The 1950s continued to witness a series of Education Acts and pieces of legislation that impacted on technical and commercial education. Many of these Acts and reports would help shape and determine the future development of the Further and Higher Education sectors.
As will be seen after 1945, successive governments at last began to see that technical and commercial education was a key factor in the country’s future economic success. The first priority was technical education that resulted in a slower pace to improve commercial and art education. However, initially the majority of the money understandably was spent on schools particularly on capital projects e.g. suitable buildings but eventually in the 1950s more investment was made available to begin to tackle the poor state of colleges both in terms of accommodation and facilities. 1951 saw the introduction of the General Certificates of Education (GCEs) at ‘O’ and ‘A’ level. These awards replaced the School Certificates (SCs) that had been offered since 1917. They were mainly aimed at students in Grammar and Secondary Technical Schools although increasingly Secondary Modern Schools students were taking them. Initially very few subjects were offered in commercial and practical subjects at ‘O’ and ‘A’ level. Also Colleges of Technology and Further Education offered these qualifications to students leaving Secondary Modern Schools.
In 1954 the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) published a report entitled ‘Early Leaving’. The committee was chaired by Samuel Gurney-Dixon and its terms of reference were: ‘To consider what factors influence the age at which boys and girls leave secondary school which provide courses beyond the minimum school-leaving age; to what extent it is desirable to increase the proportion of those who remain at school, in particular the proportion of those who remain at school roughly to the age of 18; and what steps should be taken to secure such an increase’.
The committee had access to hitherto unavailable data on social class information and as a result came up with a number of important proposals. It recommended improving the maintenance allowances for needy children staying on at school beyond 15. In addition it called for legislation to be introduced to pay family allowance for children still at school and favoured an increase in numbers attending grammar schools. Clearly these were important recommendations as it would increase the number of students progressing to colleges after leaving school.
The White Paper on Technical Education 1956.
This is a seminal publication and followed a speech by Winston Churchill in 1955. He was concerned about advances by the Russians in science and technology so it was very much a political issue and not necessarily one based on sound educational need. However it precipitated a major programme of investment in building up facilities for technology and technical education. Expenditure of £100 million was proposed to expand technical colleges and this reinforced the expansion plans for university technology departments announced in 1953. There was already evidence of the growth in science and technology numbers at universities as the number of students studying these subjects had doubled between 1939 and 1955. Also improvements to schools and colleges were gradually having a positive impact on enrolments and more teachers were being recruited. Employers and parents were also showing a growing interest in science and technology subjects,
The White Paper advocated an expansion of technical education at all levels i.e. further and higher. Up until 1956 the colleges evolved slowly into a heterogeneous group of institutions depending on their respective histories, courses offered and their student catchment areas. Basically one could identify three tiers namely regional, area and local colleges. They varied greatly in size and the range of courses offered and this determined their titles. The higher education element of the report recommended an expansion of full-time student numbers by the extension of sandwich courses. In addition the White Paper advocated the establishment of a new category of college namely the College of Advanced Technology (CATs) where the majority of the advanced courses outside the university sector would reside. Therefore the White Paper created a fourth category of colleges. This proposal eventually picked up one of the main proposals of the Percy Report published in 1945 that was described earlier.
Following the publication of the White Paper ‘Technical Education’ technical education experienced a number of changes including the eventual designation of ten Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs), which were to be the apex of technical education. The lower levels of work were shifted to local colleges. A number of Regional Colleges were made CATs. CATs were eventually removed from local authority control and following the Robbins Report in 1963 were designated universities and not surprisingly many pleasingly used the word technology in their title. The main qualification studied was the degree equivalent Diploma of Technology (Dip. Tech.). The Diploma in Technology (Dip. Tech.) was created as a result of a committee established in 1956 and chaired by Hives. It was to be a degree equivalent qualification based on a full-time course of two or three year’s duration or a sandwich course consisting of six-monthly periods in industry that could last up to four years in duration. It is interesting to note that CATs were established a decade after Percy and well over a century after similar institutions were established in Germany. A parallel expansion occurred in the FE sector with a period of sustained capital investment to begin to improve accommodation and equipment in colleges. There were some interesting transitions in the attendance modes of students with fewer evening part-time numbers and an increasing number of day part-time students. Also many school leavers particularly those from secondary moderns, (I was one of them) went to their local colleges to take a variety of examinations by full-time study including CGLIs, O and A levels.
The ten CATs established were:
Birmingham College of Technology, Bradford Technical College, Bristol College of Technology, London: Battersea Polytechnic and Chelsea Polytechnic, Northampton, Loughborough College of Technology, Newcastle-on-Tyne Technical College, Salford Royal Technical College and Welsh College of Advanced Technology.
