Education in the UK

Preliminary pages
Introduction, Contents, Preface
Chapter 1 Up to 1500
Chapter 2 1500-1600
Renaissance and Reformation
Chapter 3 1600-1660
Chapter 4 1660-1750
Chapter 5 1750-1860
Towards mass education
Chapter 6 1860-1900
A state system of education
Chapter 7 1900-1923
Secondary education for some
Chapter 8 1923-1939
From Hadow to Spens
Chapter 9 1939-1945
Educational reconstruction
Chapter 10 1945-1951
Labour and the tripartite system
Chapter 11 1951-1964
The wind of change
Chapter 12 1964-1970
The golden age?
Chapter 13 1970-1974
Applying the brakes
Chapter 14 1974-1979
Progressivism under attack
Chapter 15 1979-1990
Thatcher and the New Right
Chapter 16 1990-1997
John Major: more of the same
Chapter 17 1997-2007
Tony Blair and New Labour
Chapter 18 2007-2010
Brown and Balls: mixed messages
Chapter 19 2010-2015
Gove v The Blob
Chapter 20 2015-2018

Organisation of this chapter


The Hadow Reports 1923-33
1923 Curriculum differentiation
1924 Psychological tests
1926 Education of the adolescent
1928 Books in elementary schools
1931 The primary school
1933 Infant and nursery schools
Hadow's legacy

1924-36 The leaving age battle
1924 Labour: reversing the engines
1924-1929 Baldwin's Tories
   More cuts
   Reaction to the 1926 Hadow Report
   The New Prospect in Education
   The NUT's response
   Free places
   Hadow reorganisation
   The churches and reorganisation
1929-31 Labour's second administration
1931-39 National Government
   Circular 1421: more budget cuts
   LCC: calls for comprehensivisation
   The School Age Council
   1935 General Election
   Circular 1444
Secondary education in the 1930s

1936 Education Act
Opposition to the Bill
Summary of the Act
Criticism of the Act

The notion of fixed intelligence
Cyril Burt

1938 Spens Report
The views of witnesses
Reaction to the report

The government of education
Budget cuts
The local authorities
The Board of Education
The position in 1938

Progressive education

The public schools

Higher education

Technical education

Special educational needs
Provision for
    mentally defective children
    the deaf


Education in the UK: a history
Derek Gillard

first published June 1998
this version published May 2018

copyright Derek Gillard 2018
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Chapter 8 : 1923-1939

From Hadow to Spens


Labour formed its first administration under Ramsay MacDonald in January 1924 but it lasted only until October of that year, when Stanley Baldwin's Conservatives regained power. Labour's second administration (1929-1931) was cut short when MacDonald was forced to form a 'National Government', dominated by Conservatives, which survived until 1939 under three Prime Ministers.

The pace of technological development increased: mass production of domestic washing machines, refrigerators and freezers began; John Logie Baird demonstrated his mechanical television in 1926; the 'talkies' - films with soundtracks - were first seen in 1928; and by 1939 nine million radios were in use in Britain (Lawson and Silver 1973:386).

The number of children in the average UK family had fallen to just over two by 1939.

In its 1937 Handbook of Suggestions for elementary teachers, the Board of Education noted some of the changes that had taken place in society:

The general standard of life has improved, and life itself is being lived at a faster rate. The universality of motor-transport, of broadcasting, and of the sound-film in the cinemas presents new features in the common life, while better housing, the increasing use of electrical and other mechanical devices, the probability of increased leisure and wider social contacts for all, with their opportunities for the enrichment of experience, make it necessary for those engaged in education to review their task afresh (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:386).
That review would take place during the Second World War.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, calls for mass education had been resisted by those who wanted to preserve class distinctions and who saw the education of working-class children as a dangerous development; in the first half of the twentieth century the provision of secondary education for all was similarly resisted but, since it was now less acceptable to use class as an excuse, spurious theories about 'innate intelligence' were put forward instead.

In the inter-war period there were growing demands, not just for secondary education for all, but for the creation of comprehensive schools, though the term 'comprehensive' was not used at the time.

The only significant education act during this period was that of 1936 which, because it allowed exemptions from school attendance for 'beneficial employment' and gave the churches very generous grants, was seen by many as gravely disappointing. Its provision for the raising of the school leaving age to fifteen was cancelled when war broke out.

The Hadow Reports 1923-33

The Board of Education's Consultative Committee had been suspended during the First World War. It was reconstituted by Order in Council dated 22 July 1920 and, in the ten years between 1923 and 1933, produced six reports under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Hadow (1859-1937) (pictured), an educationist (Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield from 1919 to 1930), a well-known music critic and a prodigious writer. 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.

The first two subjects referred to the Hadow Committee for 'inquiry and advice' by the Board of Education were:

(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? (Hadow 1923:ii).

The differentiation of the curriculum for boys and girls (1923)

In its first report, The differentiation of the curriculum for boys and girls, the Hadow Committee argued that there should be greater freedom in the curriculum, especially in girls' schools, with more time for pupils to develop their own individual interests, more flexibility in advanced courses and a greater emphasis on aesthetic subjects, both in lessons and in examinations.

In girls' schools, maths and physics teaching and the provision of manual instruction should be improved, while in boys' schools, English teaching should be given greater priority.

Girls should be protected from 'physical fatigue and nervous overstrain' (Hadow 1923:139) - they should take the First School Examination (the School Certificate) a year later than boys; and 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 called for women to be adequately represented on committees and examining bodies dealing with girls' education.

The report's relatively progressive attitude to women was in marked contrast to the nineteenth-century views still held by, for example, the Head of Harrow, Cyril Norwood (of whom more in the next chapter), who used the opening of Westonbirt girls' public school in 1928 to expound his views on women in general and girls' education in particular. 'He emphasised that girls' education should be neither unduly academic in its outlook nor too closely modelled on that of boys' (McCulloch 2007:71).

His views were not well received. The magazine Time and Tide (28 May 1928), for example, commented: 'To-day it is only here and there that we find lingering the point of view of which Dr Norwood is so distinguished an exponent' (quoted in McCulloch 2007:71).

Norwood was undeterred. Interviewed by the Daily Mail later that year, in October 1928, he declared:

When you consider the 100,000 or so of girls of 12 to 18 who are now being educated in the secondary and public schools - the number has increased two and three times since the war - is it not very short-sighted to suppose that a stereotyped course of learning will suit all of them? The majority will eventually marry. At school they are taught exactly as if they were going on to university (quoted in McCulloch 2007:70).

Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity (1924)

The notion that every individual had a fixed - and therefore, unchangeable - level of 'innate intelligence', which could be easily measured by tests, was being developed by Cyril Burt and other proponents of eugenics (for more on this topic, see the section on The notion of fixed intelligence below).

The Hadow Committee, however, was somewhat sceptical about the value of testing. In Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity it argued that the different types of test (intelligence, scholastic, vocational, temperamental etc) involved classifications founded on hypotheses which, while sometimes useful, 'should not be interpreted as if they were in any sense finally valid' (Hadow 1924:63); that tests should be devised and interpreted in consultation with teachers, and that they should be supplements to, not substitutes for, existing methods of assessing individual capacity. The inclusion in the report of a section on the use of group tests was largely due to Percy Nunn, 'a very firm believer in the doctrine of innate intellectual capacity' (Simon 1974:236).

The Committee warned that children should never be treated as mentally deficient solely on the evidence of intelligence tests, and that 'mental ratios' (intelligence quotients) should be used with caution. While tests could be useful as diagnostic and planning tools for the teacher, tests of memory, perception and attention were 'of little use to teachers', physical tests of 'very little use' and tests of temperament and character 'practically useless' (Hadow 1924:144).

Finally, the Committee recommended that the Board of Education should set up an advisory committee to conduct research with university psychology departments.

The Education of the Adolescent (1926)

As far back as the 1880s some school boards had catered for older children by providing 'higher tops' to elementary schools, or separate 'higher grade schools'. The 1902 Act had 'laid waste' to these initiatives in order that there should be 'a firm demarcation of a separate secondary sphere' (Simon 1974:122).

But with the raising of the school leaving age to 14 in 1922, the issue now became even more pressing and local authorities began to reconsider the matter. They were not helped in this task by budget cuts which had resulted in classes of 50 or more.

Section 20 of the 1921 Education Act required local authorities 'to make, or otherwise to secure, adequate and suitable provision by means of central schools, central or special classes, or otherwise' for suitable practical instruction and 'advanced instruction for the older or more intelligent children'. To meet this requirement, elementary schools would need to be reorganised so as to provide appropriate senior departments - and therefore also separate junior departments.

Some authorities made rapid strides: Leicester, for example, under the energetic leadership of FP Armitage, had reorganised almost all the upper sections of its elementary schools by 1924, opening new non-selective senior schools and separate junior schools. Bradford had established nine municipal secondary schools by 1926, providing free places for more than a quarter of the city's children (Simon 1974:121-2).

Such developments demonstrated 'the illogicality and inequalities of the existing structure of the school system' (Simon 1974:123). The Tories, who wanted to preserve the status quo, used the block-grant system as one method of slowing the advance; another was 'to assume the mantle of reformer and direct modest advances along safe channels' (Simon 1974:123). It was for this reason that the Hadow Committee was asked to consider The Education of the Adolescent.

The Committee included among its members RH Tawney, Albert Mansbridge (founder of the Workers' Educational Association), AJ Mundella (nephew of the nineteenth-century reformer), and Sir Percy Jackson of the West Riding. There were also four women members - Lynda Grier, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; Emmeline Tanner, Head of Roedean girls' public school; Miss ER Conway, a Liverpool headmistress and former President of the NUT; and Freda Hawtrey, Principal of Avery Hill Training College in London.

Many would argue that this was the Hadow Committee's most important report - indeed, it is often referred to as 'the Hadow Report' as though it were the only one. Its recommendation - that education should be divided into two distinct phases to be called primary and secondary, with the break between the two at the age of eleven - was not a new idea, but the Consultative Committee gave it added authority (Hadow 1926:140).

Otherwise, the committee was less than revolutionary: it was

content to build on the foundations already laid by local authorities; that is, recommend various forms of selective and non-selective provision that had come into being under the existing regulations (Simon 1974:128).
Its proposal for various types of school corresponding to those already in existence 'recognised existing realities only too directly' (Simon 1974:129) and was justified on the basis that the different types of school related specifically to the different needs of children.
There are diversities of gifts, and for that reason there must be diversity of educational provision. Equality, in short, is not identity, and the larger the number of children receiving post-primary education, the more essential is it that that education should not attempt to press different types of character and intelligence into a single mould, however excellent in itself it may be, but should provide a range of educational opportunity sufficiently wide to appeal to varying interests and cultivate powers which differ widely, both in kind and in degree (Hadow 1926:78-79).
The secondary stage, therefore, should be 'sufficiently elastic', and contain 'schools of sufficient variety of type', to meet the needs of all children. 'Thus all go forward, though along different paths. Selection by differentiation takes the place of selection by elimination' (Hadow 1926:79).

This 'selection by differentiation', the committee suggested, should involve a written examination, supplemented, if possible, by an oral one, with psychological tests used in borderline cases.

Among other recommendations, the committee called for non-selective secondary schools to have staffing ratios at least as favourable as those in grammar schools, and to focus on practical work related to 'living interests' (Hadow 1926:84).

The school leaving age should be raised to 15, if possible by 1932 (a recommendation which was not implemented until 1947); new forms of leaving examinations should be developed; and the structure of local education authorities should be rationalised to take account of the new arrangements.

The Independent Labour Party in Bradford accepted Hadow's recommendations

as ground on which we think the battle for improvement can hopefully be fought ... It aims at secondary education, not for a selected few, but for all children. To this principle we admit no exception (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:392).
Labour's Secondary Education for All (1922) (details in the previous chapter) and the 1926 Hadow Report
marked the climax of movements of opinion which aimed to raise the elementary education of older children to 'secondary' status (Lawson and Silver 1973:392).
The notion of providing different types of secondary school for different groups of children was popular with many in the labour movement (and remained so until the 1950s).

Books in Public Elementary Schools (1928)

In their next report, Books in Public Elementary Schools, the Committee argued for greater expenditure on books, especially in areas where provision was 'seriously insufficient' (Hadow 1928:107). Every school should have a library with 'adequate accommodation' (Hadow 1928:109) and there should be cooperation between public elementary schools and urban and county libraries.

