Tawney (1922)

Secondary Education for All (text)

Secondary Education for All (1922)
edited by RH Tawney

London: The Labour Party/George Allen & Unwin Ltd

Background notes

Historical context

In October 1919, President of the Board of Education HAL (Herbert) Fisher (1865-1940) appointed Liberal MP E Hilton Young (1879-1960) to chair a departmental committee to examine the issue of scholarships and free places for secondary education.

The Report of the Departmental Committee on Scholarships and Free Places (the Young Report) was published in November 1920. It noted that there were almost six million children in the public elementary schools, but just 961 grant-aided secondary schools in England with 246,000 pupils. Of these, 72,386 had "free places", 53,400 awarded by Local Authorities, 16,548 by school governors, and 2,378 by other endowments (Young 1920:4).

Lack of space had resulted in the exclusion from secondary schools of 10,076 potential fee-payers and 11,134 who had qualified for free places (Young 1920:68). This was contrary to Section 4 of the 1918 Education Act, which required that no children should be debarred from 'the benefits of any form of education by which they are capable of profiting through inability to pay fees'.

Secondary Education for All

The Young Committee's recommendations were taken further two years later in Secondary Education for All, which set out the Labour Party's education policy. It was produced by an education advisory committee, established in 1919 to serve the party and the TUC, and edited by RH Tawney (pictured), one of the committee's leading members.

Secondary education, it said, had now become 'the aspiration of families who, twenty years ago, would have withdrawn [their children] from school at the earliest age which the law allowed' (Tawney 1922:37). However, many children were still disadvantaged because of their parents' poverty or the shortage of free places. What was needed was 'a system of universal secondary education extending from the age of eleven to that of sixteen' (Tawney 1922:77).

It went on to argue that 'The only policy which is at once educationally sound and suited to a democratic community is one under which primary education and secondary education are organised as two stages in a single and continuous process' (Tawney 1922:7). Secondary education - 'the education of the adolescent' - and primary education - 'education preparatory thereto' - should therefore be improved and developed

to such a point that all normal children, irrespective of the income, class, or occupation of their parents, may be transferred at the age of eleven+ from the primary or preparatory school to one type or another of secondary school, and remain in the latter till sixteen (Tawney 1922:7).
Such a scheme was now essential, because
Nothing less than this will satisfy the demands of the workers of the country; nothing less is urged by the most eminent educationalists; nothing less will enable the community to make the best use of its human resources, the development of which is at once the goal of economic effort and the source of all wealth which is produced (Tawney 1922:77).
Tawney noted that education's share of national expenditure had declined from 7.28 per cent in 1913 to 4.90 per cent in 1921, and he calculated that Labour's five-year plan for education would cost an additional 8.7m - 'less than that of one battleship' (Tawney 1922:130).

Incidentally, Tawney's phrase 'the education of the adolescent' came to be used as the title of the 1926 Hadow Report, which followed Secondary Education for All in recommending two stages of education - primary and secondary, with the break at age eleven. The use of the term 'elementary' was not finally abandoned until 1944.

The book online

I have removed the full stop after 'per cent' and the hyphen in 'to-day', and corrected the positioning of some of the speech marks. Otherwise, I have taken no liberties with the text: what you see here is what appeared in the book.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 17 September 2018.