Major legislation and influential government reports

1870 Education Act

Established ‘elementary schools’ to fill the gaps in the previously voluntary provision of education for young children.

1931 The Hadow Report

The Primary School, an influential official expression of ‘progressive’ ideas.  The most quoted assertion is, ‘The curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored.’

1944 Education Act

RA Butler's 1944 Education Act abolished elementary schools and established ‘primary schools’.  It also enabled remaining voluntary schools to change their status to ‘aided’ or ‘controlled’ and receive state funding within one national system of primary education.  In secondary education, it established grammar, secondary modern and technical schools. The 1944 Act raised the school-leaving age to 15 and provided universal free schooling in three different types of schools: grammar, secondary modern and technical. Butler hoped that these schools would cater for the different academic levels and other aptitudes of children. Entry to these schools was based on the 11+ examination, with the apparently more academically inclined children going to Grammar schools.

1967 The Plowden Report

This is the unofficial name for the 1967 report of the Central Advisory Council For Education into Primary education in England. The report, entitled Children and their Primary Schools reviewed Primary education in England; its main recommendation was the centrality of the child (rather than individual subjects) in education. The Council was chaired by Lady Bridget Plowden after whom the report is named. Children and their Primary Schools promoted the applications of developmental psychology (particularly from Piaget) in primary school teaching and has been regarded as an important influence on ‘progressive’ and ‘child-centred’ ideas which were popular among teachers in the late 1960s and 1970s.

1975 The Bullock Report

A Language for Life argued that children’s language is of paramount importance and should be developed across the whole curriculum through systematic school policies.

1976 Sex Discrimination Act

Prohibited sex discrimination in school admissions, teacher appointments and curricular and other provision.

1976 Race Relations Act

Prohibited discrimination on grounds of ethnicity in school admissions, teacher appointments and curricular and other provision.

1978 The Warnock Report

Special Education: Forward Trends, established that one in five children have special educational needs at some point in their school education and needed particular provision.  The Education Act of 1981 enacted many of the report’s recommendations including an emphasis on the integration of children with (SEN) and the issue of ‘statements’ of pupil need.

1981 Education Act

Enacted most of the recommendations of the Warnock Report on provision for children with Special Educational Needs.  It required that children with SEN be issued with a ‘statement’ of those needs and encouraged the integration of children with SEN within mainstream provision. (Repealed by the Education (Schools) Act, 1992)

1982 The Cockcroft Report

Mathematics Counts set out the arguments for the importance of mathematics in everyday life and advocated innovative teaching methods including problem-solving and the use of calculators and computers.

1986 The House of Commons Select Committee Report

Achievement in Primary Schools provided a thorough overview of the state of primary education in the mid-1980s.  Among its recommendations was the suggestion that class teachers should also act as ‘curriculum coordinators’ for particular subjects across the whole school.

1986 Education Act

Established governing bodies for each school with a specific composition and set of powers for each school size and status.  Set a requirement for governing bodies to adopt a curriculum policy, and to provide an annual school report and Annual Meeting for parents.

1987 Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Act

Abolished teacher’s rights to independent negotiating procedures over and pay and working conditions and authorised the Secretary of State to impose pay and conditions.  He or she is advised by a School Teachers Review Body.

1988 Education Reform Act (ERA)

Set national educational aims for the first time and established the National Curriculum and a body to oversee it (The National Curriculum Council, NCC - abolished 1993); national assessment requirements and a body to oversee them (The School Examination and Assessment Council, SEAC - abolished 1993); requirements for the provision of information to parents; a policy of ‘open enrolment’ and parental choice of school; delegation of finances from Local Education Authorities to schools; and the opportunity for large primary schools to ‘opt out’ of Local Education Authority control and become ‘grant maintained’ (GMS).

1989 The Elton Report

Discipline in Schools, a balanced account which documented how ‘most schools are well ordered’, also the cumulative impact of ‘minor disruption’.  It suggested that teacher status and training could be enhanced; highlighted the importance of school effective management and parental guidance; and emphasised the role of pupils taking responsibility.

