Hadow (1931)

1931 Hadow Report (text)

The Hadow Report (1931)
The Primary School

Background notes

Historical context

The 1899 Board of Education Act established a Board of Education 'charged with the superintendence of matters relating to education in England and Wales' (section 1). It provided for the establishment of a Consultative Committee to keep a register of teachers and to advise the Board 'on any matter referred to the committee by the Board' (section 4).

The Consultative Committee produced many reports - including this one - during its lifetime. It was replaced following the 1944 Education Act by the Central Advisory Council for Education (CACE).

Sir Henry Hadow was an educationist (Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield from 1919 to 1930), a well-known music critic and a prodigious writer. He chaired the Consultative Committee for six reports between 1923 and 1933:

1923 Differentiation of the Curriculum for Boys and Girls
1924 Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity
1926 The Education of the Adolescent
1928 Books in Public Elementary Schools
1931 The Primary School
1933 Infant and Nursery Schools

The 1931 report was in some ways remarkably progressive. It argued that 'a good school is ... not a place of compulsory instruction, but a community of old and young, engaged in learning by cooperative experiment' and 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'.

For more about Hadow and other Committee members and summaries of the reports, see my article The Hadow Reports: an introduction.

Summary of the report's main recommendations

The report lists 70 recommendations including:

  • primary education should end at the age of eleven and should comprise two stages - infants (up to seven) and juniors (from seven to eleven);
  • there should be separate infant schools where possible and close cooperation between infant and junior schools;
  • the needs of the 'specially bright' and of 'retarded' children should be met by appropriate arrangements;
  • mixed primary schools are commended, provided that they cater for the differing needs of the boys and girls in games and physical exercises;
  • the primary school curriculum should be based on the children's knowledge and experience, not on abstract generalisations or theoretical principles;
  • it should offer pupils 'what is essential to their healthy growth, physical, intellectual and moral, during this stage of their development';
  • it should be thought of 'in terms of activity and experience, rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored';
  • the 'project' or 'topic' approach is preferable to dividing the curriculum into separate subjects, provided that there is an adequate amount of 'drill' in reading, writing and arithmetic;
  • 'retarded' children should have their needs investigated and responded to appropriately;
  • special schools for the more severely retarded should be 'closely related to the general educational system';
  • classes containing retarded children should be small;
  • no primary classes should contain more than 40 children;
  • mixed schools should employ an adequate number of male teachers;
  • the practice of employing uncertificated teachers as heads should be ended;
  • teacher training courses should be modified to include practice in methods of individual and group work;
  • teachers should be trained to cope with the special needs of retarded children;
  • provision of buildings, equipment, libraries and playing fields should be improved;
  • seven year olds should be assessed by means of intelligence tests, school records and consultation between teachers, but any classification of young children should be provisional and subject to frequent revision;
  • tests at 11 for selective secondary education should eventually be abolished. Until then, reliance should not be placed on tests alone - a continuous record of each child's progress should be kept in primary schools;
  • 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.

The report online

The full text of the report (including the Appendices) is presented in a single web page.

I have modernised some of the spelling and punctuation. Anything added by way of explanation is shown [in square brackets].

The photographic plates in Appendix II were scanned from photocopies so the quality is less than brilliant.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 22 May 2006; they were revised on 4 November 2012.