technical education matters

Welcome to the website

I have created this site covering a range of topics that will hopefully convey the history and the current importance of technical and vocational education from a number of different perspectives. I hope it will prove of interest and value to students, researchers and people who are associated with this important sector of education and training.

The website is a free resource. All I ask is that the source is referenced if used. Some of the material is written from a personal viewpoint reflecting my experiences gained as a student in Further Education and a long career working in the FE sector.

I have always believed that the FE sector is the closest example of a truly comprehensive sector of education. Technical Education is a strategically important part of the education system especially at a time of massive transformations occurring globally. The history and commentary on various aspects of technical and vocational education attempt to identify why it is still perceived in a negative way in spite of innumerable initiatives and government pronouncements over many decades. The FE sector has been referred to as the Cinderella sector often with good cause. The material on this site attempts to record and reflect on a number of issues that have influenced and shaped technical and vocational education. Much of the material catalogues a series of misguided political initiatives, false dawns and missed opportunities which sadly continue even today. It also highlights initiatives through the centuries which have been pivotal in putting technical education in this country on the map at all. I strongly believe that one must understand history and attempt to learn from the lessons if one is to improve the situation in the future. Sadly generations of politicians have consistently ignored these lessons preferring to recreate the mistakes of the past – this is most certainly true where technical and vocational education and training are concerned. Some of the content will be controversial and I hope it will provoke constructive argument and debate.
Some of the materials in earlier versions (2003+) have appeared in  ‘t’ magazine and on their website ( ( Sadly ‘t’ magazine no longer exists). In addition to the histories, biographies and pen portraits, glossaries, chronologies I have included a number of articles and viewpoints on technical, commercial and vocational education and training. Also a series of statistical information on the topic and its institutions is included.
The site will be constantly expanded and updated.

The latest addition to the website is ‘Counterpoint’ a series of articles from other writers I am grateful to them for their interest in the site and their valuable contributions.

Feedback would be welcome.

Dr Richard Evans FInst.P. FCGI.  FInstLM. Companion CIPHE

The History of Technical and Commercial Examinations –Chronology

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series The History of commercial & Technical Examinations

To complement the history of technical and commercial examinations a comprehensive chronology is included to assist the reader. In addition at the end of the glossary are a few definitions of terms and expressions commonly used in examining and examinations.

Updated April 2016.


