History of Educational Policy
EDUCATION ACTS, REFORMS AND POLICIES
The way education is structured has changed several times since the 1870 Forster Act. These changes are essentially tied in with political ideologies of various governments of the time. Education has been a concern for all political parties, upon which election campaigns are often based, as was seen in the 1997 and 2001 General Election.
Reasons for reforming education have been varied, but many reforms have been introduced to help create a meritocratic society, to create equality between the working class and the middle class in terms of their experience of education and achievements. But it must be noted that these reforms have not always have had this effect; in fact many educational reforms have had the opposite effect. It is in this sense that we shall focus our analysis of these reforms.
THE 1870 FORSTER EDUCATION ACT
This was the first ever education act, before which only the rich would have received any sort of education. The features of this act are as follows: -
Education paid for by taxes
Education available to all children regardless of social class background from the ages of 5 – 10
However the type of education a child received was dependent upon class: -
Public Schools for the upper classes – aimed at producing the future leaders of the country – fee paying
Grammar schools for the middle class – tended to be cheaper copies of the Public Schools
Elementary schools for the working class – emphasised obedience and hardwork.
The Tripartite System
The 1944 Education Act (Butler’s Act) introduced the tripartite system.
At age 11, pupils undertook an IQ test known as the 11 plus.
Bright children attended grammar schools where they studied for O Levels and A Levels;
Most other children attended secondary modern schools where they received a more basic and vocational education;
Can you offer any criticisms of using an exam at the age of 11 to determine the future of the child?
Some children attended technical schools where they received a more technical style of education.
Criticisms of the Tripartite system
The 11+ was unreliable: it became clear that a young person’s educational future couldn’t be predicted at the age of 11. When some secondary modern students were allowed to take O Levels, they actually did better than some grammar school students.
The selection process was unfair and wasteful: selecting pupils at 11 denied many the chance to continue their education beyond 15. A waste of ability for students and the nation.
No parity of esteem: secondary moderns were seen as second rate; grammar schools had a higher status as they specialised in academic subjects which led to well-paid jobs. They were therefore unequal.
¾ of students failed the 11+: for most pupils, the only alternative if they failed the 11+ was a secondary modern, as there were relatively few technical schools. With failure came the danger of labelling and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Reproducing social class inequalities: the main aim of 1944 Act was to widen educational opportunities for the working class, but the inequalities remained. More middle class children went to grammar people, and the11+ exam was criticised for being culturally biased towards middle class culture.
Identify and briefly explain two examples of why the Tripartite system was not meritocratic.
Was there parity of esteem between different schools? Explain your answer.
What do you think are the advantages of grammar schools?
What do you think are the disadvantages of grammar schools?
Do you think grammar schools increase choice and diversity in post modern society? Give reasons for your answer.
In 1965, the Labour government replaced the tripartite system with the comprehensive system. This marked the beginning of