Pupils should be allowed to keep books which were in constant use, and from the age of eleven they should be encouraged to take books home. On leaving school, pupils might be allowed to keep books on subjects in which they had shown special aptitude or interest.

There should be training and advice for teachers in the matter of book selection, and the Board of Education should convene a Central Advisory Conference to deal with questions relating to the supply, quality and content of books for public elementary schools.

The Primary School (1931)

In their 1926 report, the Hadow Committee had recommended the division of schooling into primary and secondary stages with the break at age eleven: they now turned their attention to issues of organisation, curriculum and pedagogy in the primary phase.

In The Primary School they argued that the aims of schooling in an earlier industrial society were no longer adequate, and that

The schools whose first intention was to teach children how to read have thus been compelled to broaden their aims until it might now be said that they have to teach children how to live (Hadow 1931:93).
Primary education, said the Committee, 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. Primary schools should be coeducational, but should cater for the differing needs of boys and girls in games and physical exercises.

The primary school curriculum should 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).
It should offer pupils 'what is essential to their healthy growth, physical, intellectual and moral, during this stage of their development' and it should 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 commended the 'project' or 'topic' approach:

The traditional practice of dividing the matter of primary instruction into separate 'subjects', taught in distinct lessons, should be reconsidered. The treatment of a series of central topics which have relations with many subjects, may be a useful alternative. It is, however, essential that provision should be made for an adequate amount of 'drill' in reading, writing and arithmetic (Hadow 1931:140).
Appropriate arrangements should be made to meet the needs of the 'specially bright' and of 'retarded' children (Hadow 1931:134-5). Classes containing retarded children should be small and special schools for the more severely retarded should be 'closely related to the general educational system' (Hadow 1931:142).

No primary class should contain more than 40 children; coeducational schools should employ an adequate number of male teachers; and no uncertificated teachers should be employed as heads.

Teacher-training courses should be modified to include practice in methods of individual and group work, and 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 'merely provisional, and should be subject to frequent revision' (Hadow 1931:147). A continuous record of each child's progress should be kept, and parents should be given termly or annual reports on their child's progress and, in the final year of primary school, information about secondary education in the area.

Infant and Nursery Schools (1933)

Infant and Nursery Schools was the Committee's final report with Henry Hadow as chairman. It listed 105 recommendations - the largest number of any of the Hadow reports.

Separate schools, the Committee said, should be provided for infants wherever possible, but the primary stage of education (up to the age of eleven) should be regarded as a continuous whole.

Cooperation between parents, teachers, doctors and school nurses was important, and the children needed a good diet, exercise and rest. Teachers should be alert for defects in vision or hearing and early signs of retardation. Retarded children should not be taught in separate schools at this age.

Nursery children should be encouraged to experiment and explore and should not be expected to perform tasks which required 'fine work with hands and fingers' (Hadow 1933:181). The school should 'provide an environment in which the health of the young child - physical, mental and moral - can be safeguarded' (Hadow 1933:182).

The curriculum of the infant school - like that of the primary school - was 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). As far as possible, children should be enabled to teach themselves.

The teachers should be free to plan and arrange their own work and, where practicable, they should all be certificated and have had special instruction in nursery care; classroom 'helpers' should be provided; and nursery-school heads ('superintendents') should be specialist teachers of very young children.

Infant schools should have more space than junior schools, 'semi-open-air buildings', 'garden playgrounds' (Hadow 1933:193) and more appropriate books and equipment. Lavatories should be within the school and supplied with hot water.

Nursery education should be widely available, especially in poorer districts, and no infant class should have more than 40 children.

(For fuller summaries and analysis of the Hadow reports, see my article The Hadow Reports: an introduction.)

Hadow's legacy

Hadow's endorsement of the division of schools into primary and secondary with a break at eleven for all was clearly influential. It was enacted in the 1944 Education Act and became a reality in the post-war period.

Galton, Simon and Croll argue that

the motivation for this fundamental change did not arise from any serious consideration of the needs and character of children aged seven to eleven (or five to eleven). It arose solely from a consideration of the needs of the older (senior) children (Galton, Simon and Croll 1980:32).
This judgement is not entirely fair. While it is true that the stimulus for change was the need to provide secondary education for all, there was considerable concern for the education and welfare of younger pupils. The 1931 and 1933 reports contained, as we have seen, some surprisingly progressive ideas, such as the notion that the primary curriculum should be thought of 'in terms of activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored' (Hadow 1931:139; Hadow 1933:183), and the suggestion that 'A good school ... is not a place of compulsory instruction, but a community of old and young, engaged in learning by co-operative experiment' (Hadow 1931:xvii).

Many of the Committee's recommendations implied greater expenditure on buildings and equipment. Their implementation faced serious obstacles:

The economic constraint was of paramount importance. New apparatus and equipment were difficult to obtain. Attempts to modernize school buildings were frustrated, especially after the major financial crisis of 1931, when school-building was (as is generally the case) one of the worst-hit victims. New ideas about school-building, incorporated in the Board's Suggestions for the Planning of Buildings for Public Elementary Schools in 1936, were only beginning to be acted upon when war came (Lawson and Silver 1973:388).
Furthermore, while the Hadow Committee's recommendations regarding the structure and organisation of schools were adopted in the post-war period, their views on the curriculum were largely ignored. The arid drill methods of the elementary school survived in many of the new primary schools, and were encouraged by the introduction of the eleven-plus exam for selection to secondary schools.

No wonder, then, that the members of the Plowden Committee felt the need to say it all again in 1967: their report Children and their Primary Schools reiterated much of what Hadow had said forty years earlier: indeed, Bridget Plowden later wrote 'we did not invent anything new' (Plowden 1987:120).

The picture was not entirely a negative one, however: progressive educational ideas were rapidly growing in influence (see the section on Progressive education below).

1924-36 The leaving age battle

1924 Labour: reversing the engines

When the first Labour government took office on 21 January 1924 the new Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, appointed as President of the Board of Education Charles Trevelyan (1870-1958) (pictured in 1899), a former Liberal who had been a member of the London School Board and had served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education from 1908 to 1914.

In March 1924, Trevelyan declared that he had 'reversed the engines' (quoted in Simon 1974:80): Circular 1190 (which had halted virtually all educational development) was withdrawn, and the Board began considering proposals for new nursery, elementary, secondary and technical schools. University scholarships were reinstated, class sizes reduced, and more money was found for the school medical service.

Three months later he announced that the proportion of free places in secondary schools would be raised to 40 per cent, and that there would be more generous provision for 'advanced instruction' in new elementary schools. Steps were also taken towards raising the school leaving age to fifteen.

Treveyan's long-term aim was free secondary education for all, though he acknowledged in the Commons that this 'would be perfectly impossible at the present time' (quoted in Simon 1974:83).

Sadly, the minority Labour government was defeated on a motion of no confidence and the General Election, held on 29 October 1924, resulted in a Conservative landslide.

1924-1929 Baldwin's Tories

Baldwin was back as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was now Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Lord Eustace Percy (1887-1958) (pictured) became President of the Board of Education.

In January 1925 the Board issued Circular 1350 which dropped most of Trevelyan's proposals but required that, in planning new buildings, local authorities should make provision for advanced instruction for children over eleven. This age, it said, was 'the most suitable dividing line between what may be called "junior" and "senior" education' because it gave 'opportunities for suitable classification and organisation' of children over eleven (quoted in Simon 1974:233). Methods of selection were becoming an important issue.

The report of the Departmental Committee on The Training of Teachers for Public Elementary Schools was published in 1925. Chaired by Viscount Burnham, the Committee made 69 recommendations. Compared with the early Hadow reports, it was 'much more in tune with the Board's general view' (Simon 1974:293):

Departmental committees could be controlled, while the Consultative Committee got increasingly out of hand, and this one advocated the consolidation of two levels of teacher training - for elementary school through two-year colleges, for secondary school through university departments training graduates - at a time when this division was beginning to be outgrown (Simon 1974:293).
More cuts

Within a year of taking office, Baldwin had announced a new round of economies. Percy was asked to make cuts in the education budget and, when these did not go far enough, to come up with more. He responded that his first proposals involved rationing local authority expenditure 'drastically' and, in asking for more, the Cabinet committee 'are indeed asking for a higher reduction than I considered, or now consider, possible' (quoted in Simon 1974:90).

But he drafted a new circular (1371, issued on 25 November 1925) which proposed a complete standstill. There would be no educational development for at least three years (until 1929) and the percentage grant would be abandoned in favour of a block grant. For the year 1926-7, authorities would be given grants which were one per cent less than they had received in 1924-5. Finally, grants for under-fives in elementary schools would be cut by 30s (1.50) per child (Simon 1974:95).

When the circular was published, 'the outburst of wrath was immediate and overwhelming' (Simon 1974:98). The Manchester Guardian (3 December 1925) saw it as 'a turning point in educational policy' which would have a 'quite disastrous outcome' (quoted in Simon 1974:98).

Circular 1371 was eventually withdrawn, but in March 1926 the Commons began debating an Economy Bill, which included a clause effectively implementing its provisions. On 4 May 1926 the General Strike began. The objectionable clause of the Economy Bill was quietly forgotten, and the issue of block grants was then tackled in a general local government bill. 'But the inclusion of education in this also aroused powerful opposition' (Simon 1974:112).

In his autobiography, Some Memories published in 1958, Percy noted that as President of the Board he had come to realise that elementary schooling for children over eleven formed no part of an educational ladder and was not intended to be a preparation for anything: elementary schools were just 'finishing' schools for young workers. It was little wonder, he wrote, that 'a "class" education of this kind was coming to be increasingly suspected and resented' (Percy 1958:95).

Reaction to the 1926 Hadow Report

The Education of the Adolescent was published on 16 December 1926. Before he had even had time to read it, Lord Eustace Percy wrote immediately to Hadow, rejecting the proposal to raise the leaving age to 15 in 1932.

A month later, in January 1927, representatives of the Association of Education Committees met Percy and urged that preparations should be made for raising the leaving age - though in 1933 rather than 1932 as Hadow had suggested. They were met with 'a self-righteous, and ... aggressive, response' (Simon 1974:133). Percy told them:

To force children generally to stay longer in the elementary school will be, from the parents' point of view, a somewhat arbitrary exercise of authority and from the point of view of education it would be the merest eyewash (quoted in Simon 1974:134).
He also argued that local authorities already had the power to raise the age (with exemptions) under the 1921 Act if they wished to do so.

Despite Percy's intransigence, many felt that the publication of The Education of the Adolescent marked a turning point: something positive was at last being advocated after a long period of 'danger, disorientation and cutbacks in expenditure' (Simon 1974:137). The Times Educational Supplement (1 January 1927) declared that 'a change has come over the whole spirit of English education' (quoted in Simon 1974:136-7); the education authorities warmly welcomed the report; the County Councils Association urged its members to begin planning for what soon became known as 'Hadow reorganisation'; and a conference to consider the report, organised by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) in October 1927, drew more than a thousand delegates.

In the Commons on 16 February 1927, Labour MPs called on the government to 'take all the legislative and administrative action necessary to secure a universal system of post-primary education on the lines recommended by the committee', and Charles Trevelyan insisted on the need to raise the leaving age. It was, he said, 'one of the biggest things which we can contemplate in the near future' (quoted in Simon 1974:135).

At its annual conference in the autumn of 1927, the Labour Party urged the development of

a new type of secondary school which offers a variety of courses suitable to children of different aptitudes and capacities, but is otherwise on a level with the present day secondary school (quoted in Simon 1974:136).
This differed markedly from the Hadow report which, 'in accepting selection and different grades of post-primary school, necessarily envisaged a bottom grade non-selective school for the majority' (Simon 1974:136).

The New Prospect in Education

The Board of Education gave its official response to the Hadow proposals in 1928, when it published Circular 1397 and Pamphlet No. 60 The New Prospect in Education. The underlying message was clear: the Board wanted as little change as possible.

First, The New Prospect in Education defined 'Hadow reorganisation' as 'a readjustment of the existing Elementary School system' (Board of Education 1928:7).

Second, it used the term 'intermediate education' (which did not appear in Hadow) to 'misdefine the main thesis of that report' (Simon 1974:137). What the committee had recommended, the pamphlet claimed, was 'the provision for every child over the age of 11 of a system of intermediate education in schools set apart and organised for that purpose' (Board of Education 1928:1).

Third, the pamphlet was clear that selection must be retained: 'We want not only Senior Schools for all, but special types for selected pupils' (Board of Education 1928:2).

