Public Education in England 1839-1989 (1990)

This DES publication, celebrating 150 years of public education in England, contains useful histories of the education department and Her Majesty's Inspectorate. It was published as an A4-size book printed on good-quality paper with a glossy cover.

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the main sections:

The Department and the Governance of the System (page 1)
Peter Gosden

Watchdogs and Missionaries: The First Hundred Years (27)
Peter Gordon

Continuity and Change: HMI 1945-1989 (57)
Sir William Taylor

Public Education in England 1839-1989 (81)
A Brief History

The text of Public Education in England 1839-1989 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 23 June 2023.

Public Education in England 1839-1989 (1990)

Department of Education and Science
London: 1990
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


[The text on the cover says:]

To mark the establishment on 10 April 1839 of the
Committee of the Privy Council for Education,
the linear ancestor of the
Department of Education and Science;
and the appointment of the first two
Inspectors of Schools on 9 December 1839

[front endpapers]

[click on the image for a larger version]

[title page]


Public Education in England

150th Anniversary

Department of Education and Science
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools

[page ii]

Department of Education and Science

Her Majesty's Inspectorate

Elizabeth House
York Road
London SE1 7PH

Tel. 071-934 9000

Crown copyright 1990
Published 1990

ISBN 0 85522 230 1

[page iii]


Page v

Page vii

Public Education in England 1839-1989
The Department and the Governance of the System
Lecture by Professor Peter Gosden
Page 1

Watchdogs and Missionaries
The First Hundred Years
Lecture by Professor Peter Gordon
Page 27

Continuity and Change
HMI 1945-1989
Lecture by Professor Sir William Taylor
Page 57

Public Education in England 1839-1989
A Brief History
Page 81

Other Events Commemorating the Anniversary
Page 89

[page v]


This publication records the 150 years of service given between 1839 and 1989 by my Department and its predecessors, and by HM Inspectorate of Schools.

Their roles in the public provision of education are major and continuing ones.

I am confident that they will continue to perform them to the benefit of the education service, and of the country as a whole.

Rt Hon. John MacGregor OBE MP
Secretary of State for Education and Science

[page vii]


1989 was the 150th anniversary of two important events in the history of public education in England. The first was the creation of the Committee of the Privy Council for Education on 10 April 1839. The second was the establishment of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools by the appointment in December 1839 of the first two HMI, John Allen, an Anglican clergyman, and Seymour Tremenheere, a barrister.

The Department of Education and Science is the present incarnation of the Privy Council Committee so it, together with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, arranged a special programme of activities during 1989 to celebrate those two events of 150 years ago. The programme included among other things three public lectures the texts of which are reproduced in full in this publication.

I would like to express the thanks of the DES and of HMI to all who took part in the programme and especially to Professor Peter Gosden, Professor Peter Gordon and Professor Sir William Taylor who delivered the three public lectures and to the Royal Institute of Public Administration who organised them for us.

The lectures chart the Department's and HMI's progress over 150 years. It is right to learn from the past, as we sought to do in 1989. And those lessons help us as we look to the present and the future - where our real job lies - that of enabling the Secretary of State, as he is required by the 1944 Act, to fulfil his duty to promote the education of the people of England and the progressive development of the institutions devoted to that purpose.

John Caines CB
Permanent Secretary

[page 1]

Public Education in England 1839-1989

The Department and the Governance of the System

Lecture given on 10 April 1989,
the 150th Anniversary of the establishment of the
Committee of the Privy Council for Education

by Peter Gosden
Professor of the History of Education
University of Leeds

[page 3]


The Beginnings

Dr James Kay (Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth as he later became) has recounted the story of how he was asked to go to see Lord Lansdowne, then Lord President of the Council, early in 1839:

He disclosed to me the intention of the Government to found an Education Department, by an Order in Council creating the Committee of Council for Education, which should, at first, be charged only with the administration of the annual Parliamentary grant, the distribution of which ... had been confided to the Treasury ... Lord Lansdowne did me the honour to consult me as to the first steps of the new Department.

They apparently discussed the need for better trained and qualified teachers and for a state-funded training college and, in response to Lansdowne's request, Kay provided the names of three gentlemen competent to discharge the office of Secretary to the new Department.

On a subsequent day Lord Lansdowne again requested to see me. He told me that the government had some doubt as to the propriety of asking me to take what might prove a precarious and would certainly be a very obnoxious position (subjecting me to much opposition) ... I at once replied that I thought the object to be attained so great that I was quite ready to take any risk. (1)

Thus on 10 April 1839 the Committee of the Privy Council for Education was set up with four members, the Lord President, the Lord Privy Seal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary Dr Kay, with his reputation as an expert on public health and housing and in the field of pauper education, was appointed Secretary. Initially the Committee met about once a month in the Privy Council Office in Whitehall; its decisions were published as Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education. All business was in effect the responsibility of the Secretary, he taking only matters likely to provoke an unusual degree of controversy to the Lord President. All letters from members of staff of the office were, of course, phrased to express their Lordships' wishes. 'My Lords desire it to be known that ... ' or, more often, 'My Lords regret that ... ' were the customary openings to letters which, no doubt, created a considerable impression in the

[page 4]

minds of recipients in the localities not versed in the contemporary epistolatory style of the education office.

As Kay mentioned, from 1833 the Whig reforming government had been offering grants directly from the Treasury to promoters of elementary schools. There were few conditions attached and the Treasury lacked the machinery for any more than an extremely loose administration of these grants. It relied on the National Society and the British and Foreign Society to comment on whether the applicants were going to meet real needs in an efficient manner. The schools were not constructed to any approved plans, no particular form of trust deed was indicated, there were no conditions to ensure that the instruction would be sound or even that the fabric would be maintained adequately. The need both to increase the annual grant and to enforce more stringent conditions for its disbursement lay behind the decision to set up the Education Department. The actual mechanism of a Committee of Council was chosen so as to meet an urgent need while avoiding the considerable political and parliamentary difficulties in creating a new ministry.

In the summer of 1839 the Secretary and his staff set to work and the Minutes dated 24 September 1839 indicated clearly enough what was to be the method of operation of the Education Department, the Board and later Ministry for more than a century. The Department did not seek to provide the schools. At this time that was a matter for the churches or other voluntary bodies. But it did seek to develop and to enforce national policies for elementary education. These it expressed through regulations setting out conditions for the payment of grant - originally in the Minutes of the Committee of Council. The first set of regulations contained a number of fundamental conditions such as that in No. 3: the 'right of inspection will be required by the committee in all cases', while in some detail it laid down the plans for every building where 'not less than six square feet [0.56m²] be provided for each child', along with the grant limit: 'that for every 10s. [50p] to be granted by the committee, the means of educating one child (at least) shall be provided.' (2)

Regulation 3 led, of course, to the establishment of the Inspectorate after a conflict of which you will, no doubt, have the opportunity to hear more in December; the thrust of the other regulations is clear and within a year or so of

[page 5]

being set up the Department had issued forms of conveyance to be used for school sites and buildings if grant were to be paid, such as Form No. 6. 'Conveyance of a Site or Buildings by a Spiritual Corporation Sole, with the consent of the Bishop, to Trustees for a Parish School' or Form No. 9, 'Form of Indenture of a Parish Apprentice to the Business of a Schoolmaster'. Plans for school buildings, circulars on construction and heating, all flowed in that first year from what must have been the frenetic pace of life in the new Department. The dual thrust of all this activity was to achieve a supply of adequate school buildings and to secure a supply of adequately trained teachers. In connection with the latter aim, the Minutes of 1846 created the system of government-financed pupil/teacher five-year apprenticeships, leading eventually through Queen's Scholarships to two further years of full-time study in training colleges for the more able. This probably did more than anything else to bring an essential degree of literacy and numeracy to the rapidly growing and increasingly urbanised population of Victorian Britain. The Department has from Kay's time been much more closely involved in the training and qualifying of teachers than in most aspects of the service. Given the absence of any regulatory professional body, it is bound to continue its close involvement if pupils are not to become the innocent victims of the untrained and unqualified.

James Phillips Kay served for a decade as Secretary to the Department and he effectively determined the methods of working and approach which remained characteristic. His expertise was greatly respected by what were in effect his Whig patrons, Lansdowne and Lord John Russell. He was much disliked by such as Sir James Graham and by some of the Treasury circle including John Parker and Spring Rice. He was from a fairly Radical, middle-class background with much of his formative period spent in Manchester. He brought into the Department people rather like himself, social investigators and educationalists such as E. C. Tufnell, J. O. Symons and W. G. Lumley from the Poor Law Commission and a Statistical Society member. It has been pointed out elsewhere that while Balliol College was associated with the movement for civil service reform and the work of the Northcote Trevelyan Commission, it seems to have had a particularly close hold on the Education Department for Jowett's College provided a succession of secretaries from R. R. W. Lingen who took over from Kay, to F. R. Sandford, P. Cumin and G. W. Kekewich who was there when it became the Board of Education under the Act of 1899. (3) Richard Johnson has

[page 6]

suggested that membership of the Balliol intellectual elite produced 'a lack of awe for their political superiors. They plotted and planned self-assertively for their just rewards in terms of salary or position. Lingen being a sort of careers guidance officer in such matters.' He was a formidable character and seems to have given Lord Granville a particularly hard time when Lord President. When Granville tried to appoint an examiner of whom Lingen disapproved, the latter sent him a protest of 12 pages. Granville returned a soothing reply only to receive a second dose of medicine. Lingen got his way for the Lord President did not proceed with the appointment. (4)



The Machinery of Government in the Later Nineteenth Century

The very considerable increase in public expenditure on education, which was itself a consequence of education's growing importance, led to the enlargement of the Committee of Council in 1856 and the appointment of a vice-president of the Committee to act as spokesman for education in the Commons, just as the Lord President spoke for the Committee of Council for Education in the Lords. This arrangement led to some confusion as to quite what were the responsibilities of each and the opinions given to the Commons Select Committees of 1865, 1866 and 1884 were almost as numerous as the witnesses. In 1865 Lingen defended the existing position on the somewhat odd ground that having the alternative, namely one minister of public instruction responsible to the Commons, would be unwise since the job would be too humdrum to attract a man of possible Cabinet rank. (5) By 1884 Sandford told the Select Committee that 'the Lord President is the Minister, I may say de jure, and the Vice President very much the Minister de facto'. By this time there could really be little doubt but that education was mainly Commons business both because of the large vote involved and because of the interest of the localities in the matter. (6)

Indeed, from 1870 certain localities had duties and standing in the governance of elementary education and the Education Department had to adapt itself to the new situation. If ever there had been a moment when the central government itself might have become a provider of schools it was probably in the late 1860s. The voluntary agencies on whom reliance had been placed so far

[page 7]

had clearly failed to provide a school place for every child; there could be no question of universal education without some official public provision of places. W E. Forster and Lord Ripon gave serious consideration to the state itself providing the schools needed at Treasury expense. The main factors against this solution were the great administrative problems foreseen for a central office trying to set up and run schools all over the country. Politically also it was thought to be unwise as appearing to give too much power to the central administration. The essence of the scheme proposed to the Cabinet in October 1869 was that boroughs and parishes would be required to make returns showing the number of places in schools lying within their boundaries. If this were less than the number of potential pupils, and if the voluntary agencies still could not or would not fill the gap, then the localities would have to levy an education rate and provide the schools. Interestingly enough, Forster favoured an education rate as against an education assessment on income-tax payers on the grounds that more paid rates than income tax and more would therefore have to contribute to meeting the cost of the service which is, I believe, an argument now used by those who favour the community charge rather than the domestic rate for funding local services. (7)

Thus the school boards, the first local education authorities, were set up from 1870. They were single-purpose authorities, directly elected by ratepayers by a system of proportional representation. They not only provided such schools as were needed to supplement the local voluntary effort but also had powers to introduce and to enforce compulsory attendance at all schools, voluntary and board. The clerk to a school board of a large city was its first chief education officer. The larger boards had full committee and sub-committee systems and that essential direct relationship began to emerge between the Education Department and the chief officers of local education authorities (LEAs) - a relationship which was to form an essential element in administering the system until it became somewhat weakened and overlaid for a while a few years ago when, certainly in some of the localities, the link from the chief executive to the Environment Department seemed to matter more for the local education service. I think I ought to qualify any hint of 'partnership' between Department and locality at this time by reminding you that the Department could always 'default' a bad school board, that is to say, turn it out of office and either order a new election or set up a new board consisting entirely of the Board's nominees.

[page 8]

Kekewich later recounted that the largest school board defaulted in his time was Tottenham. A fresh election was ordered 'and an excellent result obtained'. (8)

The nineteenth-century approach to the machinery of government outside of the traditional departments of state - the Foreign Office, Home Office, Exchequer, etc. - was to set up an office to deal with each new field needing attention. Thus by the 1890s in education there was not only the Education Department but also the Science and Art Department at the South Kensington Museums and the Endowed Schools Commissioners at the Charity Commission. The Department of Science and Art had emerged from the Board of Trade where it had been first the Department of Practical Art, then Science and Art. In 1856 it was put under the Privy Council but had no organic link with the Education Department in Whitehall. By the 1890s its work lay in encouraging the study of almost all subjects except Classics and English Literature at secondary and technical college level. It did this through a system of prescribed syllabuses, examinations and grants for schools or evening classes proportionate to the success of their entrants in the Department's examinations. The Endowed Schools Commissioners at the Charity Commission were concerned mainly with the endowed grammar schools - most of which in fact also earned grant through the examinations of the Science and Art Department. The need to arrest the conflict and overlapping of the three offices was the main administrative reason for the Board of Education Act of 1899 which was to bring the three into one department, the Board of Education.

Initially the Act had no impact. When the Duke of Devonshire as Lord President sought to implement the amalgamation, William Abney, Secretary of the Science and Art Department, put up considerable resistance and wore the Duke down to the point where he eventually decided to leave matters as they were. In March 1900 he wrote in an office minute, 'I am inclined to think that ... there would not be much difficulty in retracting our pledges and in reverting for the present at least ... ' (9) O. R. Fearon at the Charity Commission proved even more difficult than Abney and it took a few more years before the education work from there could be brought under the Board. (10)

It was, in fact, the next Secretary, Robert Morant, who accomplished the implementation of the Board of Education Act in the early years of this century.

[page 9]

He drew these elements into three branches, elementary, secondary and technological, each working under a Permanent Assistant Secretary. Apart from its connections with secondary schools, the work of the former Science and Art Department went into the technological branch, which handled the administration and inspection of technical institutions and evening classes in receipt of grant as well as the South Kensington Museums, the Geological Survey and the Royal Colleges of Art and Science. It was only in 1908 that a new building enabled these various units to come together physically. The Education Department alone was housed in five different buildings at the time the Board of Education Act was passed in 1899. A departmental committee had reported in 1896 that the existing 'chance medley' of buildings defied the due organisation of the work and that sections dealing with each other could not be put into proximity.



The Influence of Robert Morant

But Morant's main achievement was not the effective establishment of the Board of Education, significant as that was. It was the Education Act of 1902 which drew together the voluntary and board schools into a single maintained system of non-provided and provided schools under the new LEAs. Administratively this legislation did for educational administration in the localities what the Board of Education Act of 1899 at least provided for at the centre. It was achieved partly through exploiting the political situation of the day. The Tory government's supporters - especially churchmen - were keen to put an end to the usually Liberal and Nonconformist school boards in the cities and to make more use of the county councils under whose aegis technical education committees had operated since 1889. County and county borough councils were to be the new most-purpose education authorities, charged with maintaining all types of elementary schools, provided or non-provided. Politically this ensured the extension of rate aid to denominational schools. The system survived essentially because the Lords rejected various attempts by the Commons to change this settlement in the years following the Liberal triumph of 1906. The animus which this built up played a full part in preparing the way for the Parliament Act of 1911 and the limitation on the power of the Lords then enacted.

[page 10]

So far as the local governance of education was concerned, the new authorities could only discharge their duties through specially appointed committees through which education powers were to be exercised. The powers of raising a rate and borrowing alone were reserved to the parent body; all else stood referred. The composition of the committees was carefully laid down under statute by the Board. The required pattern was to have two-thirds of members drawn from the parent council and one-third from other groups with expertise and interests in education. In the Board's model scheme there was a list of interests which were always to be represented: university education, secondary education of boys and girls, technical, commercial and industrial education, training of teachers, elementary education. No education committee could be set up until the Board accepted that its composition met the requirements set out in the model scheme. (11) A large authority, Lancashire, typically met these requirements by incorporating provision in its scheme for representatives from Manchester and Liverpool universities, three from the Church of England, two from the Free Churches and one each from the Roman Catholics, secondary teachers, elementary school teachers, the Association of Lancashire non-county boroughs, the Royal Lancaster Agricultural Society and Wigan Mining and Technical College. (12) These hybrid education committees remained the key element of local educational governance until they were overtaken in some places and overshadowed in others by local government changes in the 1970s. The hybrid committee concept was a recognition that the maintained system can only be successfully administered where all who have contributed or are contributing to it have the opportunity in some way to share responsibility for its operation. In education the various interests involved and their nature have often made successful governance much more a matter of persuading and influencing rather than directing or controlling in a way that may be appropriate in some other fields of public administration. The education system involves matters of conscience and of personal belief and these must affect not only the mode of government but also its form.

