British Education

British Education

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.



In the 20th century Education became a sensitive social, economic and political issue in most European countries. England was no exception. In the history of English education the most important piece of legislation of the twentieth century was the Education Act of 1944, also known as the "Butler Act". It replaced all previous legislation.

It became increasingly clear that education was of vital importance to the nation and to the individual and the legislation passed necessarily reflected this conviction. It also reflected political tendencies, as well as the social and economic needs of the nation.

Education of the individual is the foundation of the education of the community. The individual's needs are not merely academic and neither are those of the community. This comes out quite clearly in the 1944 Education Act:

"it shall be the duty of the local education authority for every area, so far as their powers extend, to continue towards the spiritual, mental and physical developments of the community"
(1944 Education Act Part II, 7)

If education is to foster the "spiritual, mental and physical" well-being of the community it has to be focused on the "spiritual, mental and physical" well-being of each individual member of that community education has to be child-centred.

Education not only has to do with communicating academic information but also involves the whole of the person: academic ability, spiritual, physical and vocational needs. It is clearly noticeable in the history of education in England that religion and spiritual values are seen to be of paramount importance. Once again the 1944 Education Act stresses this by stating how the day at school should begin:

"the school day in every county school and in every voluntary school shall begin with collective worship on the part of all pupils in attendance"

In England these dimensions of a pupil's life have all been considered to be the principal concerns of education throughout the ages, not only in the 20th century.

The same principal was also reiterated in the Education Reform Act 1988 where it states the need for a broadly based curriculum which:

"promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society"

These views are shared by all social classes and political parties. With equal conviction any form of "political indoctrination" has been banned from schools (the second 1986 Education Act). School texts obviously reflect this policy.


What follows cannot be considered a complete description of the educational system in England. The system was and still is more complex than it seems here. What follows merely offers the essential elements, the "backbone" of the system. There is enough information to facilitate comparisons with systems of education in other countries.

Unified or diversified Secondary education?

While there were only Elementary Schools for children between the ages of 5 and 13 problems were limited. There was only one way forward after school - the working world. There was no possibility of an academic career except for those who could afford it.

The general nature of education changed when it became possible for a restricted number of pupils to gain free places in a Grammar School if they passed an examination at the age of 11. The Elementary School began to consider preparing for the examination as its main function. The examination tested the ability of the children in two subjects only: English and Arithmetic. Other subjects, therefore, tended to become neglected. Furthermore, the reputation of the school depended mainly on its success rate at this examination.

The examination formed the basis of what is known as the 11plus (11+) examination. It led to divisions in schools (streaming), in the country (social class distinctions) and also led to irreconcilable political attitudes (Labour v. Conservative) with the Conservative in favour of this selection process and Labour against it. All the opposition against the 11+ exam and the selection process has led to the idea of the modern comprehensive system cherished by Labour and rejected by Conservatives.

Whatever were the arguments for and against the examination it was true that the future life of a child was decided at about 11. Pupils who didn't sit or who failed the 11+ examination could only gain access to a Secondary Modern School and later perhaps to a Technical School.

Before the introduction of Comprehensive Schools the state education system in England was essentially tripartite and was made up of

Secondary Technical Schools

Grammar Schools.

This type of school catered essentially for those who were interested in pursuing their studies beyond the O-level GCE stage. It provided an academic education for pupils between the ages of 12 and 19. Their pupils came through the selective process of the 11+ examination and therefore these schools had the most academically gifted children. Most of the pupils entered university after school.

It was, rightly or wrongly, seen as a middle class institution.

Secondary Modern Schools

Here the pupils normally attended a four year course leading to the School Leaving Certificate. The course usually offered instruction in English, at least one other language, geography, history, mathematics, science, drawing, manual instruction or domestic subjects, and physical exercise. When pupils left school they normally entered into the working world.

The choice of curriculum was not influenced by future academic achievement but was child centred. It developed out of the interests, needs and ability of the children and as they later went to work it obviously had a practical dimension. As there was no external examination to be taken at the end of the course the pupils were not under pressure.

What caused things to change? There was a possibility of staying on for a further year and in the 1950s there was a growing tendency to do so. Those who continued into the 5th year could sit the General Certificate of Education (GCE).

As a result of the increasing number of pupils taking the GCE the need was felt for a more specific examination adapted to the Secondary Modern School. In 1963 we have the introduction of a new type of external examination, the Certificate of Secondary Education (C.S.E.) for fifth year pupils.

