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government education policies 1 tripartism and comprehensivisation
Government Education Policies [1]

Tripartism and Comprehensivisation

government education policies 1 tripartism and comprehensivisation2
Government Education Policies [1]: Tripartism and Comprehensivisation
  • This is the first of three presentations on Government Education Policies
  • Presentation One: Tripartism and Comprehensivisation
  • Presentation Two: Conservative Education Policies 1979-1997 [written by Alex Thirkill of Rydens School]
  • Presentation Three: Labour Education Policies 1997-2010. This presentation will be available fairly soon
tripartism and comprehensivisation
Tripartism and Comprehensivisation
  • You may also access  a video debate on the nature and future of comprehensive education from the University of Leicester [ about one hour] 
introduction functions of education and government education policies
Introduction: Functions of Education and Government Education Policies.
  • My presentation on the Functions of Education indicates that sociologists have suggested that formal education systems fulfil several functions but that they may be analysed from differing perspectives.
  • Also my presentation on Education and the Economy [when I have written it!] will indicate that relationships between formal education systems and economic systems are shown to be important.
  • it will be helpful to study these presentations in conjunction with this presentation on Government Education Policies.
government education policies introduction
Government Education Policies: Introduction
  • Since 1945 Labour and Conservative Governments have introduced a wide range of educational policies each of which have strengths and weaknesses and each of which may be analysed from competing sociological perspectives.
  • In this presentation I shall provide a brief description of pre -1945 school provision and then introduce some of the debates surrounding the development of Tripartite Secondary Education and subsequently of comprehensive secondary education.
  • Click here for more detailed information on Tripartism and Comprehensivisation.
before the tripartite secondary education system 1
Before the Tripartite Secondary Education System[1]
  • Prior to the 1944 Education Act [often called the Butler Education Act after R.A. Butler who was Secretary of State for Education at the time] which in effect provided for the introduction of the Tripartite Secondary Education system older children might experience differing types of education.
  • Some were educated in all through elementary schools catering for children aged 5-14.
  • Some children from affluent backgrounds were educated in fee-paying private schools.
  • Some also fairly affluent children were educated at private fee –paying grammar schools which did however also offer a few free places to those passing entrance examinations. These schools were known as Direct Grant Schools because they received grants direct from Central Government to cover the costs of the free places which they provided.
before the tripartite secondary education system 2
Before the Tripartite Secondary Education System [2]
  • Under the terms of the 1902 Education Act, Local education Authorities built more state controlled secondary grammar schools which charged fees but also provided some free places for those passing an entrance examination. However it was disproportionately middle class pupils who were most likely to pass such examinations.
  • Some working class children who passed entrance examinations could not take up their places because of the travelling, uniform and equipment costs involved.
  • Direct Grant Grammar Schools continued to exist.
  • Some local authorities built so-called Central schools designed for pupils who were deemed suitable for secondary education but had not passed Grammar School entrance examinations
  • The availability of free places at private and LEA controlled Secondary Grammar schools varied considerably in different regions of the country.
  • Pressure for the introduction of universal secondary education system intensified as a result of the publication of the Hadow [1926], Spens[1938] and Norwood [1943] reports. Click here for a few further details on these reports.
tripartite secondary education 1
Tripartite Secondary Education [1]
  • The 1944 Education Act provided for a nationwide system of free state secondary education.
  • The Act did not force local authorities to opt for a Tripartite system of secondary education but the vast majority of them did so. A minority opted for Comprehensive secondary education.
  • Under the Tripartite system there were to be three types of secondary schools: Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Technical Schools although few of the latter were built.
  • The vast majority of Grammar Schools were to be fully state funded but about 180 Direct Grant Schools were to remain under the terms of the 1944 Act.
  • The Act also did stipulate that an 11+ examination would be necessary to determine pupil allocation but the limited number of Grammar school places available meant that n practice the 11+ examination was used to ration scarce grammar school places.
  • Some later reallocation of pupils was possible in principle but rare in practice.