Fourth, because new forms of post-primary school were being developed, it was important 'to maintain in their proper sphere the special standards of [the] traditional type of secondary education' (Board of Education 1928:7). Indeed, there could even be a reduction in the number of secondary places in the future - a proposal directly contrary to Hadow's expectation that 'many more' would be provided.

And finally, the pamphlet identified selective central schools as 'the chief pioneers in the new ventures which are opening out for us' (Board of Education 1928:3), but declared that pupils in such schools would on no account be admitted to external examinations. Again, this was contrary to Hadow's recommendations.

A leader in The Times (9 June 1928) noted that 'the Board is preparing the way for raising the school leaving age in 1933' (quoted in Simon 1974:139). However, it was clear that

no incentive to improving education was to be provided, let alone an advance to providing education of a secondary character for all. Since the ceiling of 25 per cent selective places, in both secondary and central schools, remained, 75 per cent of children were inevitably destined for senior elementary schools or departments whose course would lead to no qualification whatsoever after ten years of education. What was now laid down as official policy by the Board was ... the simple division of the elementary system into two stages, primary and post-primary (Simon 1974:139-40).
The NUT's response

It was left to the teachers to make clear what Hadow had actually proposed. In the autumn of 1928, the NUT published The Hadow Report and After, which aimed to 'disinter all those aspects of the Hadow Committee's thinking which the Board was most concerned to bury' (Simon 1974:140). The General Secretary of the union at the time was Frank Goldstone (1870-1955), who had been a Labour MP and a member of the party's education advisory committee. He had also served on the Departmental Committee of 1920.

Hadow's recommendations, said the NUT, required the introduction of free secondary education for all children over eleven, with a common code of regulations and provision of adequate maintenance allowances. What the Board was doing was seeking to maintain 'the old irrational distinctions, legal and administrative' (quoted in Simon 1974:140).

Teachers' organisations had already begun advocating comprehensive education, though the term 'comprehensive' was not used at the time: instead, there was talk of 'multi-bias', 'multiple-bias', or 'multilateral' schools. In January 1925 the Association of Assistant Masters, a secondary association, had unanimously called for children to be 'transferred to secondary schools containing departments of different types' (quoted in Simon 1974:142) where they would stay until they were 16; while the NUT had called for the creation of large multiple-bias schools which, it noted, had been adopted throughout the United States.

Now, in November 1928, Percy turned down an NUT request to discuss the multilateral school. But he did meet an NUT deputation on 8 March 1929, when he rejected the idea of a common secondary school and urged the NUT not to fight for free secondary education (Simon 1974:143).

At their 1929 annual conference, NUT members welcomed 'the facilities that have been provided for post-primary education under reorganisation schemes' but regretted that these 'fail to give effect to several of the recommendations of the Hadow Report' (quoted in Simon 1974:144). It demanded that all types of state-aided education for children over eleven should be equal in status, free, and under one set of regulations.


Not everyone was in favour of the expansion and reorganisation of secondary schooling. The education committee of the Federation of British Industries declared that industry could not bear the burden of releasing juvenile workers over the age of fourteen for eight hours a week, as had been provided for by the 1918 Education Act and that, in any case, only a small minority of children were 'mentally capable of benefiting by secondary education' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:394).

And in 1928 a former school medical officer claimed that most elementary-school children would not benefit from secondary education because of 'the shallowness of their mental impress ... and of the generally exaggerated appraisement of school education for the masses as a whole'. Most pupils would go on to be manual workers and therefore 'even that extra year in the Public Elementary Schools ... would prove superfluous to the majority of them' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:394). He rejected Hadow's proposals because of

(1) The too low educability of many of the children. (2) The compulsory nature of the afterlives of the scholars ... No theoretical schemes for equal education of all the children can get away from these basic and fixed conditions (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:394).
Free places

Despite such objections, the number of pupils with free places in grammar schools doubled between 1920 and 1932, by which time there were 209,000 free-place children, almost half of the total (Lawson and Silver 1973:394).

Although free-place pupils broadened the social mix of the grammar schools, 'The benefits of the ladder were unevenly distributed geographically and among the different social strata eligible to benefit from it' (Lawson and Silver 1973:395).

This point was taken up by Kenneth Lindsay in his 1926 book Social Progress and Educational Waste, in which he revealed the limitations of the free-place system:

it has been conclusively proved that success in winning scholarships varies with almost monotonous regularity according to the quality of the social and economic environment. London, Bradford, Liverpool, and the countryside bear this out in the minutest detail (Lindsay 1926:8).
The poorer the district, the lower was the success rate. Lindsay argued that 'selection by differentiation must replace selection by elimination' (Lindsay 1926:15) because, under the existing system, almost half the children of 'proved ability' were 'being denied expression' (Lindsay 1926:23).

Hadow reorganisation

The raising of the school leaving age to fourteen, as required by the 1918 Education Act, had been postponed because of economic problems. The measure was repeated in the 1921 Act and finally came into force in October 1922.

23 November 1928: Leslie Clayton's school leaving certificate
kindly supplied by his son Michael

[click on the image for a larger version]

The 1918 Act had also required local education authorities to provide courses of advanced instruction for the older and abler children. As a result, some of the more enlightened authorities reviewed their arrangements for children below the age of twelve, and several began to create junior schools and departments.

By the 1920s, London - and a few other towns - had numerous 'three-decker' schools. The children started in the infant department on the ground floor, from which at the age of seven they moved to one of the upper storeys - which usually housed separate boys' and girls' departments - where they stayed until they left school at the age of fourteen.

Hadow's proposal for a break between primary and secondary education at age eleven (made in the 1926 report) could easily be accommodated by rearranging the storeys of the three-decker schools: they now housed infant, junior and senior departments instead of infant, girls' and boys' departments (Plowden 1967 I:97-99).

'Hadow reorganisation' began in earnest. In just three years, from 1927 to 1930, the number of pupils in separate junior departments rose from 150,000 to 400,000 - from seven to sixteen per cent of the total child population aged between eight and twelve (Plowden 1967 I:99).

Bradford, for example,

entirely reorganized its elementary schools along Hadow lines, with a new system of 'modern' schools for children from the age of eleven, and involving an extensive redistribution of staff and children (Lawson and Silver 1973:393).
The number of pupils in grant-aided secondary schools as a whole rose by almost 100,000 during the 1930s, and the schools increased in size to an average of around 350. The proportion of pupils who came from public elementary schools rose steadily, reaching 77 per cent in 1937, 'as a result of the increased numbers of special places, and greater pressures from the parents of elementary-school children' (Lawson and Silver 1973:388-9).

The churches and reorganisation

Meanwhile, the problem of the involvement of the churches in many elementary schools - 'and in most of the worst of them' (Simon 1974:149) - remained, and there were now concerns that the churches would want their own secondary schools.

In 1929, Percy Jackson, Chair of the West Riding Education Committee, argued that the churches had stood in the way of educational advance for over a century. Now that new arrangements were being made, he hoped the churches would confine themselves to giving religious education in the schools, and, 'having got that, let the State do its own work' (quoted in Simon 1974:150).

However, both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church made it clear that, unless there was a settlement which met their demands, 'they would arrest all advance - in terms of reorganisation - by any means to hand' (Simon 1974:150).

Previous attempts to resolve the problem (in 1919 and 1926) had come to nothing. The Conservatives - who were not subject to the same Roman Catholic influence as Labour - could have ended the dual system: hardly any new Church of England schools had been built since 1918, and by the early 1930s old ones were being handed over to local authorities at the rate of seventy-six a year (Simon 1974:214). Instead, in 1929, a Cabinet committee discussed the matter with the churches - rather than with the local authorities, who actually understood how far the dual system was hindering reorganisation and how poor many church (or 'non-provided') schools were.

The importance of this question can be gauged by the fact that as many as four-fifths of all public elementary schools in Lancashire were voluntary schools, so that the need for agreement was acute (Simon 1974:150).
In the 1929 election campaign, the Conservatives promised 'actively to seek an agreed settlement which will enable provided and non-provided schools to work together' (quoted in Simon 1974:150), to complete reorganisation and to improve all 'blacklisted' school buildings. This would be a major task because many church schools were in a state of chronic disrepair: of around 3,000 'blacklisted' schools condemned by the Board of Education in 1925 as 'unfit for further use', most were church schools (Simon 1991:52).

1929-31 Labour's second administration

On the eve of the 1929 election the Conservatives published a pamphlet in which Baldwin declared that the party was leading the way in achieving a classless society. 'The classification of our schools', he wrote, 'has been on the lines of social rather than educational distinctions; a youth's school badge has been his social label.' But, he claimed, a

great new fabric is already taking shape ... the outward 'elementary' structure is at last being superseded; higher [ie secondary] education is being provided for every child, and manual aptitudes are being given for the first time the same facilities of exercise as the academic (quoted in Simon 1974:152-3).
Brian Simon comments: 'It is difficult to conceive of any contemporary statement further removed from the truth' (Simon 1974:153).

Labour's education policy was outlined in Labour and the Nation (1928) and followed up by an 'Appeal to the Nation' on May Day 1929. It promised that Labour would 'raise the age of school attendance to fifteen with a view to it being raised to sixteen as soon as possible' and that facilities 'for free secondary education' would be developed 'at once' (quoted in Simon 1974:153).

Labour won the election and Ramsay MacDonald formed his second administration but, with only a small majority over the Tories, he was forced, once again, to rely on Liberal support.

Trevelyan returned as President of the Board of Education. He was determined to raise the school leaving age, and in this he had

full backing from the Education Advisory Committee of the party and others in the educational field, coldly negative discouragement from the Labour Chancellor for plans to realise election pledges, no solid support from prime minister and Cabinet to counteract this, and little understanding or help from the parliamentary Labour Party (Simon 1974:154).
The Labour Education Advisory Committee sent Trevelyan a draft memorandum which called for a single code of secondary regulations, abolition of secondary fees, and the development of multi-bias (ie comprehensive) secondary schools, which were now supported by most of the teachers' organisations.

Despite the reaction of Board officials - which was 'wholly negative' (Simon 1974:155) - Trevelyan told the Commons that a bill would be introduced to raise the school leaving age to 15 by 1 April 1931, a year earlier than Hadow had suggested. His announcement was followed by Circular 1404 (24 September 1929) which set out the financial assistance which local authorities would receive. Trevelyan also wanted to increase maintenance allowances and abolish fees, but had to acknowledge that it could not all be done at once.

After lengthy discussions with the Chancellor, Trevelyan was able to announce (in Circular 1406, 9 April 1930) that the number of university scholarships would rise, though only by 100 rather than the 200 he had proposed; and (in Circular 1407, 17 April 1930) that the proportion of free places in secondary schools would rise from 40 to 50 per cent (Simon 1974:159).

Trevelyan's first bill to raise the school leaving age was lost because of the government's heavy legislative programme. In May 1930 he introduced a second bill, this time incorporating proposals for financing the reorganisation of voluntary schools. This did not appeal to the churches, who had 'taken up entrenched positions' (Simon 1974:162). The bill also ran into trouble over its insistence on means tests in relation to maintenance allowances. Labour MPs staged a revolt and the Cabinet forced Trevelyan to shelve the bill.

But Trevelyan was determined. He now presented two new bills: one - the Education (School Attendance) Bill - dealt with the raising of the school leaving age; the other - the Non-provided Elementary Schools Bill - provided for a financial settlement once negotiations with the churches had been successfully concluded.

By this time, however, the Free Churches were objecting to any settlement which subsidised Anglican and Catholic interests, while the Catholic hierarchy ordered Labour's Catholics to obey the directives of the bishops. As a result, the 'Scurr' amendment proposed delaying the raising of the school leaving age for a year. In the end, none of this mattered: Trevelyan's bills were defeated in the Lords.

When Trevelyan was then asked to make further cuts in the education budget, he resigned. His letter of resignation, dated 19 February 1931, concluded:

Now that in my department I am prohibited by the action of the House of Lords from carrying through any drastic educational progress, I do not wish to be any longer in part responsible for a general policy which I regard as ineffective (quoted in Simon 1974:166).
Following Trevelyan's resignation, on 2 March 1931 Labour MP Hastings Lees-Smith (1878-1941) was appointed President of the Board of Education: he held the post for less than six months.

Trevelyan's financial measures had made a significant difference in many areas. In the north west, for example, they had

greatly accelerated the programme of many authorities for the reorganisation of their schools, the reduction of the size of classes, the replacement and repair of defective premises, and the provision of accommodation for the additional age-group (Jewkes and Winterbottom 1933:84).
Trevelyan had shown that 'so relatively little could achieve so much' (Simon 1974:215). There was no reason why reorganisation could not have been completed in the following years.