The CATs enrolled by far the most students studying the Dip. Tech qualification and table 1 shows the distribution of Dip. Tech programmes offered by the CATs.
Table 1. Dip. Tech Programmes in the CATs 1959/60.
Interesting to see the relative popularity of sandwich programmes that combined theory with actual work experience. The popularity of sandwich courses sadly has progressively declined over the recent decades. One of the main reasons for the decline was associated with student finances and the perceived need of students to complete the course as quickly as possible. Also related to the decline of sandwich programmes was the need by universities to reduce their costs. Recent research however shows that students who have undertaken sandwich courses and a significant period of relevant work experience stand a better chance of employment after graduating and gain at least a half better classification in their degree. They get paid during their work placement and often are offered employment by the work placement companies even before graduating. Currently the CGLI Senior Awards are used by a number of accredited universities and other organisations to recognise the work placement element of the sandwich programme.
The following table shows the gradual growth in science and engineering courses in colleges between 1950 and 1955 for students taking National Awards.
Table 2.Ordinary and Higher Certificates and Diplomas Awarded Between 1950 and 1955 in Science and Engineering.
In 1959 the Crowther Report was published simply entitled ‘15 to 18’. It proved to be an important report and had implications for technical education. Its terms of reference were ‘the education of boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18’. One of the recommendations was that provision of Further Education for 15 – 18 year olds, especially for school leavers should be made available on a free basis. It also raised some important questions about the value of day-release provision for apprenticeships. As I mentioned in chapter 1 the level of day release has always raised concerns about the commitment by employers to support this mode of attendance. The report pointed out that only 40% of 15-17 year-olds were involved in some sort of day release programme. The report identified the tendency in this country to treat education and training as separate entities and argued strongly they should become more closely related and integrated. It pointed out that technical education and vocational training in other countries was much better coordinated and integrated and this issue is still as valid and alive today! The philosophy of voluntarism has persisted to a large extent for much of the time covered by this history where successive governments remained distant from direct involvement in technical education and training that allowed employers, if they wished, to take decisions unhindered by any government policy. The Crowther Report had noted that ‘more and more people are coming to believe that it is wrong to label children for all time at 11.’ This quote is referring to the 11+ plus examination. As a result many local authorities ceased the 11+ plus examinations and created comprehensive schools. Technical High and Secondary Modern Schools then formed part of the comprehensive system. The comprehensive schools/sector did not develop a meaningful technical and vocational curriculum basically continuing the elements from the secondary modern schools namely domestic science metalwork and woodwork. sadly another opportunity missed!
‘Better Opportunities in Technical Education’ (1961).
Another seminal White Paper ‘Better Opportunities in Technical Education’ (1961) placed a greater emphasis on provision for technicians, craftspeople and operatives.
The White Paper had four primary aims namely:
- To broaden the education received by students and provide continuity between school and college
- Provision at colleges to be better matched to the needs of industry and to urgently improve facilities for technicians
- Increase the range of courses to suit the needs and ability of the students
- Tackle the high failure and wastage rates experienced by students.
Some of the chief proposals were:
- Preliminary courses in evening institutes be discontinued and students should start at a college immediately after leaving school
- Improvement in selection procedures and colleges should PILOT induction courses and tutorial methods (where have we heard that before!)
- ONC courses should last two years instead of three
- Courses for technicians, craftspeople and operatives should be reformed and extended in range and scope
- New courses known as General courses (designated by G and the year of study e.g. G1, G2 etc.) that allowed progression on to Technician course (T courses)
- Development of more day release courses and students should not have to rely wholly on evening study
- Sandwich and block release courses should be increasingly developed.
G courses were designed for school leavers who had potential to qualify as technicians by studying part-time or by block release study. Successful completion of a G course would allow progression onto an ONC or to the second year of a T course. G courses were externally administered by the CGLI and the six Regional Examining Bodies (REBs). Courses were offered in a number of subjects including construction, engineering, mining, printing, science, and textiles. Table 3 shows the enrolments for G courses in 1963 and 1968.
