Outline the Main State Policies on Education from 1870 Onwards and Discuss the Effect They Have Had on the Role of Education and Students

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Discuss the main state policies on education from 1870 onwards and discuss the effect they have had on the role of education and students’ experience of education from a sociological perspective.

‘In Britain, free compulsory education conducted in formal institutions staffed by full time professionals began in 1870’ (Haralambos, M, 1995, p.725) this was when The Forster’s Education Act 1870 came into place, in 1880 attendance became compulsory until the age of ten followed by The Fisher Education Act of 1918 making attendance compulsory until the age of fourteen, 1947 saw this raised to fifteen and finally in 1972 this was raised to sixteen.

In 1944 the Butler’s education Act established a tri-partite system of secondary education for all, children would take an 11+ examination (intelligence test) which would result in them attending one of three types of schools; grammar, technical or secondary modern. ‘The 15-20 percent of children with the best 11+ exam results went to grammar schools, with most children going to secondary modern schools, there were hardly any technical schools established.’ (Browne, K., 2011, p.175)

Some advantages of the tri-partite system include; it was set up so that children could receive an education based on their ability rather than their parent’s ability to pay, ensuring everyone can develop their potential, it encourages economic growth and some social democratic theorists argue that this system also promotes equality of opportunity as the results are based on everyone taking the same test.

Disadvantages of the tri-partite system include; the 11+ doesn’t take into account individual circumstances, it created low self-esteem amongst the children as being selected for a low status school could, in turn, result in the child believing that they are not good enough leading to low educational attainment. The 11+ also discriminated against girls; it was official policy to mark down girl’s scores.

In 1974 the Labour Government came into power, abolishing the tripartite system and bringing in the comprehensive system. ‘Children in most areas now, regardless of their ability, generally transfer to the same type of school at the age of 11, with no selection by examination. Around nine out of ten young people in the UK now attend some form of comprehensive school, with only about 230 state grammar schools remaining’ (Browne, K., 2011, p.176)

Advantages of the comprehensive system include; late developers benefit, for some intelligence and ability improve later in life, the comprehensive system stops them from having their opportunities limited at an early age. There is equality among comprehensive schools, mixing gender, class and ethnicity which are better for society. More able children do just as well in comprehensive schools as they would in grammar schools and also the weaker children improve.

Disadvantages of the comprehensive system include; Grammar schools creamed off the comprehensive schools by taking the more intelligent pupils, it’s also been found difficult to teach in comprehensive’s as teachers must find work that is both challenging for the weaker and stronger students.

The Education Reform Act 1988 brought in major changes across England and Wales including the introduction of league tables where Standardised Attainment Test results began to be published, changes in the funding and control of schools and also the National Curriculum. ‘The introduction of the National Curriculum meant that for the first time in Britain, all school students were to study the same subjects and were to be tested against targets set by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE)’ (Moore, S., 2001, p.251)

Advantages of the National Curriculum include; it gives teachers a guideline of what to teach, if a child has to move schools the same subjects and criteria are taught therefore no one can fall behind also as everyone is learning the same criteria and taking the same exams...
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