The 1940s, 1950s and 1960s witnessed innumerable parliamentary reports and Acts many of which related to technical and commercial education. To do justice to this period chapters 11, 12 and 13 will focus on this critical time not only for the country but also for technical education. I will describe a number of topics and attempt to capture the essence and chronology [see chronology] of these reforms and subsequent developments. It was a period of rapid change financially, politically and socially as the country attempted to come to terms with the aftermath of the war and its changing role in the world. As always the period is littered with missed opportunities, weak political leadership and lack of real understanding of industry and technical and commercial education.
Because of the depressions during the 1920s/30s and the subsequent limitations on public expenditure little development of technical education occurred. The local authority budgets were severely curtailed which had a negative impact on their spending on education and this was further exacerbated by the permissive and voluntary nature of the existing legislation for the provision of technical education. As has been said the heyday of the growth of technical education was witnessed in the last two decades of the 19th century when colleges were established in most major cities and the larger towns. During the next half-century stagnation set in and a depressing period of national neglect was apparent. Only after the recommendations of the 1944 Education Act, which was strongly influenced by the Hadow (1926) and Spens Reports (1938), were enacted was there some evidence of progress.
The Second World War provided many harsh lessons for this country and most certainly identified its limitations as a world power. Once the workshop of the world it was made to realise in very stark terms that it was massively dependent on the US through the Lend-Lease programme. Churchill’s call ‘Give us the tools and we will finish the job!’ was only realised by the vast amount equipment and other hardware that America provided throughout the conflict. This included the essential electrical components for radar which had been discovered by our own few brilliant scientists. Even the plentiful initial supply of penicillin during the war was hampered by the failure to exploit its potential. The process to gain robust patents for the products was inadequate and slow even though it had been discovered in this country by Alexander Fleming. We had to depend on the Americans for the initial supplies. Barnet (1) brilliantly describes the fundamental problems associated with British industry and the war effort. Industry was ill prepared for the challenge that mass production presented. Lack of investment meant that the antiquated machines available were unable to quickly manufacture quality products. Britain was unable to build modern machinery and machine tools and this led to a major dependence on the US. The workforce was largely unqualified and massive shortages were highlighted across craftspeople, scientists, technicians and technologists.
It is often said that the Second World War was a conflict in which physics figured significantly whereas the First World War exploited chemistry so it was inevitable that the future was about science and its application. The Second War had shown the need for more highly qualified engineers, scientists and technologists as well as skilled craftspeople and operatives in the future. In addition the need to train more and better managers and administrators was only too evident. It was finally recognised that the country needed an organised and more efficient system of technical and commercial education in order to realise this aspiration. There was an urgent need to improve productivity and begin to tackle issues associated with our international competitiveness. Skill levels of the existing workforce had to improve and had to increase the flow of highly qualified people into industry and commerce. The painful lessons learnt during the war were addressed by a succession of committees, reports and parliament acts.
1944 Education Act
This major Education Act mainly dealt with schools with a great deal of parliamentary time was spent on the place of religion the curriculum. However Sections 41 to 47 dealt with Further Education and placed a duty on Local Education Authorities to ‘secure the provision of adequate facilities for further education, for:
- Full-time and part-time education for persons over compulsory school age
- Leisure-time occupations, in such organised, cultural, training and recreative activities as are suited to their requirements, for any person over compulsory school age who are able and willing to profit by the facilities provided for that purpose’.
Therefore the Act attempted to address the concerns highlighted during the war namely the inadequacy of:
- Provision of training for craftspeople, technicians and technologists
- Financial, human and physical resources for colleges
- Provision for adult education.
The Act created a blue print for the development of a national network of technical institutions.
Because of the continuing concern about technological education two committees were established chaired by Eustace Percy (1945) and Alan Barlow (1946) respectively both of which focussed on higher education particularly of technological education and scientific manpower. Percy was a visionary, passionate about the importance of technology and recommended amongst other things the creation of a few highly specialised technology institutions. This and other recommendations were only to be implemented much later. The Barlow Committee dealt with the supply of a scientific workforce and it is interesting that it supported pure science rather than technical and technological prowess (academic drift again!). Although to be fair to Barlow he argued that a national system should be developed integrating schools, technical and technology colleges, universities and industry –an aspiration still to be realised.
