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Education 1870 – 1944 Act
The history of schooling is often a story of the 19th and 20th centuries. Most rural parishes had a school of some sort by 1870, usually National (i.e. Church of England) schools administered by the incumbent. The nonconformists also set up a large number of day schools, as well as Sunday schools, in the first three-quarters of the 19th century, often (but not always) known as British schools. Even quite small villages had dame schools and larger places had more ambitious private schools, particularly for girls. Many workhouses also ran their own schools until after 1870.
Education 1870 – 1902
The 1870 Elementary Education Act divided England and Wales into ‘school districts’ (usually civil parishes), in all of which existing provision was assessed.
Where the number of places, or the standard of accommodation or staffing, was inadequate, the Education Department of the Privy Council required the deficiency to be made good. Either an existing school was improved or an elected, rate-funded school board was set up, which could either take over and improve an existing school or build a new one, or both.
This period also saw the reform of secondary education, as endowed grammar schools were remodelled. Many private schools closed as a result of the higher standards achieved in grant-maintained schools after 1870, although in towns both girls’ and boys’ schools survived, catering for the children of middle-class families.
Technical education also developed in towns in this period.
Education 1902 – 1944
The Balfour Education Act of 1902 abolished school boards and made county councils and county borough councils the local authorities, with greatly increased powers and duties. On the other hand, the Act failed to achieve a settlement between Church and State and allowed most municipal boroughs and the larger urban districts to retain their own elementary schools as ‘Part III’ authorities. All the larger local authorities erected new schools, both before and after the First World War.
Although most children still spent the whole of their career under the elementary code, larger schools tried to provide a different curriculum for older pupils, including more practical work.
The Hadow Report of 1926 recommended the establishment of separate ‘senior’ schools for 11 to 14 year-olds who did not secure places at secondary schools, although only the more enlightened LEAs fully implemented the policy. All authorities established new secondary schools after 1902 (or took over existing endowed schools). In particular, large numbers of secondary places for girls became available for the first time. So did free places, awarded on the basis of the ‘Annual Schools Examination’ (i.e. the 11+). Technical education continued to expand in this period.