But by February 1931 the government was facing another financial crisis and the Chancellor, Philip Snowden, appointed Sir George May, secretary of the Prudential Assurance Company, to chair an independent committee to recommend possible economies.

Trevelyan had also taken steps to provide more teachers but, as a result of budget cuts, by the end of 1932 there were 1,100 newly-qualified teachers without jobs, and

to the eternal shame of the government, many remained without employment while classes so large as to prevent any effective education remained prevalent (Simon 1974:215).

In October 1931, MacDonald was forced to call an election as a result of which he formed a 'National Government' with a small majority of Conservative ministers. The National Government was to have three Prime Ministers: MacDonald until 1935, Baldwin 1935-1937 and then Neville Chamberlain.

1931-39 National Government

Circular 1421: more budget cuts

May's committee, whose members knew little about the state education system, recommended a cut of almost 12m in the education budget for England and Wales. The exchequer grant should be abolished, they said, teachers' salaries cut by a fifth and secondary school fees raised by a quarter. Despite Lees-Smith's objections, the Labour Cabinet agreed to adopt most of May's recommendations (Simon 1974:176).

In October 1931, with the Liberal Donald Maclean (1864-1932) now President of the Board of Education, a National Economy (Education) Order was issued which abolished the guaranteed fifty per cent minimum exchequer grant and legalised the reduction of teachers' salaries (by 15 per cent - though this was later reduced to 10 per cent), regardless of contracts. These steps had been called for by Circular 1413, published a few weeks earlier. The only concession was that secondary-school fees would not be increased (Simon 1974:177).

When Maclean died suddenly on 15 June 1932, Edward Wood - who was now Lord Irwin - returned to his former post as President of the Board 'somewhat reluctantly' (Simon 1974:151). Since he could only speak in the Lords, the Parliamentary Secretary, Herwald Ramsbotham (1887-1971), assumed the role of Board spokesman in the Commons.

Irwin and Ramsbotham were faced on the one hand with making further cuts (as proposed by the May committee and supported by Irwin), involving the raising of secondary-school fees and the replacement of free places with means-tested 'special places'; and on the other by the Joint Four Secondary Teachers' Associations, who protested 'very strongly indeed' (Simon 1974:180) about the lack of consultation on the new secondary regulations. There was very little time to resolve the issues before the start of the new school year, and matters were made even more difficult by the fact that:

civil servants were under considerable difficulties given the opening of the shooting season. Indeed president and parliamentary secretary could hardly keep in touch, migrating as they were from one house party to another (Simon 1974:181).
Nonetheless, Circular 1421 was sent out on 15 September 1932: means-tested fees were now to be charged in all grant-aided secondary schools, abolishing at a stroke the free secondary schools which towns such as Bradford and Manchester had been operating for some years.

On 17 September the Times Educational Supplement carried a letter signed by forty leading educationists and Liberal and Labour politicians, expressing fears of a new round of cuts. The signatories included Sir Percy Nunn (1870-1944), Professor of Education at the London Institute of Education from 1913 to 1936, Archbishop of York William Temple, TUC secretary Walter Citrine and the novelist and historian HG Wells (1866-1946) (Simon 1974:182).

A couple of days later, Tawney, writing in the Manchester Guardian, called for 'a massive campaign' to force withdrawal of both the circular and the regulations, which were not due to come into effect until the spring of 1933:

So the methods of the Poor Law may be applied, it seems, to what the government apparently regards as an analogous service. There is to be strict enquiry, an exact appraisal of the resources of the family whose younger members have the bad taste to ask their fellow-countrymen for the opportunity to be educated (quoted in Simon 1974:183).
Within a few weeks the Board had received 1,800 submissions from all over the country and from a wide range of individuals and organisations. Only three supported the government's policy (Simon 1974:184).

At the Labour Party conference in October, Charles Trevelyan declared that the government was effectively saying to Durham and Bradford:

you have had your children educated in secondary schools for a generation, but that is now at an end. You shall go down to the level of those backward authorities who know how to keep the working people in their places. Now I say that means class war (quoted in Simon 1974:185).
The fact that men like Baldwin and Irwin had supported this 'dirty, mean, selfish class persecution' was astonishing, said Trevelyan. Labour must resolve that as soon as it had power it would ensure 'free secondary education for all' (quoted in Simon 1974:185).

The circular was debated in the House of Commons on 16 November 1932. In response to a Labour motion supporting the principle of free secondary education, Ramsbotham spelled out clearly the Tory attitude. Secondary education, he said, should be reserved for 'selected children, the gifted and the intellectual' from whom 'we expect leaders of industry and commerce in the coming generation'. Free secondary education, he went on,

might very well turn the whole country into a vast educational soup kitchen from which few would get proper rations, and still fewer would be able to digest what they got' (quoted in Simon 1974:186).
This was an appallingly insensitive comment, given that at the time many working-class families were being kept alive by soup kitchens.

In the end, another Circular (1424) announced that, while all the representations had been 'carefully considered', the Board saw no need to modify the terms of Circular 1421.

Thus where there had been free secondary schools there would now be schools with 100 per cent special places - the only difference was that a means test would now apply (Simon 1974:186).
But even this was not enough for the National Government, which began to demand still further cuts. A new committee was formed, consisting of local authority representatives and chaired by Conservative MP William Ray. Faced with a Chancellor of the Exchequer now demanding savings of 6m, the committee's report, published towards the end of November 1932, called for the pupil-teacher ratio to be raised, small schools closed, departments amalgamated, teachers' increments to be biennial rather than annual, fees to be charged in selective central schools, maintenance allowances revised, student teachers to receive loans instead of grants, fees raised for day and evening classes, and cuts in expenditure on 'special services' - 'a euphemism for special care for the physically and mentally afflicted child' (Simon 1974:187). Finally, percentage grants should replace block grants - a proposal which, coming as it did from a local authority committee, was regarded as a great betrayal.

On 12 January 1933 the Labour Daily Herald reported that

Education authorities all over the country are defying the Cabinet for the sake of the children whose future they hold in trust. They refuse to carry out the 'economies' in secondary education scheduled in the Board of Education Circular 1421. Despite urgent instructions from the Board these authorities will refuse to cut the number of free places or raise fees (quoted in Simon 1974:189).
An internal Board memorandum acknowledged that the story was true and, when local authorities refused to cooperate, the Board backed down. From now on, it could only 'contemplate the ruin of even its own limited brand of Hadow reorganisation', its annual reports seeking to cover up 'the smallness of advances' (Simon 1974:191).
Even so, as late as 1938 it must record that 78 per cent of rural schools remained all-age, or unreorganised. These were schools in the areas of Conservative county authorities which had been too slow off the mark to get the benefit of Trevelyan's grants; and, in particular, schools belonging to the Churches which had betrayed the children's interests in pursuit of their own by digging the grave of Trevelyan' s education Bills (Simon 1974:191).
The Labour Party, meanwhile, faced with an overwhelming majority of Tory MPs in the National Government, was in the doldrums. Its annual conference in the autumn of 1933 called for the raising of the leaving age 'without delay' - but only to 15. Ernest Bevin, of the Transport and General Workers' Union protested about 'a wishy-washy thing of this character' (quoted in Simon 1974:192), and the resolution was amended to call for a leaving age of 16.
It was as well, for this was to become a key question as the term of the National Government drew to a close and demands arose for a constructive alternative policy to end the standstill imposed on the education service (Simon 1974:192).
London County Council: calls for comprehensivisation

In 1934, Labour won control of London County Council for the first time. After calling on the government to raise the school leaving age to 15 by April 1935, the new Council set up a special joint sub-committee to consider post-primary education. With members representing both elementary and secondary sectors, it was chaired by Barbara Drake (1876-1963) who, in 1929, had urged Trevelyan to develop multi-bias schools.

The sub-committee, however, was faced with a director of education, EM Rich, who favoured the status quo. She argued that:

The great majority of London's children are destined to pursue occupations which will make little demand upon specialised gifts ... To give a more expensive form of education, therefore, to more than a proportion of London children would be misuse of the educational system ... It is ... advisable ... to concentrate expensive forms of educational training in relatively few schools, in which efficiency is ensured by the homogeneity of the pupils and of their purpose. Anything which would lower the standard of such schools would be most regrettable. It is questionable whether, even at present, we do not admit to them, too freely, children of mediocre gifts. It is characteristic of the British character that the spirit of healthy competition should provide the necessary stimulus to effort. This finds expression in our scholarship system ... in such a way that children even at an early age shall strive for facilities denied to the idle or indifferent (quoted in Simon 1974:193-4).
Her arguments did not deter the sub-committee, whose report argued for 'a system of post-primary education which will function as an integral whole rather than in separate departments or types of school like the present system' (quoted in Simon 1974:194). It went on to advocate multilateral schools providing a variety of courses:
We have considered a suggestion that this unity of post-primary education might be achieved by the establishment of a new type of school which would be large enough to provide within its four walls most, or all, of the activities now carried on in existing types of post-primary school. ... The new type of schools would be organised in such a way that a good general education could be given for the first few years of the course, during which the pupils would find their proper level and bent through the adoption of the 'sets' system; thereafter, special facilities would be available for differentiations in the curriculum according to the abilities and aptitudes of the pupils. In such a 'multi-type' or 'multi-bias' school, it should be comparatively easy to transfer a pupil from one side to another according to the development of his interests and abilities, without incurring any psychological disturbances such as may arise from a further change in the locale of his school (quoted in Simon 1974:194).
This was the strongest challenge yet to the limited form of Hadow reorganisation being promoted by the Board of Education.

Meanwhile, similar arguments were being made by the TUC and sections of the teaching profession in evidence to the Consultative Committee (now chaired by Will Spens) which, from early in 1934, was working on a new reference relating to the organisation and content of secondary education.

The School Age Council

Another challenge to the government came from the School Age Council, formed in the summer of 1934, with JJ Mallon, the warden of Toynbee Hall, as secretary. This was a hugely influential body, with representatives of industry and the trade unions, the Church of England and the Free Churches, and the local authorities - including 79 education committee chairmen and 81 directors of education (Simon 1974:199).

They faced a government determined not to give way on education expenditure. In July 1934 the President of the Board of Education, Lord Halifax (Edward Wood, who had previously been Lord Irwin but had recently succeeded his father), told the Lords that it would cost 8m to raise the leaving age, that the nation could not afford it, that it was complicated, and that there were other pressing measures. All these issues, he said, 'prevent His Majesty's Government at the present time from considering the raising of the school leaving age as practical politics' (quoted in Simon 1974:199).

A deputation from the School Age Council met Ramsay MacDonald on 20 February 1935. Percy Jackson, Chair of the West Riding Education Committee, pointed out that they were a very conservative body - far from 'rabid enthusiasts for education' (quoted in Simon 1974:201). The Warden of All Souls College, Dr WGS Adams, summed up the Council's position. MacDonald said he agreed that the leaving age should be raised, and that the Board of Education had already been instructed to conduct a study of the matter.

This was disingenuous of the Prime Minister, to say the least, since Halifax had had great difficulty in persuading Cabinet colleagues of the urgency of the issue, and by the autumn of 1934 the government had already decided that, with the election less than a year away, no legislation would be introduced in the present parliament.

Meanwhile, thousands of children were still growing up ill-fed and ill-housed, while their education had been 'pared to the bone' (Simon 1974:196). More than eighty per cent still left school at 14 to take up dead-end jobs which ended in unemployment queues:

It is a striking, and a deplorable, fact that very large numbers of children continue to enter the cotton industry in areas in which that industry is already seriously overcrowded (Jewkes and Winterbottom 1933:31).
Indeed, the cotton factories employed more than forty per cent of the boys in Nelson and Colne, thirty per cent in Oldham; and over sixty per cent of the girls in Bolton, Leigh, Farnworth and Pendlebury districts (Simon 1974:217).

Yet the government was allowing schools to deteriorate, preventing both new building and repairs, despite the fact that local authorities which had taken advantage of Trevelyan's measures already had accommodation waiting for the extra year group, and that other authorities were ready to proceed once the funding was made available. Jewkes and Winterbottom noted that, in Lancashire, for example:

with very few exceptions, the authorities are even now ready to proceed with new building operations as soon as the Board are prepared to sanction further capital expenditure (Jewkes and Winterbottom 1933:86-7).
Two things were changing, however. On the one hand, economic recovery was beginning to gather pace; and on the other, there was growing social awareness of the problems. It was no longer credible for the National Government to argue that 'the nation cannot afford it', while at the same time claiming the credit for the improving state of the economy.