These two Reports occupy an important part in the history of technical education so it would be helpful to describe more fully their remits and recommendations.
The Percy Report was entitled ‘Higher Technological Education’ and reported to the Minister of Education and its terms of reference were:
‘Having regard to the requirements of industry, to consider the needs of higher technical education in England and Wales, and the respective contributions made thereto by Universities and Technical Colleges; and to make recommendations, amongst other things, as to the means for maintaining appropriate collaboration between Universities and Technical Colleges in this field’.
Among the recommendations was the creation of a number of Colleges of Technology that should be allowed to offer full-time programmes at degree standard. These Colleges should remain under the control of the LEA who would receive additional funding from central government. The committee however disagreed about whether these awards should be degree (B. Tech.) or a State Diploma in Technology (Dip. Tech.). Percy also advocated a number of ‘Royal’ institutions that could award Associateships and Fellowships. The Committee also recommended the establishment of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) [see history of technical and commercial examinations] to coordinate the higher education programmes across the 147 education authorities. Sadly and inevitably very few of the recommendations were adopted by the government except for the creation of the REBs. Percy and his committee were remarkably farsighted and it was only in 1956 ten years later that Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs) were established realising the concept of Colleges of Technology. Another example of a missed opportunity!
The Barlow Report in 1946 continued the battle to create a more scientifically qualified workforce. The Report was entitled ‘Scientific Manpower’ and its terms of reference were:
‘To consider the policies which should govern the use and development of our scientific manpower and resources during the next 10 years, and to submit a report on very broad lines at an early date so as to facilitate forward planning in those fields which are dependent on the use of scientific manpower’.
(Sorry about the wording obviously women were regarded as not capable of becoming scientists!)
The committee strongly restated the urgent need to produce more scientists and technologists and fortunately this time the government accepted most of the recommendations. The report recommended that universities and colleges should greatly expand the numbers studying higher science and technology subjects BUT not at the expense of the humanities. This recommendation contributed to the growth of university numbers which in 1938/39 were 50,000 and by 1958/9 had increased to 100,000. The two reports provided blue prints for higher scientific and technical education for the years to follow. It was only in 1956 that the White Paper ‘Technical Education’ picked up some aspects of the blue prints and some of Percy’s and Barlow’s recommendations implemented. The then Secretary of State of Education, David Eccles, was an exceptional Minister with vision and fought hard to create a coherent properly funded system of technical education.
During the fallow period from 1900 up to the mid-1940s colleges existed in inappropriate accommodation, with inadequate equipment, facilities and funding coupled with poor human resource strategies. As a result the colleges in particular too often struggled to satisfy local industrial and commercial needs. Following the 1944 Education Act more precise definitions for tertiary, technical and further education were established with a basic structure that can still be recognised today. One positive aspect of this development was the wide-ranging consultations that occurred with the Federation of British Industries (FBI) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). A period of rapid development then occurred with the opening of new technical and further education colleges.
As a result of these developments the number of employees released for part-time training had risen to 417,000 by 1957 – a ten-fold increase when compared with 1938 – but there was still a real lack of effective employer involvement in vocational training. However employers did begin to be more committed to day release as evidenced by the increased participation between 1938 and 1963 which went from 51,000 to 644,000. The Crowther Report 1959 (see chapter 12) considered the level of day release in detail and made a number of important recommendations. The 1944 Education Act reinforced the fact that the English education system was a ‘national system, locally administered’ with all the resultant problems that implied and which would continue to impact especially for technical education and its constitute colleges. Although many elements of the Act produced lasting benefit others continued to fail to fundamentally address critical shortages of technically trained people in industry. One of the main problems was the way different LEAs interpreted the duties placed on them in regard to technical education.
Between 1944 and the mid 1950s the college started to become more differentiated and carried a range of titles including: technical college, college of technology, municipal college and colleges of further education etc. During this time these 460 or so colleges offered mainly work at ONC/OND level with qualifications offered by CGLI, RSA, and GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ boards [see history of technical and commercial education].