It was characteristic of Morant that he built the Board of Education into an efficient and effective department dealing in a reasonably co-ordinated and coherent manner with the various areas of education. He also caused a good deal of offence. Among the groups who mistrusted him were the Free churches, many Liberal politicians, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and a great many

[page 11]

Welshmen. Rate aid for Church schools was anathema in much of Wales and the Education (Local Authority Default) Act of 1904 was seen as characterising Morant's intolerant and arrogant attitude towards Nonconformity since the Act imposed sanctions on authorities in Wales which refused rate aid to voluntary schools. An organisational consequence of this was that as soon as the Liberal government came into office in 1906 the decision was taken to set up a Welsh Department to deal with the work of the Board in Wales. Lloyd George's influence ensured that the officer at the head of it should be a full Permanent Secretary, not an Assistant Secretary as the Board had suggested. Alfred Davis, a solicitor practising in Liverpool, a Liberal and Nonconformist acquaintance of Lloyd George, was appointed and was directly answerable for all Welsh matters to the President.

Five years later Morant himself was transferred out of the Board to organise the new national health insurance scheme after the Holmes circular affair (13) which was highly critical of local authority inspectors, most of whom were drawn from the ranks of elementary school teachers. Just as in the nineteenth century the energetic, creative Kay-Shuttleworth was followed by a series of career administrators merely adapting so far as they had to to the pressures of the day, so in the twentieth century an energetic, creative and dynamic Secretary, Morant, was followed by rather less impressive office-holders. L. A. Selby-Bigge took over in 1912 and sought to foster the partnership notion with local authorities and teachers; a worthy and proper aim, and especially at that time a healing task, but within the Board he seems to have been almost wholly negative. The Board was one of the four modern departments to have had some prestige in Whitehall in the years before 1914. The Education Act of 1918 has been shown to consist almost entirely of reforms already worked up in the office before Morant's departure and, in any case, very little was done to implement the Act when passed. (14) When some of the senior officers within the Board pushed a scheme to reorganise the work on a more territorial basis, Selby-Bigge submitted the proposal to the President (H. A. L. Fisher) with a catalogue of possible risks and disasters, adding as a post-scriptum that he only had another four years to serve and that 'I am too conscious of my own limitations to believe that I could take responsibility for a fundamental change of office machinery together with the other work which would fall upon me'. If the scheme were to be adopted 'it had much better be done by my successor'. (15) Fisher accepted Selby-Bigge's

[page 12]

recommendation 'if only for reasons of personnel' as he minuted somewhat cryptically. Thus it was a few more years before a scheme of reorganisation for the main branches on the lines of the rejected plan came to be adopted.



The Second World War and the Act of 1944

The years between the wars were not a happy period for either the Board or, indeed, for the education service more generally. The standing of the Board of Education in Whitehall sank low, partly because of the general thrust of governmental policies and partly because the attitude of presidents - archetypally Eustace Percy (1924-29) - undermined the Board's position with the local authorities. Even in such a non-educational matter as air raid precautions (ARP) the Board seemed unable to keep pace with other departments. The approach of war meant that some sort of steps needed to be taken to prepare the schools for the emergency ahead. The Board tried to issue a circular on air raid precautions in 1936 but had difficulty in agreeing its terms with the Home Office so it eventually appeared in 1938. This and its revision offered grant for the construction of air raid shelters at the usual education rate of 50 per cent instead of up to 70 per cent offered by the Home Office itself to local authorities for public shelters. The LEAs of course complained and, more to the point, hardly any undertook any sort of shelter construction. The files show that every approach - and LEA pressure ensured the matter was not allowed to rest - was brushed aside without too much effort by reference to the theory of repercussions - if education got the ARP rate of grant the repercussions on ordinary employers would be very serious, etc. It was only in October 1940, following the fall of France and the replacement of Chamberlain by the Churchill government, that LEAs were offered 100 per cent grant aid for work on shelters but by then social attitudes generally were changing rapidly; a change perhaps typified in the attitude of The Times leaders for Geoffrey Dawson finally retired that autumn and R. M. Barrington-Ward took over as editor.

The chillingly ingrained capacity of the Board to avoid fighting for its own - and therefore education's - case within the government had become chronic. It is, therefore, hardly a matter for surprise that some of those most keenly aware of

[page 13]

the weak position of the Board of Education pre-war were a number of its senior officers. They were also quick to feel the change in mood produced by the war and the successively deeper crises which accompanied it. In retrospect the story of the Board's virtual impotence on the issue of ARP grant for schools until the change in national and governmental attitudes serves to exemplify this. Thus it was that the Permanent Secretary, Maurice Holmes, wrote his minute at the wartime office at Bournemouth in November 1940 setting up the meetings of senior officers who produced the Green Book of 1941 and in effect formulated the legislation of 1944. The tone of the minute made it clear that Holmes sensed that growing pressure for reform meant that the Board had to lift itself from its customary condition of humdrum administrative humility and for the first time for years to try to take the initiative. He wrote, 'It is clear that other persons and bodies have ideas on post-war educational reconstruction, and I think this is a matter in which the Board should lead rather than follow.' (16)

One recipient of this minute, the Deputy Secretary, R. S. Wood, had been left at Alexandra House, Kingsway, with the President and Parliamentary Secretary, and his response on receiving the Permanent Secretary's minute reveals a great deal both of how ineffective some of its staff felt the Board had become and of the direction in which senior officials intended it should move now that the oppressive pre-war mould was passing and new opportunities were opening up. In his paper he noted that since 1902 the Board had been charged by statute with the supervision of the public education system and for some time it had fulfilled that role. But as time went on the Board's administration had come to develop from below, waiting for issues to arise before taking any action instead of anticipating them. The attitude of some presidents had not always been helpful. Under Eustace Percy the Board's influence had diminished for his 'general policy was to belittle the powers and position of the department, and to circumscribe their control. I do not think that we have ever fully recovered from the damage of that period ... '. He went on to add that 'the prospect of educational reconstruction that lies ahead offers an admirable opportunity for re-establishing the position of the Board as the body competent to lead and to direct the educational system of the country.' (17)

The need for a much stronger and more effective education department came to be increasingly widely accepted, indeed demanded, by public opinion.

[page 14]

Evacuation and wartime population movement led to much criticism of varied levels of provision by local authorities. The achievement of a much stronger central department had obvious legislative implications which can be seen in the structure and approach of the 1944 Act. When the Education Bill was published, the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum argued that the new ministry would be charged with the duty of securing the effective execution by LEAs of national policy instead of with the mere superintendence of matters relating to education in England and Wales. 'What is involved is a recognition of the principle that the public system of education, though administered locally, is the nation's concern, the full benefits of which should be equally available to all alike, wherever their homes may be.' (18) As enacted a few months later, Section 1 of the Education Act asserted bluntly that it was to be the duty of the Minister 'to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area'. It should be remembered that, given the direct and specific education grant system then envisaged, the enforcement of this seemed entirely practical. The actual change of title from Board to Ministry was made under pressure from all sides of the Commons which wanted 'a real Ministry'.

The stronger administrative stance envisaged for the Minister also found expression in more far-reaching enforcement provisions at different points in the Act. Whatever challenges may have been made in the courts in the years after education grants were abolished, Section 68 was certainly intended and believed for some years to give the Minister very wide powers indeed to direct LEAs and school governors as to how they were to perform their duties. Section 99 was also intended to strengthen the power of the Minister in dealing with governors or LEAs if he was satisfied that they were not discharging fully any duty. Section 89 was also considered to contain an important extension of the department's powers. For the first time it gave the Minister a statutory involvement in teachers' pay machinery along with power to issue an order requiring the payment of nationally agreed scales by all LEAs - possibly this involvement is now regarded as the one which has given more difficulty than almost any other.

[page 15]

Apart from the legislation, a departmental committee was set up under R. S. Wood to review the staffing and organisation of the office; it reported in July 1944 that the passage of the new legislation would throw much more work on the department both immediately following its enactment and still more as the educational developments provided for in the bill came into operation. But quite apart from this, due regard would have to be paid to the fact that the position of the Ministry of Education would be very different from that of the Board of Education. The balance as between the LEAs and the central department would be radically changed. A major responsibility would in future rest upon the Ministry to show much greater initiative actively to direct the working out of a national policy and to secure that it was put into effect throughout the country. 'In short, the Ministry will have to give a lead and not wait, as so often in the past, on the initiative of local authorities.' (19)

The committee's report argued that the territorial organisation which had been introduced after 1922, but which had had to be largely set aside in wartime, should be reintroduced so as to give a greater measure of cohesion to the Board's dealings with individual local authorities and to give the authorities themselves a point of reference within the Ministry whatever their business. The existing E, S and T branches were to become simply Schools and FE. The movement of technical schools away from their support base in what now became FE seems in retrospect to have had the unexpected consequence of contributing to the failure of the secondary technical school concept in this country well before the comprehensives came to dominate.

The most difficult area in the years ahead was thought likely to be the achievement of the necessary building programme. At Cabinet level there had already been a hard struggle to get any priority at all even for the necessary building materials and labour to build schools to take children from the new housing estates that were being planned. The pre-war approach of virtually leaving local authorities to deal with building would have been to invite failure for the whole programme of educational reconstruction. Hence a special buildings supply section would need to be set up to concentrate on priorities and to ensure there was no duplication. The inability of the building industry to cope with the situation in the later 1940s, the famines of bricks, cement, steel and so on, were far worse than had been envisaged by the committee, so that in the

[page 16]

event school building became an activity in which the Ministry's machinery had to be expanded well beyond anything foreseen at this stage. When new Building Regulations were issued in April 1945 there was some grumbling that the minimum standards of accommodation required were too lavish, but the Ministry was at that time very conscious that the buildings would be in use for many years and did not want new schools to emerge from the reconstruction which would soon appear inadequate. In the spring of 1946 a memorandum on enforcement was sent to inspectors 'in words which the Minister [Ellen Wilkinson] directed should be underlined, that it cannot "be too strongly emphasised that the Building Regulations have statutory sanction and are minimum requirements rather than maximum standard"'. (20)



Two Decades of 'Consensus'

The extent to which the Ministry of Education succeeded in sustaining the more active role was conditioned in part by post-war developments which strengthened the influence of the LEA interest. Later on local government reorganisation, the increased politicisation of local councils and the attitude of the Environment Department all contributed to the growing difficulties faced by the Department of Education and Science.

For convenience, most of the first two decades after the Butler Act came into force on 1 April 1945 may be regarded as a period of consensus. Indeed, one of the aims of the Department was to achieve consensus and the key figure was William Alexander, Secretary to the Association of Education Committees (AEC). Although this association had been founded in 1904 and was the successor body to the School Boards Association, it was only after the abolition of the Part III (Elementary only) LEAs in 1945 that it brought together all education committees. Most of the counties had stayed outside hitherto but Alexander now managed to bring them in. The AEC was the lead organisation for the local authorities in all education business. Both the County Councils Association (CCA) and the Association of Municipal Corporations (AMC) from time to time complained about this, but Alexander was more expert, gave much more worthwhile advice and could deliver support for any agreement. As early as 1946

[page 17]

the CCA and AMC secretaries complained jointly to Sir John Maud - the Permanent Secretary - that the AEC Secretary had been consulted about a circular but they had not been. A minute to the Permanent Secretary set out the position neatly:

If ... we frequently call upon Dr Alexander, this is because his wider experience and interest are especially valuable, and not because he represents the AEC rather than the AMC or any other body. Also his extensive and constant contacts with Education Officers all over the country put him in a specially good position to offer informal advice and to explain to them the procedures which are the outcome of the working policies. (21)

Certainly the successful building programme, the provision of a place in a secondary school for every pupil over 11 by 1964, and the growth and success achieved by 1964 owed much to Alexander's co-operation. The partnership with the teachers' associations was also a very positive help in these years. Sir Ronald Gould, General Secretary of the NUT, co-operated on many vital issues although he never succeeded in establishing quite the position of clear leadership among teachers' associations which Alexander established among the authorities bodies in, for instance, the Burnham machinery.

One mechanism of control which the Butler Act gave the Department was the development plan which every LEA had to submit. Before departing from this an LEA had to seek agreement to the necessary amendment and keep it updated. This machinery proved to be hopelessly cumbrous and was greatly simplified in 1949. Apart from the administrative clumsiness of the development plan arrangement, the greater confidence in the evidently co-ordinated efforts of the LEAs in a season of consensus made the elaborate original forms of this control seem unnecessary. But certainly getting LEAs to propose development plans was a valuable exercise in that it ensured that authorities viewed their service as a whole.

The years of consensus saw the Ministry giving way to its partners in the field of curriculum and examinations. Once the GCE was established in place of School and Higher School Certificates, it tried for a long time to prevent any further public examination being established somewhat below O-level, but in

[page 18]

the end intense pressure from the AEC and the LEAs, and largely supported by the teachers, led to the Certificate of Secondary Education and the setting up of the regional boards to conduct them. The attempt by the Ministry to secure some greater standing in the area of the curriculum through setting up the Curriculum Study Group led Mary Smieton, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, to write to teachers' and local authority associations in March 1962 to let them know what was afoot. The early cautious replies of the partners developed before long into something of a confrontation which led to a withdrawal by the Ministry and produced the Schools Council for the Curriculum and Examinations. (22) The effect was to formalise the position where the curriculum was essentially a matter for the teachers through their associations for in fact the LEAs had little impact on much of its work.

From about 1963 or 1964 there seems to have been very little input into the school system from the Department, apart from the comprehensivisation drive by the Wilson government. Two or three decades after it was enacted, Section 1 of the 1944 Act, which placed on the Secretary of State the duty 'to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area', had come to be regarded by some - quite unhistorically - as no more than a piece of rhetoric. Schools Branch actually handled little apart from the capital building programme allocations which were project-based, the closures under Section 13 of rural schools etc, and parental appeals on school admissions. Circular 10/65 gave the branch a new task from 1965 - trying to change the nature of the system in a comprehensive direction.

Following the Report of the Robbins Committee into Higher Education, the Ministry pressed hard for a reversal of the structural recommendations of the committee. Sir Herbert Andrew, Permanent Secretary at the DES, argued in a minute that 'to have separate ministries for separate kinds of educational institutions would appear to many people to be recognising a social division which we no less than the opposition believe must disappear ... undergraduates are still overwhelmingly middle class in origin'. (23) The government did in fact merge the Ministry of Science with Education in 1964 - hence the current title of the Department - and the University Grants Committee (UGC) became a departmental advisory committee advising the Secretary of State. While the UGC

[page 19]

arrangement worked perfectly well to a non-education department - the Treasury - it is clear that the outcome in terms of sustaining quality of study and research in universities has been much more occluded as a result of trying to work to an education department. It was probably inevitable that the arrangement should be ended and it may be that the auguries for higher education with the twin Universities Funding Council (UFC) and Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (PCFC) are hardly bright either, but reflections on that as on the final years of the UGC must await 10 April 2039, by which time your bicentennial lecturer will have read the relevant files and be in a position to advance some conclusions.



Problems in the 1970s and 1980s

The last quarter-century has seen a major departure from the system of administration as designed in the Second World War. The coherence of much of that depended on the backing of the education grant arrangements which were swept away in 1958 - with the education grant went the controls which the Department could always have fallen back on. Alexander fought hard against this change, rightly judging that it would eventually undermine the education service. David Nenk, Accountant-General at the Ministry of Education, persuaded Sir David Eccles to go along with it in return for Treasury support for the very large capital investment then needed in the secondary school building programme. Until the 1970s the change appeared to have little effect; the increase in pupil numbers and the increase in the sums available to local authorities kept the possible pressures at bay. Informal knowledge of the education quantum going into the block grant must also have helped to maintain the position. The economic and financial crisis which began in 1973 and the organisational changes flowing from the Local Government Act of 1972 and the Bains Report served to undermine the national system of education.

The theories of local government which were predominant in the late 1960s and 1970s were eventually embraced by the Environment Department and, indeed, the old Ministry of Housing and Local Government had moved towards this. In essence much greater emphasis was then laid upon local

[page 20]

authorities being corporate entities deciding for themselves how to deploy their total resources, including their block, non-specific, general grant income and therefore to decide how much or little of this or that service to provide. They were moving away from being local providers of nation-wide services as such. Inevitably this cut clean across the pattern of educational governance which for over a century had rested upon the twin pillars of national policy for a national service but with local providers be they churches, school boards or LEAs. Michael Heseltine, then a junior minister at Environment, told the July meeting of the Society of Education Officers in 1971 that he could see no reason why anyone from education should be on a committee looking into the future organisation of local government and he doubted whether statutory education committees were necessary. (24) There was no surprise when the Bains Committee of four Clerks, two Treasurers and the Company Secretary of lCI, reflecting the enmity of Clerks and Treasurers to the protected position of education committees, recommended an end to statutory education committees and an end to requirements for the appointment of particular officers such as education officers. There was heavy emphasis on the Clerk/Treasurer view of local authorities as corporate entities; local councils were not viewed primarily as many residents see them, as local providers of nation-wide services. The Bains Report argued that statutory committees for particular services encouraged departmentalism. (25)

The providers of schools which were not local authorities, the churches and voluntary school agencies, were to have no role in the governance of education and made vigorous representations to the Environment Department; the AEC and this Department fought hard against the proposal to enact all this in the new Local Government Bill. (26) The conflict with Environment went to Cabinet where Margaret Thatcher won and Peter Walker lost on the issue of the statutory education committee and its mixed composition and on the question of having education officers. (27)

Nevertheless the local government reform of 1972, with its wholesale redrawing of boundaries, the arrival of the chief executives and the subjection of education committees to the overlordship of Policy and Resources Committees, did much to make it increasingly difficult to discern quite how an effective national education policy could have reality. A rigid application of the logic of the

[page 21]

prevailing doctrine in local government to the centre would presumably have led to the transfer of Schools Branch and such functions as it exercised to the Environment Department.