In 1935, the new President of the Board, Oliver Stanley (1896-1950), 'whose qualifications for the office were as slender as those of his predecessor' (Simon 1974:208) announced the withdrawal of the universally unpopular Circular 1413, which had been issued to implement the May Committee's cuts.

1935 General Election

By October 1935 the National Government felt able to include in its election manifesto a promise to raise the leaving age. 'It remained to fight for redemption of that promise in 1936 when the limitations of Conservative conversion to the cause of educational reform duly became apparent' (Simon 1974:198).

The manifesto, says Brian Simon, was 'a curious document'. It was, of course, 'difficult ... to convey genuine concern for popular education' when it was 'the firm intention not to permit development beyond strictly defined limits' (Simon 1974:208). It described the proposition of raising the leaving age as doctrinaire and announced that 'The National Government have therefore decided to legislate to raise the school leaving age to 15, with a right to exemptions between 14 and 15 for beneficial employment' (quoted in Simon 1974:209).

This was

A carefully prepared position ... which might do something to give the government a progressive image among the uninitiated, and which certainly helped to fill out an election manifesto which would otherwise have been unduly bare (Simon 1974:210).
Labour's manifesto stressed the need to press ahead with reorganisation, to provide nursery schools and better facilities for school meals, and to raise the school leaving age 'at once'. The notion of free secondary education for all was mentioned but given no priority. No doubt this was because expectations were low, given the endless cuts that had bedevilled education since 1931.

The election was held on 14 November 1935. Labour, now led by Clement Attlee (1883-1967), regained much of the ground it had lost in 1931, but the new National Government was overwhelmingly Conservative and Baldwin became Prime Minister again.

Circular 1444

In January 1936 the Board of Education issued Circular 1444, a ten-page pamphlet entitled 'Administrative Programme of Educational Development', which offered some prospect of increased funding for the school medical service and special schools. An Exchequer grant of 50 per cent (up from 20 per cent), for the building of new senior elementary schools was temporarily granted. The cap on the proportion of special places in secondary schools - which many authorities had ignored anyway - was lifted, and the number of university scholarships was increased from 300 to 360, though these publicly-financed scholarships were now also offered to pupils of independent schools, who were 'in an advantageous position to secure them' (Simon 1974:218).

Secondary education in the 1930s

Lowndes notes that in 1934 there were 448,421 pupils in secondary schools, of whom 216,255 had free places, 15,152 had partial remission of fees, and 217,000 whose parents paid full fees. But only 119 in a thousand elementary pupils in England had the opportunity of a secondary-school place at eleven; in Wales, by contrast, the figure was 223. Despite these figures, says Lowndes,

a feeling has spread in Whitehall and parliamentary circles and among the local authorities themselves that the country probably has for the present enough accommodation in secondary schools (which should look to the university) to satisfy the specific needs for which such schools should cater in a modern community (Lowndes 1937:120).
Thus there was a huge gulf between the views of the government on the one side and the teachers - who understood the realities of the school system - on the other.

The number of School Certificate candidates taking craft, technical, domestic and commercial subjects, art and music increased in the 1930s. Botany declined, but biology, which had only recently been introduced, became popular. In 1937, English, French and mathematics were taken by more than 90 per cent of entrants, geography by 69 per cent. Of the sciences, chemistry was taken by 35 per cent, physics by 27 per cent, and physics-with-chemistry by 10.3 per cent (Lawson and Silver 1973:389).

Fears of a new recession in 1937 faded as a result of rearmament: government expenditure increased and unemployment fell. New industries using advanced techniques made new demands on education, but this did not translate into new policies: 'the traditional pattern of ideas continued to prevail in high places and at the administrative level' (Simon 1974:251).

Thus the public schools were expected to provide recruits for leading positions both at home and abroad; elementary schools prepared manual workers to work in industries 'which made comparatively few demands in terms of skill over and above what could be acquired on the job' (Simon 1974:252); and secondary schools provided clerical workers for commerce and banking, and recruits for teaching and other 'lesser professions'.

There was, argues Brian Simon,

no thought for the future in terms of economic trends and the need for a new standard of mass education - let alone concern for the present welfare of the majority of children (Simon 1974:254).

1936 Education Act

Opposition to the Bill

In February 1936 the government published its Bill to raise the school leaving age to 15, with exemptions for 'beneficial employment'. It offered the churches 75 per cent Exchequer grants towards the cost of building new schools - 25 per cent higher than those given for local authority schools. All that the churches were asked for in return was that they should provide non-sectarian teaching of religion for children whose parents requested it and who could not easily get it elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, the Bill was greeted with a storm of criticism. The County Councils Association, 'an impeccably Conservative body' (Simon 1974:217), requested a meeting with the Board but was refused.

The Association of Education Committees described the Bill as 'a travesty of reform' and called a national conference on 29 February 1936. Chaired by TUC general secretary Walter Citrine, it was attended by representatives of teachers' organisations, the WEA, the School Age Council, and 250 local authorities. Among the speakers was the Tory MP Harold Macmillan (1894-1986).

The resolution of the conference, as reported in The Times (2 March 1936), was that:

This demonstration affirms its conviction that the Education Bill will be ineffective for its main purpose unless it provides for the raising of the school leaving age, without exemptions, to 15 years, and further that due provision should be made for the payment of maintenance allowances recognised for grant purposes to enable necessitous children to remain at school to that higher age (quoted in Simon 1974:219).
In the Commons, the government rejected 'amendment after amendment' (Simon 1974:220) and refused to define what was meant by 'beneficial employment'. As to maintenance grants for elementary school pupils, it was no longer a case of the nation being unable to afford them; they were 'undesirable' in principle.

Lady Astor - the first woman to take her seat in parliament - stressed the fact that many 14-year-olds went into dead-end jobs, and Harold Macmillan voted with the opposition on several amendments.

On the other hand, the Duchess of Atholl, who had earlier been Parliamentary Secretary to the Board, voiced the textile industry's argument that 'little fingers' were needed to work machines - 'a phrase which was to become a by-word among embittered educationists' (Simon 1974:221).

In the end the Bill passed virtually unamended.

Summary of the Act

The 1936 Education Act (31 July) raised the school leaving age to 15 - but it set 1 September 1939 as the 'appointed day' for implementation of the change. LEAs were empowered to issue employment certificates to allow 14-year-olds to work rather than attend school in certain circumstances - for example, where a family would suffer 'exceptional hardship' if the child did not work (Sections 1-7).

The raising of the school leaving age necessitated extra accommodation which had enormous cost implications, especially for the churches. The Act therefore empowered LEAs:

  • to make agreements regarding the enlargement or establishment of non-provided elementary schools for senior children;
  • to make grants of between half and three quarters of the cost of such schemes;
  • to require that religious instruction was given in accordance with the LEA's syllabus; and
  • to employ, appoint and dismiss the teachers (8-11).
These became known as 'special agreement' schools. As a result, the Church of England submitted proposals for 230 new schools, the Roman Catholic Church for 289.

The Act required non-provided schools, where possible, to provide religious instruction in accordance with the LEA's syllabus if parents requested it (12); and it allowed parents to withdraw their children during religious instruction periods if they wished them to receive 'religious instruction of a kind which is not given in the school' (13).

Criticism of the Act

As a result of the Act, says Brian Simon,

the evils of treating juveniles as cheap labour continued unabated, not only directly damaging to the children themselves but also undermining wage-rates for adult workers (Simon 1974:222).
At the TUC conference in October 1936, GH Rowland of the Mineworkers Federation said:
If you go to the collieries in the north of England, you will see boys of 14 years of age begging for employment. I think that is one of the saddest features of the present day (quoted in Simon 1974:222).
The conference called for a leaving age of 16, adequate maintenance allowances for all children, and better facilities for cultural and technical education.
So there surfaced afresh, in response to the most retrograde of education acts, the traditional policy of the Labour movement for a clear advance to secondary education for all (Simon 1974:222).
In Circular 1457 (9 August 1937) the Board of Education urged neighbouring local authorities to work together to achieve uniformity of practice in relation to exemptions and beneficial employment. It then gave advice which 'merely served to show how great the complexities were' (Simon 1974:223).

The NUT, in its pamphlet Exemptions and Beneficial Employment (December 1937), argued that 'no employment is beneficial for young persons of 14 years of age' (quoted in Simon 1974:223).

In June 1938, with implementation of the Act some fifteen months away, Kenneth Lindsay, Parliamentary Secretary to the Board, suggested that the appointed day for raising the leaving age should be postponed. 'Now the educational world turned round to support the despised measure, rather than let even that go by default' (Simon 1974:224). Following protests from the Association of Education Committees and the NUT, among others, the government confirmed that the Act would come into effect, as planned, on 1 September 1939.

It was a fitting comment on the 1930s, and those responsible for the government of the country, that this single, belated and inadequate measure, on which so much time had been misspent, never did materialise. Instead there was war (Simon 1974:224).

The notion of fixed intelligence

Cyril Burt

Cyril Burt (1883-1971) (pictured) had been appointed educational psychologist to the London County Council (LCC) in 1913. Along with other proponents of eugenics, he had developed the theory of fixed or 'innate' intelligence, which was to have profound implications for the organisation of schools, both internally and externally.

Burt did more than anyone to advocate the widespread use of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests 'for the purpose of pinning permanent labels on schoolchildren at the age of eleven' (Chitty 2007:66). He provided much of the theory on which the Hadow Reports were based and was to wield enormous influence over many years - through the 1938 Spens Report to the structure of the secondary education system in the wake of the 1944 Education Act.

In one of a series of radio talks, published as a book the following year, he declared:

By intelligence the psychologist understands inborn, all-round intellectual ability. It is inherited, or at least innate, not due to teaching or training; it is intellectual, not emotional or moral, and remains uninfluenced by industry or zeal; it is general, not specific, i.e. it is not limited to any particular kind of work, but enters into all we do or say or think. Of all our mental qualities, it is the most far-reaching; fortunately it can be measured with accuracy and ease (Burt 1933:28-9).
The use of intelligence tests - along with papers in English and arithmetic - became widespread in both the streaming of children within schools and in the selection process for secondary education. The prevailing view was that
it was only necessary to take a child's IQ ... when he entered school, allocate him to the relevant stream or differentiated course, and see him through at the given level until he left. This was to plan education in accordance with the child's needs, it was asserted, since it was now known that the IQ accurately represented a quota of innate 'intelligence' which would not, indeed could not, change (Simon 1974:242).
This was, of course, a circular argument:
children grouped by attainment at a certain point, and then taught at different levels without hope of development to a higher level, did not so develop. And this, in turn, lent solid support to the claims of the mental testers. They said that the IQ remained stable because it measured an innate and unchanging quality. In streamed schools IQs did remain the same ... Accordingly it must be the case that 'intelligence' tests measured a ... mental quality of an unchanging character, just as Burt had explained. The practice of selection bore out the theory and once the process was in train there was nothing to stop each upholding the other (Simon 1974:242).
Despite the 1924 Hadow Report on Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity, which showed that many of the claims made for the tests were dubious, their use continued to increase and by 1936 the Board of Education, in its Supplementary Memorandum on Examinations for Scholarships and Special Places, felt able to suggest that
Evidence has accumulated which suggests that the value of what are known as intelligence tests is higher than had been supposed provided that such tests are constructed, and their results used, under expert guidance. It is therefore recommended that such a test be included in every examination for the award of special places (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:397)
By the 1930s, the theory was all-pervasive. A Guide to Mental Testing (1936) written by RB Cattell, advisor to the Leicester Education Committee, claimed that the IQ 'remains constant for any given individual both during childhood and in adult life' (quoted in Simon 1974:243). And in Learning and Teaching: an Introduction to Psychology and Education (1937) AG Hughes and EH Hughes declared:
It has been found that a child's mental ratio or intelligence quotient is generally consistent. This means that if children are dull or bright in early years, they will in normal circumstances be equally dull or bright as they grow up (quoted in Simon 1974:243).
Learning and Teaching sold 250,000 copies and was much used in training colleges. Their 'slightly modified, but equally misleading, version of the doctrine' (Simon 1974:243) appeared in successive editions until 1959.

Not everyone agreed with Burt, however. The educational psychologist Godfrey Thomson (1881-1955) argued that intelligence was not fixed at birth and that environmental factors accounted for at least half the variance in test scores.

