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Education Acts


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Starting in the 19th cent., a series of Education Acts have signalled the reorganization of all aspects of education. The 1870 Act, steered through Parliament by the Liberal W. E. Forster, established a system of elementary schools in England and Wales. Locally elected school boards were to provide schools where there was a deficiency by the denominational bodies. This Act was the beginning of the so‐called ‘dual system’, which still exists. An 1880 Act imposed universal compulsory schooling under the age of 10.

The 1902 Act, the work of the Conservative A. J. Balfour, set up a co‐ordinated national system of education, administered by a central Board of Education. School boards were abolished and replaced by local education authorities. Grammar schools were established and free places provided for pupils from elementary schools.

The 1944 Act, introduced by Conservative R. A. Butler, stipulated that education should be organized in three stages—primary, secondary, and further—and divided into grammar, technical, and modern. The Board of Education was replaced by a Ministry of Education and provision was made for raising the school‐leaving age from 14 to 15: it was raised to 16 in 1972. The Act remained in force for the next four decades, but selection for the different schools caused difficulty. Labour governments from 1964 encouraged comprehensive schooling.

Subjects: British History.


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