Education Reform Act 1988

The 1944 Education Act had raised the school leaving age to 15 and provided free secondary education for all pupils. However not all of the Act's objectives were put into practice. The provision for 'technical' education was often lost sight of and was hardly ever implemented.

Secondary modern schools

Many Local Education Authorities (LEAs) tended to run a two-tiered system of grammar and secondary modern schools, with keen competition for limited numbers of grammar school places. By the 1960s many LEAs were establishing 'comprehensive' schools which catered for all abilities but modelled themselves in their early years on the traditional ethos of the grammar school.

State education

The 1944 Act nevertheless provided the main framework for state education for four decades in Britain until the radical changes implemented by the Education Reform Act of 1988. This legislation allowed both primary and secondary schools to opt out of local authority control and be funded by central government.

About a quarter of all state schools chose to reconstitute themselves along these lines. However, under further legislation in 1998 these 'grant maintained schools' were abolished and replaced by 'foundation schools' which have greater autonomy over their affairs.

Related information

Historic Hansard

The House of Commons debates the Second Reading of the Education Reform Bill