Secondary Technical Schools

This was the less popular alternative to the Secondary Modern School. Those who failed the 11+ went to a Secondary Modern School but at the age of 12 or 13 could gain a place at a Secondary Technical School.

It is difficult to imagine why it was not successful since this type of school was closely linked to the world of industry and commerce. It provided a general education with special emphasis on technical subjects. It was definitely more in touch with reality than Grammar Schools and certainly more specifically geared to preparing the pupils for their trade after leaving school.

However, there was a lack of qualified teachers and this must be seen as one cause for its lack of success. Perhaps also there was a marked psychological deterrent. The pupils who had already faced one examination failure (11+) perhaps did not feel inclined to go through the humiliating experience of another possible failure at such an early age. Besides, they had already overcome the pressure of the 11+ exam and now felt psychologically relieved.

The present system

Between the ages of 5 and 11 children attend the primary school and then progress to secondary school level, which normally means entry into a Comprehensive School.

The tripartite system of secondary education has practically disappeared and has been replaced by the Comprehensive School.

Among the Comprehensive Schools are also the Voluntary denominational schools. Particularly strong are the Roman Catholic Comprehensive Schools.

What is a comprehensive school?

When we say that it incorporates everything in the tripartite system we have said all. For the sake of clarity we might give the official definition: the Comprehensive School is a school

"intended to provide all the secondary education of all the children in a given area without an organization in three sides"

These schools take all pupils regardless of ability (except those children with special needs who attend special schools). They therefore cater for children from a variety of social backgrounds, hence the name "comprehensive". There is no examination or any other selection process for entry.

Comprehensive Schools, however, have not eliminated distinctions. There is what is called "streaming" and "setting" according to learning ability. This means that students are grouped together in order to achieve a degree of uniformity in classes.

86.8% of pupils in England attend comprehensive schools. There are, however, other types of school: 5.2% attend middle, deemed secondary 2.6% attend Secondary Modern 4.2% Secondary Grammar 0.1% Technical Schools.

After four years of secondary school, at about the age of 16, pupils sit the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination. This is taken in a wide range of subjects according to the pupils' ability. Usually four to eight or even as many as ten subjects. The exams are marked by an independent body.

Two years later the students sit another examination called the General Certificate of Education (GCE) (A Level) again based on a selection of subjects chosen by each candidate (usually three to five and including a science subject and an arts subject). Access to universities is based on the number of examinations taken and the grades achieved. The exact requirements are fixed by the individual universities and vary according to the type of degree course you want to follow.

National Grammar Schools Association This site aims to promote the Grammar Schools in Britain

Education Unlimited A useful site for the latest news in the field of education.

British Education - History

ike many revered British institutions, the so-called Public Schools had changed so much since their founding that they were unrecognizable by the age of Victoria. Although the seven elite boarding schools (Eton, Harrow, Westminster, Rugby, Winchester, Charterhouse, and Shrewsbury) and two London day schools (St. Pauls and Merchant Taylors's) identified as "Public Schools" certainly educated many major figures, some historians blame them for doing far more harm than good to the nation.

Virtually all secondary and tertiary (university) educational institutions in Great Britain were originally founded to train clergy for the established church, the Church of England (or the Anglican Church, as it was also known). Since members of the comparatively tiny nobility and wealthy classes had private tutors, many, if not all, the public schools were intended for the deserving poor. By the nineteenth century many of these schools had become means of upward mobility, not for the poor, but for the upper-middle classes, who wished to move their children into the aristocracy. By the time Thomas Arnold, the poet's father, assumed the headmastership of Rugby, Public Schools had become characterized by dreadful teaching, archaic curricula, bullying, sexual abuse, and dreadful living conditions. Rugby led the way in raising the general moral tone of Public Schools and for a time even pioneered modern practices of art education for children and other innovations. Nonetheless, even at their best, Public Schools concerned themselves more with producing gentlemen than with preparing their graduates for the economic, political, and technological challenges facing contemporary England. Some observers in fact blame the Public Schools for much of England's subsequent economic and political decline.