Meanwhile the financial crises of the 1970s made real the forebodings that the 1958 Act had generated. While the DES itself still conducted effective negotiations about the education element needs with the educational group from the local authorities, it was possible to feed into the discussions at Environment a tolerable estimate of the requirements of education. After 1958 this no longer meant that education locally would get this sum but there were local authority people who knew the figures and the arrangements did make adequate provision for the needs of education. But during the late 1970s the needs of each service came no longer to be the main factor; the decisive point became what the government felt it could afford overall. Thus in this way too the Department lost a degree of influence it once had and the 1958 forebodings of the AEC became justified.

Within the local authorities themselves a number of factors served to weaken the position of many education committees. If education was just another council committee, then the main decisions on policy would be taken outside the constitutional mechanism in the caucus meetings of the majority party, often without any input into decision-making from professional officers. The increasing domination of a more strident party political presence in some of the counties as well as in the metropolitan districts ensured that authorities with education powers would be divided into separate national organisations, the ACC and the AMA, with usually conflicting party allegiance. The weakened position of education committees and officers in these circumstances meant that the time had finally come to put the knife in and to get rid of the national organisation of education committees, the AEC. The Council of Local Education Authorities (CLEA) was not a replacement. According to Edward Short it was 'a simple joint unit doing servicing'; joint between local authorities, not education committees. (28)

While it is usually difficult to make any accurate assessment of public feeling, it does appear that both of the big political parties felt that there was mileage for them in distancing themselves from the public education system and

[page 22]

in becoming critics of it. Certainly Conservative politicians have made many criticisms of the schools and of teachers and the political judgement which led to Callaghan's speech at Ruskin College, Oxford in October 1976 on the need for more rigorous educational standards. (29) along with the leaking of the so-called Yellow Book, was presumably based on a similar assessment of the public's attitude. By 1980 the restriction by the Environment Department on the free flow of circulars from the DES to local authorities was perhaps the high-water mark of the attempt to break with the traditional link between the Department and the chief education officer as central to the governance of the system and to see it increasingly replaced by the link from the Environment Department to the chief executive. The perceived decline in the public standing of the education service and of the quality of its offering cannot be separated from the undermining of the position of the agencies governing education both at the centre and in the localities.

The historian can only really work from the records and the last few years are by definition beyond his reach. However, the overall impression which I have is that the Department has been seeking to take, and to some extent may be succeeding in taking, initiatives designed to enable the national system to cohere rather more and to check the fissiparous tendencies which served to accommodate weaknesses in the quality of the education service in some parts of the country In 1982 an attempt was made to revive an Education Block Grant controlled by the DES but that failed in committee. When there are no records one has to rely on journalists and the Financial Times may not have been too far from the truth when it reported that Environment had strongly opposed the proposal. 'Civil servants in the Environment Department argued the scheme would break up their controversial system of allocating government block grants to councils ... Control of education spending would pass out of their hands into those of the Education Department.' (30)

Power to pay small amounts in specific grants to local authorities within closely defined limits has been won by the Department but the major initiative to launch the biggest curricular development before the 1988 Act, the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, came and was funded through the Department of Employment's Manpower Services Commission. By 1987 the Government had presumably decided that there was sufficient political mileage in being seen to

[page 23]

be 'doing something' about education for it to be at the top of its priorities for the coming Parliamentary session and a considerable Act of 238 sections and 13 schedules passed into law last year. Some of you are in a better position than I to talk about the measure and its possible consequences, but given the passing in the 1970s of the traditional LEAs and their replacement by local authorities with certain powers in education, the Department alone was really in a position to give the necessary lead to the public education service and it is clearly seeking to do that through the National Curriculum. Now that the LEAs in the 1902 or 1944 sense have for the most part gone, the application of the Government's desire to break up monopoly provision of services by introducing opting-out or local management, with greater parental and less local councillor involvement, might possibly have the effect of giving more weight to the more genuinely educational standpoint of the schools as distinct from local political caucuses. Perhaps the most important factor which will decide the success or otherwise of the measure is the resource which any government is prepared to put into running the system. For instance, a key to the success of the measure will be the quality of teaching and, unless resources are provided to attract to teaching its share of the ablest in each age cohort, the potential of the bill will not be achieved. Again, in higher education, it is to be hoped that the Act's new machinery will not be used as a more efficient way to continue the process of cheapening and weakening, but rather that the opportunity will be taken to make a fresh start. The attempt was being made in the nineteenth century in this country to run universities on industrial, commercial and private benevolence along with as much charging as the 'market' would bear. Even in the more favourable context of Victorian England it failed. The first official step in the acknowledgement of its failure was the earliest Treasury grants to universities 100 years ago this month, under a Treasury Minute of 11 March 1889 which also set up the Committee to advise on Grants to University Colleges in Great Britain. (31) Thus in some form the UGC, working either to the Treasury or to this Department, has spanned just a century before being replaced by the UFC.

It is clear that over the whole period of 150 years, a period which has seen a massive growth and development of the education system, the governance of education has continued to rest on the twin foundations of national policy expressed by and through the Department and depending for its implementation on the co-operation and effort of the providers of educational

[page 24]

facilities - churches, governors, school boards, local authorities - in the localities. In commenting on the events of recent years I fear I may have stepped beyond the strict limits of historical competence. Of one thing I am quite certain and that is that more recent events will make a fascinating story for scholars to unravel and to set in perspective in due course.


[page 25]


1. J. Kay-Shuttleworth, 'An apology for fifteen years of administration and its consequences' in B. C. Bloomfield (ed.), The Autobiography of Sir james Kay-Shuttleworth, 1964, pp. 59-60.

2. Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education, 1839-40, 1840, minutes of 24 September 1839, pp. 1-2.

3. Richard johnson, 'Administrators in education before 1870: patronage, social position and role' in Gillian Sutherland (ed.), Studies in the growth of nineteenth-century government, 1972, pp. 118-20.

4. ibid., p. 129.

5. HC Select Committee, 1865, QQ 23-41, Evidence of Lingen.

6. HC Select Committee, 1884, QQ 46-52, Evidence of Sandford.

7. PRO, ED 24/2, Memorandum of suggestions for consideration in framing the Education Bill, W E. Forster, 21 October 1869.

8. G. W. Kekewich, The Education Department and After, Constable, London, 1920, pp. 168-9.

9. PRO, ED 24/64, Devonshire to Gorst, 26 March 1900.

10. PRO, ED 24/63, Memorandum on the question of the transfer of the administration of the Endowed Schools Acts from the Charity Commission to the Board of Education by D. R. F.[earon].

11. Board of Education, Circulars 470 and 470B, 1903.

12. PRO, ED 139/102, Establishment of education committees, Lancashire County Council, 5 February 1903.

13. See M. J. Wilkinson, 'The Holmes Circular Affair', Journal of Educational Administration and History, XII, 2, pp. 29-38.

14. Geoffrey Sherrington, English Education, Social Change and War, 1911-20, Manchester University Press, 1981, pp. 85-6.

15. PRO, ED 23/216E, Phipps to the Secretary, 26 February 1918; L. A. Selby-Bigge to President, 11 October 1918.

16. PRO, ED 46/155, Post-war educational reconstruction, Holmes, 5 November 1940.

17 PRO, ED 136/212, R. S. Wood to Holmes, 8 November 1940.

18. Board of Education, Education Bill. Explanatory Memorandum by the President of the Board of Education, 1943, para. 6, Comd. 6492.

[page 26]

19. PRO, ED 23/680, Report of the Committee on Office Organisation and Staffing.

20. AEC archive, B 112a, William Cleary (Ministry) to W. P. Alexander, 27 May 1946.

21. PRO, ED 136/807, WRL to Permanent Secretary, 16 January 1947.

22. Peter Gosden, The Education System since 1944, Martin Robinson, Oxford, 1983, pp. 76-82.

23. Minute from Herbert Andrew as Permanent Secretary in E. Boyle, Government, Parliament and the Robbins Report, Joseph Payne Memorial Lecture, 1979, p. 14.

24. Education, 16 July 1971.

25. Department of the Environment and Welsh Office, Statutory provisions affecting the internal organisation of local authorities in England and Wales, 26 August 1971, and Interim Report of the working group on local authority management, 16 September 1971.

26. AEC, A 1065, Alexander to Secretary of the working group on local authority management structures, 13 October 1971, and other correspondence on this file.

27. AEC, A 1065, Alexander to Pile, 8 November 1971; Pile to Alexander, 10 November 1971.

28. George Cooke and Peter Gosden, Education Committees, Longman, London, 1986, pp. 95-6.

29. Bernard Donoughue, Prime Minister: the conduct of policy under Harold Wilson and James Caliaghan, Jonathan Cape, 1987, pp. 109-13.

30. Financial Times, 2 August 1982, 'Education block grant scheme rejected'.

31. PP 1889, LIX, p. 4.

[page 27]

Watchdogs and Missionaries
The First Hundred Years

Lecture delivered at
Church House, Westminster,
on the occasion of the
150th Anniversary of the establishment of
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools

7 December 1989


Professor Peter Gordon
Institute of Education
University of London

[page 28]

Peter Gordon 1990

[page 29]


The description of the work of the Inspectorate as watchdogs and missionaries does not, as it might seem, date back to the mid-nineteenth century, but, in fact, appears in the Ministry of Education's Annual Report for 1949. These, together with a third function, to act as the eyes and ears of the Department, have from the beginning to the present day formed the basis of the Inspectorate's activities.

The origins of the Inspectorate are fairly widely known. In 1833, the voluntary schools were in a state of financial crisis and to help the situation the government of the day, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Althorp, granted a sum of 20,000 for the erection of schools for the children of the poorer classes. Five years later in 1838, two Whig MPs, R. A. Slaney and Thomas Wyse, complained that as the government did not inspect schools, it did not know how its money was being spent. (1) Action was promised. In April the following year, the Committee of the Privy Council on Education was established with a Lord President, Lord Lansdowne, to administer the increased sum of 30,000 and make improvements in education. That same month it was agreed that two inspectors should be appointed to assist the Council in this work.

The notion of school inspection was not a new one. Both the main religious societies had earlier in the century appointed inspectors for their schools, the National Society (representing the Church of England) in 1812 and the British and Foreign School Society (representing the Nonconformists) in 1830. Abroad, too, there was a well developed system of state inspection in Holland and Prussia and, nearer home, in Ireland. (2) In addition, school managers were formally charged with inspection duties later. One HMI, J. R. Blakiston, urged managers to depute one of their body to inspect the school daily, adding, 'such Managers would no more leave everything to teachers than would the colonel of the regiment leave all to its adjutants and subalterns'. (3)

Given the Church opposition to State intervention in popular education, the appointment of acceptable inspectors presented difficulties. Dr J. P. Kay (later Kay-Shuttleworth), the dynamic Secretary of the Committee of the Privy Council for Education, insisted that it was an indispensable condition of receiving grant aid that an inspector should be able to visit every school. There, he would be

[page 30]

authorised to inspect the secular (but not religious) instruction and the general running of schools and prepare a report for the Committee. It was not until 9 December 1839 that the first two HM Inspectors were appointed.

The first, Seymour Tremenheere, a barrister, was a member of the secularist Central Society of Education, a group dedicated to reforming education. His Cornish friends recommended him to Lord Lansdowne as 'the only Whig in the family'. Liking his conciliatory manner, Lansdowne appointed him. Not surprisingly, Tremenheere's reports included comments on social as well as educational conditions which he encountered on his visits. One of his first assignments was to proceed to South Wales to inquire into the causes of a rebellion of miners near Newport, involving some 30,000-40,000 men. His account appeared in the First Report of the Committee of Council in 1840 (4) and makes fascinating reading. Besides inspecting schools run by the two Societies, he also undertook inspections of Admiralty and Army schools. After four years he became the first Inspector of Mines, combining the work with that of an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner.

An incident recorded by Tremenheere is worth repeating. One day, he received from the Education Office a large parcel of blank Inspectors' Diaries, with each sheet being nearly a yard [0.9m] square. Tremenheere wrote a few words in the first column and drew wavy lines down all the rest; he repeated this operation at the end of the second month. Later, he received a note from the Lord President, requesting him to call. Entering the room, Tremenheere noticed that his two sheets had been pinned conspicuously to the mantelpiece 'as if they were spirited sketches by Landseer'. In the conversation which followed, the offending sheets were not referred to and soon afterwards these giant-size Diaries were withdrawn. (5)

The second Inspector, appointed three days after Tremenheere, was a clergyman, the Reverend John Allen, the chaplain of King's College, London, who was still not 30 years old (Tremenheere was 36). Allen had grave doubts about accepting the position in view of Church hostility towards the Government's scheme for education. He therefore consulted Bishop Otter of Chichester, who told him, 'If we are to have school inspectors, it will be better to have good men than bad ones. Perhaps you had better accept it. (6) Allen remained an HMI for

[page 31]

some eight years, holding at the same time his chaplaincy at King's College and also becoming a vicar in Shropshire.

To a large extent, the nature of the early Inspectorate was governed by the attitude of the Church. One Hampshire vicar had warned the Lord President in 1839, to introduce inspection 'would be to consent to the shearing of Sampson's locks, that the strong man might be delivered powerless into the hands of the Philistines'. (7) The Concordat of July 1840, a reconciliation between Church and State, was hammered out by Lansdowne and the Archbishop of Canterbury and became the basis for future procedure. First, the Archbishops were to be consulted before the appointment of Inspectors of Anglican schools was recommended; and the Archbishops were at liberty to put forward their own suggestions for candidates. Second, an Inspector's appointment could be terminated on the withdrawal of an Archbishop's concurrence; and third, Inspectors were to submit copies of their reports to the bishop of the diocese. Similar assurances were given to the British Society and other denominations during the following decade. It is clear that Kay's original notion of a unified national Inspectorate was weakened by the need to keep a balance between educational and religious interests; in fact, the Inspectorate was fragmented by serving six different denominational bodies. This state of affairs continued until 1870.



Who, then, were the Inspectors during this period and what were their backgrounds? HMI memoirs from this period stress the importance of their being of the same social class as school managers. Of the 93 appointed up to 1870, at least 80 had attended Oxford or Cambridge, many gaining first-class honours. In occupational background, 67 (almost 70 per cent) were clergymen, whilst 50 per cent had some teaching experience, though not in elementary schools. This latter category included Henry Moseley, Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at King's College, London, and Blakiston who had been headmaster of Preston Grammar School and Giggleswick, and there were four principals of teachers' training colleges. (8)

[page 32]

Appointment was in the hands of the Lord President, who kept a list of candidates. HMI were recruited in a haphazard way. Patronage was often a key element: the Reverend C. J. Robinson, before becoming an HMI, was a curate in a Hertfordshire parish of which Lord Salisbury was patron, and C. H. Alderson was Salisbury's brother-in-law. Matthew Arnold, perhaps the best-known Inspector, was at one time Lord Lansdowne's private secretary, and his younger brother, E. P Arnold, also became an Inspector. (9) Previous teaching experience, it was argued by the Council, was not a necessary qualification. As the Secretary of the Department later stated before a Select Committee on the Department in 1884, the Inspectors' duty 'is not so much to interfere with methods or systems of instruction as to report the results arrived at'. (10)

Kay from the beginning developed the tradition that HMI should not be mere functionaries but that they should be regarded as autonomous professionals, able to offer expert advice which should not be misused by politicians or civil servants. To strengthen their position and distance themselves from the different denominations with which they were connected, Inspectors were individually appointed by Order in Council, thus becoming Her Majesty's Inspectors. (11) HMI, therefore, so far as I am able to discover, differ from all other Government inspectorates, such as Factories, Probation, Pollution and Explosives, all of whom are appointed by the appropriate Secretary of State. The independence enjoyed by the Inspectorate stems from this fact. As late as 1946, new Inspectors were welcomed into the service with a letter from the Senior Chief Inspector, telling them that there were Inspectors still alive who remembered being introduced by headteachers as The gentleman from the King'.

Within a month of the appointment of Tremenheere and Allen, the duties of Inspectors had been drawn up by Kay on behalf of the Council. These Instructions to Inspectors spelt out the three main aspects of their work: to investigate applications for building grants, to examine and report on the work of schools and to make special inquiries into the state of elementary education in particular districts. To underline the inspecting rather than the examining role of HMI, Kay stated in the Instructions, 'It is of the utmost consequence that you should bear in mind that this inspection is not intended as a means of exercising control, but of affording assistance: that it is not to be regarded as operating for the restraint of local efforts, but for their encouragement.' (12)

[page 33]

Kay saw the Inspectorate as a body of educational missionaries which would lead to a more enlightened attitude to education. In 1852, Extracts from the Reports of HM Inspectors of Schools was published in book form for the information of managers and teachers. It urged the teacher to 'know how to encourage the good and kindly feeling in his pupils ... The more ignorant the pupils particularly if they have been neglected or harshly treated, the more they will require, and frequently repay, gentle and affectionate treatment.' And on the curriculum it was remarked that 'our consciences are far too easily satisfied by collecting together a number of children, without enquiring what they actually learn that is good and useful'. Nevertheless, on the matter of pedagogy, the volume was pleased to note that 'the old customs of making children repeat by rote, and reading without understanding, are decreasing in proportion as the necessity for a higher qualification for teachers is acknowledged'. (13)

If HMI were hopeful of bringing about change, they were in fact limited by the extension of statutory duties imposed on them by the Council. Perhaps the greatest burden was that following the 1846 Minute on Pupil Teachers. Suitable scholars from the age of 13 were to be apprenticed to schoolmasters in order to assist them with their work. Within three years, there were 4,000 pupil teachers each of whom was examined annually by HMI over the course of a week, each day lasting from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. By a Minute of April 1853, a revolutionary change was brought about in the duties of Inspectors in agricultural districts and in towns of less than 5,000 inhabitants. The registers of each school now had to be examined to ensure that pupils had made the necessary 192 attendances each year; the accounts had also to be scrutinised, and finally the scholars themselves, three-quarters of whom were required to pass a prescribed examination. (14) Here, the Inspectors graded them into 'Excellent, Good, Fair and Bad'. (One later HMI is reputed to have asked that his gravestone should bear the inscription 'P A. Barnett, HMI, Fairly Good'.) To help in this work, Assistant Inspectors, of the same social class as HMI, were appointed from 1850. By 1861, there were 36 HMI and 24 Assistant Inspectors. With this expansion in numbers, there were heard, for the first time, complaints from teachers about the lack of expert knowledge of new recruits to the Inspectorate.