1989 Children Act

Wide-ranging legislation which sought to establish a comprehensive framework for the coordination of all forms of law, service and support for children.  The Act increased parental powers and those of the courts whilst also emphasising children’s rights.  Procedures for the work of professionals and agencies are complex.

1992 Education (Schools) Act

Established new procedures for the inspection of schools by ‘registered inspectors’ on a regular cycle (Planned to be every four years) and to be coordinated by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).  Though led by the Chief Inspector of Schools and supported by Her Majesty’s Inspectors, the number of HMI was reduced and the system was introduced in which inspection is conducted by independent teams working to contract.

1992 Classroom Practice and Classroom Organisation in Primary Schools

 A DES report by Alexander, R.J., Rose, J. and Woodhead, advocated ‘fitness for purpose’.

1992 Choice and Diversity, DfEE White Paper

Known in some government quarters as 'chaos and diversity' the paper recommended a 'back-to-basics' curriculum and emphasised five key values: quality, diversity, parental choice, school autonomy, and greater accountability. Its main objective was to increase the number of GMS. It became the basis for the 1993 Education Act (see below).

1993 Education Act

Set up the Funding Agency for Schools (FAS) to administer funding for Grant Maintained Schools (GMS) after opting out from Local Education Authority control.  Specified procedures for opting out and regulations for the governance of GMS.  Additionally established a ‘Code of Practice’ for national structuring of provision of Special Educational Needs.  Introduced regulations for monitoring school attendance and procedures for the identification and monitoring of schools which are ‘failing to provide an acceptable standard of education.’

1994 The House of Commons Select Committee Report

The Disparity in Funding between Primary and Secondary Schools concluded that the gap in funding between the two sectors was too wide, with expenditure on secondary pupils being more than 40% higher than on primary pupils, despite the range of new demands made following the introduction of the National Curriculum.  Concerns about rising class sizes were expressed.

1994 Education Act

Established the TTA (Teacher Training Authority) and regulated student unions.

1996 Education Acts

Nursery and Grant Maintained Schools Acts (July)

This was part of the drive towards the establishment of GMS. The intention behind this act was for GMS to be enabled to borrow money from private sources. With regard to nursery education the LEA would be paid grants for schools and other providers of nursery education for 4year olds. They would offer parents a 'voucher' to be exchanged for pre-school education in state, voluntary or private early years services. This was scrapped by the Labour government when they came to power in 1997.

Education (Schools) Act (consolidating Act) (November)

This included a number of measures, later repealed in 1998 by the Labour Government. It included the following: funding powers were transferred to the Trusts and Governing bodies of GMS, CTCs ( City Technology Colleges) and CCTAs City Colleges of Technology and Arts. LEAs were to contribute towards spiritual, mental, moral and physical development ' and also promote 'high standards of education'. LEAs had a 'responsibility' to establish nursery schools and classes for children under 5 and for children who were ill, excluded or out-of -school. The duties of the FAS (see above) were further clarified although the FAS was soon to be scrapped - in 1998.

Education (Schools Inspection) Act (consolidating Act) (November)

This clarified the role of the chief inspectors for schools for England and Wales, the roles of registered and specialist inspectors, and procedures for inspections reports. It also set out the legislation for schools placed in 'special measures'.

1997 Education Act

Abolished NCVQ and SCAA and replaced them with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

1997 Dearing report

A government report formally known as the Reports of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education.  It is actually a series of reports into the future of Higher Education in the United Kingdom.

1997 Excellence in Schools, DfEE

Rapidly produced by the new Labour Government this stated a commitment to high standards and a change from 'complacency' to 'commitment to success' and competition 'in the global economy'. It set out a whole raft of detailed policies, most of which became law in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (see below). These included, for example, the use of baseline testing for children starting school, the setting up of early years forums, the piloting of 25 early excellence centres, the availability of more performance data (league tables) for the public, the introduction of a literacy hour, the possibility of a numeracy hour, and suggested that LEAs should draw up education development plans and tackle 'failing schools' advised by the new Standards Task Force who would lead a 'crusade' for higher standards.