In his TLS review of James Brooke-Smith’s Guilded Youth (published a dozen years after the rest of this essay was written), A. N. Wilson points out that Thomas Arnold’s “most significant act” was that “he closed the free lower school,” effectively shutting out the poor for whom Rugby had originally been founded. “All the older public schools during the nineteenth-century played this game” of redefining themselves in ways to keep out the poor for whom the schools had been founded and instead concentrated on becoming “specifically institutions designed to strengthen class privilege. The Public Schools Act of 1868, completed the process, removing all remaining obligations on the seven schools affected to provide for poor schools” (15). Fortunately, says Wilson, these acts produced a “vey much needed reaction” that led to state-funded grammar schools between 1870 and 1960 whose education equalled or surpassed the schools for grandees.

Eric Hobsbawm, who considers Public Schools in the context of Britain's rise and decline, treats them harshly and convincingly:

The assimilation of the British business classes to the social pattern of the gentry and aristocracy had proceeded very rapidly from the mid nineteenth century, the period when so many of the so-called "public schools" were founded, or reformed by finally excluding the poor for whom they had originally been intended. In 1869 they were more or less set free from all government control and set about elaborating that actively anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, games-dominated Tory imperialism which was to remain characteristic of them. (It was not the Duke of Wellington but a late-Victorian myth which claimed that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, which did not exist in his time.)

Unfortunately, the public school formed the model of the new system of secondary education, which the less privileged sectors of the new middle classes were allowed to construct for themselves after the Education Act of 1902, and whose main aim was to exclude from education the children of the working classes, which had unfortunately won the right to university primary education in 1870. Knowledge, especially scientific knowledge, therefore took second place to the maintenance of a rigid division between the classes. In 1897 less than seven per cent of the grammar-school [academic secondary school] pupils came from the working class. The British therefore entered the twentieth century and the age of modern science and technology as a spectacularly ill-educated people. [147]

If Public Schools failed to notice the importance of science and technology and hence had little effect on these fields, they also did little to advance literature and culture. How many of the following British authors who define Victorianism attended one of the elite public schools? Harrison Ainsworth, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Sir Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Gissing, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Kingsley, Rudyard Kipling, George Macdonald, George Meredith, John Stuart Mill, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Walter Pater, Charles Reade, Christina, Michael, and Dante Gabiel Rossetti, John Ruskin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Oscar Wilde

To be fair, one must add that a few major British authors attended Public Schools: Matthew Arnold of course attended Rugby, where his father was headmaster, and so did Arthur Hugh Clough. Anthony Trollope did poorly at both both Harrow and Winchester, William Morris attended Marlborough for several years, leaving after school riots. Arthur Henry Hallam studied at Eton, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) went to Westminster, and William Makepeace Thackeray went to Charterhouse.


Hobsbawm, Eric. Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution . rev. ed. New York: New Press, 1999.

Education in French colonies and former colonies

As elsewhere in Africa, mission schools were the first to be established in French colonies. Although public or official schools appeared in Senegal between 1847 and 1895, the first such schools in Upper Senegal, Niger, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Dahomey were begun only from 1896 on.

Only after 1900, with the organization of the federated colonies of French West Africa and French Equatorial Africa, was there a French colonial policy on education. By decree in 1903, education in French West Africa was organized into a system of primary schools, upper primary schools, professional schools, and a normal school. Two further reorganizations followed decrees in 1912 and 1918, and important schools were established—the St. Louis Normal School in 1907 (transferred to Gorée in 1913), the School for Student Marine Mechanics of Dakar in 1912, and the School of Medicine of Dakar in 1916. The educational organization that remained in force in French West Africa from 1924 until 1947 included a system consisting of primary instruction for six years (regional urban schools), intermediate-higher education given in upper schools and in professional schools (generally one for each colony), and at the top the federal schools (two normal schools, a school of medicine and pharmacy, a veterinary school, a school for marine mechanics, and a technical school). The two schools for secondary education, both in Senegal (the Faidherbe State Secondary School of St. Louis and Van Vollenhoven State Secondary School, at Dakar), were reserved for Europeans and those rare Africans having French status.

Total enrollment in French West African schools rose from 15,500 in 1914 to 94,400 in 1945. The number of students in the higher primary schools grew in the same period only from 400 to 800 or 900. (The area’s total population in 1945 was almost 16 million.)

