Perhaps the most important development in state education in the twentieth century was the introduction of secondary education for all. It is now generally accepted that most people will remain in some kind of formal education or training until at least their late teens and that many people who go on to college or university will remain there until their early twenties, but it is not really so long ago that most people in England and Wales ended their schooling at the age of 15. People you know, who are now in their 70s or 80s, may have left school even earlier than this, probably at the age of 14.
The reason why secondary education now continues to the age of at least 16 is found in the 1944 Education Act, which established the provision of secondary education for all through three different kinds of secondary schools. An intelligence test taken at about the age of 11 (the 11 plus) sorted children into three groups: those good at academic things (secondary grammar school pupils), those good at technical things (secondary technical school pupils) and those good at practical things (secondary modern school pupils). From 1944 all secondary education required children to remain at school until the age of 15, and in 1972 the minimum school-leaving age was raised to 16.
This way of organising secondary education remained dominant for around 30 years and still exists in some areas of England and Wales today. This selective system of secondary education was based on a belief that not only did children possess different abilities and orientations in some kind of natural way, but also that these abilities and orientations could be accurately and scientifically measured. The possibility of measuring children's ability meant that they could be given the kind of secondary education which was suited to them, it also meant that the three different kinds of secondary school would eventually produce school-leavers who would fit different categories of jobs and careers and so serve the needs of industry and the economy. In this functionalist approach, grammar-school pupils would move towards managerial and professional occupations, technical-school pupils would have the skills required for skilled technical and clerical jobs, and modern-school pupils would be most suited to semi-skilled and unskilled work.
The system seemed not only to be neat and tidy but was also seen as one of the first examples of equal opportunities in educational policy. It provided education appropriate to ability on the basis of scientific and unbiased testing. It was brought about by direct and detailed government intervention in the organisation of schooling in an unprecedented way.
Ö Task 4. While reading part “Inside the school: The curriculum” put the following points of the plan in the correct order:
a) Before the 1980s there was no government influence on what was taught at school;
b) National Curriculum as an attempt to control what pupils learnt;
c) Teacher as a technician?
d) Look at the formal curriculum in order to understand education thoroughly;
e) The “secret garden” of school curriculum as a proof of teachers’ professionalism.
Be ready to extend these points of the plan with the main ideas covering the body of the extract.