The provision of secondary education became compulsory under the Education Act 1918. By the end of the nineteenth century there was a variety of secondary provision: public schools, grammar schools, endowed schools, private and proprietory schools.
Several government departments had limited involvement in secondary education: the Charity Commissioners for endowed schools, the Education Department, which aided higher elementary schools (papers in ED 20) and supported some evening classes and day-continuation schools, and the Science and Art Department, which administered grants to science and technical schools and some art classes (see Education: technical and further education).
2. Clarendon Commission
Between 1861 and 1864 a Royal Commission on the Public Schools (Clarendon Commission) investigated nine such schools and the subsequent Public Schools Act 1868 resulted in more representative governing bodies and eventually in a more flexible curriculum. HO 73 contains the surviving papers of the commission, and its report was published for parliament (HC 1864 xx, xxi) which can be searched on Parliamentary Papers website.
3. Taunton Commission and endowed secondary schools
The endowed secondary schools and proprietory schools were examined by the Schools Inquiry Commission (Taunton Commission), which sat from 1864 to 1868. Its investigations revealed the poor provision of secondary education, the uneven distribution and the misused endowments. It also showed that there were only thirteen secondary schools for girls in the country. The Commissioners recommended (HC 1867-8 xxviii) the establishment of a national system of secondary education based on existing endowed schools. The resulting Endowed Schools Act 1869 created the Endowed Schools Commission to draw up new schemes of government for these schools. The Secondary Education Endowment Files (ED 27) contain drafts of these schemes. The Estate Management Files for these schools are in ED 43.
Some enrolled deeds relating to secondary schools and made between 1903 and 1920 under the Mortmain and Charitable Uses Acts 1888-1892 or the Technical and Industrial Institutions Act 1892 are in ED 191. The series contains seventy deeds in four indexed volumes with the name(s) of the grantor(s) and trustees, and the first managers. Later material is still with the Department for Education and Skills. Trust deeds enrolled with the Charity Commissioners between 1856 and 1925 can be traced in CHAR 12 (indexes in each volume) and CHAR 13 (separate place name index CHAR 13/483-492 on film in the Map and Large Document Reading Room, key up date of enrolment with CHAR 13 series list). It is clear that a number of trust deeds, for which there is collateral evidence, escaped enrolment.
4. Bryce Commission
Progress since the Taunton Commission was assessed by a Royal Commission on Secondary Education (Bryce Commission) of 1895. The Commission was asked to look at the state of secondary education alone but also considered both elementary and technical education. Bound copies of the Commission's minutes survive (ED 12/11-12) and its reports were published (HC 1895 xliii-xlix).
It resulted in: the Board of Education replacing the Education Department, the Science and Art Department and the educational functions of the Charity Commissioners; a consultative committee to advise the Board (see 8, below); and eventually, after the Cockerton Judgement (ED 14/25, ED 24/83, ED 24/136, MH 27/141-2) which made school board financial support for higher grade schools illegal, the 1902 act which abolished school boards and set up Local Education Authorities to 'supply or aid the supply of education other than elementary'.
5. Secondary schools after 1902
The Education Act 1902 (Balfour Act) resulted in two types of state-aided secondary school: the endowed grammar schools, which now received grant-aid from LEAs; and the municipal or county secondary schools, maintained by LEAs. Many of the latter were established at this time and others evolved from higher grade science schools or pupil teacher centres. The Board of Education Regulations for Secondary Schools were first issued in 1904 and reinforced the tendency of the new secondary schools to adopt the academic bias of the established ones.
The Secondary Education Institution Files (ED 35) include papers, mostly later than 1902, dealing with the recognition and inspection of all schools and institutions (some not subject to Board of Education jurisdiction) providing secondary education. ED 27 contains files on endowed schools (papers between 1903 and 1921 are on ED 35 files), with the estate management papers in ED 43. The main series of LEA files on secondary education is ED 53. Under the provisions of the Education Acts 1918 and 1921 an attempt was made to take a census of private schools. The surviving returns, which relate mainly to art, commerce and professional training schools, are in ED 15.
