HMSO

Plowden B (1987) ''Plowden' Twenty Years On' Oxford Review of Education 13(1) 119-124

A shorter version of this article was published in Forum 49(1) Spring 2007 7-19, and another version can be found on the Infed website.