The 1902 Education Act

Kevin Manton regrets the political decision to remove direct democratic control over education a hundred years ago.

By now the annual autumnal scramble to get children into desirable secondary schools is, one hopes, over for most families. The cause of this headache is that despite the increasingly unitary and centralised control over the school curriculum, management and control of schools is fragmented, giving us a variety of school types with differing levels of social prestige. The roots of this plurality lie in an education act that has its centenary this winter. 

The 1902 Education Act was a deeply reactionary piece of legislation that consciously set out to dismantle the popular schooling system developed by the school boards that had been created by the 1870 education act. The purpose of this dismemberment was to buttress the control of education by religious groups and by the grammar schools which were withering under pressure from school board initiatives. 

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