The period between 1860 and 1895 was a difficult one for the Inspectorate. A much more instrumental view of education was taken by the central authority

[page 34]

and this led to attempts to diminish the influence of HMI, especially in its missionary role.

In 1858, a Royal Commission under the Duke of Newcastle was set up to 'inquire into the present state of popular education in England, and to consider and report what measures, if any, are required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people'. To a great extent, the Inspectorate were ignored by the Newcastle Commission. Its Report illustrated the hostility displayed towards the Inspectorate. Only six HMI out of the many witnesses were called to give evidence, and ten Assistant Commissioners were appointed to gather information at home and abroad on the state of elementary education. As the Report of the Commissioners curtly stated, 'The Inspectors are Inspectors of Schools, not of education.' (15) In its comments on the nature of inspection, the Commission attacked the position of HMI: 'At present, every inspector is independent, and practically almost uncontrolled, even by the central office. This state of things has grown up gradually and accidentally: it is in itself undesirable, and will become still more so when a greater number of schools are brought under inspection.' (16)

An important outcome of the Commission was the Revised Code of 1862 which changed the role of the Inspectorate for the next 30 years. HMI's main function, of giving advice and encouragement to schools, was subordinated to the task of controlling and examining. The Code, more popularly known as 'Payment by Results', set out a system of examinations of individual pupils, from the age of six, based on so-called Standards. The capitation grant was abolished; instead, the sums earned by the pupils were paid to managers of schools, who were now able to bargain, with teachers' salaries based on their pupils' performance. The only subjects which attracted grants were the 'three Rs' - reading, writing and arithmetic - and plain needlework for girls. Each of the Standards which pupils had to attain were set out in detail, and HMI were urged not to depart from the requirements. Henceforth, pupils were grouped by Standard rather than by age.

There were strong protests to the Council by members of the Inspectorate on the effects of the Revised Code, including a Grand Remonstrance to the Lord President, signed by 23 HMI. Matthew Arnold pointed out the mechanical nature

[page 35]

of teaching which such a system induced compared with the more enlightened methods practised on the Continent. (17) Another notable Inspector, Joshua Fitch, commented, 'That provision which virtually deprives the inspector of all oversight of the general instruction, and which limits his function to the duty of individual examination in reading, writing and arithmetic, is the most mischievous of all.' (18) HMI also forecast, correctly, that 'non-paying' subjects, such as geography, history, art and music, would be sacrificed to the 'three Rs'. The Revised Code altered the relationship between HMI and teachers, whose salary now depended very much on the outcome of the inspection. This was captured in Flora Thompson's description of an Inspector's visit to an Oxfordshire village school in Lark Rise to Candleford. 'The very sound of his voice scattered the few wits of the less gifted, and even those who could have done better were too terrified in his presence to be able to collect their thoughts or keep their hands from trembling.' (19)

A vivid illustration of the attitude of schools towards their pupils at this time is provided by one North Yorkshire school which in 1862 placed over its entrance the following stark inscription: 'Learn or Leave'.

Matthew Arnold called the 'Payment by Results' system a 'game of mechanical contrivance in which the teachers will and must more and more learn how to beat us'. For example, examination questions were circulated from school to school ahead of an Inspector's visit. A major worry for an all-male Inspectorate was the inspection of needlework. One HMI, E. M. Sneyd-Kynnersley, whose Assistant was commenting freely in a school on sewing, was confronted by the squire's wife, who with a mixture of mirth and indignation expostulated, 'Really, it is too ridiculous to see you gentlemen pretending to judge of needlework: there is Mr Pluckham, doesn't know the difference between feather-stitch and herringbone.' The Inspector commented on this incident, 'I had never heard of feather-stitch, but I took the earliest opportunity of making its acquaintance.' (20)

The relationship between HMI and the central authority, quite apart from the introduction of the Revised Code, had already been changing. As there was no Ministry of Education, the Committee of Council carried out these functions but without representation in the House of Commons. From 1857, the post of

[page 36]

Vice-President, virtually a Minister of Education, was established to remedy this defect. The appointment of Sir Charles Adderley to the post in the following year led to restrictions in the way HMI operated. Kay-Shuttleworth had encouraged the Inspectors to meet annually in London to discuss matters arising out of their work. By Adderley's time, such meetings were used as a forum for commenting on and even criticising the Department's policy, the Inspectors often voting on controversial issues. It was ruled that such procedures were to be deplored, and in 1859, Robert Lowe, the new Vice-President, forbade the holding of such conferences. No more were to be held for the next 20 years.

There was another issue which was of more crucial importance to the future working of the Inspectorate. In January 1861, Lowe issued a warning that reports which did not conform to an acceptable standard would be returned to the Inspector concerned; passages which required amendment were marked. In February 1862, Lowe cancelled this order though in fact this practice continued. Lowe, who had poor eyesight, claimed that he had the Inspectors' reports read to him. One such report which had been marked was, unbeknown to Lowe, returned to an Inspector. The matter was raised in the Commons on 12 April 1864, condemning the 'mutilation of the Reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools'. This motion was carried and Lowe, who had protested his innocence, resigned. Although a Select Committee subsequently exonerated Lowe from personal blame for the incident, it did state that:

the knowledge, or even a reasonable suspicion, that the Inspectors' reports are subject to alteration, either directly or indirectly, at the instance of the Department, has, without doubt, a tendency to lower their value, if they are to be regarded as independent sources of testimony in matters of opinion or controversy touching the educational views or policy of the Committee of Council. (21)

An important principle had thus been established concerning the integrity of Inspectors' reports, namely that they should not in the future be subject to political interference.

The mid-1860s represented the most severe test of inspectorial independence and was a low point in the Inspectorate's relationship with the Office. From then, matters improved slowly. Much-needed changes in the Codes,

[page 37]

which had been urged by HMI, were introduced from 1868; they relaxed requirements and widened the number of 'paying' subjects available in schools. The return of a Liberal government in 1868 and the appointment of W. E. Forster as Vice-President resulted in the 1870 Education Act, which changed the basis of the provision of elementary education, making it more widely available. The secularisation of schooling was paralleled within the Inspectorate. From 1870, no more clergymen were appointed, though the clerical Inspectors continued to predominate for many years.



The dramatic expansion in the elementary school population in the 1870s and 1880s was accompanied by a corresponding growth in the Inspectorate. In 1870 there were 62 HMI; ten years later there were 134. (22) There were now many celebrated Inspectors such as William Temple, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. Alfred Graves, father of Robert, the writer and poet, served for 40 years during which time he collaborated with Charles Villiers Stanford in publishing old Irish songs, including the celebrated 'Father O'Flynn'. (23) Dr J. D. Morell, who had studied philosophy at Glasgow and Bonn and wrote books on metaphysics, also took a lively interest in the teaching of music and grammar in elementary schools. One unlikely candidate who, it is believed, sought an inspectorship was Oscar Wilde. His views on educational matters were fairly trenchant, such as 'Psychology is in its infancy as a science. I hope, in the interests of art, it will always remain so', (24) and it is not difficult to see why he was not offered the post.

So far, there had been no hierarchy within the Inspectorate; this was arguably one of the reasons for their subordination to the Education Department. Now, in 1871, ten experienced HMI were nominated as Senior Inspectors, whose task was to supervise the work of other Inspectors. (Two Inspectors had already been employed in making a survey of educational provision in four large cities in connection with the Education Act.) From 1884, there were ten geographical divisions, each in the charge of a Senior Inspector who was renamed Chief Inspector. The Chief Inspector planned the work of his

[page 38]

division and wrote biannual reports, superseding the previously published individual reports. (25)

Although the work was arduous and often monotonous, HMI were able to combine it with satisfying intellectual pursuits in the outside world. The Reverend W. H. Brookfield, formerly a fashionable preacher in Mayfair, whose circle of friends included Tennyson, the Hallams and Thomas Carlyle, serves as a good example. An able Inspector, his witty and often outrageously outspoken reports brought criticisms from both the Department and managers. In one of his reports, Brookfield wrote:

It is my custom to ask the children of a first class to write impromptu upon their slates about different subjects which I mention to them, an elephant, a swan, a monkey, etc. To one little boy of eleven years of age I had, perhaps somewhat imprudently, proposed a racehorse. He gave up his slate, inscribed, with very good writing and spelling, as follows:

'The race horse is a noble animal used very cruel by gentlemen. Races are very bad places. None but wicked people know anything about races. The last Derby was won by Mr. I'Anson's Blinkbonny, a beautiful filly by Melbourne, rising four. The odds were twenty to one against her; thirty started, and she won only by a neck.'

I handed this dissertation to one of the managers. He returned it to me with a perplexed look, saying, 'I am very sorry indeed for this. He was always a very good little boy till now.'

After one house party in Hampshire, he drove with Carlyle to a school where the latter sat through a morning with great interest, especially the history lessons. As Brookfield noted afterwards, 'Carlyle put in a few questions of examination here and there in his odd way "Queen Elizabeth - at what time was she active in this world and what did she do?" It was amusing how he liked to put in his oar.' (26)

By the 1890s, a more enlightened attitude within society made possible the reversion of HMI's role to its original purpose, that of inspecting rather than examining. Successive Codes had emphasised the shift away from examining children as individual units towards rewarding achievements of classes and

[page 39]

schools as a whole. This change in philosophy at least partly stemmed from those members of the Department and the Inspectorate who had been influenced at Oxford by T H. Green, the Idealist philosopher. It represented a departure from utilitarianism and laissez-faire to a view of society which promoted corporate action for the common good. (27) Characteristic of this enlightened attitude was T G. Rooper, who served from 1887 to 1903, and who promoted school gardens, rural education, drawing in infant schools, the Sloyd method of manual training and 'nursery ethics'. (28) A wider view of elementary education was also provided by Matthew Arnold, who compiled a detailed report of such schooling in Germany, Switzerland and France in 1886.

The ending of 'Payment by Results' in 1895 eased the burden of Inspectors; teachers now had the responsibility for drawing up the timetables and HMI made visits without notice. Arthur Acland, Vice-President of the Education Department and an Oxford Idealist, during his term of office in Gladstone's last ministry (1892-5) played an important part in freeing the elementary school curriculum from its previous bonds. He was also responsible for appointing eight new members to the Inspectorate, all of whom had direct experience of elementary schools. By the 1890s, the accent was on youth. Candidates had to be between 23 and 35 years of age. In this new climate, the Inspector's role was changing back to its original position, that of a facilitator and a missionary. The Instructions to Inspectors were withdrawn. In their place appeared in 1905 an official publication, Suggestions for the Consideration of Teachers and Others Concerned in the Work of Public Elementary Schools, later renamed Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers. Although the contributors were anonymous, it is now known that a number of distinguished HMI were authors of many of the chapters. (29) The Preface set out its main purpose, to offer guidance to teachers and 'to encourage careful reflection on the practice of their profession'. The ten areas of the curriculum considered represented practical and enlightened approaches; examples were also given on how current practices ought to be altered and how differences in children's abilities were to be recognised. New editions of the Handbook of Suggestions were published until the late 1940s. They were widely welcomed by classroom teachers. The Handbook also led to soul-searching within the Inspectorate. In 1909, Edmond Holmes wrote a lengthy memorandum for colleagues entitled 'What Sort of a Child are we Turning Out?'.


[page 40]


Up to the beginning of this century, then, the Inspectorate's main concern was with elementary education, with a few senior members having responsibility for training colleges. The year 1900 marks an important turning-point in the organisation and functioning of the service. In that year, the Board of Education was established: the different bodies which carried out inspectorial functions, the Science and Art Department, the Charity Commission and the Education Department, were merged into one body which, for the first time, became an official Education Department of the State. This was shortly followed in 1902 by Balfour's Education Act which created the local education authority (LEA) as a new partner in the administration of education. By now, the number of HMI had risen to 349.

Robert Morant, who became Permanent Secretary of the Board in 1903, played a significant part in the major reorganisation of the Inspectorate which followed these changes. The Board was now responsible for elementary, secondary and technological education. The Inspectorate regrouped its forces under these three headings, each with a Chief Inspector. They remained separate entities throughout their existence, with little interchange of personnel. The old system of Chief Inspectors was replaced in September 1904 by 11 Divisional Inspectors, each responsible for the manner in which various District Inspectors in his Division employed their time. (30) Morant also wished to guide and control HMI's statements on educational topics and distance them from LEAs' activities. (31) Such action was to lead ultimately to his eventual transfer from the Board of Education to the Board of Health following the issue of the Holmes-Morant Circular in 1910. (32) The new Technological Inspectorate was formed from a nucleus of inspectors previously attached to the South Kensington Science and Art Department. They had experience in inspecting technical and vocational aspects of secondary and technical schools and Science and Art classes in elementary schools. The overlap between elementary and secondary phases was to cause boundary problems in later years. An interesting issue arose over the South Kensington inspectors, who were not HMI, but were appointed by the Department. On their transfer to the Board of Education in February 1901, the Lord President, the Duke of Devonshire, decided that the transferred inspectors

[page 41]

would become HMI, but that the title would lapse when future appointments to the Inspectorate were made. However, it was Morant who, in October 1903, made the case for retaining the title 'HM Inspectors', on the grounds that LEAs were appointing their own inspectors, and that therefore Inspectors of the Board should have a quite distinctive appellation. (33) Morant's suggestion was adopted.

The most innovative aspect of the reorganisation was the setting up of the Secondary Inspectorate. The Bryce Commission on Secondary Education in 1895 had pointed out that no fewer than seven different inspecting agencies were involved in the secondary school sector. The new Secondary Inspectorate, formed in 1904 and 1905, reflected this mixture. Of the 18 men appointed six were former Science and Art Department inspectors, with six more drawn from the Elementary Branch. The Chief Inspector, W. C. Fletcher, was a former head of the Liverpool Institute. A new post, that of Staff Inspector, was especially created for two other ex-headteachers, F. Spencer and R. F. Scott, and the academic, James Headlam. (34) As was shown earlier, since the 1860s the child had been the inspectorial unit and their number was the measure of inspecting work to be done. From the 1880s, as the Codes were relaxed, the class became the unit. Now, it was recognised that the whole school should be the focus of attention. For this purpose, the Secondary Inspectorate evolved the 'Full Inspection' method of inspection which still forms the basis for present-day operating, i.e. a visit to a school by a team of Inspectors for several days which looks carefully at the work, life and administration of the school. With a comparatively small complement, much was quickly achieved. By 1912, almost all secondary schools receiving grants had been inspected at least once and by 1913, 68 out of the 101 Headmasters' Conference schools had requested and received inspection. (35) But the strain on the small number of Secondary Inspectors proved too great to sustain this drive: in January 1910, shortened full inspections, lasting two days and conducted by two Inspectors, were officially recommended. (36)

By the end of the first decade of the present [20th] century, other kinds of inspection had evolved. Besides the full and supplementary inspections, there were the subject and the area inspections. The latter included, for example, a study in Birmingham of all infant schools at one time (37) and of schools attended by the very poor in London.

[page 42]

It would be wrong, however, to view the restructuring of the Inspectorate simply as a response to administrative and legislative pressures. From the mid-nineteenth century, the campaign by a growing body of well-educated middle-class women for opportunities to enter the professions had led to the appointment in 1873 of Jane Senior, daughter of Nassau Senior, the economist, as Inspector of Workhouses and District Schools; the Home Office subsequently employed Women Inspectors under the Factory Acts to safeguard the increasing number of women and children employed in factories. The first appointment made by the Education Department was that of Emily Jones as Directress of Needlework in 1883. This was followed some 13 years later by two women Sub-Inspectors to assist in visits to elementary schools. Morant was instrumental in founding the Women Inspectorate in 1905. The immediate cause was the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration, following the Boer War, which criticised the physique and general health of the volunteers. Morant saw the need for a separate body of Women Inspectors who would pay regard to infant school education and the teaching of older girls from what Morant called 'the maternity aspect'. (38) The head of the women's corps, the Hon. Maud Lawrence, daughter of a Viceroy of India, was given the title Chief Woman Inspector, a nomenclature which survived until 1938. The Women Inspectors, who were nicknamed by their male colleagues 'the washtub ladies', dealt increasingly with domestic subjects and elementary school work. (39) The first national survey to be published by the Inspectorate, the Report of Children under Five Years of Age, in 1905, was conducted by Women Inspectors. Few women were recruited to the Secondary Inspectorate and the first woman Staff Inspector was not appointed until 1919. There were many issues which concerned the Women Inspectorate: even as late as 1945, the marriage bar still operated, as the Civil Service was exempt from Section 1 of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act. Another issue was that of aggregation, for their separateness from the male Inspectorate circumscribed their range of responsibilities - only one woman District Inspector was appointed before 1933. Salaries were also considerably lower than those of their male colleagues.