Educational policy was stated frankly in the official statements of governors general:

Above all else, education proposes to expand the influence of the French language, in order to establish the [French] nationality or culture in Africa (Bulletin de l’Enseignement en AOF, No. 45, 1921) Colonial duty and political necessity impose a double task on our education work: on the one hand it is a matter of training an indigenous staff destined to become our assistants throughout the domains, and to assure the ascension of a carefully chosen elite, and on the other hand it is a matter of educating the masses, to bring them nearer to us and to change their way of life. (From Bulletin de l’Enseignment en AOF, No. 74, 1931.)

After World War II all inhabitants of the newly established French Union became citizens in common who were represented in the French Parliament. This political policy carried over into education, which became even more assimilationist: the old higher primary schools, for instance, became classical and modern secondary schools on the French model. An Investment Fund for Economic and Social Development provided financial and developmental aid to education—to the extent that primary enrollments rose to 156,000 in 1950 and to 356,800 in 1957 and higher primary enrollments rose to 5,800 in 1950 and to 14,100 in 1957. Technical and professional education also expanded, from 2,200 students in 1951 to 6,900 in 1957. Scholarships awarded by the central government, the colonies, and local groups enabled an increasing number of African youths to pursue higher education in France. In Senegal in 1950 the first French West African university, the Institute for Higher Studies (later called the University of Dakar), was established. It was followed by those of Abidjan and Brazzaville.

In 1957 and 1958, when the colonies achieved autonomy and then a kind of commonwealth status within the new French Community established by the Gaullist constitution, education began a more intensive development, at least quantitatively. More primary and secondary schools were opened, teacher training was accentuated, and more scholarship students went to France. Within three years, after the French African countries had achieved full independence, this upgrading of education accelerated. Curricular reforms, however, were slow. Although countries including Guinea, Mali, and Congo (Brazzaville) introduced such reforms as the Africanization of history and geography, generally the traditional French system persisted, and courses were taught in French. The so-called ruralization of primary education—that is, the spread of education out beyond the towns—proceeded under the aegis of the governments and French educational officials.

The rise in the number of primary students was spectacular at first. Between 1955 and 1965, for instance, the percentage of primary-age children enrolled in school increased in Guinea from 5 to 31, in Senegal from 14 to 40, in Niger from 2 to 12, and in Chad from 5 to 30. Such progress, however, depended on recourse to unqualified teaching personnel. Some countries subsequently continued programs of rapid educational expansion. Progress was slower in other countries, and in some areas enrollment even declined. Also, in the former French areas, the number of students attaining a higher education remained among the lowest in Africa.

While history attempts to be factual, history is primarily about perspective, which can sometimes lead to very biased information. Perspective causes countries to have significantly different accounts of the same events, especially wars. In the case of the American Revolution, England and the United States have very different historical accounts of the war. Americans are proud of this event because it represents the birth of their nation and the triumph of common people. While it is said that history is written by the victors, the vanquished certainly have a story of their own. However, little insight is given to what the British perspective is on the American Revolution and how this perspective affects the way they educate their youth on the subject. In an attempt to better understand the British perspective and memory, I looked at how the British wanted their youth to remember the war. However, after reviewing multiple British education books and looking into their past at the British Library, I found that the “American War of Independence,” as they call it, is rarely mentioned in British textbooks. I found it peculiar that an event that is at the center of American education would receive hardly any attention.

There are a variety of reasons that a country could hide an event from their history books shame, fear, even apathy are just a few. However, this study argues that the American Revolution is not a focus in the British education system because it is only a minor detail in comparison to other events directly related to Britain’s history. Even in the years before the revolution, Britain was only mildly concerned with the American colonies. At that time Britain had many colonies and was balancing affairs within its own country. Additionally, the Industrial Revolution occurred during the time of the American Revolution, which is one of the most influential historical ranges in Britain’s history. However, the limited information that is presented shows a critical view of the colonists that sharply contrasts the American perspective, showing that while the American Revolution is a minor detail in England’s history, each country has their own perspective of wars.

What I found is that one of the major reasons why the education system excludes the American War of Independence from their books is because Britain was occupied with maintaining their growing empire. Although there was interest in the American colonies because of the raw materials they produced, they were not the only colonies in existence. Britain had many other colonies around the world that they had claimed. Some of the territories that they had already colonized included Bermuda, Jamaica, Nova Scotia, Montreal, and many others.i By 1750, Britain had thirty one countries in its empire that were scattered around the world.ii With these other distractions, the British drew very little attention to the colonists. The British lost and gained colonies throughout the course of their empire, which made the colonies only a small loss. There were still many other colonies left to acquire raw materials and revenue from.

