Other Forms of Technical Schools in the Early 20th Century

The need for preliminary technical education and instruction for young people before entering employment in particular trades and occupations had slowly evolved and was finally accepted by the end of the 19th century. A whole variety of forms of continuative education existed whether part-time, adult or further and technical education and was provided by an equally wide variety of institutions. These included day-release, evening school, mechanics’ institutions, polytechnics (in London), schools of art, university extension lectures, tutorial classes and a range of working men’s colleges and courses. The passing of the 1902 Education Act encouraged the development of technical education and continuative education and became the responsibility of the LEAs who took over most of the evening continuation schools.

A whole series of Education Acts and new Codes were enacted throughout the first two decades of the 20th century which attempted to tidy up the secondary and technical education landscape. Even so a multitude of institutional titles persisted. The most numerous type of school that could be recognised as Further Education were known as Night Schools and later as Evening Schools, then Evening Continuation Schools and then as Evening Institutes. These were different from Day Continuation Schools because they were held after 5 p.m. and from full-time vocationally biased day schools because they were part-time schools. Eventually throughout the 20th century these schools/institutes evolved into Colleges of Further Education.

Schools proving technical and continuative education , (see below for the designations), provided courses for boys and girls over two or three years after leaving elementary schools and these had been recognised by the BoE in 1913 which resulted in the Regulations for Junior Technical Schools. The 1918 Education Act extended educational provision and gave all young workers the right to access day release from the age of 12 to 14. It further required every county and county borough to develop and provide a progressive and comprehensive organisation of education in their area. LEAs were required to ensure amongst other things:

That public elementary schools included ‘practical instruction’ in the curriculum and offered advanced instruction ‘for the older and more intelligent children’
That they co-operated with other LEAs to prepare children for further education in schools other than elementary—‘
LEAs were also required to maintain ‘a sufficient supply of continuation schools’. Note the wording: ‘required to ensure’ and ‘sufficient supply’.

As mentioned in the biography for Junior Technical Schools there were other forms of institutions that provided technical and commercial education and instruction. These could be broadly categorised as:

  • Junior Technical Schools (see biography of this website)
  • Technical Day Classes
  • Day Continuation Schools
  • Institutions in which evening instruction was given
  • Senior full-time courses in Colleges for Further Education (CFE)

It must be remembered that the majority of the institutions for further education were composite in nature in that they offered mixtures of different elements. A good example of this was the Shoreditch Technical Institution which comprised Junior Technical Schools (JTS), one for boys and the other for girls, a senior full-time course in cabinet making and evening classes in furniture and allied subjects. To help the presentation I will consider institutions offering courses for juniors less than 16 years of age and seniors over 16 years of age.

To help the presentation I will consider institutions offering courses for juniors less than 16 years of age and seniors over 16 years of age.


Full-time provision:

  • Junior Technical Schools (JTS)
  • Technical Day Classes (see more detail later under Senior)

Part-time provision:

  • Day Continuation and Work Schools
  • Evening Continuation Schools (Junior Evening Classes).
  • Juvenile/Junior Instruction Centres
  • Technical day Classes


Full-time provision:

  • Senior Courses in Colleges
  • Technical day Classes

Part-time provision:

  • Evening classes in Colleges and Institutions
  • Technical Day Classes

I will provide a brief description of each of the schools and institutions. I have already described the Junior Technical School movement in another biography.

Junior Courses

Day Continuation and Work Schools
Under the 1918 Education Act every child over 14 not in full-time education was supposed attend a day Continuation School for 320 hours per year. These schools provided a part-time general education with or without vocational or domestic instruction for students from exception age up to 18. Attendance was voluntary, or took place by permission from employers. Some of the schools became known as ‘Works Schools’ because they were provided and supported by business firms for their own employees. The 1918 Education Act made provision for compulsory day Continuation Schools but following an orchestrated mainly political campaign against their introduction coupled with a fair degree of misunderstanding the proposal was abandoned and only one was actually established in Rugby. The ones that did continue were operated and maintained on a voluntary basis following agreements and cooperation between Local Authorities and a number of companies that agreed to enforce attendance on their employees. Examples of companies who operated part-time day continuation schools were Boots, British Westinghouse, Cadbury, Metropolitan, Rowntree and Tootal Broadhurst.