Following the recommendations of the 1931 Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service that all posts in the Inspectorate should be open, regardless of sex, steps were taken to implement a system of complete aggregation. This was achieved from January 1934, when responsibilities were

[page 43]

given equally to women and men. But the old thinking died hard. When it was clear that the title of Chief Woman Inspector was no longer apt, the President of the Board was approached in October 1937 to suggest a more appropriate one. He replied, 'I can think of nothing better than Chief Adviser on Domesticities.' (40)

One other of Morant's best-remembered reforms concerned the health of the school child. The Medical Branch of the Board was set up in 1908 under Dr George Newman and Alfred Eichholz, the latter a Cambridge medical man who joined the Inspectorate in 1898 and was seconded to this Branch. He had the unique distinction, after succeeding Newman in 1919 as Chief Medical Officer for Health, of retaining his title of HMI, filling both posts until his retirement in 1930. It is of interest to note that in the early days, HMI were expected to be present at school medical examinations. (41)

Changes, too, had been made within the subordinate grades of the Inspectorate. Sub-Inspectors ceased to be recruited after 1900 and were replaced by Junior Inspectors, posts intended for men and women who would, in the ordinary course, succeed to vacancies among HMI after a few years' service. But in 1912 the number of Junior Inspectors far exceeded the vacancies for HMI which were likely to occur, so a new class of Assistant Inspector was instituted. These were mainly recruited from teachers in public elementary schools who served in the Elementary Inspectorate. Many outstanding Inspectors began their careers as Assistant Inspectors and were later promoted to full HMl. Recruitment for the post continued until 1945.

One of the problems raised by the creation of LEAs was the need to establish a working relationship with the local inspectorates which had come into being. A survey of the employment of LEA inspectors published by the Board in April 1923 showed that, in practice, the work of LEA inspectors was complementary to rather than overlapping with that of HMl. Whereas local inspectors were used as intelligence officers and as links between their Education Committees and the schools, HMI, it was stated, reported systematically on the educational standards of schools and areas and ascertained whether educational value was obtained for the expenditure of State money. (42)


[page 44]


If the period between the beginning of the present century and the end of the First World War could be called one of consolidation within the reorganised Inspectorate, in the next two decades until the outbreak of the Second World War, the 1920s and 1930s, the Inspectorate took a more positive role in responding to the many educational changes which were taking place. The Fisher Education Act of 1918 gave LEAs the duty of preparing comprehensive schemes to cover the whole field of education in their respective areas. These schemes had to be considered by the Inspectorate: for this purpose, divisional committees, consisting of HMI in all branches of the Board's work, were instituted in each of the nine divisions, an early example of the involvement of the whole Inspectorate to consider a single issue. (43)

The disappearance of the three separate branches of the Board of Education under the 1921 Education Act led to a unification of the Inspectorate in its upper ranks. With reorganisation in the air, one Divisional Inspector commented, 'There is no one in the entire Inspectorate whose business it is to look at education as a whole.' On 1 September 1926, a Senior Chief Inspector was appointed from among the Chief Inspectors, namely, Henry Richards. Although he still continued to hold responsibilities as Chief Inspector of Elementary Schools, Richards represented the first acknowledged head of the Inspectorate with a support staff. He was to advise the Permanent Secretary in matters connected with the duties of HMI and questions of policy arising therefrom. It also enabled previously diffused dialogue with the Board's officials to be more closely focused. Within the Inspectorate itself, it was now possible for more positive decision-making to take place.

Whilst the watchdog aspect was being strengthened, there was at the same time a notable acceleration of the missionary role. This movement was largely the consequence of the writings of Edmond Holmes, formerly Chief Inspector, Elementary Schools, who, shortly after his retirement, published in 1911 his book, What Is and What Might Be. In it, Holmes expounded the vision of education as fostering the growth of a child's whole nature and self-realisation rather than mechanical obedience. The ideas expressed in the book soon gained widespread acceptance. Holmes was also closely involved in the New Education

[page 45]

Fellowship, which, from 1920, was influential in spreading progressive notions. Beatrice Ensor, an HMI in the South West, and a theosophist, left the Inspectorate in 1916 and became editor of the New Era; she was one of the charismatic figures who launched the Fellowship, becoming its Chairman and later President.

New recruits to the Inspectorate after the First World War brought similar philosophies to bear. Christian Schiller, who had fought with distinction in the War, was appointed Assistant Inspector in Liverpool in 1924. His enlightened attitude to primary school practices inspired several generations of teachers. After the Second World War, he became the first Staff Inspector for Primary Education. J. H. Simpson, who had served as an Inspector, influenced by Holmes' writings, became head of Rendcomb, a progressive boarding school; he later wrote extensively on his educational experiments. (44) In the 1930s, Robin Tanner, an artist of great talent, brought his humanistic personal philosophy to bear on primary school education. In his autobiography, Tanner pays tribute to another Inspector, Jenny Mack, who, with explosive enthusiasm, introduced many teachers to spinning and weaving. (45)

From a somewhat different tradition, a liberal approach to educational practice was urged by F. S. Marvin, a wholehearted Positivist and one of the first HMIs to be appointed direct from an elementary school. Marvin eventually became Staff Inspector for History, influencing many teachers through his writings and practice. He was also a moving spirit in the setting up of the Historical Association. But a more systematic dissemination of good practice occurred in the interwar period with the mounting of HMI national short courses programmes which covered many areas of the curriculum and enabled teachers to rethink their approach. It should not be forgotten, too, that the Technological Inspectors, under the inspiring leadership of Frank Pullinger, contributed their valuable expertise after the 1918 Education Act. A good example of their thinking can be seen in the still very readable Education Pamphlet produced by one of its members, John Dover Wilson, called Humanism in the Continuation School, published in 1921.

Inspectorial involvement in pedagogy and curriculum matters are by no means a recent concern. The interest in these aspects after the First World War is obvious. For instance, in the 1920s, HMI were involved in seeking out and

[page 46]

describing educational experiments in secondary schools. The results were then circulated in the Memorandum to Inspectors series. They included a report on curriculum in rural work suitable for boys and girls, a creative music course, the learning of Esperanto, and a combined physics, geography and history course at fifth-year level. (46) Similarly, accounts of schools' experiences of the Dalton Plan were published for discussion within the Inspectorate. (47) On a broader scale, from 1933, the Inspectorate's Panel System was instituted, whereby a number of Inspectors, usually eight or nine, investigated various problems or collected information on teaching particular subjects. (48)

There is some evidence to suggest that there was concern within the Board in the interwar years that this shift in the inspectorial role might be at the expense of its other watchdog functions. The Board of Education Annual Report for 1924 commented, 'It cannot be the primary function of the inspector himself in his daily round to be a missionary of educational method and experiment.' (49) On the other hand, such worries seem to have been unwarranted as the momentum of the inspection programme had been maintained. By 1930-31 a ten-year interval between full inspection of secondary schools was normal, with 800 out of the 1758 schools having received at least one inspection in the previous decade. (50)

During the 1920s, the Inspectorate. not for the first time, was caught up in a network of tensions. In 1922 the Board had issued Circular 1294, which urged schools to exercise greater freedom in planning their timetables than had hitherto been customary. In 1926, the elementary curriculum was freed from central control, which raised new and interesting questions for the Inspectorate. An HMI survey at this time showed that little had been done, mainly because of examination pressures. W. C. Fletcher, the Chief Inspector, did not consider that a Committee on the Curriculum would solve the matter. 'I would', he wrote, 'rather see the schools go on working quietly as on the whole they are doing and gradually evolving. A Committee would be a sounding board for all the enthusiasts.' (51)

Equally time-consuming was the involvement of the Inspectorate in monitoring and assessing the impact of examinations on the education system. The Secondary School Examinations Council (SSEC) was set up by the Board of

[page 47]

Education in 1917 as a result of the introduction of the School Certificate examinations that year. HMI played a substantial part in the Council's work.

Of the 20 Council members, three were HMI assessors. The Board of Education wished to co-ordinate the work of the different examination boards. In 1931, an investigation of the eight approved examinations was conducted: the panel of 22 consisted of 13 teachers and nine HMI of secondary schools. (52) Even greater involvement with examining arose out of the burgeoning of psychological testing for entry to secondary schools, popularly known as the '11-plus' examination, in the interwar years. A Consultative Committee on Psychological Tests of Educable Capacity (1922-3) heard evidence from two HMI. Monitoring of LEA schemes was carried out by the Inspectorate between 1921 and 1939. A Memorandum on Free Places (1928) reported the investigations by HMI of the 75 areas where free places were awarded. (53) Whilst the Inspectorate were in favour of using standardised tests as part of the total examination, their critical comments on the lack of rigour exercised by many LEAs in their selection procedures had a salutary effect. (54) A measure of Inspectorate involvement in these examinations can be gained from the Agenda of the 1934 HMI Secondary Conference, which had no fewer than 250 points for discussion on the topic of free places. (55)

Another administrative task undertaken by the Inspectorate had arisen from the deliberations of the Consultative Committee on the Education of the Adolescent (1926), chaired by Sir William Hadow. The Committee had recommended that there should be separation of primary and secondary education at about 11 years of age: this recommendation was to be achieved by reorganising elementary school buildings as well as providing new accommodation for modern schools. The Hadow reorganisation, which closely involved HMI, was not completed until the late 1950s.



With the outbreak of war in 1939, the normal routine of the Inspectorate was largely dislocated. From june 1940, full inspections were discontinued. The work of HMI became more that of a co-ordinator with other government departments.

[page 48]

It included reporting on the facts of evacuation in reception areas and helping to put right the worst mistakes of billeting and school accommodation (56), the setting up of day Nursery Centres for young evacuated children (57), dealing with problems of school staffing (58), and assisting with the establishment of the school meals service. In 1940, when an invasion seemed a strong possibility, Divisional Inspectors were the Board's official liaison officers with the Regional Commissioners, and they acted as a sort of Minister in the Regional Commissioner's Cabinet. (59) The drift back of pupils to the towns from 1942 also required HMI to ensure that LEAs provided suitable schooling. (60) Few meetings of Inspectors were held during the war, but the flavour of a Divisional Inspectors' Conference, held on 28 January 1942 in London, can be caught from the surviving Agenda. Besides items on the Youth Service, USA history courses for schools and the supply of teachers, there was one (item 14) which read: 'Priority for Inspectors in securing spare parts, especially tyres, for their cars'. (61) As the tide of war changed it was possible once more to look ahead. By 1944 proposals for short courses were once more being encouraged and the Inspectorate was busy in helping to set up the Emergency Training Scheme for Teachers. (62) HMI also liaised with LEAs in drawing up their development plans.

Extra strain was put on HMI by the running down of its personnel since 1939. At the outbreak of war, there were 383 Inspectors, 40 fewer than some two decades previously. The numbers were further depleted by Inspectors serving with the Forces and by individuals being loaned to other Departments. By the end of 1940, this latter category alone amounted to 38, some 12 per cent of the force. (63) The effective number of Inspectors during the war was never more than just over 300. No one was permitted to retire unless through ill-health. (64)

From a number of different directions, it was becoming manifest that there was a need to re-examine and strengthen the Inspectorate. The White Paper on Educational Reconstruction (1943), based on the famous Green Book to which senior members of the Inspectorate had contributed, described some of the reforms in the national education service which were to be embodied in the 1944 Education Act. These included the raising of the school leaving age, secondary education for all and the elimination of large classes and bad accommodation. The White Paper also mentioned (Point 16) the extension of inspection to schools outside the public system, and the Education Act expanded

[page 49]

this, namely that 'it shall be the duty of the Minister to cause inspections to be made of every educational establishment at such intervals as appear to him to be appropriate' (Section 77). In September 1943, almost immediately after the White Paper was published, R. A. Butler. President of the Board, reached agreement with the London County Council that the unofficial concordat, dating from 1912, whereby HMI did not inspect London elementary schools, was now at an end. (65)

A remarkable boost for the morale of the Inspectorate came at this time in the unlikely form of the publication of the Norwood Report on Curriculum and Examinations. In 1941, members of the SSEC had been charged 'to consider suggested changes in the secondary school curriculum and the question of school examinations in relation thereto'. The Chairman, Sir Cyril Norwood, President of St John's, Oxford. and a former head of Harrow, chose R. H. Barrow, a Staff Inspector, to be the Committee's secretary, with F. R. Duckworth, Senior Chief Inspector, and W. J. Williams, Chief Inspector for Wales, as assessors. Norwood insisted, in an interview with Butler, that HMI should play a very full part in the proceedings, even urging, though unsuccessfully, that they should be allowed to vote as full members. (66) The usual austere picture of Norwood may be modified in the light of the last meeting of the Committee where he made presentations to members in the form of a school prize-giving ceremony. The chief draughtsman of the Report, described by Norwood as 'a craftsman of punctuation in the drafts', was given a sketch of himself, 'butterfly net in hand, chasing elusive commas over scattered pages of typescript'. Barrow was presented with a Horace from Norwood's own shelves, 'with an inscription more valued even than the book'. (67)

It is a measure of Norwood's admiration for the Inspectorate that the final Report contains a chapter on them, despite the fact that the Committee's terms of reference did not include such a topic. The Report appeared opportunely at a time when the future of HMI was under discussion at the Board. Praising the work of the Inspectorate, it stated:

They must be a guarantee to the nation in any real democratic system that the business of the schools is education, and that it is being carried out in freedom according to the ideals and methods which are proper to it. They [the Inspectorate] must therefore themselves be recognised as men and women who in important

[page 50]

problems are expected to exercise an independent judgement and to be free to say what they think. Just in order to emphasise this claim and this responsibility we feel that the Inspectorate should continue to be known as His Majesty's Service. (68)

Further support came from the McNair Report on the Training of Teachers and Youth Leaders in 1944, which recommended the Board of Education to bear in mind, in staffing the Inspectorate, the need to leave HMI free to mount, and take part in, courses arranged by others. (69)

On the last day of 1943, the President of the Board had set up two internal parallel committees, Committee A, Office, and Committee B, Inspectorate, to consider and report on their future staff in the light of the Education Bill. The Office Committee was chaired by the Deputy Secretary and the Inspectorate Committee by the Senior Chief Inspector, who were to consult with each other as necessary. A new Senior Chief Inspector, Martin Roseveare, took over this important work in April 1944. Roseveare, a mathematician, had joined the Inspectorate in 1925. Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, he had been transferred to the Ministry of Food. In May 1940, Lord Woolton put Roseveare in charge of administering the rationing system, and he was responsible for designing six of the seven ration books which appeared during the war. (70) On returning to the Inspectorate, Roseveare energetically took on board the question of the reorganisation of the service. His correspondence with the Office, which amounted to a veritable bombardment, makes impressive reading. Surveying the range of responsibilities which now fell to the Inspectorate under the Act, Roseveare warned the Director of Establishments, 'We must allow for getting there and for relieving HMI to think, instead of killing him with donkey work.' (71) As an interim measure, the appointment of 25 new Inspectors was immediately sanctioned. (72)

By 3 October 1944, the Report of the Inspectorate Committee was ready for submission and its recommendations were rapidly endorsed by the Office. The so-called Roseveare Report laid the foundations for the functioning of the present-day Inspectorate. The separate branches of Elementary, Secondary and Technical were discontinued; in future, Inspectors would use their expertise as appropriate in more than one of these groups. The many different grades within the Inspectorate were reduced in number and the Women Inspectorate was

[page 51]

disbanded. To complete the reform, Assistant Inspectors, as already mentioned, became full HMI and there was no further recruitment to this grade.

The Inspectorate, 1939

Senior Chief Inspector
Chief Inspectors
Senior Woman Inspector
Divisional Inspectors (Men)
Divisional Inspectors (Women)
Staff Inspectors (Men)
Staff Inspectors (Women)
HM Inspectors (Men)
HM Inspectors (Women)
Women Inspectors
Assistant Inspectors (Men)
Assistant Inspectors (Women)

The number of Staff Inspectors was increased in order to provide leadership in subjects and phases of education. The complement of Chief Inspectors, of whom there were four, was also to be increased to six (this included Miss F. Tann and Miss D. Hammonds), who together with the Senior Chief Inspector formed a single unified body for directing the work of the Inspectorate. For the first time, the Senior Chief Inspector had no Chief Inspectorial duties, and was able to devote his time fully to providing leadership for HMI. (73) Of some importance was the massive increase of the establishment from 375 in 1944 to 600 by 1948. This reorganisation of the Inspectorate came into force on 1 April 1945.

Reorganisation of the Inspectorate, 1945

Senior Chief Inspector
Chief Inspectors (6)
Divisional Inspectors (10)
Staff Inspectors (36)
HMI (364)

[page 52]

New rules on reporting procedure scrapped the frequency of the intervals at which schools were traditionally inspected: three to five years for elementary schools and approximately ten years for secondary. (74) HMI Panels, which had not been scrutinised since they were first set up, were reconstituted in October 1945. (75) The newly shaped Inspectorate was now ready to assist in the implementation of the 1944 Education Act. Subsequent events are traced by Professor Sir William Taylor in his lecture.