It might be helpful to provide some detail of students attending colleges on day and evening courses. Table 1 shows the growth of numbers between 1911 and 1951.
Table 1. Enrolments at Colleges on Day and Evening Classes Aged Between 15 and 24 (England and Wales) Between 1911 and 1951 (in 000s).
|Year||Day-Time||Evening-Time||Total Population of Age Group||Participation Rate in Day-Time Study||Participation Rate in Evening Study|
Table 2 shows the dominance of part-time evening study, the very low participation rates and the increases after the war. The low participation rates have been a continuing problem for this country and in spite of innumerable attempts to increase the rates most initiatives have failed. This country has always compared badly with other countries particularly after a year of leaving school e.g. when the school leaving age was raised to 16 the participation was well below that at 16.
Table 2. Shows the Rate of Expansion in Student Numbers between 1931 and 1955
|Mode of Attendance||1931||1937||1947||1951||1955|
|Full-time||100||149 i.e. (49%)||422||471||618|
For convenience of the presentation the index is normalised at 100 for 1931. This allows the percentage to be calculated more easily.
To continue this statistical detail table 3 shows the proportion of students studying vocational courses during the evenings between 1931 and 1955.
Table 3 shows that the proportions remained relatively constant during this period either side of the war.
Table 3. Proportion of Vocational Evening Subjects Between 1931 and 1955.
|Mode of Attendance||1931||1937||1947||1951||1955|
|Professional and Commercial||21.1%||20.1%||16.0%||15.2%||15.8%|
Table 4 shows the index of expansion in evening class entries between 1931 and 1955.
Table 4. Expansion Index of Evening Class Entries from1931 to 1955.
Note 1931 taken as base line index of 100.
|Professional and Commercial||100||104||83||103||100|
Interesting to note that the increases occurred in the industrial sectors whilst professional and commerce experienced very modest increases and in 1955 returned to its value of 1931.
The table 5 shows the proportion of evening class entries in vocational subjects by institution type.
Table 5. Proportion of Vocational Evening Class Entries By Institution Attended in Between 1937 and 1950.
|Type of Course||Year||Evening Institutes||Colleges||Totals*|
Key * Proportion against the total student numbers in all the types of institutions.
Table 6 shows enrolments as a % of the age cohort in 1931 and 1951.
Table 6. Enrolments as Percentage of 14-25 Age Cohort in 1931 and 1951 (in 000s).
|Year||Day students||Evening students||Total cohort population|| Full-time participation
Table 7 shows the index of expansion in student numbers for 1931, 1947 and 1951. To make comparisons easier I have assigned an index of 100 for 1931. The expansion indices speak for themselves but remember the figures indicate total enrolments and do not differentiate between technical, academic and recreational classes. Data is difficult to analyse but the table attempts to show enrolments across these categories for the same years.
Table 7. Index of Expansion in Student Numbers for 1931, 1947 and 1951.
Table 8 explores again from a different perspective the proportions studying on vocational, academic and recreational subjects.
Table 8. Proportions on Evening Vocational, Academic and Recreational Subjects in 1931/47/51.
Notice that the proportion for vocational subjects remained fairly static at around 15% and about 33% if you factor in Professional and Commercial subjects. As can be seen most of the expansion in evening classes was in non-vocational provision.
These tables begin to show important shifts in the functions of colleges and evening institutions. Evening institutions began to shift to leisure and recreational subjects whilst the technical colleges still continued to still have a substantial proportion of their work associated with general and recreational subjects. Increasingly students preferred to attend colleges after the compulsory school leaving age seeing colleges as more mature environments when compared with 6th forms. Many of these students pursued general subjects e.g. GCEs. To honour their local responsibilities many colleges maintained provision in leisure and recreational subjects. This pattern continued throughout the 20th century and continues today so one must always carefully consider the relative and absolute proportions across the various categories of provision for any given college. This commitment to a range of specialist, general and recreational provision offered at a number of levels is what defines the mixed economy nature of many colleges then and now.