Additionally, the American Revolution is not a focus because England had so many other important events at occurred at or around that time. The British textbooks have to cover a much longer range of history than America. As a result, the books focus on the most important historical aspects of Britain’s history. In year eight of British education, the pupils are instructed on the years 1750-1900. While in some texts the American War of Independence is briefly mentioned, it is overshadowed by a much larger British event: the Industrial Revolution.

However, there are also the passages blatantly display British perspective. In one of the main textbooks used by teachers throughout England, it explains why the colonists rebelled. One of the first reasons states that the colonists “had always been awkward, independent-minded people—that is why they emigrated originally—and they did not like being told what to do.”iii

The British depict the colonists as being outcasts who were already rebellious because they had moved away to the colonies. Additionally, the book states that the “British government thought that defending the colonies had been very expensive and they wanted the colonists to contribute toward the costs, but the Americans hated paying taxes, such as duties on tea.”iv The British are depicted as logical and fair with the colonists, but the colonists as rebellious and ungrateful subjects. Furthermore, in the fictitious excerpts from “King George’s Diary,” King George mentions the “rebellious” as well as “traitorous colonists.” This book has little shame about teaching about the revolution from the less widely known British perspective. While this particular text lacks enough information about the event, it certainly portrays the British memory it.

Overall, I thought that there was more that I could have done with this study, so I am continuing to expand upon it, incorporating more ideas about history in memory and the possible ways that British education on the American Revolution has transformed throughout the years. However, I have been lucky to present the information that I have collected so far to students on campus through the ORCA program and at the Brigham Young University President’s Leadership Council. I am also looking to submit my research to the NCUR conference that will be occurring in March 2012. This ORCA experience gave me a chance to grow academically and to see the world, which I had not been able to do before. I grew personally and intellectually through this experience and I would love to have the opportunity to do it again.

Education and civil society

Toward the end of the 20th century, comprehensive theories—such as those represented by the consensus and conflict models—were increasingly viewed as oversimplifications of social processes and, in many quarters, gave way to more particularized interpretations. One such perspective viewed educational expansion and extension less as a function of national interest and more as a by-product of religious, economic, political, and cultural changes that had occurred across most of Europe. Especially in the wake of the Enlightenment, an emphasis on the glorification of God was joined by the growing celebration of human progress (ultimately defined as economic growth), while concerns for the salvation of the soul were augmented by the cultivation of individual potential. As nation-states with centralized governments extended citizenship rights in the 18th century, state sponsorship of schools began to supersede the church-supported instruction that had become the norm in the 16th and 17th centuries (see Education, history of: Central European theories and practices). According to such scholars as John Meyer and Michael Hannan in National Development and the World System: Educational, Economic, and Political Change, 1950–1970 (1979), formal systems of education not only represent the means by which nation-states have modernized and prospered economically but are also the surest route to enhancing the talents of individuals. As a requirement for all children and youths between certain ages and as an institution regulated by the state, schooling also became the primary agency for creating citizens with equal responsibilities and rights.

These values emerged in education systems throughout the world, especially in the late 20th century as education professionals promoted them in developed and less-developed countries alike. As such, schools effectively carried modernity into many parts of the world, where it was met with varying degrees of resistance and acceptance. Teachers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies contributed, for example, to standardization in the shape and style of the classroom, types of curricula, and goals for school enrollments. In the first half of the 20th century, schools in most industrialized countries came to exhibit similar characteristics—that is, schools could be identified as schools. By the second half of the 20th century, these traits had become prominent in most schools around the world.

Our education system ignores a difficult and bloody period of our history, leaving us ignorant about our place in the world today.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

There’s a meme, showing a cuddly dog next to a terrifying, giant snarling one, labelled “The Brits in British History Books” and “The Brits in Every Other History Book” respectively. It’s fair, but also kind of misleading, I think, because it gives the impression that the British education system is still teaching British kids that the British Empire was just spiffing. But it’s not 1890, and that is not, best one can tell, what is happening. The British education system is just ducking the issue entirely.

This sounds like a joke, but I promise that it’s not: it is genuinely possible I learned more about imperialism from Doctor Who than I ever did at school. There’s a period of the show in the early 1970s, when the production team, like the country they were living in, started fretting about Britain’s place in the world. So suddenly there are stories about the rise and fall of the Earth Empire. It is largely an economic venture which gives terrifying amounts of power to exploitative corporations, which oppresses its subject populations and in which a lot of other made-up things are extremely subtle allegories for depressingly real ones. Remarkably few of those things actually came up at school.