During the first century of its existence, the Inspectorate underwent many transformations. It had to break away from the religious controversies which surrounded its origins and learn to steer the narrow path between independence on the one hand and political and administrative constraints on the other. It also had to become a cohesive body which could readily respond to new challenges and situations as they arose. There is little doubt that by 1945 HMI had been largely successful in overcoming these difficulties.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of HMI, and at a time of profound changes in the education system, it is appropriate to recall the wise words of the Norwood Report, written almost half a century ago: that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Inspectorate to advise the Ministers of Education

and educational administration in matters that concern them, of helping schools with counsel and advice, and of guaranteeing to the nation at large that the schools are doing their duty by the children. In this way we shall not intensify what is called bureaucratic control in education, but shall be taking a long step towards rendering it impossible for such external and impersonal control ever to develop into a serious danger. (76)

[page 53]


1. Paz, D. G. (1980), The Politics of Working-Class Education in Britain 1830-50, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 21-2.

2. Ball, N. (1963), Her Majesty's Inspectorate 1839-1849, London: Oliver and Boyd, pp. 2-6.

3. Blakiston, J. R. (1875), The Teacher: Hints on School Management, London: Macmillan, p. vi.

4. Committee of Council on Education (1840), Minutes 1839-40, Appendix II, pp. 175-92.

5. Edmonds, E. L. and O. P. (1965), I Was There. The Memoirs of H. S. Tremenheere, Eton: Shakespeare Head Press, p. 48.

6. Grier, R. M. (1889), John Allen, a Memoir, London: Rivingtons, p. 88.

7. Wilberforce, R. I. (1839), A Letter to the Most Noble the Marquis of Lansdowne on the establishment of a board of National Education, London: Murray, pp. 5-6.

8. Dunford, J. E. (1981), 'Biographical Details of Her Majesty's Inspectors Appointed Before 1870', History of Education Society Bulletin, 28, pp. 8-23.

9. Hopkinson, D. (1981), Edward Penrose Arnold. A Victorian Family Portrait, Penzance: Alison Hodge, p. 42.

10. Select Committee on Education, Science and Art (Administration) (1884), P.P. 1884, Evidence, Sir F. Sandford, Question 198.

11. Sir G. W. Kekewich to Sir J. E. Gorst, 27 February 1901, PRO Ed 23/271.

12. Committee of Council on Education (1840-41), Minutes 1840, p. 2.

13. Extracts from the Reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (1852), London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, pp. v, xii.

14. Leese. J. (1950), Personalities and Power in English Education, London: Arnold, p. 81.

15. Quoted in Dunford, op. cit., p. 9.

16. Royal Commission on Popular Education in England (Newcastle) (1861), Report, I, p. 230.

17. Committee of Council on Education (1869-70), Report. General Report for 1869, Matthew Arnold, pp. 282-3.

18. Robertson, A. (1971), J. G. Fitch and the Origins of the Liberal Movement in Education 1863-70', Journal of Educational Administration and History, 3:2, p. 9.

[page 54]

19. Thompson, F. (1939, 1973 edn.), Lark Rise to Candleford, Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. 189-90.

20. Sneyd-Kynnersley, E. M. (1908), Some Passages in the Life of One of HM Inspectors of Schools, London: Macmillan, p. 322.

21. House of Commons. Select Committee on Education (Inspectors' Reports) (1864), P.P.1864, ix, p. 17.

22. Sutherland, G. (1973), Policy-Making in Elementary Education 1870-1895, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 55.

23. Graves, A. P. (1930), To Return to All That, London: Cape, p. 212.

24. Pearson, H. (1946, 1960 edn.), The Life of Oscar Wilde, Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 50.

25. Boothroyd, H. E. (1923), A History of the Inspectorate, London: Board of Inspectors' Association, p. 28.

26. Brookfield, C. and F. B. (1905), Mrs Brookfield and Her Circle, London: Pitman, vol. 2, p. 395.

27. Gordon, P. and White, J. (1979), Philosophers as Educational Reformers, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp. 23-47.

28. Leinster-Mackay, D. (1986), Cross-Pollinators of English Education: Case Studies of Three Victorian School Inspectors, Leeds: Museum of the History of Education, University of Leeds, p. 36.

29. Gordon, P. (1985), 'The Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers' Journal of Educational Administration and History, 17:1, pp. 43-4.

30. Board of Education. Position of Divisional Inspectors in the 'E' Inspectorate, 7 July 1903, PRO Ed 24/1675.

31. Eaglesham, E. J. R. (1953), The Foundations of Twentieth Century Education in England, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 79-81.

32. Gordon, P. (1978), The Holmes-Morant Circular of 1911: A Note', Journal of Educational Administration and History, 10:1, pp. 36-40.

33. Sir E. Phipps to H. E. Boothroyd, 23 November 1923, PRO Ed 23/271.

34. R. L. Morant to R. W. White-Thomson, 11 September 1911, PRO Ed 23/130.

35. Lawton, D. and Gordon, P. (1987), HMI, London: Routledge, p. 51.

36. M to I S 158. Shortened Full Inspections, 31 January 1910, PRO Ed 22/38.

37. E. C. Divisional Conference, 26 January 1911, PRO Ed 24/228.

38. R. L. Morant. New Post of Chief Woman Inspector, December 1904, PRO Ed 23/152B.

[page 55]

39. For an account of the career of one of the earliest Women Inspectors, see Gordon, P. (1988), 'Katherine Bathurst: A controversial woman inspector', History of Education, 17:3, pp. 193-207

40. Earl Stanhope to Sir M. G. Holmes, 6 October 1937, PRO Ed 23/713.

41. 'E' and 'T' Inspectors Conference (England), 17 July 1908, PRO Ed 24/228.

42. Board of Education. Memorandum on the Employment by Local Education Authorities of Local Officers for Inspection of Schools on work analogous to inspection (1923), Cmd. 1878.

43. Report of Board of Education, 1922-3, Some Account of the Origin and Growth of the Board's Inspectorate (1924), London: HMSO, p. 40.

44. Selleck, R. J. W. (1972), English Primary Education and the Progressives, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, p. 34.

45. Tanner, R. (1987), Double Harness, London: Impact Books, p. 69.

46. M to I S 369. Reports on special educational experiments conducted in certain secondary schools, 14 October 1920, PRO Ed 221/48.

47 M to I E 246. Report on two years' experience of the Dalton Plan, 23July 1923, PRO Ed 22/98.

48. F. R. G. D. Duckworth to N. D. Bosworth-Smith, 16 November 1936, PRO Ed 23/712.

49. Report of Board of Education, 1922-3, chapter 1, p. 22.

50. M to I S 545. Programme of Inspections for the Year 1931-2, PRO Ed 22/135.

51. M to I S 454. Curricula of Secondary Schools, 21 July 1924, PRO Ed 22/128.

52. Memorandum, 8June 1931, PRO Ed 24/1245.

53. Gordon, P. (1980), Selection for Secondary Education. London: Woburn Press, p. 211.

54. Sutherland, G. (1984), Ability, Merit and Measurement: Mental Testing and English Education 1880-1940, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 289.

55. M to I S 585. Report of Conference of S. Inspectors held at Malvern, 17-18 July 1934, PRO Ed 22/138.

56. M to I S 634. S. Inspectors' work in war-time, 17 October 1939, PRO Ed 22/214.

57 M to I E 410. Proposed establishment of Nursery Centres for young evacuated children, 12 October 1939, PRO Ed 22/205.

58. M to I E 427 Staffing of Schools in Evacuation Areas, 6 March 1940, PRO Ed 22/206.

[page 56]

59. M to I NS 44 (Gen). Functions of Divisional Inspectors as Liaison Officers for Civil Defence Areas, 23July 1941, PRO Ed 135/1.

60. M to I NS 92 (S and T). Re-Opening of Secondary and Junior Technical Schools in Evacuation Areas, 31 August 1942, PRO Ed 135/2.

61. M to I NS 49 (DIs). Conference of Divisional Inspectors, 10 January 1942, PRO Ed 135/2.

62. M to I NS 207 (Gen). Emergency Training Scheme, 22 May 1944; and M to I NS 232 (Gen). Short Courses, 18 October 1944, PRO Ed 135/4.

63. A. J. Finny, Memorandum, 17 December 1940, PRO Ed 23/714.

64. Ministry of Education (1950), Education in 1949, p. 88.

65. R. A. Butler to C. Robertson, 11 August 1943; and C. Robertson to R. A Butler, 13 September 1943, PRO Ed 23/667

66. Minute, R. A Butler, 24June 1942, PRO Ed 24/478.

67 Sir C. Norwood, Final Minutes of the Norwood Committee, 23June 1943, PRO Ed 12/479.

68. Norwood Report, 1943, p. 51.

69. McNair Report, 1944, para. 505.

70. Roseveare, M. (1987), Joys, Jobs and Jaunts: Memoirs of Sir Martin Roseveare, privately printed, pp. 26-45.

71. M. Roseveare to R. S. Wood, 15 June 1943, PRO Ed 23/714.

72. R. S. Wood to R. A. Butler, 8 March 1943, PRO Ed 23/714.

73. Report of Inspectorate Committee (B). Establishment Minute No. 1768, 3 October 1944, PRO Ed 23/838.

74. M to I NS 258 (Gen). Inspection Reports: Primary and Secondary Schools, 14 May 1945, PRO Ed 135/5.

75. M to I NS 271 (Gen). Addendum. Panels.

76. Norwood Report, 1943, p. 54.

[page 57]

Continuity and Change
HMI 1945-1989

Lecture delivered at
Church House, Westminster,
on the occasion of the
150th Anniversary of the establishment of
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools

7 December 1989

Professor Sir William Taylor CBE
University of Hull

[page 58]

William Taylor 1989

[page 59]



Ours is a society that responds to strong flavours and sharp sensations, that likes human stories and personal angles. Even educators signpost the last 50 years by reference to the Butler Act, the Plowden Report, the Ruskin Speech and the Baker Day.

The recent history of the Inspectorate does not lend itself to dramatic and personal treatment. In reports on individual institutions, in publications on issues as wide as secondary education or as narrow as homework, the emphasis is firmly on collective judgement. No report is ever signed. The membership of inspection teams is never listed. The authors of surveys and good practice reports and other Inspectorate publications remain incognito.

Collectively, 'the Inspectorate' is anonymous. Not so individual HMI in the field. The faces and the foibles of those who maintain contact with local authorities and schools and polytechnics are well known on their own patches. HMI 'characters' have always existed. They still exist today. Their idiosyncrasies are frequently dined out upon. But as far as the public face of the service is concerned, the cult of personality is abhorred.

Until recently much HMI writing was not only impersonal but also private, intended for internal consumption or for privileged audiences. Today, a great deal of what HMI writes eventually appears in the public domain. The Secretary of State can decide what shall be published, but, in accordance with what Peter Gordon has shown to be a longstanding tradition, its content is non-negotiable. Writing by the Inspectorate demands clear description, objective analysis, fair judgement and well supported conclusions - skills into which even experienced schoolmen often need lengthy induction. What of writing about the Inspectorate?

In comparison with Sea Fisheries Inspectorates, or Inspectorates of Ancient Monuments, Gerald Rhodes' claim that 'More perhaps has been written about the inspection of schools than about any other kind of inspection' (1) is doubtless correct. But in relation to the work of a body of men and women as historically important and influential as HMI, the available literature is still surprisingly thin.

[page 60]

Copious references to HMI in the indexes of books about education lead to few detailed analyses. There are some useful biographies - those by Robin Tanner (2) and Leonard Clark (3) deserve special mention. Works on evaluation seldom discuss the nature of inspection in any detail (but see Hughes et al (4) and Wilcox (5). There is no Sassenach equivalent of McPherson's and Raab's insightful exploration of the relationships of HMI and senior administrators north of the border. (6) A small number of historical accounts exist - notably the valuable book by Lawton and Gordon. (7) There is no official history, although the need for one has from time to time been talked about. A start was made in the early Second World War years. The Minutes of the Central Panel for 5 April 1948 contain the following gem:

50. A number of colleagues, both present and retired, had either produced or promised contributions. There was no great hurry about publication, so long as the material had been collected; on the other hand, it would be easier to induce those who had promised contributions to produce them if publication seemed imminent. (8)



1945-1960: From the Second World War to the Gate of the Secret Garden

My part of the story begins in 1945. In that year the pre-war grade of Assistant Inspector was abolished, and a unified service created with six Chief Inspectors (CI) under the Senior Chief Inspector (SCI). The technical Inspectorate was strengthened, and a new emphasis put on HMI's role in teacher training. Administrative reorganisation was not the only challenge. Those whose perspectives are limited to the effect of recent public expenditure restrictions can easily forget just how formidable was the post-war task of physical reconstruction and how dire the conditions that faced Government and local authorities.

For example, the Inspectorate's Health Education Panel, in a minute of January 1948, gave details of the washing and sanitary facilities in primary schools in one local authority area. I quote:

[page 61]

Of 167 schools in this district there remain two with re-activated earth closets, 41 with wooden seats over pails and 84 with wooden seats over vaults or ditches which are emptied half-yearly in a very few cases but which usually remain untouched for at least a year and sometimes for four or five years. (8)

The Inspectorate played a major part, both locally and nationally, in a largely successful effort to provide the physical framework within which many of the aspirations of the 1944 Act could be fulfilled. A full-time HMI (initially Leonard Gibbon) was attached to the Ministry's Architects and Buildings (A and B) Branch, and in Stuart Maclure's words 'was crucial as the formal link between the Development Group and the educators'. (9) He provided the Group with information and opinion from HMI in the field, and disseminated the ideas of such architectural pioneers as Stirrat Johnson-Marshall and David and Mary Medd. The interdisciplinary and interprofessional approach of A and B Branch was to serve as a useful model for subsequent initiatives, such as the short-lived Curriculum Study Group. (10)

In the early 1950s, HMI inevitably became involved in the debate about the place of external examinations in secondary schools. Many were anxious about the restrictive effect of such examinations on the 'new secondary education'. At the same time, they could not but be aware of the combined pressures of employers, parents and teachers for improved opportunities for young people to be able to enter non-manual employment, and for the provision of clearer educational objectives and incentives.

Circular 289, issued in 1955, made some concessions to this view, and led to the Central Advisory Council (CAC) being asked to consider the place of external examinations in their review of educational provision for 15-to-18-year-olds.

Lord Crowther's CAC report 15 to 18 appeared in 1959. (11) In recommending regional and local experiments in examinations for 16-year-olds, it recognised the reality of what many secondary modern schools were already doing with the aid of bodies such as the Royal Society of Arts. It did not, however, go so far as to advocate a new national examination below the level of the recently introduced General Certificate of Education (GCE).

[page 62]

It has been argued that Percy Wilson, who had become SCI on Martin Roseveare's retirement in 1957, took a different view from that of his predecessor on the place of external examinations, and this helped to persuade the Beloe Committee (set up by the Secondary Schools Examinations Council on the initiative of Lord Alexander) to propose the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE). (12)

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons Debate on the Crowther Report, Sir David Eccles underlined the importance of the Inspectorate in his now famous reference to the 'secret garden of the curriculum':

I regret that so many of our educational debates have had to be devoted almost entirely to bricks and mortar and to the organisation of the system. We hardly ever discuss what is taught to the seven million boys and girls in the maintained schools ... I should like the House to say that this reticence has been overdone ... my Department has the unique advantage of the countrywide experience of Her Majesty's Inspectors. Nowhere in the Kingdom is there such a rich source of information or such a constant exchange of ideas on all that goes on in the schools ... the section in the [Crowther] Report on the Sixth Form is an irresistible invitation for a sally into the secret garden of the curriculum. (13)



1960-1973: The Partnership Years

When the Beloe Committee recommended establishment of a new national examination for 16-year-olds, Eccles responded - as did his DES successors when faced with later pressure for a GCSE - not by immediate action but by proposing that a group within the Ministry undertake further research. This was the origin of the Curriculum Study Group (CSG), set up in March 1962 with D. H. Morrell and SI Mr R. W. Morris as Joint Heads.

The CSG was to be short-lived. In response to teacher and local authority anxiety about central control of the curriculum, it was soon replaced by a much larger Schools Council, with membership drawn from the authorities and teachers' associations. (14)

[page 63]

Despite the early Eccles initiative, the 1960s was a period in which Government stood back from direct intervention in the curriculum of primary and secondary education. It is intriguing to speculate what the effects on the work of HMI might have been if the experiment of the Ministry-based CSG had succeeded. Some HMI saw the administrative decision to set up the CSG as a criticism of their own effectiveness; others have suggested that an expanded CSG might have provided the engine for that process of professionally directed, top-down reform that was later to be acknowledged as the only really effective way in which to achieve wide-ranging curriculum change. In the words of one, 'if the CSG had succeeded, the Education Reform Act might not have been necessary'.

The CSE recommended by Beloe was introduced in 1965, but policy interest was focused on comprehensive reorganisation and the pre- and post-Robbins expansion of higher education. Specialist HMI had a significant influence on the physical and educational development of the polytechnics that began to be designated after 1965. And, it must never be forgotten, Inspectors in the field went on doing their familiar and important work with local authorities and schools and teachers. Robin Tanner, HMI, has written of his own priorities:

When I joined the Inspectorate I was assured that administration - in which I had no interest and for which I had neither aptitude nor training - was never likely to be part of my work, but increasingly now that position was being challenged. Only by standing firm and refusing to be diverted from what I knew to be my proper work was it possible to devote my whole time to inspecting and advising. The two were intermingled ... The schools felt cared for because of all this meticulous attention, and they found satisfaction in having an appraisal from people who had nothing to lose, no local allegiances to consider, but only a desire to share and to help ...