  • Notice that the Tripartite Education system reflected very strongly the nature of the British class or occupational structure at the time that the system was introduced. There were far more semi-skilled and unskilled manual jobs available at that time and so it appeared necessary to educate only a minority of pupils in preparation for non-manual professional employment.
tripartism 2 the case in favour
Tripartism[2]: The case in favour
  • In support of the new system it was argued that:
  • Regional variations in the availability of separate secondary education and the stigma of the term "elementary education" would be ended.
  • Different kinds of secondary education would be developed [as it transpired mainly in different types of secondary schools] to meet what were believed to be the different abilities, aptitudes and interests of different types of pupil.
  • Allocation to selective state grammar schools would now be determined only by the pupils' academic ability and not by parental financial ability to pay. Thus estimated that in 1938 only 48% of LEA Grammar school places were free places gained via success in entrance examinations. As a result of the Act all such places would be free
  • Any selection process was presented as not a matter of success or failure but of the allocation of pupils to schools to suitable schools for them;
  • Although Grammar, Secondary Modern and Technical schools were clearly different they were to be accorded parity of esteem by government in terms of the financial resources devoted to each type of school .
tripartite secondary education 3 criticisms
Tripartite Secondary Education [3]: Criticisms
  • It was doubtful that pupils could be classified as academic, technical or practical as the Tripartite System implied
  • Pupils were to be allocated to different types of secondary school via the 11+ examination which included an intelligence test but critics argued that it was difficult to define intelligence or to measure it accurately and that up to 10% of pupils were wrongly allocated.
  • In practice girls were more likely than boys to score highly in the 11+ examination and so the 11+ pass mark was set higher for girls to ensure that they did not gain “disproportionate numbers of Grammar School places. Clearly, therefore, the Tripartite system discriminated against girls.
  • Many pupils who were allocated to Secondary Modern schools were demoralised by what came to be seen [correctly] as failure of the 11+ examination.
  • Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools did not receive parity of esteem. This was inevitable since career prospects for Grammar School pupils were superior to those for Secondary Modern School pupils
  • Furthermore there was evidence that some Local Authorities resourced Grammar Schools relatively generously and staff in Grammar Schools were on average better qualified than in Secondary Modern schools. Nevertheless there is no doubt that many Secondary Modern School teachers tried their utmost to help their pupils.
tripartite secondary education 4 criticisms
Tripartite Secondary Education [4]: Criticisms
  • The chances of a grammar school place were greater in some regions than in others.
  • Middle class pupils were more likely to gain Grammar school places not necessarily because of greater “intelligence” but because of home background factors and/or because they attended “better” primary schools and/or their parents could afford private coaching for the 11+ examination.
  • Pupils attending Secondary Modern Schools were to leave at age 14 and would gain no official national examination qualifications.
  • Pupils attending Grammar Schools were expected to leave at age 16 or even possibly 18 after taking official national examinations.
  • However the school leaving age was raised to 15 in 1947 and by the late 1950s limited numbers of Secondary Modern pupils did stay until age 16 to take GCE O Level examinations while a small proportion of Grammar School pupils left at age 15 without taking national examinations.
  • There were no reforms of Private Education sector
  • Primary school flexibility was reduced via the greater emphasis on preparation for the 11+ and primary school streaming used as part of the preparation for the 11+ may have demoralised many primary school pupils at an early age. However some argued that the competition to secure 11+ places would make both teachers and pupils work more effectively. .
comprehensive secondary education 1
Comprehensive Secondary Education[1]
  • The precise meaning of the term “Comprehensive” is uncertain. Can “Comprehensives” co-exist in the same locality as Grammar schools? Can Comprehensive schools be comprehensive if they serve socially and economically different catchment areas? Does increasing school diversity and parental choice undermine the Comprehensive principle?
  • However according to Benn and Simon the number of Comprehensive schools increased from 10 schools catering for 0.4% of secondary school pupils in 1950 to 3095 schools catering for 86.9% of secondary school pupils in 1994..[See 50 Years On By C. Benn and B Simon for the technicalities surrounding these statistics]
  • As the comprehensivisation process gathered pace Direct Grant Schools continued to exist until they were abolished by Labour in the mid 1970s. Consequently of the 180 or so Direct Grant Schools 51 chose to become Comprehensives and 119 opted to become fully independent private schools while some others closed. [Statistics from Wikipedia]
  • Interestingly click here for recent talk of the reintroduction of Direct Grant Schools
comprehensivisation 2 the case in favour
Comprehensivisation[2]:The case in favour
  • The 11+ examination was an inaccurate and unfair selection method.