Table 3. G Courses: No. of Candidates and No. and % Qualifying for ONC and T2.
|Engineering||15,454||3,942 (26%)||6,080 (39%)||11,423||4,216
% Pass rate:
Table 4 illustrates the state of the Ordinary Certificates and Diplomas again for the years 1963 and 1968
Table 4. Number of Candidates and Number and % Pass Rates for ONC /Ds.
|Mechanical Engineering||(e) 19,017
|Electrical Engineering||(e) 9,523
|Grand totals all subjects||(e) 38,702
|% Pass rate:||51.8%||62.2%||63%||68.9%|
Key: e – entered
p – passed
Table 5 below shows same data for Higher National Certificates and Diplomas (HNC/HNDs):
Table 5. Number of Candidates and Number and % Pass Rates for HNCs/HNDs.
|Grand totals all
|% pass rate||66.3%||69%||83.3%||82.3%|
There were two types of T-courses namely; “End-on” and “Ab Initio”. In 1961 there were 23 ab initio and 26 end-on courses running in such subjects as building, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, the utilities and furniture. These courses had no age restriction for study and special arrangements were made for mature entrants e.g. they could study single subjects depending on work and career aspirations.
Ab Initio courses were designed for particular occupations and required two years full time study or part-time study over four years and opportunities existed for progression onto higher qualifications. There were just two such courses in 1961 but by 1968 this had grown to 90 involving thirteen occupational areas. The range of subjects approved by CGLI was remarkable spanning such areas as: mining/quarrying, food technology, metal manufacturing, engineering specialisms, automotive, building, textiles and even programmes in photography, computing and technical illustration. In 1967 there were 105,734 candidates registered with CGLI and the REBs with a pass rate of 66.1% (69,874).
I have presented this rather detailed set of data and brief analysis to illustrate the overall state of technical education by the 1960s. The tables reflect the decline of traditional industries such as textiles and shipbuilding and the relatively slow growth in the new technologies. The decline in ONCs can be identified with the introduction of the T-courses. But in spite of these worthy developments the overall picture was somewhat depressing. One aspect of these concerns was picked up by The Dainton Committee (1968) addressing the declining numbers of students entering HE in science and technology.
Another depressing fact was that the overall participation and pass rates remained stubbornly low. It was a critical time for this country, two decades after the war with the continuing decline of our traditional industries and the slow response to recognise the importance of new manufacturing and managements techniques. Overseas competition was increasing from such countries as Germany and Japan. England still lacked the necessary critical mass of a well-trained, skilled and adaptable workforce at all levels of industry. Real evidence was emerging of our continuing low levels of productivity, declining industrial competitiveness, skill shortages and industrial poaching within the small stock of competent, experienced and qualified workers. To further complicate the assessment of the needs of industry and labour market intelligence there were increasing numbers of school leavers trying to enter the labour market. After the 1944 Act the main responsibility for technical education had fallen almost by default on colleges. In hindsight they never received the level of sustained investment that was necessary in order to compensate for decades of neglect. Little evidence exists to show that employers offered in – company training programmes and normally they recruited directly from universities, colleges and schools. The majority of school leavers still opted for the narrow academic curriculum personified by ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels which contributed to the low participation levels in technical subjects and the low value placed on technical education and the associated examinations by parents and young people.
To be fair other factors contributed to this low participation level: poor careers advice in schools, lack of maintenance grants for college students and the supposed high status of the academic sixth form. The majority of school leavers still entered jobs, which offered no formal training, and those who did receive training embarked on apprenticeship programmes. In 1964 240,000 school leavers undertook apprenticeship training but these programmes were increasingly becoming outmoded and inappropriate for the latter half of the 20th century. Weaknesses included questionable age and gender criteria for entry, often the absence of proper off-job training but the main criticism was the rigidity of the programmes which required long periods of training before qualifications could be gained. The negative effects of this time serving regime have only recently been highlighted. Likewise, it has only recently been accepted that apprenticeships must be governed by effective national standards of competence and proficiency that they must recognise the different abilities of trainees, and ensure that this flexibility is part of the training framework.
The White Paper ‘Better Opportunities in Technical Education’ stands out as a seminal piece of legislation that made a number of positive recommendations which added impetus to the development of technical education but as usual it was too little too late. One positive consequence during this time was the recognition by the professional bodies and the Council of Education Institutions (CEI) of the need to classify the skills needed by industry. In addition the CEI clarified progression routes for professional status for engineers. The examinations staged by the CEI have continued and are now jointly managed by the Engineering Council (EC/UK) and CGLI and offer recognition for the three grades of the engineering team namely the Engineering Technicians, Incorporated Engineers and Chartered Engineers. The Haslegrave Report (1969), see later, on Technician Courses and Examinations advocated amongst other proposals a greater coherence between the technician, the technician engineer and the chartered engineer. In addition the Haslegrave Report recommended a rationalisation of examinations for people employed as technicians in technical areas and also in business and commerce. Following the implementation of the Haslegrave proposals Ordinary and Higher certificates and diplomas, G and T courses were replaced by Technician Education Council (TEC), Business Education Council (BEC) and Design and Art Education Council (DATEC).