6. Free places and special places
The Education (Administrative Provisions) Act 1907 introduced the free place scholarship system to give promising children from elementary schools the opportunity to go to secondary school. All grant-aided secondary schools had to admit free place scholars (not less than 25% of the previous year's total intake) who had spent at least two years at public elementary school. The school received £5 per head for each scholar (ED 12/125, ED 12/327; ED 24/368-382 and ED 24/1637-1652. The 1932 economy campaign caused free places to be converted to special places for which a means-tested scale of fees was introduced. ED 55 contains files on the administration of the special place system. Fees for secondary schools were abolished by the Education Act 1944 (Butler Act).
7. Examinations and curriculum
Candidates for scholarship entrance to secondary schools sat a qualifying examination which became highly competitive and had repercussions on the work of elementary schools. The examination was held at eleven plus because a minimum of three years at secondary school was deemed necessary when the school leaving age was 14. Grammar schools usually had at least a four year course with pupils staying until 16.
The Taunton Commission in the 1860s favoured external examinations for secondary schools. These had existed since the mid-nineteenth century, for example, the Oxford and Cambridge Locals or those organised by the College of Preceptors. The Consultative Committee investigated the subject in 1911 (ED 24/212, ED 24/220, ED 24/1640). Its recommendations were accepted in 1917. Universities were designated as responsible bodies for conducting external examinations and a Secondary Schools Examination Council was established with representatives from universities, LEAs and the teaching profession. Two standard examinations were recognised: School Certificate at 16 and Higher School Certificate at 18. The Board of Education declared that the 'examination should follow the curriculum and not determine it' but in practice this was largely ignored.
The connected subjects of secondary school examinations and curricula were examined by a committee of the reconstituted Secondary Schools Examination Council (papers in ED 147/133-8, ED 147/212-326), appointed in 1941 under Sir Cyril Norwood (ED 12/478-80). The committee's recommendations were finally accepted in 1947 when the School Certificate was replaced by the General Certificate of Education (GCE) in three levels: ordinary, advanced and scholarship. The work of the Beloe Committee 1958-60 on examinations other than GCE led to the introduction in 1965 of a less academic examination for secondary school children, the Certificate of Secondary Education (ED147/303-13).
The work of the Secondary Schools Examination Council was taken over by the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations in 1964, following the recommendations of the Lockwood Committee (ED 147/812-16). Documents relating to the work of the Schools Council are in ED 147/833-907, ED 147/1344-1349 and in EJ 1-3, EJ 5, EJ 9, EJ 11-13. In 1970 the Schools Council recommended a single examination at 16. Following a further study by Sir James Waddell the General Certificate of Secondary Education (CGSE) was planned for introduction in 1985 (HC 1977/8 I iix).
In 1982 the functions were separated again with the creation of the Secondary Examination Council (records in EJ 8 and EJ 10) and the School Curriculum Development Committee (papers in EJ 4, EJ 6, EJ 7). The Secondary Examination Council was replaced by the Schools Examination and Assessment Council from 1988-1993 (papers in KC 1-2) and the National Curriculum Council superseded the School Curriculum Development Committee for the same period (records in FW 1-4).
The examination and curriculum functions were combined again in 1993 under the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority (minutes and papers in EJ 15). This body was merged with the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (records in KY 1-2) in 1997 to form the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
8. Consultative Committee reports
The Consultative Committee, created under the Education Act 1899 on the recommendation of the Bryce Commission, issued several influential reports in the inter-war period, three under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Hadow and one chaired by Sir Will Spens. The first Hadow report, Education and the Adolescent, published in 1926, was concerned with both elementary and secondary education. ED 97 contains files on the consequent reorganisation of schools to provide a system of advanced elementary education. Working papers of the Committee are in ED 10/147, ED 24/1265. 1931 saw the issue of a separate report on The Primary School (papers ED 10/148) and two years later The Infant and Nursery School report came out (papers ED 10/149-150). The Spens report of 1938 on Secondary Education recommended parity of all types of school in the secondary system, with a tripartite arrangement of grammar, modern and technical school (papers ED 10/151-3, ED 10/221-2; ED 12/530; ED 136/131).