And in their paper 'Ability and Opportunity in English Education' (Sociological Review Vol XXVII No 2, April 1935), based on research at the London School of Economics, JL Gray and Pearl Moshinsky showed that working-class elementary-school children with high IQs had less chance of obtaining secondary school places than fee-paying children of lower ability. They concluded that, where working-class children were concerned, 'the relation between ability and opportunity was low indeed' (Simon 1974:254).

This was the first survey to combine psychological and sociological techniques and the findings tied in tellingly with a new stress on the economic benefits of extending education, which flatly refuted the tired contention that the nation 'could not afford' to do so (Simon 1974:254).
Burt's work was finally discredited in the 1970s when the respected US psychologist Leon Kamin (1927-2017) demonstrated that some of his findings were statistically impossible. Kamin described Burt as 'a liar and a fraud' (John Parrington '
The intelligence fraud' in Socialist Review No. 196, April 1996). And in his 1979 book Cyril Burt, Psychologist Burt's friend and official biographer Leslie Hearnshaw, Professor of Psychology at Liverpool University, exposed his highly suspect research data on identical twins.


The inevitable result of the need to select pupils for secondary education was the grading of pupils into A, B and C streams in the elementary schools. In a report for the LCC in 1925, Burt advocated this 'treble track' system: 'a series of backward classes for slow children, a series of advanced classes for quick children, both parallel to the ordinary series of standards for children of ordinary average ability' (quoted in Simon 1974:239). The Board of Education was clearly impressed: the report was reprinted as an appendix to the 1927 edition of the Handbook for the Guidance of Teachers.

The Hadow report on The Primary School, published in 1931, though remarkably progressive in terms of curriculum and pedagogy, was tainted by Burt's theories - indeed, his views were included as an appendix to the report. It argued that

One great advantage of the self-contained primary school is that the teachers have special opportunities for making a suitable classification of the children according to their natural gifts and abilities (Hadow 1931:77).
And the best way of doing this was to have at least three streams:
we agree with our psychological witnesses in thinking that in very large primary schools there might be, wherever possible, a triple-track system of organisation (Hadow 1931:77-8).
Inevitably, classification of pupils involved testing and, once this became general,
all children were precisely docketed on a scale which seemed to show how few had the 'capacity' for a secondary education properly so-called. Inevitably this consolidated the idea, already firmly implanted in terms of social attitudes to the working class, that these were children of another type, or 'genus', intellectually as well as socially inferior children for whom an alternative and inferior education was right and proper - rather than merely 'necessary' in terms of limitation on prospective employment (Simon 1974:226).
Such arguments were used to resist the demand for secondary education for all and when, in the early 1940s, the demand could no longer be resisted, they were used to justify the creation of different types of school.

By the early 1930s, then, streaming had become the norm and the limitation of abilities an article of faith, even among distinguished educationists. Thus Susan Isaacs (of whom more below), in The Children we Teach: 7 to 11 Years (1932), argued that 'Of all the differences between one child and another, inborn intelligence turns out to be the most stable and permanent' (quoted in Simon 1974:245).

The notion of differentiation of the curriculum for different 'types of child' was pursued in the 1937 edition of the Board's Handbook for Teachers, which argued that to get the full benefit of reorganisation (in other words, to classify more efficiently), 'relatively large numbers and annual promotion are essential' (quoted in Simon 1974:231).

It is worth noting the use of the word 'ability' in the 1937 Handbook, where previously the concern had been with 'attainment'. It was a 'notable shift of emphasis' which led to the proposition that 'different types of child should be accommodated in different streams, going at a different pace, and remain in these throughout their school career' (Simon 1974:231).

The provision of education in England had always been based on class divisions. Now, Burt's theories seemed to confirm that such divisions had been right all along, for they taught that

children were born with widely different levels of 'intelligence', that those born into the middle class were usually much more intelligent than those born into the working class ... Above all, it taught that there was absolutely nothing that schools or teachers could do about this, that in no way at all could education increase a child's quota of intelligence nor, indeed, could any other measure such as improving his home conditions, health, or any other facet of his experience (Simon 1974:248).
And it was on the basis of this flawed ideology that secondary education for all would finally be provided.

1938 Spens Report


By the late 1930s, it was becoming clear that England's class-divided education system was failing the nation's children. Only about ten per cent of elementary school pupils were being selected to go on to secondary schools; the rest either remained in 'all-age' schools or went on to non-selective senior schools. Twice as many students were going on to higher education in Germany, more than twice as many in France, over three times as many in Switzerland, and almost ten times as many in the US. Scotland's education system, 'based on a widespread respect for learning and a more traditionally egalitarian social outlook' (Benn and Chitty 1996:4), was also performing much better than England's.

Yet Burt's views on intelligence - which supported a divided and elitist system - were still widely accepted, and it was these ideas which informed the thinking of the Consultative Committee, now under the chairmanship of Sir William ('Will') Spens (1882-1962), as it began its consideration of Secondary Education with Special Reference to Grammar Schools and Technical High Schools in October 1933.

In its remit it was asked to pay particular attention 'to the framework and content of education of pupils who do not remain at school beyond the age of about 16' (Spens 1938:iv). This suited the Board of Education for, if it could be shown that pupils leaving at 16 needed a different kind of curriculum,

then, taking account of the intention to maintain existing secondary schools unchanged with a higher leaving age, the only conclusion could be that another type of school to accommodate such pupils would be necessary (Simon 1974:257).
It would be relatively simple to provide a technically-biased alternative by increasing the number of junior technical schools and lowering the age of entry from 13 to 11. This would have the added advantage of keeping the majority under the elementary code: the Board was still determined to keep elementary and secondary education separate.

The views of witnesses

However, many of the organisations which gave evidence to the Committee - including the NUT, the County Councils Association, the Association of Directors and Secretaries of Education, the TUC and the Joint Committee representing Labour organisations - called for a common code of regulations for all post-primary schools, which would have meant that all secondary schools must be free and that provision for maintenance allowances should be increased (Simon 1974:258).

Various organisations also pressed for the creation of multilateral (ie comprehensive) schools. The Association of Assistant Mistresses, for example, commented:

The Association has given careful consideration to various proposals which have been made to set up different types of secondary schools for different types of pupils but it has found few arguments in favour of segregation other than that of administrative convenience (quoted in Simon 1974:258).
The NUT advocated a common curriculum for all pupils aged 11 to 14 including the basic subjects plus 'the main principles of chemistry, physics and biology, art, music, practical work, handicrafts and a foreign language'; while the Assistant Masters' Association called for a 'reorganisation of all education from the age of eleven plus as secondary education on the basis of the multilateral school' (quoted in Simon 1974:259).

All these organisations stressed the central importance of raising the leaving age.

The Spens Committee itself included four local authority representatives who were determined that a common code of regulations should be introduced, making all post-primary schools secondary in character; that fees must be abolished in existing secondary schools; and that, as an interim arrangement, all secondary places should be 'special places' awarded on merit with remission of fees where necessary. These points were made in Chapter 9 of the report, drafted by William Brockington (1871-1959), Leicestershire's long-standing Director of Education (Simon 1974:260).

Although Chapter 9 recommended that all types of post-primary school be of equal status - 'in terms of finance and buildings, teaching staff, absence of fees and a minimum leaving age of 16 as soon as possible' (Simon 1974:261) - it stopped short of advocating the multilateral school, except as an experimental measure. Such a solution, the Committee said, was 'very attractive' but it was discounted right from the start of the report because of problems of size, the role of the sixth form, the difficulty of finding heads competent to deal both with 'grammar' and 'modern' sides, and the special needs of technical education (Simon 1974:261).


Instead, the Committee argued that, on the basis of intelligence and aptitude, children could be divided into three groups - the academic, the practical, and the rest - and it recommended three corresponding types of secondary school:

  • grammar schools for academically able children 'likely to proceed to a University' (Spens 1938:363);
  • technical schools for those with a practical bent; and
  • new 'modern' secondary schools for the rest.

This proposal depended directly on the prevailing view of intelligence, as promoted by Cyril Burt. Once again, there was an emphasis on the predictive power of intelligence tests, and a firm statement of the doctrine of limits:

Intellectual development during childhood appears to progress as if it were governed by a single central factor, usually known as 'general intelligence', which may be broadly described as innate all-round intellectual ability. It appears to enter into everything which the child attempts to think, to say, or do, and seems on the whole to be the most important factor in determining his work in the classroom. Our psychological witnesses assured us that it can be measured approximately by means of intelligence tests (Spens 1938:123).
It went on:
We were informed that, with few exceptions, it is possible at a very early age to predict with some degree of accuracy the ultimate level of a child's intellectual powers (Spens 1938:124).
The Committee concluded that, if justice were to be done to the varying capacities of children over eleven, they required 'types of education varying in certain important respects' (Spens 1938:125). The desirable pattern, they said, would be three different types of secondary school - in other words, the 'treble-track' system which Burt had first recommended for London elementary schools in 1925, now to be used as the basis for the organisation of the secondary school system.

The report envisaged grammar-school places for only 15 per cent of an age-group, 'so upholding the central point of Board policy - which was all in favour of reducing what was regarded as over-provision in some local authority areas' (Simon 1974:262).

It made 'a number of concrete recommendations with a view to ensuring that parity between all types of secondary school may be established' (Spens 1938:376). This was, of course, wishful thinking: few technical schools were ever opened (they were too expensive), and there would never be parity between grammar schools and secondary modern schools because the latter were seen as the dumping ground for eleven-plus failures - the vast majority of the country's children. The result was inevitably a hierarchy of schools, with the new non-selective modern schools at the bottom of the pile.

The Committee - like its Hadow predecessor - was more progressive when it dealt with the curriculum and teaching methods: pupils should be encouraged to think and discover for themselves, and the curriculum should be thought of 'in terms of activity and experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored' (Spens 1938:152, quoting from the 1931 and 1933 reports). There should be a common curriculum for children aged 11 to 13 in all types of secondary school.

Spens also recommended that the school leaving age should be raised to 16. Incredibly, it would be 1973 before this was finally implemented.

There were, says Brian Simon, two aspects to the report:

On the one hand there were recommendations which could easily be used to reinforce the Board's policy of differentiation at the post-primary stage and retention of the grammar school as sole road to the university. On the other hand there was uncompromising advocacy of the substantive reforms required to introduce secondary education for all, concentrated together in Chapter 9 (Simon 1974:263).
Much depended, therefore, on how the report was presented. It was published on 30 December 1938, with a prefatory note by Maurice Holmes, who had become Permanent Secretary of the Board in 1937. 'Its recommendations', he wrote, 'are far-reaching, and their acceptance would involve substantial changes, not only in the public system of education in this country, but also in the administrative arrangements which govern it' (Spens 1938:ii).

Reaction to the report

The report was warmly welcomed in most of the national press; The Schoolmaster (30 December 1938) thought it 'momentous'; and Percival Sharp saw it as 'an educational Magna Carta for all normal children between the ages of 11 and 16' (quoted in Simon 1974:266).

Others were less certain. In a letter to Committee member Shena Simon in January 1939, RH Tawney wrote:

May I send a word of congratulation on the Report of the Consultative Committee. Its merits on the side of policy, and the recommendations as to reconstructing and enlarging secondary education on rational lines as set out in Chapter 9 are, I have no doubt, mainly due to your persistence and skill. I know how wearing and disillusioning a single-handed struggle on a committee is, and I felt for you in the battle. You can, at any rate, feel that it has had valuable results (quoted in Simon 1974:265).
But he went on to warn that:
The line of the opponents of the proposals in Chapter 9 will be to defeat them by simply ignoring them. I observed that The Times reserved its commendations for the Technical High Schools and modifications in the curriculum. [As to] 100 per cent special places, equal standards of staffing etc. in all schools, free secondary education, the raising of the age to 16 and so on. To all this the Board will, no doubt, be hostile, and will do its best to blanket it by suggesting that the Committee was concerned with curricula alone. The only remedy is to give that part of the Report the maximum possible publicity (quoted in Simon 1974:265).
Sir Fred Clarke (1880-1952), Director of the London Institute of Education from 1936 to 1945, was horrified at the proposed 'tripartite system' which, he wrote, would be 'hardly intelligible ... in ... any British dominion or in the United States'. He warned that failure to change would 'weaken the power of Britain to co-operate with the other free peoples of the world' and would 'intensify social conflict' at home (Clarke 1940:44).