Neither did, say, the partition of India, which I first learned about from Goodness Gracious Me sketches. The scramble for Africa did, a bit, but only in the context of European power politics in the run up to World War I. African countries, like dreadnoughts, might as well have been tokens: what any of it meant for the people of Africa was never discussed.

I don’t think I ever had a single school history lesson that concerned anything that happened between the execution of Charles I and the rise of Otto Von Bismarck. Rather a lot happened in the two and a bit centuries that we skipped much of it, I gathered from Eddie Izzard routines, involved nicking other people’s countries. The thought occurs that the decision to omit the period about which liberal Britain feels most guilty was not a coincidence.

None of this seems to have been unusual. When I asked friends (well Twitter), I found that most of those whose schools did cover the empire in any depth did so at GCSE or A-level – a point at which most kids had stopped studying history at all. And while some schools may have taught classes on the Atlantic slave trade, this was sometimes merely a necessary precursor to talking about Britain’s role in its abolition. That was certainly more likely to come up than the links between the slave trade and imperialism, or the role its profits played in shaping cities like Bristol and Glasgow, or the possibility it may have funded the Industrial Revolution. Not only don’t we talk about what the British Empire did to the world we don’t talk about what it did to Britain.

And because we don’t want to talk about empire, we talk surprisingly little about much else that was happening in the 18th or 19th centuries. Sure, those years were critical in terms of shaping both the country we live in and the world today. But on the other hand they’re a bit embarrassing, aren’t they? Best stick to the Tudors instead.

I don’t really want to blame schools or teachers for any of this: there’s a lot of history, and remarkably little time to teach it in. The National Curriculum touches on Empire, but it touches on many other topics too: in key stage 3, the bit taught in years 7 to 9, the government says that pupils should “extend and deepen their chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history”. Even leaving aside the baffling question of what “chronologically secure knowledge” might be, that means cramming 954 years of the past in two or three lessons a week, and still finding time for a local history study, too. Teachers inevitably end up picking and choosing. Can you blame many of them for staying away from a topic that’s going to be controversial and difficult?

But the result has been a vast and widespread ignorance about our own past. It means a vast asymmetry of historical understanding, in which people in Ireland or other countries can spend years learning about centuries of violent oppression, only to come here and discover nobody remembers any of it. It means the persistent myth that Britain stood alone against fascism during World War II, which somehow ignores the fact it was backed by the largest empire the world had ever seen at the time.

It means that, because we were the goodies that one, specific, time we have no sense of the atrocities we may have committed in the past – or how easy it would be to end up on the wrong side in future. (That’s without even getting into, say, Churchill’s role in the Bengal Famine.) It means that racists are never confronted with the mindblowing irony of their whining about foreigners coming over here and nicking our jobs. And it means we have no sense of how Britain and its history are perceived around the world, or what this might mean for, say, trade policy.

It’s possible to educate ourselves: to fill in the gaps in school history lessons off our own backs. We can, but not everybody will. We should. But we shouldn’t have to. We should have been taught.

Jonn Elledge is a freelance journalist, formerly assistant editor of the New Statesman and editor of its sister site, CityMetric. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

A History of Infant Schools

Robert Owen established the first infant school in 1816 in Scotland. His goal was to shield children from the effects of poverty. This school was designed to provide children with a pleasant school environment where they could think about practical problems and experience little punishment. Teachers encouraged children to help each other, dance, sing, and play outside.

In nineteenth-century England, many mothers worked outside of the home. Forty-five percent of children under the age of five were enrolled in school. Consistent with Owen's objectives, infant schools aimed to protect children and promote a better society. In 1870 the official age for school entrance was set at five, but infant schools accepted poor children of two to seven years, space permitting. During this period, the government imposed standards for children to attain so that children would be prepared to enter school (first standard) at age six. When these standards were relaxed at the end of the nineteenth century, infant schools began a new period of development that strengthened their child-centered ideology.

An early step in this direction was an 1893 government circular encouraging educators to consider all facets of children's development in creating educational programs. By the 1920s and 1930s the infant schools adopted a child-centered approach. The Report of the Hadow Committee in 1933, written by the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education on the Primary School, stated explicitly that primary schools should provide discovery learning and child-centered practice.