In London some students would attend up to five half days while in the provinces the normal attendance was one full day a week. The curriculum was a mixture of general and vocational subjects.

Evening Continuation Schools (Junior Evening Classes)
The classes were staged in elementary school accommodation or in technical institutions. The courses were divided into Commercial, Domestic, General, Industrial and Rural. The drop out was extremely high 35% after the first year and 40% after the second year. Classes were held on average for six hours per week on three evenings. Industrial courses comprised technical drawing, workshop calculations, use of tools and communication skills. Commercial courses comprised arithmetic and English with an emphasis on commercial subjects e.g. commerce and shorthand. Rural courses comprised basic agricultural and horticultural elements and animal husbandry whilst the domestic courses comprised domestic science, cooking and housewifery. The primary aims of these courses were to progress the pupils’ elementary education and hopefully to prepare them for more advanced courses in technical schools/colleges. However the high dropout rate and general attitude of the pupils precipitated the Board of Education (BoE) to state ‘no high efficiency can be claimed for junior evening schools as an educational system’.

Juvenile/Junior Instruction Centres
These were not strictly part of the educational the system being administered by the Ministry of Labour and delivered by the Local Authorities. Their purpose was to offer provision to unemployed juveniles. The attendance was often low and varied wildly and as a result no continuous instruction/courses were possible. Subjects offered included handicrafts, organised games and physical education – it was basically about instilling discipline in young people who were perceived as being potential offenders.

Senior Courses

Senior Full-time Courses in Colleges
Junior Technical Schools were for post-elementary pupils and their courses were for post-secondary school pupils over the age of 16 years. The pupils wanted to prepare for specific occupations and/or for further studies and examinations e.g. College and National Certificates and Diplomas, professional body examinations or degrees. The courses lasted between one to three and four years and were organisated in close cooperation with commerce and industry. Sadly the numbers were low and too often employers were reluctant to employ the students leaving the senior full-time courses. Here again is a British paradox; ever since the Great Exhibition the country knew it needed to create more qualified people in commerce, engineering, science and technology and yet when it attempted to the employers did not want to recruit them – so the paradox is that although the country produced fewer scientifically and technically qualified people than its competitors the few that were produced turned out to be too many for the employers! So not only was there a general hostility to scientific, mathematical and technical education, even the employers were reluctant or suspicious of the graduates from these institutions and similar ones. Employers at that time preferred to recruit people who had learnt by ‘sitting next to Nellie’ or employ members of their own family (see more detail history of technical education on this website).
The courses were provided in such colleges as Polytechnics and Technical Colleges /Institutes. These institutions were as mentioned above composite containing in addition Day Technical and Evening Classes and even Junior Technical Schools which seldom had their own buildings (see biography on JTS on this website). From this complex mix eventually emerged Colleges of Further Education that we can recognise today.

Part-time Senior Evening Classes
In the mid-1930s the majority of technical education was provided via these classes. Students worked during the week in commercial and industrial companies and attended the courses usually three times a week for 25/30 weeks a year. These employees wished to advance their theoretical and practical knowledge and understanding of their work. The instruction could vary considerably e.g. in quality and content and was in general of a higher quality, wider in scope and level than that found in evening institutions/classes. More facilities were available to the students in these classes and in addition to laboratory work and lectures students were expected to undertake private study, writing up practical reports and assignments and complete home work tasks. The system no doubt was favoured and welcomed by the employers but did not recognise the pressures on the students and/or their life and other responsibilities in general. The strain after several years of intensive study often proved too much for many students.

Technical Day Classes
Instruction in these classes usually in domestic and technical subjects were delivered to junior and senior students in two possible attendance modes i.e. on an in-fill basis into full-time courses or in special dedicated courses depending on student number and course availability. In 1934 there were 2,589 students in 96 full-time courses and 25,427 in 1,335 part-time courses. The most popular subjects were construction, engineering, photography and printing where the employers were very supportive of this form of education i.e. day release. Typically the students attended for one or two afternoons a week. Sadly these were in the minority as most other employers were reluctant or argued they were unable to release their employees for a number of reasons but mainly the cost and the perceived disruption to their businesses.