Colleges catered for both full and part-time students and around 160 offered advanced level programmes e.g. HNC/HNDs and even some degree programmes. The range of students and provision was beginning to become very heterogeneous and this would present problems and challenges to future governments and LEAs when reforms were introduced. In addition there were twenty regional colleges with over 50% of their students pursuing advanced level work involving part and full time study for HNCs/HNDs, professional qualifications and degrees – good examples of comprehensive and mixed economy institutions. These colleges recruited students from their particular region often offering specialised programmes only offered at the college. A number of national colleges offered advanced programmes in such subjects as foundry, food, rubber, refrigeration and fan technology, heating and ventilation. These were eventually merged with other HE institutions whilst Cranfield Aeronautics College only provided post-graduate technology education and went on to become a world class university. Finally there were 135 art colleges, 4 agricultural colleges and 41 farm institutes many of which went on to become colleges or were later merged with universities.
The National Colleges represent an interesting development in higher technological education and table 9 lists them for the period 1946 to 1951. Interesting in the sense that they represent first the first an attempt to create specialist higher education monotechnics.
Table 9. National Colleges, 1946 – 1951.
|National College||Location||Date of designation as a national college|
|College of Aeronautics||Cranfield (now Cranfield University||1946|
|Royal College of Art||Founded 1837 as school of industrial design||1949|
|National College of Food Technology||Formerly the Smithfield College of Food Technology||1951|
|National Foundry College||Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Technical College||1947|
|National College of Heating, Ventilation, Refrigeration and Fan Engineering||Borough Polytechnic, London||1948|
|National College of Horology and Instrument Technology||Northern Polytechnic, London||1947|
|National Leathersellers’ College||Formerly Leathersellers’ Technical College (established in 1909)||1951|
|National College of Rubber Technology||Northern Polytechnic, London||1948|
Source: Payne, G. (1960) ‘Britain’s Scientific and Technological Manpower’.
The national colleges provided a wide range of courses including higher degrees. Although the numbers of students were small the colleges produced highly specialised and competent technologists for the relevant industries. Some also conducted research activities supported and funded by government and their parent industries. Courses and the related examinations were designed for their particular industry and were dependent on entry requirements. They included college diplomas, higher nationals, degrees and postgraduate awards. The national colleges progressively underwent a number of title changes including Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs) and eventually became universities or were absorbed into the university sector.
Definitions of levels of technical education were used to describe both qualifications and names of institutions, these being ranked: for technologists, technicians and craftspeople (sometimes referred to as operatives). Such a hierarchy inevitably has limitations and inherent dangers and mirrors the way this country likes to segregate organisations and people e.g. academic/ vocational qualifications, state /public schools etc.
(In some ways the education and training in of this country over many years has operated an apartheid system, i.e. any system of segregation, separating and dividing students on the basis of their social class).
Vocational Secondary Education
Following the implementation of the 1944 Act the main providers of secondary technical education were in local education authorities that had adopted the recommendations of the Spens (1938) and Norwood Reports (1943) and established a tripartite system of schools i.e. Grammar, Secondary Technical and Secondary Modern Schools. Many of these enlightened authorities had over the previous three to four decades operated systems involving local technical colleges which incorporated a junior technical and commercial school and in some cases a junior trade school. After 1944 these were designated secondary technical schools and took successful 11+ pupils and offered them a vocationally biased curriculum. The Ministry of Education, which had been established following the 1944 Act, identified these schools as being for a minority of able pupils who would benefit from a technical or commercial curriculum. I was never clear how the students were selected for the Technical Secondary School after they had passed the 11+ examination and could have gone to a Grammar School. However very few Secondary Technical Schools were created. The numbers of secondary technical schools between 1946 and 1958 is shown in table 10.
Table 10. Number of Secondary Technical Schools.
|Year||Number of Secondary Technical Schools|
During the period 1947 to 1958 the number of students in secondary technical schools in England and Wales and technical schools in bi-lateral and multilateral schools increased from 66,454 to 97,485. Some authorities operated secondary technical schools on the same site as grammar and/or secondary modern schools i.e. a single campus for the different schools. In addition to taking GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examinations the secondary technical schools entered students for a range of technical and commercial qualifications offered by a number of awarding bodies. Table 11 shows the external examinations taken other than GCEs.
