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Education: Grammar School and Government Essay

In this essay I am going to look at the changes to education legislation from 1944 to the present day. I will look at how these changes have reflected government educational policies and to what effect. Firstly I will look at the ‘Butler Act’, war time 1944. The education act 1944 was called the ‘Butler Act’ after the conservative politician, R.A.Butler. The 1944 ‘Butler Act’ was undoubtedly a significant milestone in terms of the history of education Britain. It became increasingly clear that education was of vital importance to the nation and to the individual. It planned to remove the inequalities which remained in the system. The proportion of ‘free places’ at grammar schools in England and Wales increased from almost a third to almost half between 1913 and 1937. However when poorer children were offered free places parents often had to turn them down, owing to the extra costs involved. The ‘Butler Act’ 1944 provided free education for all pupils.

By 1946 the School Milk act was introduced. Previous investigations completed by John Boyd Orr revealed there was a link between low- income and malnutrition and under – achievement in schools. Ellen Wilkinson minister of education, (the first woman in British history to hold the post), was a long campaigner against poverty and in 1946 managed to persuade parliament to pass the school milk act. This act ordered the issue of one –third of a pint of milk free to all pupils. Local Education Authorities (LEAs), were required to submit proposals to the new department of education for reorganising secondary schools in the area, LEAs were required to assist children’s special needs.

Most of the LEAs aimed to establish the three main ‘streams’ or categories at school this was known as the tripartite system. The three categories were grammar , secondary modern and technical , the children would be allocated on the basis of an examination at the age of 11, known as the ’11 plus’. The 11 plus had the intention to provide an equal opportunity for children of all backgrounds and walks of life. The implementation of this break by the ‘Butler Act’ seemed to offer an ideal opportunity to implement ‘streaming’ since all children would be changing school any way.

Was the ’11 plus’ a good idea or would it begin to emerge as a large historical accident? Many people related more to the wider education system rather than the academic selection. The proportions of school children gaining a place at a grammar school varied by location and gender, and due to the continuance of single sex schooling there were fewer places for girls than boys. Many critics claimed that there was a strong class bias in the exam. It seemed that children on the borderline of passing were more likely to get grammar school places if they came from middleclass families. It would appear that the ’11 plus’ was a system based on unfairness. For example, questions about the role of household servants or classical composers were easier for middle class children to answer but far less familiar to those from less wealthy and less educated backgrounds.

The ’11 plus’ also led to divisions in schools (streaming), in the country (social class distinctions) and also led to irreconcilable political attitudes, (labour vs. conservatives) with the conservatives in favour of this selection and labour against it. In the 1950s, all the opposition against the 11 plus exam and the selection process had led to the idea of the modern comprehensive system. This idea was cherished by labour and rejected by the conservatives. In 1964 the labour government was elected, Harold Wilson is the new prime minister. Going into 1965 the circular 10/65 has stated for everyone to prepare for the introduction of the comprehensive schools.

This was recognised as a fairer system better for working class people. Wilson was very anxious to increase opportunity within society, this meant change and expansion to the education system. For the first time ever a British government spent more time on education than on defence. This led to the significant increase in the number of university places. Wilson’s record on secondary education was disappointing. Whilst the proportion of children attending comprehensive schools rose to 30% during this period, his government failed to establish a fully comprehensive system.

The selection system survived. Wilson lost power in June 1970 when Ted Heaths Tories won the general election with a majority of 30. Circular 10/ 70, newly elected government withdrew 10/65. Circular 10/70 was an attempt by Margaret Thatcher new secretary for education, to reverse the effects of circular 10/65. The first circular recommended to LEAs to begin the process of conversion to full comprehensive systems. This is ironic as it was in line with labour governments’ wishes on the transition to a national comprehensive system. However the second circular said that no funding would be given for new non- comprehensive schools. LEAs were given more power to decide the future of secondary education in the area, under their authority independently of central government. It is believed that Thatcher was trying to reinstate grammar schooling. It was left to the LEAs individually whether or not they would go comprehensive.

Heath needed to make cuts in public expenditure, Margaret Thatcher offered amongst other things to abolish the universal provision of free school milk. This was achieved in the 1971 education milk act. It led to the jibe ‘Thatcher, Thatcher milk snatcher’. In 1972 the school leaving age raised to 16 in response to rising youth unemployment. Was the government really concerned about giving people a better education or was it just a simple matter of keeping children in school longer to boost unemployment levels in order to make them look better?. This was not a popular decision. During 1973 the LEAs continued to submit plans which were presented as individual school plans which Thatcher accepted. There were now more children in comprehensive schools than selective one. Primary schools remained stable. Now I come to the ‘education reform act’ 1988. Conservative government are in place. The educational reform act is widely regarded as the most important single piece of education legislation since the ‘ Butler’ education act1944. This act introduced the National Curriculum.