I inspected in order to advise ... the greater part of my time, especially on my many pastoral visits, was spent in listening, in sharing problems and interests so that I could identify myself with them, and in giving guidance and lending a hand.

Undoubtedly the most likely part of my own work to have any influence was the many short courses and conferences in which I took part from the last

[page 64]

years of the war to my retirement in 1964. It seemed to me that these tremendous, concerted efforts paid even richer dividends than the inspection of schools ... (15)

John Newsom's 1963 report Half our Future (16), from a CAC with three HMI assessors and an HMI as Secretary, urged a better deal for the less able, but was still cool towards external examinations. Four years later, with Lady Plowden in the Chair, the Council endorsed the developmental approach that increasingly characterised the work of the better primary schools. It was an approach that had already begun to be contested. (17) A feature of the Plowden Report (18) was its strong research base, in which HMls Gilbert Peaker and Miss Stella Duncan played a major role, and which emphasised the value of the kind of survey work that was later to be the basis of HMI 'phase' reports.

Cyril English, who had followed Percy Wilson as SCI, had a distinguished background in technical education, and in his time in the post (he went on to be Director of the City and Guilds of London Institute) recruited additional Inspectors for science and mathematics and amalgamated the hitherto separate strands of the further education Inspectorate.

When the Select Committee of the House of Commons came to review the work of HMI in the second half of what has since been called the euphoric 1960s, they did so in a context permeated by values of participation, democratisation, openness and equality. Such values were in many respects antipathetic to all that is involved in the concept of 'inspection'. Having found that regular full inspections were no longer a reality, the Committee recommended they be discontinued and Inspectors rely on informal visits. Fewer Inspectors would be needed. The emphasis in future should be on consultancy and the provision of advice.

Evidence presented to the Select Committee suggested that as local authority advisory services expanded and teachers became more professional, the need for a national Inspectorate might even disappear. (19) But the record of evidence also makes clear that, even in 1968, neither the Department nor HMI were entirely happy with the curricular arrangements that had developed during the 1960s. In the words of the then Secretary, Sir Herbert Andrew,

[page 65]

The Department has no responsibilities by statute for the curriculum. Parliament in its wisdom has kept the Department out of any control of the curriculum at all. It has then required the Department, through the Secretary of State, to see that all schools are inspected. It has never said what is to happen if the Inspectorate did not think much of the curriculum in a school, except that the Secretary of State must not do anything about it.

There were 12 main recommendations in the Select Committee Report of 1967-68. The Department's initial response 'noted' several, said that others were being considered, and wholeheartedly accepted only the last - that more educational research was needed. Importantly for the future, however, the Committee's recommendation that the status of the SCI be made equivalent to that of Deputy Secretary was later implemented, thus giving HMI a stronger policy interface.

The beginning of the new decade saw a change in the educational climate that was to have important consequences for the future of the Inspectorate. The first of the Black papers, evidence from the National Foundation for Educational Research interpreted as showing a decline in reading standards, and, shortly afterwards, the effect on the economy of the 'oil shocks' were among a series of challenges to prevailing values and assumptions.

Professor Gordon has referred to the 1860s as a low point in relations between the Inspectorate and the Office. Current opinion tends to see the 1960s in a similar light. However experienced, able and committed were the members of the Inspectorate in this period, the social and political climate had not been conducive to HMI occupying the high ground.

During the 1970s HMI achieved a fresh definition by pursuing, in the words of Harry Judge, 'a campaign of sustained and intelligent aggression' (20) The success of this campaign was all the more remarkable in that over this period HMI was exposed to an unprecedented volume of internal and external criticism and review. At times its very existence appeared to be under threat.

Some of the groundwork for new tasks was accomplished during the incumbencies as SCI of W. R. Elliott (1967-72) and Harry French (1972-74). In

[page 66]

particular, the senior members of the Inspectorate established their role in the planning structures of the Department. In 1969-70 two internal working groups had been set up, the first in May 1969 under the chairmanship of T. R. (later Sir Toby) Weaver to review the mode and working of the Inspectorate in further education, the second under SCI to examine the implications for the Inspectorate of the Fulton Committee on the reform of the Civil Service. The Fulton Group's report (21) re-emphasised the primary function of the Inspectorate as being the provision of independent advice to the Office, a function which in future would require not only data based on individual institutions, but 'extensive use of survey techniques and ... vertical studies concerned with continuity or related questions of teacher training and supply'. According to the Fulton Group, HMI would have less time for the exercise of their 'pastoral role' in relation to individual schools. A move towards a more specialist Inspectorate was seen as inevitable. Everyone would have special responsibilities for a phase, aspect or subject.

As the 1970s began, so were they to continue. From the 1968 Select Committee to the so-called 'Rayner' review of 1981, the Inspectorate was subject to no fewer than eight internal and external reviews. It was a period in which primary, secondary and post-secondary education alike were adapting to a world in which increased international competition, turbulent industrial relations, incipient demographic downturn, continuing technological innovation and what has been called a 'crisis of expectations' combined to bring about significant shifts in educational priorities and practices. The full impact of these shifts would not be fully visible until the 1980s. In the meantime the Inspectorate was inevitably caught up in a process of change that was radically to alter the balance of power in the educational system.



From Yellow Book to Education Reform Act

Several features of the changing educational climate helped to reinstate the value of HMI roles that had earlier appeared under threat.

There was renewed concern with quality and standards. DES attempts to improve the effectiveness of educational planning put a premium on accurate

[page 67]

and up-to-date intelligence of the kind that an active Inspectorate was in a good position to provide. (Indeed, in its evidence to the Expenditure Committee of the House of Commons in 1976, the Department suggested that HMI were 'able to fulfil many, if not most, of the requirements of a Chief Scientist Organisation'. (22)) Education authorities, enlarged following the reorganisation of 1974, were in many cases better able to appoint a full range of local inspectors and advisers. Rather than making HMI redundant, this gave greater prominence to their national role. In particular, major surveys of primary and secondary education exposed weaknesses in 'whole curriculum' planning and implementation of a kind that the Schools Council appeared to many to be unable to address.

The primary survey was begun in the spring of 1975. As it proceeded, flaws were exposed in 1960s hopes that standards would be raised and innovation stimulated through greater teacher professionalism. Sheila Browne, appointed SCI in 1974, saw more clearly than most that to achieve the full potentiality of new initiatives from the centre would require a stronger reporting base than the Inspectorate at that time possessed. A consultancy role was not in itself enough to ensure that HMI's evidence and advice would command attention and respect. Proposals for a 'first call' centre, which would place some 60 HMI in a more direct relationship to national priorities and policy development, met initial resistance. But in this area, as in others, she eventually succeeded in creating a structure that enabled the Inspectorate not only to survive but to emerge strengthened from a turbulent political decade.

The Yellow Book (23) produced by the DES in response to enquiries from the Prime Minister, James Callaghan, confidently asserted that 'HM Inspectorate is without doubt the most powerful single agency to influence what goes on in schools, both in kind and standard'. The Inspectorate was already working on models for core curricula. Its involvement in initial teacher training would need to be strengthened. HMI would step up its efforts through publications, courses and assessorships. For all this to be possible certain conditions would need to be met.

... if the Inspectorate is to maintain the respect and confidence it has built up it may have to say things in its reports which will not be wholly palatable to the

[page 68]

Government of the day; second, it will have to be staffed to perform its functions in an efficient and adequate manner; and finally, we must find ways to make the general public (i.e. parents) and teachers aware of its attitudes and findings. (24)

The Department sought a declaration from Ministers and from No. 10 suggesting that it should give a firmer lead, especially in the areas of curriculum and teaching methods. The document ended as robustly as it had begun:

The climate for a declaration on these lines may in fact now be relatively favourable. Nor need there be any inhibition for fear that the Department could not make use of enhanced opportunity to exercise influence over curriculum and teaching methods; the Inspectorate would have a leading role to play in bringing forward ideas in these areas and is ready to fulfil that responsibility. (25)

The educational debates of this period articulated themes and concerns which would reach legislative fulfilment only much later in the establishment of a National Curriculum and national assessment.

A management review, begun in the year following publication of the Yellow Book, emphasised the need for active involvement of HMI in the Department's planning processes and programmes of work (an issue that had also been addressed by the House of Commons Expenditure Committee a couple of years earlier); the establishment of a new Policy Group for Inspection under the SCI; and fuller and more frequent interaction between HMI and branch officers. (26) The outcome pointed up just how broad the interface between HMI and the Department had become, especially with a higher proportion of Senior Inspectors now based in Elizabeth House rather than in the Divisions.

The election of 1979 brought into office a government prepared to challenge institutions that might once have considered themselves above the political agenda. HMI was vulnerable on three main counts.

First with every form of public expenditure under scrutiny, the Inspectorate looked expensive, accounting for a substantial part of the cost of the central administration of education.

[page 69]

Second, although inspection chimed with the keenness of the new administration to improve efficiency and accountability, HMI was implicated in many features of educational provision that were under attack.

Third, there were anxieties that HMI's claim to independent professional judgement might be used to deflect what were seen as urgently needed reforms.

Fears among HMI that, in this context, the enquiry modelled on the studies of efficiency in other government departments directed by Lord Rayner that was launched in 1981 might have radical consequences proved in the outcome to be misplaced. As the enquiry team themselves noted, given that their study was 'concerned with a relatively small but highly regarded group of well qualified professional people in an established position of longstanding which largely pervades the education service' any 'fundamental changes in the role and structure of HM Inspectorate would require very powerful arguments indeed and even then would require careful consideration and handling if the fragile balance of HM Inspectorate's relationship with the education system were not to be disturbed'. (27)

No such 'powerful arguments' for radical change were adduced. Better follow-up, more attention to further and higher education (FHE), a reduction in the time gap between inspections and the issue of reports, improvements in the quality of support services and reduced HMI involvement in advanced course approval were all recommended. The report also strongly endorsed the importance and value of the service.

Nonetheless, 'Rayner', as the review has come to be called, was as much a watershed as the 1967-68 Select Committee Report:

- the report spelled out the role and function of HMI, and their relation to the DES, in greater detail than any previous official statement.

- in political terms, a 'clean bill of health' enabled HMI to practise and to refine the forms of influence they had been developing since the mid-1970s, particularly but not exclusively in the area of the curriculum.

- the study also prepared the ground for the important policy statement The Work of HM Inspectorate in England and Wales that appeared (not without a

[page 70]

great deal of re-writing) in 1983. (28) Earlier in that year it had been decided to publish reports on individual institutions and to undertake the overall inspection of educational provision by individual local authorities. Within a short time further decisions were taken to cease course approval in FHE, thus emphasising intelligence-gathering and qualitative functions as distinct from administration; and to increase the flow of HMI publications, including, not least, studies of educational provision overseas - a tradition that goes back to the work of the Office of Special Enquiries and Reports under Sir Michael Sadler nearly a century ago.

After a less than happy period of review and re-review, the Schools Council was abolished. This is not the place to appraise that decision. (29) HMI had played an important part in the work of the Council's committees and project teams, but their concern for the whole curriculum and its integration with other aspects of educational provision was reflected in the Council's programmes only towards the end of its life.

The Rayner study team had suggested that a complement of 430 HMI should be regarded as a maximum. In the event, the wish to give greater attention to FHE, and particularly the quality-driven decision to undertake full inspections of all institutions undertaking initial teacher training, required a significant increase in numbers.

The full story of the negotiations and decisions by means of which the independence of the Inspectorate was reasserted, and inspection firmly reinstated in the policy process, will become known only when the archives are opened at the end of the century - if then. One of the more visible manifestations of the outcome of those negotiations was the introduction of an annual review of the effects of LEA expenditure policies on the quality of educational provision - which, if it showed that the relations between expenditure and quality are by no means simple, also documented the effects of financial exigency on premises and equipment in a way that critics of existing policies were quick to exploit.

Sheila Browne was succeeded in 1983 by Eric Bolton, to whom fell the tasks of reorienting the role of further and higher education Inspectors and,

[page 71]

centrally, of helping to secure a basis for national agreement on the whole curriculum from five to 16 and the manner of its assessment. The outcomes of work that had begun with the primary and secondary surveys of the mid-1970s, together with those from the ongoing process of inspection and review, had been reflected in such HMI publications as Curriculum 11-16: Working papers by HM Inspectorate: A contribution to current debate (1977), A View of the Curriculum: Matters for Discussion 11 (1980), Education 5-9: An illustrative survey of 80 first schools (1982), and Curriculum Matters 2: The Curriculum from 5 to 16 (1985). These efforts culminated in the curricular and assessment provisions of the 1988 Education Act, with the full implications of which teachers, heads, governors and local authorities are currently engaged in coming to grips.



Origins and Recruitment

From what sources are HMI recruited? In giving evidence to the 1967-68 Select Committee, the then SCI W. R. Elliott had averred that 'most of our applicants from the schools' world are either heads or deputy heads ... most of our applicants from the primary world would be heads'. (30)

Two decades later, the balance appears to have shifted somewhat. People with curriculum management responsibilities have the knowledge and perspective the curriculum focus of the service now needs. Table 1 shows the range of posts from which HMI in service in 1989 had been recruited.

Once recruited, few HMls leave the service to take up posts elsewhere before the normal retirement age of 60. Eight did so in 1988, the same number as in 1987. The numbers for each of the preceding three years had been even smaller.

Given that most HMI serve for less than 20 years, the collective memory of the service is rather short. A high proportion of those currently in post are post-Rayner appointees. Few HMI still in service were around when the Select Committee of the House of Commons published its 1967-68 report. In that document details were given of HMI's age distribution. It may be of interest to compare it with today's (Table 2).

[page 72]

Table 1

Table 2

[page 73]


The Current Scene

The nature of HMI's authority has been a recurring theme in every study made of the service. Although the statutory position has not changed, and some of the current understandings have deep historical roots, subtle shifts have taken place in the language employed to describe HMI's relations with the State and the system. In the 1960s the emphasis was on influence and consultation, more or less sharply distinguished from direction or control. Different words tend to be used today. The post-Rayner policy statement spoke of assessing standards and trends, identifying and making known good practice, and providing advice and assistance. (28)

The professional independence of HMI rests on three pillars: SCI's direct access to Ministers, the Inspectorate's control over its own work programme, and the fact that, although the Secretary of State decides what HMI writing shall be published, anything that is published must be as it was written. But stripped of its earlier tentativeness, the concept of influence still applies. Through what channels do HMI affect what happens in schools, colleges, administrative offices and in government?

First, through the day-to-day contact that individual members of the service have with teachers, heads, local advisers and education officers in the course of their visits to educational establishments and LEA offices. The Inspector visiting a primary or secondary school in his or her district may at one and the same time be advising a head or teacher on a problem, collecting information to feed back to the authors of a forthcoming report on some phase or aspect of educational provision, judging the extent to which the recommendations of a recent inspection have been acted upon, evaluating the effects on learning and teaching of some feature of official policy, and obtaining an impression of the in-service needs that exist in the area.

A second mode of influence is through full-scale and modified general inspections of the whole or part of the work of institutions, undertaken by teams of HMI in a sample of primary and secondary schools, in further education

[page 74]

colleges, and higher education institutions funded by the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (PCFC). Such influence impacts upon the institution through preparation for, and the process of, the inspection itself, and through the response required to the eventual report. Since 1983, the publication of such reports and the publicity given to their principal findings have enabled the outcomes of individual general inspections to influence the system as a whole.

Third, HMI serve or act as assessors on the boards and committees of many hundreds of educational organisations, ranging from the National Curriculum Council and the School Examinations and Assessment Council, through a multitude of specialist and voluntary bodies, to regional groups such as the local committees associated with the work of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Fourth, HMI contribute directly to the in-service education and training of teachers and lecturers, through the organisation of residential meetings and short courses and seminars and by participation in courses, for example those mounted by local authorities, universities and subject associations.

Fifth, drawing upon information gathered in the course of their visits to institutions, from general inspections, and by means of special surveys and research studies of particular topics and issues, HMI make available to the educational community reports and commentaries on many aspects of policy implementation and current educational practice.

Sixth, HMI, particularly but not exclusively those based upon Elizabeth House, participate in the formulation, enactment, implementation and evaluation of public policy in education, working closely with departmental officers and, in the case of the most senior Inspectors, with Ministers. Their principal functions in these processes are to offer information on the current situation in the field concerned, to advise as to the feasibility and practicality of particular lines of action, and to appraise progress.

Relations between HMI and the much more numerous corps of local authority inspectors and advisers (it is estimated that in 1986 there were some 2,200 in post) have often been commented upon (for useful discussions see

[page 75]

Winkley (31), Pearce (32), Stillman and Grant (33) and Wilcox (5)). There have been experiments with joint inspections, but, like the short-lived attempt to secure agreement with institutions under inspection prior to the issue of a report, these have not been pursued. In a statement to the National Association of Inspectors and Educational Advisers in 1988, the then Secretary, Sir David Hancock, emphasised the importance of all the different forms of inspection - national and local, general and specialist, elaborate and simple - as instruments for promoting good education, and the particular role that local inspectors can play in fostering the improvement of teaching and learning in a context of financial delegation and national assessment.