Table 11. External Examinations taken by Secondary Technical Schools.
|Examination Board||Number of Centres Taking the Board Examinations|
|Royal Society of Arts (1)||47|
|Welsh Joint Board (2)||12|
|City and Guilds of London Institute (3)||11|
|Union of Lancs. and Cheshire (4)||10|
|General Nursing Council (5)||8|
|Union of Educational Institutes (6)||3|
|London Chamber of Commerce||2|
Source: Edwards. R. The Secondary Technical School (2).
(1) Included the Commercial Certificate, the Technical Certificate, Single Subject Certificates in Commercial Subjects and Senior Certificates.
(2)The third year leaving certificate and first year ONC examinations.
(3)Including a range of subjects in craft, handicraft and needlework.
(4)Secondary School Certificate and Single Subject Certificates
(6)Including Commercial Subjects examinations, Craft Apprentices examinations and first year ONC examinations.
As one can see the number of technical and commercial subjects and examinations taken were relatively small and quite quickly the curriculum mirrored that of the grammar schools – another classic example of academic drift! In the third arm of the tripartite system namely the Secondary Modern Schools were given a fair degree of freedom to develop their own curriculum and examinations. Very often various examinations were offered. Examples included the RSA Technical Grouped Course Certificate in Elementary Subjects namely English, Mathematics, Trade Calculations and Science and the Preliminary Technical Certificate offered by the LEA with subjects such as English, Arithmetic, Mathematics, Science and Technical Drawing. I still am the proud owner of these certificates. In addition some students would take entrance examinations, say, for the local dockyard apprenticeship school or for large local company schemes. Eventually at the end of the 1950s academic drift set in and more and more secondary modern schools prepared students for GCE ‘O’ levels.
A Personal Observation
I was a pupil at a secondary modern school having failed the 11+ twice – the curriculum was not examination led but I experienced a rich range of provision including the crafts taught by great teachers many of whom had been emergency trained after the Second World War. The Crowther Report in 1959 stated that the country did not have a tripartite system but in reality a two-sided system, grammar and secondary technical schools being predominately academic and secondary modern schools being vocational. Crowther was particularly interested in those pupils for whom a more vocational and practically focused curriculum would be more appropriate.
Despite the emphasis on reforms of further and higher education, vocational training was still left very much in the hands of industry and the benevolence and support of a number of committed employers. Increasing concern was expressed about this situation throughout the immediate post-war years and the establishment of National Apprenticeship and Training Councils serving individual industries was advocated. Interesting to note this meant a re-adoption after 16 years of the conclusions of the Balfour and Malcolm Committees! These calls were finally supported by two pieces of legislation namely The Industrial Organisation and Development Act (1947) and The Employment and Training Act (1948). Inevitably neither Act had much impact on vocational training in industry, and by the end of the 1940s the continuing concern about leaving industrial training to employers was gaining momentum. However successive governments failed to recognise the fundamental weaknesses in the voluntary arrangements and continued to adhere to the policies formulated in 1945. During the early 1950s the concerns grew about the poor state of the skill levels in the workforce and culminated in 1958 with the report ‘Training for Skill’ chaired by Robert Carr the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. The central theme of his report concerned apprenticeships for craftspeople and recommended that the government expand and improve facilities for technical education BUT that the responsibility for industrial training remain with employers. The report called for a non executive Council that endeavours to ‘help, encourage and if necessary exhort employers to improve industrial training’.
As one can imagine the report attracted a great deal of criticism both for its concentration on craft training and the lost opportunity to introduce a compulsory instrument. Many argued, including the British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education, that what was needed was a national strategy for workforce planning for all training programmes and that a compulsory levy be imposed on employers.
Only in 1964 did the government finally accept the failure of the voluntary approach and this brought about a reversal of a policy that had been obstinately upheld for over 17 years. The White Paper Industrial Training – Government Proposals was published. The White Paper was supported by all political parties and both sides of industry and became law and resulted in the creation of the Industrial Training Boards (ITB) representing particular industries (see chapter 12 for more detail on the Industrial training Act). Each Board would approve courses/qualifications including those run in colleges that would receive training grants and a Central Training Council would be established to oversee the adequacy of provision. However as will be seen later in this levy/grant regime imposed on employers was to cause problems particularly for small and medium size companies/enterprises. Employers would only receive a grant if their companies provided approved training programmes for their employees. ITBs were the precursors of a multitude of employer lead organisations that would be created over the next four decades with the responsibility to set occupational standards and maintain employer involvement in industrial training and qualifications. These have included Industrial Lead Bodies (ILBs), Lead Bodies (LBs), National Training Organisations (NTOs) and the latest attempt the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) all of which have largely failed to improve the situation.