Table below shows the number of part-time male students attending Day-Time Classes during session 1931/32 and the subjects studied:

In Senior Full-Time Courses
In Day Technical Classes
Printing and Photography
Building and Architecture
Chemistry and Chemical Trades
Food and Drink Trades
General Industrial
Carriage and Motor Body Building
Music Trades
Boot and Shoe
Clothing Trades
Rubber Trades

The numbers include students admitted to some aspects of full-time courses and those attending special classes made available to them.

The Grouped Course System
The group system was introduced after being trailed in Manchester in 1890, St Helens and Halifax in 1911. After 1907 the BoE urged all LEAs to adopt the system. The reason was very logical as in earlier times the student could make a choice and say elect to study engineering but soon realised that decision required a working knowledge of mathematics, physics and technical drawing and a greater proficiency in English. The group system recognised two categories of students e.g. those who wanted to enter a technical college or those who would enter an evening continuation school. The group system for the first category comprised five main groups: commercial, domestic, general, industrial and rural. The majority of students opted for commercial and industrial but eventually the general group became more popular and inevitably the domestic was popular with women.

Evening courses were composed of a balanced combination of subjects, (i.e. the grouped system), organised as follows:

  • Preparatory, when planned for pupils who required a repeat of elementary school work.
  • Junior, adapted to the needs of pupils from 14 to 16 who had just left the elementary school.
  • Senior, usually lasting three years, for students over 16 who had left junior course or had the equivalent of a secondary education
  • Advanced, arranged for students of about 19, who wished to reach university standard.

Commercial Education
Commercial education was run very much like technical education and was aimed at meeting the demands of two categories of workers namely: people who carry out commercial and business transactions and those who record transactions. The first group represented such occupations as accountancy, banking, insurance, law – these usually had professional Institutions to oversee them. The second group represented such occupations as book-keepers, secretaries, typists etc. Inevitably the majority of the pupils in some of the subjects were girls and women. As with technical education the provision was offered in:

  • Junior Commercial Schools (in 1934, 44 schools with 5,259 pupils) courses gave instruction in commercial subjects and ‘office arts’ with general education.
  • Senior full-time courses (in 1934, 44 with 1,447 pupils) for post-certificate students. Four types of courses could be identified namely: those providing general training for senior positions in commerce; secretarial courses for girls and women; Intermediate B. Comm. and B.Sc. (Economics) degrees and courses for specialised areas of employment such as merchandising e.g. textiles.
  • Part-time day release courses
  • Number of students released very small.
  • Evening Classes in Colleges and Institutions

In the junior courses main subjects were accounts, arithmetic, English, geography, shorthand and with an option to study a foreign language. The senior courses lasted over three years with ‘commerce’ as a compulsory subject with options on three of the following subjects: book-keeping, commercial arithmetic, correspondence, foreign language, geography, shorthand, typing and a trade subject. Advanced courses found usually in the larger schools could lead to professional qualifications offered by their relevant professional body e.g. accountancy, banking etc. London in 1934b had 23 Senior Commercial Institutes and an increasing number of private venture schools.

Examinations have always been important in the organisation and development of technical and commercial education and training and after 1920 Joint Committees comprising representatives from technical institutions, professional bodies, teachers’ organisations and the Board of Education (BoE) were created to oversee curricula and the award of National Certificates and Diplomas in vocational subjects (see history of technical and commercial examinations on this website). There were also Local Examining Unions supported by advisory committees that drafted curricula and syllabuses of examinations for their own areas and set the examinations. Finally examinations were available from external examining bodies such as City and Guilds of London Institute, the (Royal) Society of Arts and the London Chamber of Commerce.

The total number of young people leaving elementary school in 1934 for employment in commercial, domestic and industrial occupations was 268,000. The university sector was small compared with other European countries and America representing approximately 1.6% of an age group. Even more depressing statistic is that in the 1920s and 1930s only about 12% of university students were studying technology.

Most of the detail for the above account taken from a number of Board of Education (BoE) pamphlets published throughout the 1930s.

Continuative education – a commonly used term by Board of Education (Bo) and education writers at the time. Education beyond the school leaving age at the time unless exemptions were in place.

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