Skip to main content

The Education Act of 1944

The plans for post-war secondary education in Britain aimed to remove the inequalities which remained in the system. The proportion of 'free places' at grammar schools in England and Wales increased from almost a third to almost half between 1913 and 1937. However, when poorer children were offered free places, parents often had to turn them down owing to the extra costs involved.

The Education Act of 1944 was steered through Parliament by the Education Minister, R.A. Butler, and was followed by a similar Act for Scotland in 1945. The Act provided free secondary education for all pupils.

Local Education Authorities (LEAs)

Local Education Authorities were required to submit proposals to the new Department of Education for reorganising secondary schooling in their areas.

Most LEAs aimed to establish the three main 'streams' or categories of school - grammar, secondary modern and technical - which had been recommended in a Report by Sir William Spens in 1938. Children would be allocated on the basis of an examination at the age of 11, known as the '11 plus'. This was intended to provide equal opportunities for children of all backgrounds.

The school leaving age was raised to 15, though the stated intention that it should be 16 was not effected until 1972.

Did you know?

Comprehensive schools were not actually created by the 1944 Butler Act as is often thought

Related information

Historic Hansard

The House of Commons debates the Second Reading of the Education Bill 1944