9. Education Act 1944 (Butler Act)
The Hadow and Spens reports, supplemented by the work of the Norwood Committee (see 7 above) together with the consultative exercise of the 'Green Book' memorandum of 1941 on post war education (ED 136/212-301) resulted in the Education Act 1944 (Bill Papers ED 31/500-548; Private Office Papers ED 136/377-541). Its recommendations encompassed those of the Bryce Commission on central administration, introducing a Minister of Education and replacing the Consultative Committee with an Advisory Council (ED 146 contains its papers and reports). Secondary education was redefined and reorganised. Junior technical schools, junior commercial schools and junior art departments became recognised as secondary technical schools. LEAs were required to submit development plans for primary and secondary education; ED 152 contains the resulting files. Public education was to be organised in three progressive stages: primary (schools digest files ED 161 continue those in ED 21); secondary (digest files in ED 162 are a continuation of those in ED 35); and further education (see Technical colleges and further education). General aspects of primary and secondary education are covered in the General Files (ED 147).
10. Welsh education
Demand for separate treatment for Welsh education increased from the mid-nineteenth century. In 1880 a departmental committee was formed, under Lord Aberdare, to investigate Welsh secondary education. The report of Lord Aberdare's committee revealed a state of affairs in Wales similar to that found in England by the Taunton Commission (papers ED 91/8; HC 1881 xxxiii). The immediate result of the report was the establishment of university colleges at Bangor and Cardiff. Intermediate education, that is between primary and university, was ignored until the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889, which created joint education committees as local authorities for every county and county borough in Wales. This act foreshadowed events in England by providing a pattern of control of secondary education by county councils.
The Welsh Department of the Board of Education was set up in 1907 after the Welsh nonconformist opposition to the Education Act 1902 (files in ED 111) and the return of a Liberal government with strong Welsh support. School and local authority files are in the same series as those for England. The main papers of the Welsh Department relating to secondary education are in ED 93.
Records for Welsh schools are generally in the same series as their English counterparts, although additional elementary, primary and secondary school files are in ED 216. Many files on Welsh schools were destroyed during the Second World War and by flooding in 1960 of the Welsh Department's office in Cardiff.
The Curriculum Council for Wales was established in August 1988 under the Education Reform Act. It was responsible for all aspects of the National Curriculum in Wales. In 1994 it became the Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales and three years later its functions were passed to the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales. The records of these bodies are in JL 1-4.
11. Lists of schools
ED 270 contains various lists of schools giving details about the type of institution and status between 1834 and 1985.
12. Schools' census (form 7) datasets 1974-2006
The Department for Education and Science collected information annually about individual primary schools in England and (up to 1977) Wales. These returns were known as 'Form 7' and evolved from details collected since 1905 by the Statistics Branch (ED 147/341-351). The information gathered covered pupil numbers, teaching staff, classes and examination courses. Datasets for 1975-1977 are available via NDAD as CRDA 13/ ED 267, with aggregated information for 1993. There is also an EducBase snapshot for Nov 2006. It might be possible to identify entries for individual schools by using the Register of Educational Establishments (CRDA 47/ NV 2).
13. Grant maintained schools: database 1992-1999
Grant maintained (GM) schools were created by the Education Reform Act 1988 and allowed to opt out of LEA control and to be directly funded by central government. They included primary, secondary and (after 1993) special schools. Parents were balloted and new GM schools were created by the Funding Agency for Schools (corporate plans and annual reports in KL 1). GM schools were abolished in 1998 by the School Standards and Framework Act and responsibility for them was returned to the LEAs. Schools were recategorised as foundation, voluntary aided or foundation special schools; some became community schools. The Funding Agency for Schools was abolished in 1999.
The database (ED 278/CRDA/36) contains details on each school as at March 2000 and includes information about the type of school, denomination, selection policy, age of pupils. It also gives details on when it applied for GM status, the date of the parental ballot and when it began operating as a GM school as well as its contact details.
14. Further reading
Ann Morton, Education and the State, from 1833, Public Record Office Readers' Guide No 18 (PRO, 1997)