Education Act 1944
|Long title||An Act to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales.|
|Citation||7 and 8 Geo 6 c. 31|
|Introduced by||R. A. Butler|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales|
|Royal assent||3 August 1944|
|Repealed||1 November 1996|
|Amended by||Education Reform Act 1988|
|Repealed by||Education Act 1996|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
The Education Act 1944 (7 and 8 Geo 6 c. 31) made numerous major changes in the provision and governance of secondary schools in England and Wales. It is also known as the "Butler Act" after the Conservative politician R. A. Butler, who wrote the legislation after consultation with all parties. Historians consider it a "triumph for progressive reform," and it became a core element of the Post-war consensus supported by all major parties.
The Act was repealed in steps with the last parts repealed in 1996.
The Education Act of 1944 was an answer to surging social and educational demands created by the war and the widespread demands for social reform. It passed after Butler consulted with spokesman for all major positions by sending around a detailed proposal drawn up by his predecessor, 'Education After the War' ("the Green Book"), in 1941. He worked out compromises with local authorities, and cut spending goals to assuage the Treasury. The bill reflected Butler's priorities, and incorporated proposals developed by leading specialists in the 1920s and 1930s such as R. H. Tawney and William Henry Hadow. The Green Book text was drafted by his staff: Griffiths G. Williams, William Cleary, H. B. Wallis, S. H. Wood, Robert S. Wood, and Maurice Holmes.
Butler wanted to keep the churches involved in education but they could not on their own afford to modernize. His act left a third of the Anglican church schools in place with enhanced subsidies, increasing public and teacher control over them. It encouraged nonsectarian religious teaching in secular schools. Butler achieved his objective through skillful negotiation with Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) and other religious leaders, including Roman Catholics, whose schools were given extra subsidies.
The bill was enacted in 1944, but its changes were designed to take effect after the war, thus allowing for additional pressure groups to have their influence. Addison argues that in the end, the act was widely praised by Conservatives because it honoured religion and social hierarchy, by Labour because it opened new opportunities for working class children, and by the general public because it ended the fees they had to pay.
The Act sharply distinguished between primary and secondary education at age 11 and ended the traditional all-age (5-14) elementary sector, enforcing the division between primary (5–11 years old) and secondary (11–15 years old) education that many local authorities had already introduced. It abolished fees on parents for state secondary schools. It brought a more equitable funding system to localities and to different school sectors. The Act renamed the Board of Education as the Ministry of Education, giving it greater powers and a bigger budget. While defining the school leaving age as 15, it granted the government the power to raise the age to 16 "as soon as the Minister is satisfied that it has become practicable", though the change was not implemented until 1973. It also brought in a new system for setting teacher salaries.
The new Tripartite System consisted of three different types of secondary school: grammar schools, secondary technical schools and secondary modern schools. It allowed for the creation of comprehensive schools which would combine these strands, but initially only a few were founded. It also created a system of direct grant schools, under which a number of independent schools received a direct grant from the Ministry of Education (as distinct from local education authorities or LEAs) in exchange for accepting a number of pupils on "free places". To assess which pupils should attend which school, they took an exam known as the 11-plus. The system was intended to allocate pupils to the schools best suited to their "abilities and aptitudes", but in practice the number of grammar schools, for the academically inclined, remained unchanged, and few technical schools or comprehensive schools were established. As a result, most pupils went to secondary modern schools, whether they were suitable or not, meaning that the majority of education funding went to the secondary modern schools.
One of the results of the Act was to opened secondary schools to girls and the working class, educating and mobilising them. Another result was that the percentage of children attending higher education tripled from 1% to 3%.
The Act provided both for nursery schools and Further Education programs through community colleges, offering education for both children and adults, a measure that was only followed through by a few LEAs such as the Cambridgeshire Village Colleges, Leicestershire Community Colleges and Coventry, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire community schools.
Anglican schools were continued, but brought under increased state funding and control. Every state-funded school was required to begin the day with a nondenominational religious prayer into all schools. This clause was amended by the Education Reform Act 1988, which specified that the act of worship should be of a 'broadly Christian nature' unless such a message was deemed to be inappropriate for a particular school or group of children. The amendment also specified that the act of worship could now take place in classes, rather than the previous system of conducting worship in assemblies.
School meals and milk
The Education Act 1944 made it a duty of local education authorities to provide school meals and milk. The authority could remit the charge for the meal in cases of hardship. The separate School Milk Act 1946 provided free milk (a third of a pint a day) in schools to all children under the age of 18. In 1968 Harold Wilson's Labour government withdrew free milk from secondary schools, while Edward Short was Secretary of State for Education and Science. In 1971 Margaret Thatcher (as Secretary of State) withdrew free school milk from children over seven, earning her (among her enemies) the nickname, 'Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher'. With Labour returned to power in 1974, Shirley Williams went on to abolish school milk for infants (aged below 7) in 1977.