The Education Act of 1944 required that primary education be available to all children age five through eleven. The act was vague on what this entailed, mandating "[education] suitable to the requirements of junior pupils." Because this definition was imprecise, curriculum decisions were ceded to the schools. Infant schools offered a wide variety of curricula, structures, and functions. This same act created a selective system of secondary education. As a result, one of the implicit goals for primary education was to begin the process of streaming or tracking, a goal that was discredited gradually over subsequent decades.

In 1967 the Central Advisory Council for Education issued "Children and Their Primary Schools," known as the Plowden Report. This report was based on observations in infant schools. It described the state of primary education in Britain, and endorsed those schools subscribing to "informal, child-centered education." As a result of this report, teachers were given increased freedom to teach children as they saw fit, with less emphasis on strict schedules and specific curricula.

The Plowden Report also assessed the effectiveness of the child-centered infant schools. It asserted that children in traditional, formal classes performed slightly better on conventional tests than children in child-centered, open classrooms. These differences were greatest for arithmetic, smallest for reading, and disappeared in later school years. Some proponents of the child-centered infant schools dismissed these findings on the basis that traditional, formal schools spend time teaching children how to take conventional tests. Despite these results, the Plowden Report advocated the child-centered approach.

The Education Reform Act of 1988 produced a radical restructuring of British education. This included infant schools. England was experiencing uncertainty about its status in the world, and these new laws represented an attempt by the government to control the content and the balance of the curriculum. The Education Reform Act of 1988 required that children be offered "a balanced and broadly based curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society and prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of adult life."

The Education Reform Act ushered in a new national curriculum and a matching set of assessment procedures. Primary schools, including infant schools, were required to teach a core curriculum of mathematics, English, science, history, geography, technology, music, art, and physical education, requiring approximately 70 percent of the instructional time. Specific provisions were created for children with special educational needs.

The act also mandated testing. Children's achievement was to be measured based on a combination of teachers' assessment and Standardized Assessment Tasks (SAT). The SATs were integrated into the normal classroom routines children were to experience them as normal classroom tasks that they might do individually or with other children, but would reflect their academic progress. Children had to attain specific English, mathematics, and science competencies by age seven.

The Education Reform Act supported parents' rights to choose their children's schools and encouraged competition among schools. By imposing free market models on educators, the government hoped to provide more cost-effective and efficient schools.

Several studies have examined the implications of the Education Reform Act on educational practice and effectiveness. The PACE (Primary Assessment Curriculum and Experience) study found less use of an integrated day, more use of whole class teaching, and a new emphasis on assessment compared to the traditional infant school model. According to the PRINDEP (Primary Needs Independent Evaluation Project) study, teachers found the national curriculum burdensome, but reported few changes in their balance between individual, group, and whole class pedagogy. Teachers in the PRINDEP study reported increased professionalism in the climate at their school following the act. Finally, the new ORACLE (Observational Research and Classroom Learning Evaluation) study compared basic skills in 1976 with basic skills in 1996, cross-sectionally, and showed declines in mathematics, language, and reading skills between these time periods.

Table of Contents

Gary McCulloch (Institute of Education, University of London), Joyce Goodman (University of Winchester), William Richardson (University of Exeter) – Introduction

Rosemary O’Day (Open University) – Perspectives on the emergence of learned professions in England, 1500-1800

Deirdre Raftery (University College Dublin), Jane McDermid (University of Southampton), Gareth Elwyn Jones (University of Wales Swansea) – Social change and education in Ireland, Scotland and Wales: a review of scholarship in nineteenth century schooling

Michael Sanderson (University of East Anglia) – The history of education and economic history – the good neighbours

Harold Silver – Higher education and social change: purpose in pursuit?

Tom Woodin (Institute of Education, University of London) – Working class education and social change in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain

Joyce Goodman – Social change and secondary schooling for girls in the ‘long 1920s’: European engagements

Jane Martin (Institute of Education, University of London) – Gender, politics and the revisioning of education histories

Philip Gardner (University of Cambridge) – The ‘life-long draught’: from learning to teaching and back

Felicity Armstrong (Institute of Education, University of London) – Disability, education and social change since 1960

William Richardson – British historiography of education in international context at the turn of the century, 1996-2006

Jonathan Rose (Drew University, USA) – The history of education as the history of reading

Ian Grosvenor (University of Birmingham) – From the ‘eye of history’ to ‘a second gaze’: the visual archive and the marginalised in history of education

How Did the Industrial Revolution Affect Education?