The National Curriculum believed everybody should have a knowledge of everything. Power was given to schools letting them spend the money how they like. Schools were ‘bribed’ as they were offered £30,000 to opt out of the LEA. Thus Thatcher’s, intention was to weaken the power of the LEAs, giving more power to schools allowing them to spend the money how they liked. If more schools were to opt out poorer areas would not benefit, for example in well off middleclass areas people have more money and schools could raise more money through donations and school fairs act. Schools would become selfish only looking after their own needs. Head teachers were given more power and had to manage rather than ‘teach’. Schools were potentially paying more attention to material objects and resources rather than concentrating on teaching.

On the plus side, schools could look for better and cheaper deals allowing them to spread the cost of their money effectively. City technical colleges were also introduced providing specialist education by selection, opening up more doors. In 1992 The Education Act introduced the OFSTED, inspection system value for money. This was seen as a great idea by many as it made sure all schools were up to a certain standard. During 1997, the new labour government was elected (Tony Blair). The labour government’s intention was to devote attention to a higher standard of schooling, and to also make change to the national curriculum. This labour government would be a new ‘modern’ labour party as the labour government no longer stands for its traditional values. The new ‘modern’ labour government would;

* Encourage private initiative funding, allowing private companies to build new schools. * Promote specialist educational academies in sport, sciences, languages and technology. There would be no money to build new schools.

Schools would ask companies for computer deals whereas labours traditional view would have expected the state to pay. Therefore labour no longer stands for its traditional values. Schools were also encouraged to maximise the effect of their resources. This did not benefit poorer areas. Schools were taught to budget in order to allow a more effective financial control. In 2006 the Education and Inspection bill was introduced. This passed in March 2006, within the face of some opposition from within the labour party. Some of the main changes of the Education and Inspection bill were as follows; * Foundation (trust) schools

* School admissions
* Staged introduction of changes to the curriculum and entitlements including new diplomas to replace A-levels to be emplacement by 2013 * School travel
* School food

Also it was suggested that the school leaving age should be raised to 18 by 2013. This was propaganda as again was the government really concerned about a great education for children or was it just the case of making unemployment figures look better? The labour government believe education is much bigger than what goes on in school; trigger points for this were the sad case of Victoria Climbie and the Soham murders. CRB checks were introduced to protect children, as there was poor communication between the police and schools. In 2003 the introduction of ‘Every Child Matters ‘was introduced. Every Child Matters is one of the most important policies to have intuitive and develop a programme in relation to children and the children services of the last decade. Its main aims were for every child, whatever their background or circumstances to have the support they need, * Be healthy

* Stay safe
* Enjoy and achieve

* Make a positive contribution
* Achieve economic well-being

The Every Child Matters act had been title of three government papers, and in 2004 lead to the Children Act. Which took the Every Child Matters act further and the government started to get more involved with the parents suggesting what their child should and shouldn’t eat and encouraged more physical activity, Education was now not only stopped at children parents were now being educated on the well-being of their child. Sure start programmes were opened giving support to families. In 2008 the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families was replaced by the Department for Education after the change in government following the general election 2010. The Department has also come under criticism during the 2010 General Election, after it was revealed that the Department’s offices had a refit which included a “contemplation room” 0ther features include a grand glass and steel staircase and imported Italian designer furniture.

The total cost of the refit was estimated to be three million pounds, at a time when the department needed to make two billion pounds of savings. With the election in May 2010, there has been some confusion. The election of the coalition conservative/ liberal some changes were made immediately as previous government plans were put on hold or reversed. The new government believe that the previous government was taking the power from parents , not only did this cost a lot of money it was controlling society tainting and shaping it , taking the role from a parent. The new government now does not want to get involved in how a child should be brought up; it is a parent’s job. The government should go no further than education. The new government would now scrap the building schools for the future scheme, the last government over spent and money needs to be saved. A new secretary of state for education, Michael Gove MP believes the education system is a mess. Too many people are going to universities costing the government too much money.

I am now coming to the end of my essay; the new government is still making changes to the education system and believes that the lab our party had let standards slip. The new government believes in traditional standards and is now scraping GCSEs in favors of a tougher exam. Overall I believe the secondary education will always be un- stable as new and traditional standards will come in and out of place. Many lessons have been learned and hopefully a better and fairer system will eventually come in place; however is this possible as labour and conservatives differ so much? The education system has come far since 1944 and the importance of the ‘Butler’ act still plays a part in the heart of the education system and many people should think of this as one of the biggest milestones in history.


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