In some ways the examination system mirrored the heterogeneous nature of the college sector with a large number of boards offering examinations in technical subjects as the following list attempts to illustrate:
- Technical College Diplomas – certain technical colleges awarded their own diplomas or associateships after advanced study
- National Diplomas and Certificates at Ordinary and Higher grades. HNDs were being recognised as providing exemptions from examinations of professional institutions
- CGLI was the major player awarding final and full technological certificates in a wide range of technical and vocational areas. These were the highest level of recognition in craft subjects. CGLI also offered intermediate certificates as well as technician awards.
- The Regional Examining Unions in co-operation with CGLI offered examinations at intermediate and higher levels. Successful students could then progress to the final examinations of the CGLI.
- Professional and Trade Certificates were offered by the many professional and trade organisations.
(Note: For a more detailed account of the history of technical and commercial examinations see separate publication on this website).
As can been seen the examination system was both complex and confusing to the employees, employers, parents and students. It was only with later reviews that the qualifications landscape was begun to be rationalised e.g. the review of vocational qualifications in 1986 [see history of technical and commercial examinations] which led to the creation of NVQs but concerns still remain even today about the plethora of awards and qualifications – successive reforms have failed to provide a tidy system.
To reinforce some of these facts about the examinations in the technical colleges I provide three more tables with information taken from the Ministry of Education annual surveys. Table 12 shows the progress of entries to ONC/OND/HNC/HNDs between 1945 and 1949.
Table 12. Entries for National Ordinary and Higher Certificates and Diplomas Between 1945 and 1949 I Science and Engineering.
|1948||7,997||Not available||4,509||Not available|
Table 13. University Degrees Awarded in Science and Technology between 1947 and 1949.
Table 14. Number of Degrees, HNCs and HNDs Awarded in Technical Colleges in 1949.
Table 15. Percentage of Technical College Students Taking Science and Engineering Courses Compared with those in Universities in 1949.
|HNC and HND||4.7%||34.6%|
Other Relevant Developments in the 1940s:
- In 1943 White Paper on Educational Reconstruction published.
- In 1943 Secondary School Examinations Council on Curriculum and Examinations in Schools Report (Norwood) published that supported tripartite structure for schools.
- In 1944 Education Act (Butler) published.
- In 1945 ‘Higher Technological Education’ Report (Percy) published that recommended upgrading of a number of technical colleges to colleges of advanced technology.
- In 1946 Committee on ‘Scientific Manpower’ Report (Barlow) published that advocated a doubling of scientists in universities over a ten year period.
- In 1947 ‘Industrial Organisation and Development’ Act established a number of Councils in certain industries with functions to “promote the training of persons engaged or proposing engagement in the industry.
- In 1947 School leaving age raised to 15.
- In 1948 ‘Employment and Training Act’published largely focussed on issues to do with youth employment.
Chapter 12 will continue to describe the developments in the 1950s.
- Barnet, C. ‘The Audit of War’ Papermac. ISBN 0-333-43458-7. 1986.
- Edwards. R. ‘The Secondary Technical School’. University of London Press. 1960.
Other Useful References:
Argles. M. ‘South Kensington to Robbins’. Longmans. 1964.
Cotgrove. S.F. ‘Technical Education and Social Change’. George Allen and Unwin. 1958.
Dent.H. C. ‘The 1944 Education Act’. University of London Press. 1968.
Maclure. J. S. ‘Educational Documents England and Wales 1816-1967’. Chapman and Hall. SBN 412 07960 7. 1967.
Venables. P. F. R. ‘Technical Education’. Bell. 1955.
Comprehensive book lists, a chronology and a glossary are provided in separate sections of this website which hopefully will be helpful to readers.