The Industrial Revolution brought several important changes to the field of education by making education accessible for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds and setting laws making education a requirement. Prior to the 1800s, the accessibility of education to children was spotty. Children born into wealthy families often had access to education, while children from impoverished families did not.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, education was not free. Wealthy families could afford to send their children to school for a basic education while the education poor children received was limited to the tutorials offered in Dame schools and church schools at Sunday services. However, in 1833, education received a helping hand from the British government. The government, for the first time in history, allocated funds to promote education in schools. It gave money to charities for the purposes of helping to make education accessible to children of all socioeconomic divisions. In the same year, the British government established laws requiring children working in factories to attend school for no less than two hours every day. In 1844, the government-established Ragged Schools Union focused on educating poor children, while the Public Schools Act, created in 1868, brought reform to the public school system in Britain by establishing basic requirements for educational standards.

Oxbridge: A Brief History of British Universities

Missing proper British Food? Then order from the British Corner Shop – Thousands of Quality British Products – including Waitrose, Shipping Worldwide. Click to Shop now.

Ah, the hallowed halls of academia, where young minds come to gain the knowledge and skills for their future careers and to further the collective knowledge of the world. Universities have a long history in the United Kingdom, and some of the best schools in the world can be found here. Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, and St. Andrew’s University are just some of the top names in British higher education. Follow along below as we cover the history of British university education from the Medieval Period to the present and how it helped change Britain.

Higher education in the United Kingdom as we know it began not too long after the Norman Invasion. The University of Oxford is believed to have been founded in 1096 as evidence exists that teaching began there, but the formal date when the university came into being is undetermined. Its ranks of students grew in 1167 when King Henry II banned students from studying at the University of Paris. The Chancellorship of the university was created in 1201. It’s also in Oxford where the original “Town vs Gown” conflicts originated. In 1209, a clerk studying liberal arts had accidentally killed a woman in the city and fled. In searching for the killer, the mayor and townsfolk happened upon his residence and, not finding him, arrested his three roommates instead. King John later ordered the three clerks to be put to death, and they were hanged outside of the city, creating a rift between the university and the town that would culminate less than two hundred years later in the St. Scholastica Day Riots.

Fearing further violence, several scholars left Oxford and moved to Cambridge, where they founded the University of Cambridge. The university received a royal charter in 1231, an act that was followed by the University of Oxford receiving its own royal charter in 1248. In the 15 th Century, Scotland saw the formation of its first three major universities. A group of Augustinian clergymen moved to St. Andrew’s in 1410 following the Papal Schism to establish a school of higher learning. They received a charter of privilege from Bishop of St. Andrews in 1411 and then a papal bull in 1413, the official establishing date for the University of St. Andrew’s. Papal Bulls were also given for the formations of the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, and King’s College, Aberdeen shortly thereafter.

More universities began to form in the early 19 th Century as the French revolution and the Napoleonic Wars effectively shut down most of higher education in Continental Europe. The “redbrick universities” began to form in 1824 with the founding of ten medical colleges. The first technical institutes, later polytechnic colleges came about from 1821 to 1838. University College London had something of a controversial start in 1826 when it was formed as a joint-stock company that not only called itself a university but had no association with the Anglican Church and expressed its willingness to give degrees to Non-Anglicans (though it was not granted this power). All three of these actions prompted quite a reaction from Parliament, which formed King’s College, London by royal charter in 1829 and eventually to UCL in 1836.

In the mid-19 th Century, the first women were admitted to degrees at Bedford College in London, the first university for women in the UK. Non-Anglicans were finally allowed to take degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Durham during this time. Even more provincial colleges, universities, medical schools, and technical schools continued to open over the remainder of the 19 th Century, providing more opportunities than ever for upward social mobility. This expansion increased further after World War II, and in the same period, virtually all colleges in the United Kingdom achieved independent university status. The University of Newcastle was one of the first in this time to become a university by an act of Parliament rather than a royal charter. Polytechnic schools and Scottish colleges achieved university status after the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Today, the opportunities for an education past secondary school are virtually limitless.

Watch the video: This is Britain - School