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History of Education_ Education Act of 1944
|History of Education|
Education Act of 1944.
The Education Act of 1944 involved a thorough recasting of the educational system. The Board of Education was replaced by a minister who was to direct and control the local education authorities, thereby assuring a more even standard of educational opportunity throughout England and Wales. Every local education authority was required to submit for the minister's approval a development plan for primary and secondary education and a plan for further education in its area. Two central advisory councils were constituted, one for England, another for Wales. These had the power, in addition to dealing with problems set by the minister, to tender advice on their own initiative. The total number of education authorities in England and Wales was reduced from 315 to 146.
The educational systems of Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate and distinct from that of England and Wales, although there are close links between them. The essential features of the Education Act of 1944 of England and Wales were reproduced in the Education Act of 1945 in Scotland and in the Education Act of 1947 in Northern Ireland. There were such adaptations in each country as were required by local traditions and environment.
The complexity of the education system in the United Kingdom arises in part from the pioneer work done in the past by voluntary bodies and a desire to retain the voluntary element in the state system. The act of 1944 continued the religious compromise expressed in the acts of 1870 and 1902 but elaborated and modified it after much consultation with the parties concerned. The act required that, in every state-aided primary and secondary school, the day should begin with collective worship on the part of all pupils and that religious instruction should be given in every such school. As in earlier legislation there was, however, a conscience clause and another to ensure that no teacher should suffer because of religious convictions. Religious instruction continues to be given in both fully maintained and state-aided voluntary schools, and opportunities exist for religious training beyond the daily worship and minimum required instruction. In many schools the religious offering has become nondenominational, and in areas of high non-Christian immigrant population consideration may be given to alternative religious provision.
Two fundamental reforms in the act of 1944 were the requirement of secondary education for all, a requirement that meant that no school fees could be charged in any school maintained by public authority; and replacement of the former distinction between elementary and higher education by a new classification of "three progressive stages to be known as primary education, secondary education, and further education." To provide an adequate secondary education in accordance with "age, ability, and aptitude," as interpreted by the Ministry of Education, three separate schools were necessary: the grammar school, modeled on elite public schools, the less intellectually rigorous secondary modern school, and the technical school. If, in exceptional circumstances, such provisions were made in a single school, then the school would have to be large enough to comprise the three separate curricula under one roof. Children were directed to the appropriate school at the age of 11 by means of selection tests. The tripartite system of grammar, secondary modern, and technical schools did not, in fact, flourish. The ministry had never been specific about the proportion of "technically minded" children in the population, but, in terms of school places provided in practice, it was about 5 percent. Since, on the average, grammar-school places were available to 20 percent, this left 75 percent of the child population to be directed to the secondary modern schools for which the ministry advocated courses not designed to lead to any form of qualification.
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