1998 School Standards and Framework Act

Based on the 1997 White Paper Excellence in schools. This was mainly concerned with the new categories of maintained schools ('foundation', 'aided' or 'community') their establishment, financing, staffing, admissions and selection systems. (See 'School Status' section) GMS had been brought in under the Conservatives as along term strategy for reviving selection. New Labour remained ambivalent about the principle of selection preferring to reduce rather than preclude selection by ability. This act also introduced the setting up of Education Action Zones in areas of social disadvantage and the limiting of infant class sizes.

1998 Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools

Known as the Crick Report, it recommended that citizenship education should be a statutory entitlement in the school curriculum.

1998 Meeting the Child Care Challenge, DfEE

This was a government green paper outlining the need for a childcare strategy. The aims were to support families and their children by providing good quality affordable childcare, available to meet the needs of all neighbourhoods. The paper recommended the expansion of the Early Excellence Centres programme, the introduction of Family Credit , the training of childcare workers through the New Deal and the expansion of the Early Years Development Partnership.

Established the Learning and Skills Councils for England and Wales, allowed city technology colleges to be renamed city academies.

2000 Race Relations (Amendment) Act

This legislation is about unlawful discrimination in regard to employment, education and training. It is concerned both with direct and indirect discrimination and applies to public bodies including the education service.

2001 Schools Building on Success, DfES

This document was published at the beginning of Labour's second term in office. It provides a new agenda and proposals for legislation across the education service. It focuses particularly on secondary education, but also provides proposals for the continuation of reform in primary education.

2002 Education Act

implemented the proposals in the 2001 White paper, Schools: achieving success.

2002 Languages for All: languages for life

The government's strategy for the teaching of foreign languages.

2003 Workforce Remodelling

Government initiative aimed at reducing teachers' workload by employing more unqualified classroom assistants.

2003 Every Child Matters, green paper

Led to the 2004 Children Act.

2004 Building Schools for the Future

Massive schools rebuilding programme launched.

2006 Education and Inspections Act

This Act emerged from the 2005 White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All, which proposed independent trust schools and decreed that Ofsted should become 'The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills'.

2006 Primary National Strategy

Primary Framework for literacy and mathematics.

2007 Raising Expectations: staying in education and training post-16, green paper

Argued that all young people should stay in education or training up to the age of 18.

2008 Education and Skills Act

Raised the education leaving age to 18; Key Stage 3 SATs effectively abolished.

2010 Academies Act

Provided for huge and rapid expansion of academies.

2010 The Importance of Teaching, white paper

Wide-ranging document covering teaching, leadership, behaviour, new schools, accountability etc.

2011 Education Act

Amongst other things, this Act increased schools' powers relating to pupil behaviour and exclusions, further diminished the role of local authorities, further expansion of academies.

2011 The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning (Tickell Report)

Made recommendations relating to the Early Years Foundation Stage.9

2011 Independent Review of Key Stage 2 Testing, Assessment and Accountability (Bew Report)

Recommended that published test results should be more comprehensive and seen as a part of a bigger picture.

2011 The Framework for the National Curriculum (Oates Report)

A report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum review, chaired by Tim Oates. 

2011 The English Baccalaureate (Commons Education Select Committee [CESC] Report)

Made recommendations for a slimmed down and, to many people, an arid curriculum for key stage 4. This paved the way for an announcement in September 2012 by the Minister concerned (Gove) that an ‘English Baccalaureate’ (EBacc) will replace GCSEs. The first EBacc courses in English, maths and sciences are intended to begin in September 2015; children will sit exams in these subjects in 2017, with the other core humanities and languages subjects following a few years later.

2011 Higher Education: Students at the heart of the system, white paper

2012 Cultural Education in England (Henley Report)

An independent review for the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

2012 Great Teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best (Commons Education Select Committee [CESC] Report)

An attempt by the Conservative/Liberal democrat alliance to undermine most of the good work done in teacher education up to that point.