Below are the three Secretaries of State responsible for the withdrawal of milk for schoolchildren, between 1968 and 1977:
|Minister||Tenure||Ages||Year||Political party||Prime Minister|
|Edward Short||1968–1970||11–18||1968||Labour||Harold Wilson|
|Margaret Thatcher||1970–1974||7–11||1971||Conservative||Edward Heath|
|Shirley Williams||1976–1979||5–7||1977||Labour||James Callaghan|
- Kevin Jeffereys, "R. A. Butler, the Board of Education and the 1944 Education Act," History (1984) 69#227 pp 415–431.
- Peter Gordon and Denis Lawton (2004). Dictionary of British Education. Routledge. pp. 74–76.
- Brian Simon, The Politics of Educational Reform 1920-1940 (1974) ch 7 online
- Ron G. Wallace, "The origins and authorship of the 1944 Education Act." History of education 10#.4 (1981): 283-290.
- S. J. D. Green, "The 1944 Education Act: A Church-State Perspective." Parliamentary History 19#1 (2000): 148-164.
- Peter Gosden, "Putting the Act together." History of Education 24#3 (1995): 195-207. online
- Gary McCulloch, Educational reconstruction: The 1944 education act and the twenty-first century (Routledge, 2013).
- Paul Addison, The road to 1945: British politics and the Second World War (1975). pp 237-38.
- Brian Simon, "The 1944 Education Act: A Conservative Measure?," History of Education. (1986) 15#1 pp 31–43
- Education Act 1944, Section 35
- C. H. Batteson, "The 1944 Education Act reconsidered." Educational Review 51.1 (1999): 5-15.
- Secularists and rationalists opposed this and other provisions. See for example Brown (n.d.)
- "Charley Junior's School Days". Nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- Hendrick, Harry (4 Oct 2003). Child Welfare: England 1872-1989. Taylor & Francis. p. 185. ISBN 9780203401965.
- Smith, Rebecca (2010-08-08). "How Margaret Thatcher became known as 'Milk Snatcher'". Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
- "Free nursery milk to stay, but costs set to be cut. 18 June 2012". BBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- Williams, Shirley (8 April 2013). "Shirley Williams: How Margaret Thatcher changed Britain". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
She was a fall guy for the Treasury’s expenditure cuts, for it was Anthony Barber, not Margaret Thatcher, who abolished free milk for school children; yet it was Margaret Thatcher who took the blame for it and was nicknamed Thatcher the Milk-Snatcher.
- Aldrich, Richard, Dennis Dean, and Peter Gordon. Education and policy in England in the twentieth century. (1991).
- Batteson, C. H. "The 1944 Education Act reconsidered." Educational Review 51.1 (1999): 5-15. DOI:10.1080/00131919997632
- Dunford, John, Paul Sharp, The Education System in England and Wales, London: Longman, 1990, 17–24.
- Gosden, Peter. "Putting the Act together." History of Education 24#3 (1995): 195-207. online
- Goldin, Claudia, "The Human Capital Century and American Leadership: Virtues of the Past," The Journal of Economic History, 2001, Volume 61, Number 2.
- Green, S. J. D. "The 1944 Education Act: A Church‐State Perspective." Parliamentary History 19#1 (2000): 148-164.
- Griggs, Clive. The TUC and Education Reform, 1926-1970 (Routledge, 2013).
- Hillman, Nicholas. "Public schools and the Fleming report of 1944: shunting the first-class carriage on to an immense siding?." History of Education 41#2 (2012): 235-255.
- Howard, Anthony. RAB: The Life of R.A. Butler (2013) ch 10.
- Jago, Michael. Rab Butler: The Best Prime Minister We Never Had? (2015) ch 9.
- Jeffereys, Kevin. "R. A. Butler, the Board of Education and the 1944 Education Act," History (1984) 69#227 pp 415–431.
- Ku, Hsiao-Yuh. "Fighting for social democracy: RH Tawney and educational reconstruction in the Second World War." Paedagogica Historica 52#3 (2016): 266-285.
- Ku, Hsiao-Yuh. "Education for liberal democracy: Fred Clarke and the 1944 Education Act." History of Education 42#5 (2013): 578-597.
- McCulloch, Gary. Educational reconstruction: The 1944 education act and the twenty-first century (Routledge, 2013).
- McCulloch, Gary. "British Labour Party education policy and comprehensive education: from Learning to Live to Circular 10/65." History of Education 45#2 (2016): 225-245. online
- Middleton, Nigel. "Lord Butler and the Education Act of 1944," British Journal of Educational Studies (1972) 20#2 pp 178–191
- Simon, Brian. "The 1944 Education Act: A Conservative Measure?," History of Education. (1986) 15#1 pp 31–43
- Wallace, Ron G. "The origins and authorship of the 1944 Education Act." History of Education 10.4 (1981): 283-290. DOI:10.1080/0046760810100405
- Change and continuity: reflections on the Butler act Speech to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1944 Education Act, given by the chief inspector of schools, David Bell