Secondary Education in England, 1870-1902: Public Activity and Private Enterprise

By John Roach | Go to book overview

Preface and acknowledgements

This book completes a study of secondary education in the nineteenth century, the first part of which appeared as A History of Secondary Education in England 1800-1870 (Longmans, 1986). It is natural that many of the same themes should run through both books, though there are substantial differences between the periods before and after 1870. It is not, I think, possible to organize the complex events of the last thirty years of the nineteenth century round any single dominant theme, but one major thread in the story is suggested in the title of the book-the relationship between public activity and private enterprise. Though there was no publicly organized and financed system of secondary education in England before the passing of the Education Act of 1902, the state had spent much time and effort in regulating and reforming the old educational endowments.

The story of how this was done and how effective were the results forms a large part of this book. Part I, on the endowed schools, is based very largely on the Ed. 27 files in the Public Record Office at Kew. Those files contain a great mass of material which is not easy to use and only a small part of which can be tackled by an individual researcher. Enough has been done, I believe, to throw interesting light, both on official attitudes to educational planning and on local reactions to reform in general, to the claims of the middle classes, and to the rights of the poor. Nor, in the general area of public activity, must the interlocking worlds of the Science and Art Department, of the higher grade schools, and of the technical instruction committees be forgotten. The efforts of all these bodies were uncoordinated, much criticized, and sometimes wasteful, but they did lay a foundation for public involvement in secondary education before the 1902 Act, the importance of which has not always been fully appreciated.

If those were the fields of public activity, the most successful examples of private enterprise were the public schools, which grew in this period into their modern form and enjoyed at this time their period of greatest prestige and power. I have argued that their role was social rather than academic or intellectual, and that it is to be interpreted principally in

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