By 1953 approximately 70 industries had established nationally agreed industrial training schemes for their respective industries but the implementation locally and the understanding of them was patchy and overall ineffective. The trade unions continued to be suspicious and obstructive over the entry requirements for apprenticeships preferring to concentrate on the importance of time serving rather than the quality and relevance of the apprenticeship programmes. The issue of time serving was always a contentious matter with apprenticeships, an issue that persists today. The important issue is to recognise the differences between the ability and motivation of the apprentices and not assume they are all the same and to configure the programmes that recognise this diversity. i.e. ‘programmes that are flexible and fit for purpose’.
The continuing concern about the provision and its quality led to the establishment of the ‘Industrial Training Act’ in 1964 which created the Industrial Training Boards (ITBs). Prior to the Act there had been a number of half baked attempts to improve industrial training. One such attempt was in 1959 when a report entitled ‘Training for Skill’ which had tried to differentiate education and training and exclude any government involvement in training. This was a classic example of fudge and mudge with the government attempting to establish a very weak compromise between the employers and the trade unions and it was not helped by weak leadership from the then Ministry of Labour.
The inadequate situation of industrial training continued to cause concern and in 1962 a White Paper revisited the issue reflecting these concerns and fortunately showed a major shift in the attitudes to training by employers. The White Paper proposed a more central control of industrial training and that it could not be just left to employers to manage. Following the White Paper the Industrial Training Act in 1963 implemented its proposals, greatly assisted by, a strengthened Ministry of Labour which received more informed advice from the Central Advisory Council. It proposed bring training into central control including the way apprenticeships were operated and provided new opportunities to bring about significant changes to all levels of industrial and technical training. The Bill had a direct link with the developments in Wales (see below). However the devil was in the detail as the legislation as always depended on the attitudes and commitment of successive governments. I will consider the consequences of the Act in later chapters.
Wales also considered the issue of Industrial Training in 1961 in a report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (Wales) on Technical Education in Wales. The committee was chaired by Oldfield Davies and its terms of reference were: ‘In the light of contemporary changes in the industrial pattern of Wales, to consider what educational provision should be made to serve the best interest of industry and those employed in it’. The recommendations including a significant proposal to reform apprenticeships and to establish a national craft apprenticeship scheme managed by the Ministry of Education. Devolution was a long way off so inevitably these proposals were not implemented and had to wait until the various developments in England. The Industrial Training Act 1964 finally led to the general adoption of first-year full-time courses for apprentices. In some ways this delay made sense as what was urgently required was a standardised approach to industrial training across the whole country but it did highlight the frustrations that the home countries must have experienced over many decades /centuries having to wait for England to catch up.
The primary functions of the Act were:
- To enable decisions on the scale of training to be better related to economic needs and technological developments;
- To improve the overall quality of industrial training and to establish minimum standards; and
- To enable the cost to be more easily spread between government and the employers.
- The Minister of Labour would be given statuary powers to create Industrial Training Boards (ITBs) which would be responsible for specific industries. These ITBs would have the following operating functions:
- Establishing policy for training in the industry, including such questions as the admission to training including apprenticeships, length of training, registration and the provision for the appropriate attendance at college.
- Establishing standards of training and syllabuses for different occupations in the industry, taking into account the associated technical education required.
- Providing advice and assistance about training to firms in the industry.
- Devising tests to be taken by apprentices and other trainees on completion of training and, if necessary, at intermediate stages e.g. at the end of the first year.
- Establishing qualifications and tests for the instructors.
- Establishing and running training courses in its own training centres.
- Paying grants to firms to reimburse them all or part of the costs incurred in the provision of approved training.
- Paying allowances to trainees not taken on by companies while being trained in public, or the Board’s own training centres.
- Collecting money from companies in the specific industry by means of a levy/grant.
- Borrowing money as required.
As a result of the Act a Central Training Council (CTC) was created to advise the Minister and the creation of 29 ITBs able to operate the levy/grant system. The Act was initially welcomed by all the key parties e.g. employers, trade unions and training providers but by the 1970s major weaknesses were beginning to be identified. For example the ITBs only represented about half of the industries and the levy system was considered too complex and bureaucratic. Other major concerns included the difficulty of judging the quality of training and the subsequent decisions about levy imposition or exemption and also equality factors where the larger companies were more able to release employees compared with the small companies. One continuing concerns has always been how small and medium sized companies i.e. SMEs can be supported and represented by national organisations. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) possess very different problems from the larger companies particularly in terms of releasing employees for training and the costs associated with CPD. The Act however provided a distinct improvement in the quality and quantity of industrial training and established stronger working relationships between employers and colleges. Further reforms to industrial training occurred in 1973 with the ‘Employment and Training Act’ see chapter 13.