The Labour movement was concerned about the issue of parity of status. The TUC's Statement on the Spens Report declared that

The separation of the three types of school is ... bound to perpetuate the classification of children into industrial as well as social strata ... So long as this stratification of children at the age of eleven remains, it is in practice useless to talk of parity in education or equality of opportunity in after life (quoted in Simon 1974:266).
Multilateral schools, the statement said, provided
the only way of bringing about educational parity and that approach to social and industrial equality which we may properly expect our education system to contribute to the society in which we live (quoted in Simon 1974:266).
Tawney had been right to warn of opposition to the Chapter 9 proposals. Replying to a question from Labour education spokesman Chuter Ede in the Commons on 2 February 1939, Kenneth Lindsay, Parliamentary Secretary to the Board, announced that the Board would press ahead with the report's recommendations on technical high schools, the grammar school curriculum and the inspection of private schools. However, 'present financial circumstances' meant that the Board could not adopt the proposals contained in Chapter 9, 'the acceptance of which would involve local education authorities, no less than the Board, in highly increased expenditure' (quoted in Simon 1974:268). In a debate on the report a few days later, Lindsay confirmed the government's position. 'There was no effective discussion of the report, in an uninterested House' (Simon 1974:268).

The Schoolmaster declared it was 'Cold storage for Spens', and the WEA described Lindsay's statement as 'A great blow to hopes of educational advance' (quoted in Simon 1974:268-9).

With the outbreak of war, it was clear by the end of September 1939 that no action would be taken to implement the Committee's recommendations, at least for the moment.

The government of education

Budget cuts

The inter-war years, says Brian Simon, were characterised by budgetary restrictions and the doctrine of 'special privilege for the fittest'. This was in marked contrast to the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, he notes, when the school boards had provided new school accommodation 'on quite new standards' for over two million children - the London School Board alone creating 100,000 school places in just four years (between 1872 and 1876) (Simon 1974:286).

The budgetary restrictions meant that

teachers in the nation's schools must have pails in reserve to catch drips through the roof whenever it rained, supervise play in unsuitable yards, and do without staff rooms, proper lighting and ventilation, as well as material aids of all the most necessary kinds. Children must ease themselves into outworn desks of the wrong size and nailed to the floor, in classrooms with high windows obscuring any view, make their way into backyards to find insanitary earth closets, seek out the nearest park to find a blade of grass, travel to find a distant playing field - or, if that were impossible, do without (Simon 1974:294).
Expenditure on services financed through the Board of Education remained at around 42m during the period, though it did begin to rise towards the end of the 1930s. As a proportion of the Gross National Product (GNP), public expenditure on education (both nationally and locally) stood at 2.1 per cent in 1925, at 2.2 per cent in 1939 (Simon 1974:297).

The local authorities

The fact that budgetary restrictions did not actually wreck the educational system, argues Brian Simon, may be attributed both to the fall in the birthrate after the first post-war bulge, and to the efforts made by the local authorities which, by the late 1920s, had 'gained a considerable degree of emancipation', as had the inspectorate, which was 'beginning to shed watchdog characteristics in favour of advisory activity' (Simon 1974:315).

In his 1929 book The Rising Tide, JG Legge, formerly Director of Education for Liverpool, surveyed the work of the local education authorities since 1902. He praised the dedication of the head teachers, directors and secretaries working in the local authorities,

themselves sprung from the elementary schools, men of great ability, tireless energy and burning sympathy, who know not only the types and characters of the masses of children of this country, but of their parents as well, and who are intimately versed in the conditions of their lives (quoted in Simon 1974:287).
Legge was equally impressed with the unpaid education committee members, many of whom had the 'rare quality of vision'. All these people - who had responsibility for seven million children, as against 'the 60,000 of the schools that claim to be Public Schools' - had proved to be an 'invaluable counterpoise' to the 'predominantly academic influences' at Whitehall, and to the public school heads, whose pronouncements were still influential.

Many authorities were building new senior elementary schools, nurseries, and special schools for the handicapped. Meanwhile, the school medical service improved under the 'inspiring leadership' of Sir George Newman (1870-1948), the country's first Chief Medical Officer - 'a very unusual civil servant in this period' (Simon 1974:287).

The Board of Education

As to the aims of the Board during the inter-war years, Brian Simon argues that its overarching purpose was 'to find ways of adapting the nation's school system in a way which would constitute no real challenge to privilege' (Simon 1974:279).

To this the efforts of the Board of Education were bent - almost, as it were, by instinct - under the direction of politicians and leading administrators who, almost without exception, had themselves been formed in the independent sector of education and absorbed its ethos (Simon 1974:279).
To make matters worse, there was no 'defined body of educational knowledge of unquestioned authority' (Simon 1974:314). Education thus compared unfavourably with the practice of medicine, where the doctors were very much in control. There was some research work in the universities and there was also the Consultative Committee - though when that produced controversial views, the Board was only too ready to ignore it.


The Board had nine presidents in the inter-war years. Some of them had little knowledge or understanding of the state education system - indeed, in 1924 Baldwin asked Tom Jones, then Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, 'Have we any man in the Party who takes any interest in education?' (quoted in Simon 1974:84).

All the presidents during the Conservative and National periods of government (Edward Wood, Eustace Percy, Oliver Stanley, Earl Stanhope and Earl de la Warr) were members of the landed gentry or aristocracy: all had been educated at Eton; all but one at Oxford. Even the Liberal president, HAL Fisher, had a similar educational background - Winchester and New College Oxford.

It goes without saying that none of these men had more than a nodding acquaintance with the nation's school system, let alone imagining making use of it for children of their own. Accordingly for most of the inter-war period political responsibility for the educational system of England, and of Wales, rested with those who by birth, social status, schooling, and subsequent training and activities, were unfitted to conceive of this system as a national one, to be developed as such; who could only see it as a service for those in the lower reaches of the social order destined for the lesser functions of social life. Hence to some extent the prevailing blindness to educational aspirations and considerations, as opposed to cool analysis of the function of the schools within a prevailing social pattern which, it was taken for granted, the educational system should uphold and perpetuate (Simon 1974:280-1).
Much the same was true of the permanent secretaries to the Board in this period. Lewis Amherst Selby-Bigge (Winchester and Christ Church) was the longest-serving - from 1911 to 1925. He was succeeded by Sir Aubrey Vere Symonds (Bedford School and University College Oxford), who was unusual in not spending his whole career with the Board. Henry Pelham (Harrow and Balliol) had been with the Board for more than thirty years before serving as Permanent Secretary from 1931 to 1937; he was followed by Maurice Holmes (Wellington College and Balliol) from 1937 to 1945 (Simon 1974:281-282).

The position in 1938

The Board's last full annual report before the war was published in 1938. It showed that there were just over 5m pupils on the registers of elementary schools in England and Wales (down from 5.9m in 1920), and 470,003 secondary school pupils (up from 336,836 in 1920) - this increase was largely due to the extra year spent in school (Simon 1974:288). The proportion of secondary pupils with free places was 47 per cent (up from 30 per cent in 1920).

Those who failed to get a secondary place - the majority - went to schools 'which had hardly changed over the years' (Simon 1974:289):

Ten years after 'Hadow reorganisation' became official policy in 1928, nearly 52 per cent of children over 11 still remained in all-age elementary schools untouched by the programme of improvement; ... The statutory leaving age remained 14 throughout the 1930s - the worst years of juvenile unemployment. This enhanced the more general problem of dead-end jobs for an untrained and inadequately protected 14-16 age-group who were exploited as short-term cheap labour (Simon 1974:289).
Those local authorities who had provided free secondary places for all had been banned from doing so in 1932, after which free places became 'special places', allowing remission of all or part of the fees according to family means.

At the end of the inter-war period, the education system designed by Morant for the 1902 Education Act was virtually unchanged, the most progressive provisions of the 1918 Education Act having been largely abandoned. The established structure was still 'a dead-end elementary and a plainly undemocratic and increasingly anachronistic secondary system' (Simon 1974:292).

The determination to maintain the selective secondary system was given strong support by the introduction of mental testing. As the argument that society needed manual workers became politically unacceptable, the doctrine of unequal distribution of intelligence 'came very appropriately to hand' (Simon 1974:292).

Progressive education

During the inter-war period there was growing interest in child psychology and particularly in the concept of sequential mental growth. Jean Piaget's Language and Thought of the Child, published in English in 1926, was 'the first systematic study of children's language and understanding, and the rate of growth of their ability to deal with concepts of different kinds' (Lawson and Silver 1973:400).

Another attempt to describe the phases of mental, physical and emotional growth was made by the American Homer Lane (1875-1925). In his 1928 book Talks to Parents and Teachers, he talked of the 'age of imagination' (two or three to seven), the 'age of self-assertion' (seven to eleven), the 'age of loyalty' (a transitional stage from eleven to fourteen) and the stage of adolescence to around seventeen (Lawson and Silver 1973:400).

Lane had founded a reformatory in Detroit where the boys were given a large measure of self-government, and in 1913 he had come to England and established a 'Little Commonwealth' in Dorset for delinquent boys and girls.

Percy Nunn, Professor of Education at the London Institute of Education, publicised Lane's experiment; JH Simpson, a master at Rugby, experimented with classroom discipline by the boys themselves; and, according to JJ Findlay in 1923, many secondary-school teachers were

seeking for methods of organization which will give scope for the social capacity of boys and girls without undermining the sense of discipline no less necessary to development (Findlay 1923:197 quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:400).
Another influential figure was the Lancashire-born educational psychologist and psychoanalyst Susan Isaacs (1885-1948). Having been Head of Geoffrey Pyke's experimental Malting House School in Cambridge from 1924 to 1927, in 1933 she was appointed the first Head of the Child Development Department at the London Institute of Education, where she established an advanced course in child development for teachers of young children, emphasising the central role of play in children's learning. Two of her books, Intellectual Growth in Young Children (1930) and Social Development of Young Children (1933), were widely read. (For more about Susan Issacs see my review of Philip Graham's 2023 book
Susan Isaacs: A Life Freeing the Minds of Children.)

But it was the philosophy of John Dewey (1859-1952) which underpinned much of the new thinking. Of his many books, two of the most influential were Democracy and Education (1916) and Experience and Education (1938).

Dewey's aim was

to promote individuality, to base education on the concept of children as children, not as future adults, on the idea of growth in children as an end in itself, not as a preparation (Lawson and Silver 1973:398)
and to this end he stressed
the curricular importance of collective preparation for change, and on liberation from the traditional thought-patterns which could be regarded as undemocratic whether in the home, the school or society at large (Blyth 1965 II:40).
Dewey's view that children learn best by doing was widely accepted and can be seen in the emphasis on education as activity in the Hadow and Spens reports. In their report on The Primary School, for example, the Hadow Committee called for a curriculum based on projects or topics rather than subjects, 'with a view to relating the curriculum more closely to the natural movement of the children's minds' (Hadow 1931:xxi). The growing interest in child psychology also led to experiments in the grouping of infants.

Although secondary schools remained 'more firmly wedded to academic courses, formal teaching and examination requirements' (Lawson and Silver 1973:401), progressive ideas steadily gained influence on elementary education:

The new methods were attractive to inspectors, teachers and parents concerned about the education of young children; educational methods based on creative effort, self-regulated learning and a variety of informal techniques seemed more and more to fit both the well-publicized theories of the psychologists and the possibilities of the elementary school (Lawson and Silver 1973:401).
By the end of this period, the developmentalists appeared to be winning the argument:
the approach of the 'new' educationalists had, by 1939, become the official orthodoxy; propagated in training colleges, Board of Education in-service courses, by local authority inspectors, and the like (Galton, Simon and Croll (1980:35).
However, implementation of developmentalist theories in the classroom was slow and patchy, for three main reasons.

First, elementary schools (and later, primary schools) quickly became the battleground for a number of competing forces. Those who believed in the new ideas about child development clashed with those who saw the job of the schools as being to get children through the 'scholarship' examination. The latter group tended to win, so the schools were seen as a 'sorting, classifying, selective mechanism' (Galton, Simon and Croll 1980:36).

Second, the theories of Cyril Burt and Percy Nunn, who continued to assert 'the absolute determination of "intelligence" by hereditary or genetic factors' (Galton, Simon and Croll 1980:36), remained influential, and streaming became common practice.

And third, there were the conditions in the schools themselves:

Large classes (up to 50 or more) were then the norm; there was a considerable proportion of unqualified teachers, while continuous grinding economies as well as ancient and obsolete buildings made innovative initiatives difficult, if not impossible (Simon 1991:359).

