The Butler Education Act, brought in after the Second World War meant many controversial changes to schooling, not least the 11-plus examination. A ‘negative experience’ for many, including Cliff Richard …
‘A landmark has been set up in English education’
Times Educational Supplement, 1944
Such was the general reception to the Butler Act of 1944. The paper’s editor went on to comment that ‘there shall be equality of opportunity, and diversity of provision without impairment of the social unity’.
So why did the Butler Act promise such wide-reaching changes to education and how successful were they in reality? Up until this point state education provided for children aged five through to fourteen in one ‘elementary sector’. Butler, however, recommended a division in education between ‘primary’ (five to eleven) and ‘secondary’ (eleven to fifteen). Some local authorities were already offering state funded secondary education, but with this Act the intention was to ensure fairer and widespread access, particularly for girls and, more broadly, children from working class families.
Although the Act was passed during the Second World War, it wasn’t until…
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