Regional Advisory Councils, Inspection Methods and other Organisations Associated with Technical and Commercial Education.
After the 1944 Act a number of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) were established in 1947/8 – nine in England and one in Wales to co-ordinate the provision of further education in different areas of the country. They were established and funded by local education authorities. Their remit was to advise LEAs and their constituent colleges on the further education needs required in their regions and to encourage cooperation between colleges to reduce duplication of provision. The Councils would regularly review provision to identify gaps in their areas and would consider and approve higher level course applications from colleges. They also were required to create advisory committees and other forums to exchange ideas among colleges, employers and universities as well as staging conferences, seminars and staff development programmes. A number organised and made provision for examinations in conjunction with the REBs. Inevitably the bureaucratic course approval structure attracted a great deal of criticism and generated friction between the colleges and LEAs because of mismatches between local/ individual interests and educational judgements. Polytechnics argued quite rightly that they were serving a national catchment and should not be subjected to regional criteria. Having worked with three different RACs I experienced first hand the frustrations in getting approval for new technician and HE programmes. Looking back the influence of these Councils was very mixed with a number of positive benefits but at times they manifested great inertia. The role of the RACs was to change significantly during the following decades particularly following the Oakes Report (1978) and the creation of other national management funding bodies e.g. FEFC and LSCs.
The colleges’ work was inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) and comprised both subject specialist and generalist inspectors supported by a General College Inspector and a Regional Staff Inspector. I remember with great pleasure the supportive and professional attitude these people possessed, a far cry from their successors e.g. FEFC, ALI and OfSTED.
The CBI have never really played an effective role in influencing national training policy as it lacked the power to compel employers to improve their investment in training. Its stance was very much based on non-intervention and has supported voluntary and free-market philosophies. Indeed a senior member of their Education Directorate in 1986 openly stated, “That any legislation to compel changes in training policy was perceived as constituting an intolerable financial burden on industry.”
The CBI did not have many members representing small and medium sized companies who were often unable to fund training and prone to poaching other companies’ employees and the real power anyway still resided with individual employers to develop effective training practices. The TUC like the CBI was limited in its ability to influence government policy and to enforce centrally negotiated policies on member unions. The unions were pre-occupied with overseeing the multitudinous complex of confusing and un-coordinated collective bargaining arrangements for whole industrial sectors down to small elements within companies. The Chambers of Commerce also manifestly failed to create a particularly effective local employer network lacking as they did the powers given to their counterparts in Germany. Many employers I have worked with in a number of different areas of the country have viewed the contributions made by the Chambers as being ineffective and irrelevant to their needs.
Some important developments:
In 1952 Imperial College raised to university status.
In 1955 the National Council for Technical Awards (NCTA) established and eventually became the Council for National Academic Awards in 1964.
In 1959 Lord Hailsham appointed Minister of Science.
In 1960 the Beloe Report recommended the creation of the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE).
In 1963 the Colleges of Advanced of Technology (CATs) become universities after the recommendations of the Robbins Report.
In 1964 Department of Education and Science (DES) replaced Ministry of Education (MoE).
In 1964 Industrial Training Act.
In 1964 the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations (SCCE) established following Lockwood Report.
In 1965 Science and Technology Act created a number of Research Councils to advise the Department of Education and Science (DES). Advisory Council on Technology also created to advise the Ministry of Technology.
In 1966 the Central Council for Science and Technology created to advise Cabinet Office.
In 1966 the White Paper ‘ A Plan for Polytechnics and Other Colleges’ – created the foundations of the binary system for polytechnics and universities and 30 new Polytechnics in England and Wales were created from regional and the larger area colleges.
In 1968 the Science and Technology in Higher Education Report (Dainton) – attempted to address the reduction of students studying science and technology.
In 1968 the Education Act – proposed comprehensive schools.
In 1969 the Report of the Committee on Technician Courses and Examinations (Haselgrave) published – recommended the establishment of TEC and BEC (see chapter 13).
Part 13 will further consider the developments in the late 1960s including the creation of the Polytechnics and the Haselgrave Review into qualifications associated with technician and business education and the developments and the initiatives in the 1970s following on from the developments in the 1950/60s.
Aldrich. R. (Editor). ‘A Century of Education’. Falmer Press. ISBN 0-415-24323-8. 2002.
Summerfield. P and Evans. E. J. ‘Technical Education and the state since 1850’. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-2967-8. 1990.
Plus others cited in earlier chapters.
A very comprehensive book list is provided in a separate section of this website.
In addition a comprehensive chronology and glossary are provided in separate section of this website.