As a result,

the basic class teaching approach, with the main emphasis on literacy and numeracy, continued in the new junior schools after the Second World War (Galton, Simon and Croll 1980:36).
Nonetheless, progressive educators did begin to make an impact, particularly in the fields of art and movement.

Among the noteworthy pioneers in art were Christian Schiller (1895-1976), a young HMI; Marion Richardson (1892-1946), now best remembered for her work on writing styles and patterns; Robin Tanner (1904-1988), whose wide range of teaching media and resources produced extraordinary results from his pupils; John Blackie, who became an HMI in 1935; and Edith Moorhouse, Oxfordshire's adviser for primary education.

The leading figure in modern dance and movement was the Czech Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) who, banished from Germany by the Nazis, came to England in 1938. His influence spread rapidly, especially after the war.

The public schools

The public schools had 'remained relatively unchanged' (Lawson and Silver 1973:377) since the beginning of the century and there was continuing criticism of their complacency, which radical and left-wing commentators blamed for the military incompetence of the First World War, and overconfidence during the rise of fascism in the 1930s.

Nonetheless, they continued to be popular with the upper classes, and a few new schools opened in this period, notably Stowe and Canford for boys, both in 1923; and Westonbirt for girls in 1928.

Many of the public schools benefited from endowments and, though they catered almost exclusively for the wealthy, had acquired charitable status, which effectively gave them indirect grants of public money. Yet they remained outside the control and supervision exercised over the state educational system (Simon 1974:274).

For the Labour movement, the abuse of endowments remained a key issue, 'consistently evaded and beclouded by administrators' (Simon 1965:359), since it was by the appropriation of funds left for the education of the poor and of local children that grammar schools such as Harrow, Rugby, Oundle and many others had been able to assume the status of public schools:

The more the ordinary schools were brought under some form of control, the more urgent the efforts of public schools to contract out of any 'state system', to establish, despite continued use of endowments which had once been looked on as a public responsibility, the right to independence of any form of public control (Simon 1965:359).
The public school system became even more firmly entrenched in British society under the guidance of the Headmasters' Conference, which 'introduced a new and powerful factor on the educational scene, providing also a rallying point for the remaining endowed grammar schools which were passing through difficult days' (Simon 1965:359-60).

However, there was a growing awareness of the social and political problems created by the existence of the public schools, which

straddled the entire system as pre-eminent - of a quite different order socially and in terms of material facilities (buildings, chapels, playing fields, etc.) than the schools serving the bulk of the population (Simon 1974:271).
The TUC and other Labour organisations repeatedly called for a Royal Commission to investigate the finances and government of both the public schools and the universities.

In Equality (1931) Tawney noted that more than three-quarters of the holders of high office in church, state and industry had been educated at one of the 135 schools then represented by the Headmasters' Conference and that, of these, two-thirds had attended one of the fourteen leading schools including Eton, Winchester, Rugby, Harrow and Marlborough. Between 1920 and 1940, more than two-thirds of Conservative MPs had been educated at public schools - over a quarter at Eton alone (Simon 1974:272).

It was therefore extraordinary, argues Brian Simon, that the Spens Report - a major inquiry into secondary education - could be produced 'without so much as mentioning the system of public schools' (Simon 1974:270).

In his 1940 book Education and Social Change Sir Fred Clarke, Principal of the London Institute of Education, wrote:

Though the [Spens] report is directly concerned with secondary education throughout its whole range, the leading secondary schools of the country - those which claim to be in a special and peculiar sense representatively national - are nowhere discussed within its pages and no attempt is made to relate them organically to the system of schools, largely State-provided, but somehow less 'national', in which the mass of the population is educated (Clarke 1940:10).
By the late 1930s, the social and political climate had turned against the public schools and they suffered 'a sudden reversal of fortune' (McCulloch 2007:131). The rise of fascism, 'with its peculiar emphasis on the values of leadership and the importance of training for it in segregated institutions' (Simon 1974:255) raised fresh concerns about the ethos of the schools; pupil numbers declined as economic problems 'reduced the numbers of those who could buy education at the price charged' (Simon 1974:274); and standards fell. Some parents began turning to the more 'progressive' schools.

Cyril Norwood, Head of Harrow from 1926 to 1934 and now President of St John's College, Oxford, complained that heads were 'literally spending half their time in commercial travelling and touting on Prep School doorsteps' (quoted in McCulloch 2007:132). He wrote to Maurice Holmes, Permanent Secretary of the Board, proposing a Royal Commission or a Departmental Committee to suggest ways forward.

Board of Education officials were sympathetic to the idea of a commission, but less than enthusiastic about Norwood being its chair: 'Sir Cyril himself', they wrote, 'is an obvious possibility, but he is intimately connected with one group of schools [the Allied Schools] and he is by no means popular in some quarters' (quoted in McCulloch 2007:132). In the event, the outbreak of war prevented the setting up of a commission. (A committee chaired by Lord Fleming was appointed in 1942 and published its report in 1944 - see the next chapter.)

By 1940, 189 schools with 65,000 pupils belonged to the Headmasters' Conference. They had their own junior schools - the preparatory boarding schools from which pupils transferred at 13 - and privileged access to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge which, in the inter-war years, took a higher proportion of students from these schools than from the entire state system (Simon 1974:272).

In its editorial of 29 March 1940, The Times Educational Supplement criticised the public schools 'for the segregation that they imposed and the unequal opportunities that they represented in training for positions of responsibility and leadership' (McCulloch 2007:134).

Higher education

There had been little expansion in universities since the period immediately after the First World War, and 'the same people remained in the same places year after year, with little new blood entering with fresh ideas' (Simon 1974:253).

State scholarships had been introduced in 1920, the number rising from the initial 200 (22 of them reserved for Wales) to 360 in 1936. 'Competition for the scholarships was fierce, with only one candidate in every fourteen to eighteen being successful in the 1930s' (Lawson and Silver 1973:402).

Local authorities also began subsidising students - more than 5,000 by 1937-8, not counting students in teacher-training departments.

The proportion of full-time students being assisted in 1937-8 varied from 26 per cent at London University (because of the high proportion of medical students, who were less able than other students to obtain assistance) to an average of 45 per cent at other universities (Lawson and Silver 1973:402-3).
The average for the universities of England was 39 per cent, Scotland 46 per cent, and Wales 59 per cent. (Wales's generosity to education also made it the provider of the highest proportion of grammar-school places.)

Less than a quarter of students were from working-class homes; less than half had ever attended a state elementary school. Most undergraduates were intending teachers. Women were admitted to degrees at Oxford in 1920, but full equality was not achieved at Cambridge until 1948 (Lawson and Silver 1973:403-4).

The number of university students in Great Britain as a whole rose from around 20,000 in 1900 to 50,000 in 1938 (Lawson and Silver 1973:403), though there was little growth during the 1930s. Participation rates remained lamentably low: in 1938, just one in 150 elementary school pupils reached university: the figure for secondary schools was one in twenty and for public schools one in eight (Simon 1991:30). Furthermore, the proportion of the population attending university was lower in England than in any other comparable country. In 1934, the University Grants Committee reported that the average number of inhabitants per university student was as follows:



Great Britain885

(figures quoted in Simon 1991:30)

Three Acts of Parliament in this period dealt with university matters :

Technical education

Despite the persistence of 'equivocal attitudes towards scientific and technical subjects' (Lawson and Silver 1973:407), there was a growing awareness in the inter-war period of the need for more and better technical education.

In 1937 there were only a hundred or so junior technical schools with around 30,000 pupils, mostly recruited from the elementary schools at age thirteen. Opportunities for the day release of apprentices were few.

The most significant development in technical education was the introduction of the Ordinary and Higher National Certificates (ONCs and HNCs) as 'new routes to professional qualifications in industry, and to a lesser extent in commerce' (Lawson and Silver 1973:408).

The first of these - in mechanical engineering - was produced by the Board of Education and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1921. A three-year part-time course at a technical college led to the award of an ordinary-level certificate, with a further two-year course (for which suitably qualified candidates had to be at least sixteen) leading to the higher certificate. Full-time students were offered ordinary and higher national diplomas.

The number of students gaining these qualifications grew rapidly. In 1939, 5,330 ordinary and higher national certificates were awarded, of which 1,833 were in mechanical engineering, 1,133 in electrical engineering, and 533 in building (Lawson and Silver 1973:408).

In Education at the Crossroads (1930), Board of Education President Eustace Percy wrote:

What is envisaged is one coherent and graduated course of intermediate and higher education, as coherent as that which leads through the secondary school to the university (quoted in Simon 1974:316).
His idea was taken forward in the late 1920s by reports on Industry and Trade and on Education and Industry (the Malcolm Committee, 1928), and by an unofficial committee under the chairmanship of Lord Emmott which examined 'the relationships of technical education to other forms of education, and to industry and commerce' (Board of Education Report 1938) (Simon 1974:316).

Percy's vision appears 'in embryonic form' in various speeches during his Presidency, in Pamphlet No. 60 The New Prospect in Education, and in his preface to another Board pamphlet, Education for Industry and Commerce, also published in 1928 (Simon 1974:316). Sadly, he appears to have done little to make it a reality:

In technical education, as in the reorganization of elementary education, the thirties was a period of expressed need and unsystematic effort. The parallel is a close one, since in both cases the Board of Education prodded and encouraged, but in neither case was the state able or willing to implement a national scheme of organization. Neither the provision of secondary education for all nor the establishment of a complete pattern of technical education at its various levels was within reach of accomplishment when war came in 1939 (Lawson and Silver 1973:408).

Special educational needs

Note: Much of the information in this section is taken from chapter 2 (pages 14-19) of the 1978 Warnock Report Special Educational Needs, which itself was largely based on DG Pritchard's 1963 book Education and the Handicapped 1760-1960.

Provision for mentally defective children

In 1929 the Report of the Mental Deficiency Committee (the Wood Report) made recommendations regarding the classification and education of 'mentally defective' children. It found that 105,000 school children were mentally defective, that only a third of them had been 'ascertained', and only half of these were actually attending special schools. The Committee also estimated that a further ten per cent of all children, though not mentally deficient, were retarded and failing to make progress in ordinary schools. (After 1944 these children were categorised as 'educationally sub-normal').

The Wood Committee argued that mentally deficient children should not be isolated from the mainstream of education and proposed that the system of certification should be abolished:

We do however contemplate that these [special] schools would exist with a different legal sanction, under a different system of nomenclature and under different administrative provisions. If the majority of the children for whom these schools for retarded children are intended are, ex hypothesi, to lead the lives of ordinary citizens, with no shadow of a 'certificate' and all that it implies to handicap their careers, the schools must be brought into closer relation with the Public Elementary School system and presented to parents not as something both distinct and humiliating, but as a helpful variation of the ordinary school (Wood 1929:117).
This view of special education as a variant of ordinary education advanced a principle which would later be extended to all forms and degrees of disability.

Provision for the deaf

The needs of deaf children were examined by the Committee of Inquiry into the Problems relating to Children with Defective Hearing appointed by the Board of Education in 1934.

Reporting four years later, the Committee recognised that the needs of partially deaf children were different from those of deaf children, and were also varied. It suggested a three-fold classification: those capable of attending ordinary classes without special arrangements; those more severely affected who might either attend an ordinary school with the help of a hearing aid and support from visiting teachers of lip-reading or be taught in a special school (day or boarding) for the partially deaf; and those whose hearing was so impaired that they needed to be educated with the deaf. Teachers of partially deaf pupils should have the same qualifications as those of the deaf.

The report led some authorities to provide residential schools for the partially deaf. Educational provision for the deaf was brought into line with that for the blind in 1938 under the 1937 Education (Deaf Children) Act (29 April).


Largely influenced by developments in America, the concept of child guidance on multi-professional lines began to emerge. The Child Guidance Council, which later merged into the National Association for Mental Health, was formed in 1927. It aimed to encourage the provision of skilled treatment of children showing behavioural disturbances.

Some LEAs began opening child guidance clinics: Birmingham's was the first, in 1932, and by 1939 there were twenty-two clinics wholly or partly maintained by LEAs; seventy-nine in 1945 (Lawson and Silver 1973:401). These were recognised as part of the school medical service but, since maladjustment was not officially acknowledged as a form of handicap, little provision was made for these pupils before 1944.


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Spens (1938) Secondary Education with Special Reference to Grammar Schools and Technical High Schools Report of the Consultative Committee London: HMSO

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Chapter 7 | Chapter 9