EDUCATION IN ENGLANDCategory: Education
The legal basis of the system is the Education Act 1944, and the amendments made by fourteen Acts of Parliament between 1946 and 1972. The 1944 Act prescribes the duty of government, local education authorities and parents in a system which is compulsory for those aged five to sixteen, and which contains optional preschool and post-school provision.
Schools in England and universities throughout Great Britain are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Under the Act, the Secretary of State is responsible for securing the “effective execution” of the “national policy”. In other words, the Secretary of State does not control directly, but acts at one remove.
For example, education has a budget of over 2,000 million a year but direct expenditure by central government is only about 14 per cent of the total budget. Similarly the Secretary of State does not control the content of the curriculum or prescribe textbooks. The Secretary of State does not run examination or employ teachers. The Department of State Education and Science is not concerned with the day-to-day administration of schools. In the normal course of events where local education authorities are concerned, the Secretary of State acts as a check-point rather than an initiator. He has to approve changes in the use of schools. He sets minimum standards on pupil-teacher ratios. He controls capital expenditures and the supply of teachers. He maintains an oversight of educational standards through the inspectorate (Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools or HMIs).
School education is determined by the 163 local education authorities. These elected bodies are required, under the 1944 Act to provide education in three successive stages (primary, secondary and further) and to “contribute towards the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community” by ensuring that “efficient education throughout these stages shall be available to meet the needs of the population.”
Beyond those general principles, local education authoritees decide on the size and, generally the organization of schools. They prescribe the level of text-books allowances. They make decisions on a whole lot of the non-statutory extras. They can employ extra teachers on a part-time basis.