The introduction of a National Curriculum and national assessment is likely to enhance, rather than diminish, the importance of HMI's role in interpreting initiatives and outcomes in terms of new requirements. It is a matter for speculation as to whether the ERA will push the service in the direction of what Rhodes has called an enforcement as distinct from an efficiency Inspectorate (1), but this seems unlikely. In any event, collective judgements about quality will be very much needed by bodies such as the PCFC, the Universities Funding Council (in respect to initial teaching training) and the validation and accreditation agencies that give careful attention to HMI reports on institutions and courses. And HMI are likely to need to continue their work in special educational needs, youth and community service, further education, inner city initiatives and all those other areas to which I have not been able to do justice this evening.




It has been said that there is no history, only biography. HMI has never been strong on biography. But if the emphasis of the modern Inspectorate is on collective judgement rather than individual opinion, on consistency and common standards rather than the cult of personality, its history is none the less made up of the life stories of those men and women who have served since 1839.

Some - not a large number - have been able to exert direct influence on the direction of national policy on education. For most, such influence has been

[page 76]

and remains indirect. Its collective representation is the steady accumulation of evidence and the refinement of judgement that come from 500 or so knowledgeable and committed educators looking, listening, questioning and recording - from, in other words, that key activity of inspecting, without which HMI would have nothing of value to say and no useful advice to offer. It is this aspect of the Inspectorate's role that was given greater emphasis during the 1970s, and which remains its principal rationale today.

Harder to assess is that influence that HMI exert through their personal contacts with heads and with teachers, with administrators and teacher educators, with the officers and members of that multitude of subject associations and special interest groups that contribute so much to the variety and effectiveness of education in England and Wales. The contribution of these face-to-face encounters - the advice given, the knowledge shared, the skills transferred, the enthusiasm communicated - is difficult to interpret in terms that satisfy a numbers-oriented age. Such encounters have always been an important source of job satisfaction for HMI. In the minds of many of them, they have been as significant for educational good as some of the more visible and controversial manifestations of HMI activity on the national scene.

Some critics think that HMI support a so-called 'progressive' approach which is antipathetic to higher standards, greater vocational relevance and a more robust spirit of individual competition. Others see them as having sold out to centralised control, the values of the supermarket and the spirit of Gradgrind. (34) To survive in such an environment entails not only sophisticated negotiating skills, but a mode of working informed by values important to any government in a democracy, whatever its political complexion.

Such values are implicit in the way in which HMI carry out their tasks. They are nowhere written down and seldom discussed (that much of the gentlemanly amateur tradition survives). They are easier to experience and to demonstrate than to describe. And, as in all areas of human activity, practice can sometimes fall short of commitment. Objectivity; balance; political neutrality; the desirability of consensus; collective rather than individual judgements; practicality; an eye for clear progression and coherent curriculum planning; sound learning, not just good teaching; a wish to see a proper balance between the development of

[page 77]

desirable personal characteristics and the achievement of other more directly measurable 'results' - all these are among the elements of HMI culture. On an occasion such as this, however, such disaggregation may not be helpful. In the words of Alexander Pope:

Like following life through creatures you dissect
You lose it in the moment you detect.

The language of policy-making and implementation, of the work plan and diary, of the survey and the inspection report, is necessarily and properly impersonal and unemotional. Yet perhaps there is a right moment for sentiments of the kind that, at the mid-point of these 150 years, Boothroyd used in his History of the Inspectorate, 'printed for private circulation by the Board of Education Inspectors Association':

This survey has, necessarily, dealt largely with organisation which is but the articulated skeleton around which the body grows and into which the spirit must breathe before life becomes manifest. It is not easy, nay, it is well-nigh impossible to capture the spirit of a movement, to regard it carefully, and then to describe all that it signifies. The spirit is that elusive, that indescribable yet priceless possession which is handed down from one generation of Inspectors to another

We inspectors of today have entered into a great heritage: we are in the line of a fine tradition. We do not know; we cannot express how much we owe to the Inspectors of old. They were men of good standing, of culture; but they were more than that: they were men of vision, of character; with a high sense of public duty and a fine appreciation of all that membership of the English Civil Service entails. They set a tone for our Service which yet lingers, sweetening and enriching our mutual intercourse. (35)

Seventy years on, the rate and character of educational change is very different from that to which an older generation of HMI were accustomed. Although the work programmes and diaries of today would astonish some of the gentlemanly amateurs of the nineteenth century, the service still socialises its members to values that have enabled it successfully to survive for 150 turbulent years.

[page 78]

No one can know what political, social and economic changes the next century and a half may bring about in education. In open and democratic societies there are few simple certainties, least of all in such value-contested activities as learning and teaching. There are also limits to what can be quantified and tabulated and allocated by formulae. Whatever technological advances may be ahead of us, it is unlikely that the need for interpretations and judgements based on the experience and understanding of independent observers in direct contact with teachers and with institutions will disappear. Governments and electorates are still likely to want to assess standards and trends, identify weaknesses, disseminate good practice, and ensure that advice and assistance are available for all those in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions who strive for greater personal fulfilment and a better world.

To celebrate here this evening the achievement of those many thousands of men and women who since 1839 have been proud to call themselves 'HMI' is to make us all more conscious of our current and future responsibilities. As to their motives, and ours, let Pope have the last word:

Ask you what provocation I have had?
The strong antipathy of good to bad.


[page 79]


1. Rhodes, G. (1981), Inspectorates in British Government, London: George Allen and Unwin.

2. Tanner, R. (1987), Double Harness, London: Impact Books.

3. Clark, L. (1976), An Inspector Remembers, London: Dobson.

4. Hughes, M., Ribbins, P and Thomas, H. (eds.) (1985), Managing Education: The system and the institution, London: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

5. Wilcox, B. (1989), 'Inspection and its contribution to practical evaluation', Educational Research, 31:3 November.

6. McPherson, A. and Raab, C.D. (1988), Governing Education: A Sociology of Policy since 1945, Edinburgh: University Press.

7 Lawton, D. and Gordon, P (1986), HMI, London: Routledge.

8. Central Panel, Minutes, 5 April 1948.

9. Maclure, S. (1977), Educational Development and School Building: Aspects of public policy 1945-73, London: Longman.

10. See also Saint, A. (1987), Towards a Social Architecture: The role of school building in post-war England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

11. Central Advisory Council (1959), 15 to 18, London: HMSO (Crowther Report).

12. Fisher, P. (1984), 'Curriculum Control in England and Wales: The Birth of the Schools Council, 1964', Educational Administration and History, quoted in Lawton and Gordon, op. cit., p. 131.

13. Quoted in Chitty, C. (1988), 'Central Control of the School Curriculum 1944-87', History of Education, 17:4.

14. See Wrigley, J. (1989), 'Curriculum Development, Teacher Training and Educational Research: A View from the Inside', Research Papers in Education.

15. Tanner, op. cit., pp. 138-9.

16. Central Advisory Council (1963), Half our Future, London: HMSO (Newsom Report).

17 Peters, R. S. (ed.) (1967), Perspectives on Plowden, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

18. Central Advisory Council (1967), Children and Their Primary Schools, London: HMSO (Plowden Report).

19. Report from the Select Committee on Education and Science. Session 1967-68. Part I: Her Majesty's Inspectorate (England and Wales). London: HMSO, 1968.

[page 80]

20. Judge, H. (1984), A Generation of Schooling: English secondary schools since 1944. London: Oxford University Press, p.199.

21. Department of Education and Science (1970), Fulton Review Group, Internal Memorandum (mimeo).

22. Policy Making in the Department of Education and Science, Tenth Report from the Expenditure Committee, Session 1975-76, London: HMSO, p. 449.

23. Secretary of State for Education and Science (1976), School Education in England: Problems and Initiatives (Yellow Book), London: Department of Education and Science.

24. ibid, p. 22.

25. ibid, p. 25.

26. Department of Education and Science (1979), Management Review of the Department of Education and Science 1977-78: A report of the Steering Committee, London: DES (mimeo).

27. Department of Education and Science (1982), Study of HM Inspectorate in England and Wales (Rayner Report), London: HMSO.

28. Department of Education and Science (1983), The Work of HM Inspectorate in England and Wales, London: DES.

29. See Smith, A., 'The Review', Mann, J., 'Who killed the Schools Council?' and Tomlinson, J., 'From projects to programmes' in Plaskow, M. (ed.) (1985), Life and Death of the Schools Council, London: Falmer Press.

30. Report from the Select Committee on Education and Science, Session 1967-68. Part I, para. 27, p. 14.

31. Winkley; D. (1985), Diplomats and Detectives, London: Robert Royce.

32. Pearce, J. (1986), Standards and the LEA: The accountability of schools, Windsor: NFER/Nelson Publishing Company

33. Stillman, A. B. and Grant, M. (1989), The LEA Adviser: A Changing Role, Windsor: NFER/Nelson Publishing Company.

34. For recent critical views see, for example, House of Lords Official Report vol. 512, no. 152, 15 November 1989, cols. 1309-1311, and press responses to the HMI Report of November 1989 on the King Edward VI Grammar School at Stratford-upon-Avon.

35. Boothroyd, H. E. (1923), History of the Inspectorate, London: privately printed.

[page 81]

Public Education in England 1839-1989

A Brief History

[page 83]

1989 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the formal history of state education in England and of the establishment of Her Majesty's Inspectorate. From the most modest origins both state education and HMI have developed in a manner and scale which were quite unanticipated in the first years of Victoria's reign.

It was wholly typical of the way early Victorian social policy emerged that the state's involvement with education should begin not with a philosophical commitment but with an administrative device. Many felt that the state had no place in the schoolroom for fear of political or religious indoctrination and that English liberty depended upon voluntary educational provision through the churches and charities. It was as a means of supporting this voluntary effort that the Whig government had in 1833 allocated a small grant of 20,000 for elementary education. Nothing is more certain than that government, having allocated funds, will soon wish to know how those funds have been used. Lacking any agency to administer educational grants, the Whigs in 1839 established the Committee of the Privy Council for Education and appointed Dr James Kay (later Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth) as Secretary. Having seen at first hand the work of Factory and Poor Law inspectors, Kay recommended that school inspectors should be appointed and that grants to schools should be conditional upon inspection. In December 1839 the first two HMI were appointed, John Allen, an Anglican clergyman, and Seymour Tremenheere, a barrister and later the first Inspector of Mines.

As in other fields of social policy, the state's responsibilities and the scope of the Inspectorate grew by a process of accretion. Though raising many ideological and religious issues, the growth of state education was for several decades largely a pragmatic response to practical problems. Kay perceptively identified the children of working classes themselves as the prime source of new elementary schoolteachers and his pupil teacher scheme of 1846 established a ladder of opportunity for them. This apprenticeship scheme also enlarged the role of HMI, who were brought firmly into the world of teacher training. The supply of teachers greatly increased and with it the costs borne by the public purse. A grant of 100,000 in 1847 increased eightfold within 15 years. In 1856 the Committee was replaced by a formal Privy Council Department of Education, which by the end of the decade was paying fees to more than 20,000 individuals.

[page 84]

It was in order to review this unexpected growth in both expenditure and personnel that a Royal Commission was appointed in 1858. The report of the Newcastle Commission led to the Revised Code of 1862 with its controversial system of 'Payment by Results', inaugurated with Education Minister Robert Lowe's famous symmetrical promise:

I cannot promise the House that this system will be an economical one and I cannot promise that it will be an efficient one but I can promise that it will be either one or the other. If it is not cheap it shall be efficient; if it is not efficient it shall be cheap.

This brought testing firmly on to the educational agenda, with some unanticipated results. Some see the Revised Code as a not unreasonable attempt to achieve mass literacy and numeracy. Others follow HMI Matthew Arnold's criticism that its effects were to restrict the curriculum by encouraging teachers to teach to the tests.

The Code affected the position of HMI. As the person administering the tests, the Inspector became an object of fear, rather than the friendly adviser. There were plenty of complaints from teachers about insensitive treatment of pupils. Yet there is counterbalancing evidence that HMI continued to work to improve the position of teachers. In any event an important political event underlined the vital distinction between HMI and the Department. Robert Lowe was forced to resign in 1863 when it was revealed that his officials had been altering HMI reports. A fundamental principle confirming the nature of the independence of the Inspectorate was established: the Inspectorate was free to report on what it found through inspection, without political or bureaucratic interference.

It was ironic that within a decade of the Revised Code the first Education Act, Forster's in 1870, was passed. Notwithstanding the increase in funding, Gladstone's Liberal government was anxious to 'fill in the gaps'. The Act did not, therefore, commit the state to provide universal free education, as is sometimes supposed. Before 1870 the state was subsidising voluntary education: after 1870 it was supplementing it. The Act's two most important features were the partial resolution of the religious rivalry which had inhibited state education in the mid-

[page 85]

century and the creation of the school boards, whose position was later to be strengthened by further legislation. Sandon's 1876 Act placed responsibility for school attendance upon parents and extended school boards into the rural areas; Mundella's 1880 Act made education compulsory up to the age of ten; and by an act of 1891 elementary fees were virtually abolished. By the turn of the century, well over half of all pupils were in board schools and on the eve of their dissolution the school boards were making great strides in elementary provision and in higher grade (secondary) schools. Balfour's 1902 Act placed responsibility for education firmly on the local authorities and the shape of the present day system was already clear, with the central agency, now the independent Board of Education, created in 1899.

By then, also, much of the structure of the modern Inspectorate was already in place. From 1870 HMI was organised territorially into eight divisions and in 1890 the first SCI was appointed. The separate Science and Art Inspectors (though not strictly HMI), who had since the 1840s inspected design and technical schools, were merged into the main body of the Inspectorate in 1901. Two years later, under the aegis of the renowned Robert Morant, Secretary of the Board, the Inspectorate was reorganised into three branches, elementary, secondary and technical, each headed by a Chief Inspector, corresponding to the new organisation of the Board. During the Edwardian years the Board issued several important Codes of guidance which were the forerunners of the present DES Circulars.

The HMI establishment grew as the work and responsibilities increased. There were some 50 HMI in the early 1860s and this had grown to about 350 at the end of the century. At various stages HMI were supported by Sub-Inspectors and Assistant Inspectors, and there was a separate Women's Inspectorate from the first female appointment in 1883 through to the unification of the Inspectorate in 1934.

'Secondary Education for All' was the great rallying-cry of the inter-war years and that became a reality in the wake of the historic Butler Education Act of 1944, which established the Ministry of Education and also reconfirmed the right of access of an enlarged HMI (over 500 in the late 1940s) to educational establishments. The raising of the school-leaving age, the transition to the

[page 86]

comprehensive system, the introduction of the GCE and later the GCSE, the expansion of the universities, the creation of the polytechnics, and the establishment of the Department of Education and Science itself in 1964 were all landmarks of the middle decades of the century. The voluminous and wide-ranging Education Reform Act of 1988 is a further significant development coming after a century and a half of educational achievement.

Select Time Chart

State EducationHMI
1833First Grant 20,000
1839Committee of the Privy Council for EducationFirst 2 HMI appointed
1846Kay's Pupil Teacher Scheme
1850Assistant Inspectors appointed
1856Education Department founded
1858Newcastle Commission appointed
1862Revised Code - Payment by Results
1863Lowe resigned following alteration of reports
1870Forster's Education ActEight territorial Divisions (c90 HMI)
1876Sandon's Education Act
1880Mundella's Education Actc270 HMI
1883First woman HMI appointed
1890First SCI appointed (c300 HMI)
1891Fee Grant Act
1899Board of Education createdc350 HMI
1901Science and Art Inspectors merged with HMI
1902Balfour's Education Act
1903Three Branches - Elementary, Secondary, TechnicalThree Branches
1906Free school meals
School medical inspection
1918Fisher's Education Act

[page 87]

State EducationHMI
1926Hadow ReportHMI unified - Branches abolished 3 CIs, 9 DIs, 12 SIs
1934Women's Inspectorate unified with men (c310 HMI)
1938Spens Report
1944Butler Education Act
Ministry of Education established
Grade of Assistant Inspector abolished
1950c560 HMI
1956White Paper on Technical Education
1959Crowther Report
1961Equal pay for men and women HMI
1963Newsom and Robbins Reports
1964Department of Education and Science created
CNAA established
1967Plowden Report
1974First woman SCI appointed
1981Education Actc420 HMI
1983Rayner Report on HMI
1984CATE established
1986Education Act
1988ERA, NCC and SEACc490 HMI
1989First Annual Report from SCI

[page 89]

Other Events Commemorating the Anniversary

[page 91]

Teachers' Garden Party

On 25 July 1989, with the gracious permission of Her Majesty The Queen, a Garden Party was held in the grounds of Buckingham Palace attended by HRH The Princess Royal and HRH The Duke of Kent. Among the guests were former Secretaries of State and Ministers for Education, including the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher MP. Most of the 4,000 guests were teachers from schools and further education institutions throughout the United Kingdom.

Royal Mail Commemorative Stamp

A stamp was issued by the Royal Mail in April 1989 commemorating 'Public Education in England 1839-1989'.

School Visit

On 30 June 1989, 16 children from Sculthorpe Primary School in Fakenham, Norfolk, visited London at the Department's invitation. The school was chosen to mark the Anniversary as one of the last remaining institutions to receive a government grant as a National School in 1839. As part of the day, which also included visits to the House of Commons and the Museum of London, the children met the Secretary of State at the Department; he presented them with anniversary mugs and first-day covers of the Royal Mail Commemorative Stamp.

[back endpapers]

[click on the image for a larger version]