  • Grammar schools and Secondary Modern schools did not receive “parity of esteem” but Comprehensive schools would.
  • Many Secondary Modern school pupils were denied an education suited to their talents
  • The stigma of 11+ failure and the related adverse effects of negative labelling would be ended .
  • Children who would otherwise have failed the 11+ would receive greater encouragement in Comprehensive schools.
comprehensivisation 3 the case in favour
Comprehensivisation[3] :The Case in Favour
  • Despite claims to the contrary “brighter” children would not be held back in Comprehensive schools .
  • Reallocation of pupils between schools was rare under the Tripartite system but it would be easier to reallocate pupils among different sets within the same Comprehensive school.
  • However many supporters of Comprehensivisation were also supporters of mixed ability teaching in any case.
  • Comprehensive schools were to be relatively large especially in urban areas which would enable them to provide a wider variety of courses than the smaller secondary Modern schools.
  • Comprehensive schools would often have 6th Forms which Secondary Modern schools did not have.
  • Comprehensivisation would encourage wider social mixing among pupils of different abilities and social backgrounds.
  • More students from all social backgrounds now enrol on Higher Education courses and supporters claim that comprehensivisation helped to increase access to Higher Education.
comprehensivisation 4 the case against
Comprehensivisation[4]: The case against
  • Talented pupils can be taught most effectively in selective state grammar schools and private schools.
  • Claims that overall examination results are worse under Comprehensivisation than in areas where the Tripartite system still exists: these claims are rejected by supporters of comprehensivisation
  • Significant differences exist among comprehensive schools so that although parity of esteem was not achieved under the Tripartite System it is not achieved under the Comprehensive system either.
comprehensivisation 5 the case against
Comprehensivisation[5]: The case against
  • Large comprehensives are impersonal institutions in which pupil individuality is lost.
  • There is criticism of excessive use of mixed ability teaching because it inhibits progress of “brightest” pupils.
  • Conversely there is also criticism of insufficient use of mixed ability teaching resulting in negative labelling of lower stream pupils.
  • For many years some Comprehensive pupils would take GCE Ordinary level courses while others would take CSE courses which were considered to be less academically demanding. This may have undermined the confidence of pupils taking the CSE examinations due to negative labelling. However not all pupils were likely to reach the GCE standard and teachers argued that it was not in the pupils’ best interests to enter them for GCE Ordinary level examinations if they were in any case likely to fail them. .
  • This problem has not been fully resolved via the introduction of GCSE examinations in 1986 [for first examination in 1988] because pupils are now entered for different tiers of the GCSE examinations.
  • Opposition to greater social mixing because of fears of negative effects on learning.
  • Significant class, ethnic and gender inequalities in educational achievement remain suggesting that the comprehensive system has not in practice provided for equality of opportunity….although despite these inequalities many more working class, ethnic minority and female pupils do now enroll on Higher Education courses.
some recent developments
Some Recent Developments
  • The Private Education sector is expanding and both major political parties favour closer links between the State and Private Education sectors rather than the abolition of the latter.
  • There are still a limited number of grammar schools: it seems unlikely that these will be abolished in the foreseeable future.
  • Within the Comprehensive system there is increasing diversity: Foundation schools, Specialised schools, City Academies, Faith-based schools. Does this diversity undermine the Comprehensive principle or promote desirable increased parental choice?
  • Does increasing parental choice undermine the principle of equality of opportunity since upper and middle class parents are better able to secure entry for their children to the more effective schools or does increased parental choice drive improvements in overall education standards?
  • These issues will be considered in more detail in subsequent presentations.
  • Meanwhile click here for a recent report suggesting that “top comprehensives” are more socially selective than state grammar schools.