Important Dates in regard to the development of examinations. The detail.
 1750  Workers and Mutual Improvement Societies founded.
1754 Society of Arts Society (SoA) founded offering medals, prizes and money for useful inventions and outstanding, worthwhile achievements.
1833 Government makes grants available to church schools
1835  Edinburgh School of Arts – Awarded  ‘Attestations of Proficiency certificates. – this was adopted later by other bodies e.g. the Union of Institutions/Institutes. ‘Report from the Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures.’- Parliamentary Papers.
1836 University of London incorporated as an examining body .1838 Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) established a prize scheme to recognise performance in examinations of relevance to farmers e.g. mathematics, mechanics, chemistry, zoology, botany and geology.
1839 Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes (ULCI) formed – established examinations in 1847 – Union covered Caernarvonshire, Cheshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Isle of Man and Lancashire. Education Department (ED) established.
 1840 London University matriculation examinations introduced pass and honours awards – 69 students obtained passes and 7 obtained honours.
1841/2 Pharmaceutical Society of GB examinations started.
1844 Formation of the Ragged School Union.
1845 Royal College of Chemistry. Students leaving the College were awarded Certificates of Attendance or Testimonials.
1846 College of Preceptors founded and incorporated in 1849.
1847 ‘Examination the Province of the State, or the outlines of a Practical System for the extension of National Education.’ By James Booth. Parker. Lancashire and Cheshire Union of Mechanics’ Institutions founded. Midlands Union of Mechanics’ Institutions founded. Kent Union of Mechanics’ Institutions founded. College of Preceptors starts examinations – grades awarded: Licentiate, Associate and Fellows for teachers.
1848 Northern Union of Mechanics’ Institutions (NUMI) founded.
1850 Board of Trade examinations for Masters and Mates of Merchantman. College of Preceptors started piloting examinations for pupils and these examinations were firmly established by 1854. Devon and Cornwall Union of Mechanics’ Institutions founded. Oxford University Examination Statute. Oxford Honours Schools in Mathematics and Natural Sciences established
1851 Cambridge Tripos examinations in Moral and Natural Sciences established. Great Exhibition highlighted weaknesses in technical education.
1852 Department of Science and Art established created under the Board of Trade. Society of Arts (SoA) created a Union of Mechanics’ Institutions- see above the separate unions that existed prior to the SoA action.
1853 Department of Science and Art of the Board of Trade established – transferred to the Education Department – finally abolished when the Board of Education (BoE) created in 1899. Society of Arts (SoA) proposed system of examinations in the Union of Institutions comprising a scheme for examining and granting certificates to the class students of Institutes in Union with the Society. Indian Civil Service Examinations instigated. Leicestershire Union of Mechanics’ Institutions founded. College of Preceptors began to examine boys and girls in school subjects.
1854 College of Preceptors introduced full-scale examinations after trials in1850. Organisation of the Permanent Civil Service. C. 1713. Indian Civil Service examinations opened to competition. The Northcote and Trevelyan Report. SoA examinations inaugurated.
1855 First SoA examinations staged only one candidate -a chimney sweep William Medcraft – in 1856 42 candidates. The first shorthand certificates issued by the Phonetic Institute in Bath (Pitman) – Pitman Shorthand become the first ever subject taught by correspondence. Royal Military College Woolwich entrance examinations started.
1856 Society of Arts – examinations remodelled to include such subjects as mathematics, science, modern languages. On this occasion 42 candidates presented themselves.  Highland Society of Edinburgh introduced examinations leading to a diploma in scientific and practical agriculture.
1857 Department of Science and Art – established examinations in science in 1859. University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (UODLE) established – first examinations conducted in 1858 in 11 centres. The Bath and West of England S0ciety awarded prizes totalling 123 guineas to school pupils.  SoA extended examinations to provincial centres in 1857.n 1857 and 1866 total number of honours chemistry graduates – 11 from University College London and 14 from Owens College Manchester.
London University Examinations -science degrees with examinations open to all. London University requirement of a college certificate of attendance abandoned. University of London introduced external degrees. University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate established – first examinations held in December in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Grantham, Liverpool, London and Norwich. Junior exams for<16 year olds and Senior exams for<18 year olds. Oxford University started its ‘Middle Class Examinations.’
1859 The Science and Art Department (DoSA) established to develop and introduced examinations for artizans. The SoA transfers science examinations over to the Science and Art Department. First examinations held in London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Manchester, DoSA examinations for teachers of science established in London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Manchester.
1860 Report of the Commissioners on Military Education. Cd. 2603. Army Certificates of Education introduced. Nine schools with 500 pupils participated in the recently introduced science examinations by the Dept. of Science and Arts and by 1870 799 schools participated with over 34,000 pupils. Between 1860 and 1868 the Science and Art Department stages an examination scheme and certification for science teachers – it ceased because of cost! Between 1860 and 1897 number of honour chemistry graduates totalled 859.
1862 Revised Code (Lowe) instituted ‘payment by results’ but also shunned practical work for ordinary elementary schools.
1864 Society of Arts (SoA) introduces shorthand examinations. Report from the Select Committee on Schools of Art. Women first admitted to Cambridge University.
1865 Cambridge Locals extended to women. Local Examinations introduced in Scotland -University and St Andrews offered these. Glasgow started examinations in 1877 and Aberdeen in 1880 however very few candidates
1867 Special examinations for science teacher certificate abolished. Cambridge Locals become available for females.
1868 Whitworth Scholarships/Exhibitions. These were awarded after examinations including written papers in chemistry, mathematics, mechanics and physics. In addition there were practical tests fitting, filing, turning and pattern-making. Whitworth directed that eight should be awarded to Owens’ (Manchester) and three each to Cambridge, Oxford and London universities, one to Dublin, Durham, Edinburgh and Glasgow and others to University College London and Kings College London.1869 RASE examinations introduced for 18 to 25 year olds in Science and Principals of Agriculture.
 1869 Cambridge established its Higher Examinations for Women aged over 18 also University of London started such examinations.
1870 Women admitted to Oxford Local Examinations. UCL opens classes for women. Mason College Birmingham founded by Josiah Mason. Examination entries at Queen University Ireland 302. There were 1,871 classes with 48,905 students in mathematics/physical sciences/engineering and 343 classes with 8,960 students in the biological sciences and geology. Number of students in science 13, technology 6.
1872 SoA introduces shorthand examinations. Higher Grade Schools established by many School Boards.
1873 Society of Arts – established technological subject examinations that were subsequently transferred to The City and Guilds of London Institute in 1879. In 1879 there were 151 successful candidates and by 1908 the number had risen to 13,058. Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examinations Board established often called the Joint Board. SoA offers examinations in Carriage Building. SoA offers examinations in Cotton and Silk Manufacture. Between 1873/77 only 218 candidates for SoA technological examinations.
1874 Girton College examinations for women in the natural Tripos. Yorkshire School of Science opened – introduced courses in dyeing in 1879. leather, agriculture, a teachers training department and organic chemistry in 1891,metalliferous mining in 1898 and electrical engineering in 1899,
1875 DSA started examinations in agriculture. University College Sheffield founded.
1876 Shorthand examinations introduced by SoA. SoA Commercial Certificate awarded for passes in three subjects. University College Bristol founded.
1878 City and Guilds of London Institute (CGLI) – founded by sixteen Livery Companies and the Corporation of London and incorporated in 1880. Maria Grey Training College for women founded. London University examinations available to women for the first time. SoA ceased to hold examinations in manufacture in cotton, paper, steel, carriage building, calico-bleaching, dyeing and printing, alkali manufacture and blow pipe analysis – CGLI took over technology examinations.
1879 The SoA transfers the technological examinations over to CGLI and retains the Commercial examinations. City and Guilds held first examinations. First classes at the Finsbury Technical College. Finsbury Technical College and CGLI Art School established. Royal Institute of Chemistry start examinations. Exams held by CGLI in 1879 included: Cotton manufacture, Steel manufacture, Gas manufacture, Silk Manufacture and dyeing, Paper manufacture, Glass manufacture, Telegraphy, Photography, Pottery and p0rcelain and Alkali manufacture. Number of candidates 7.
1880 City and Guilds incorporated. Philip Magnus appointed as first Director and Secretary of CGLI. CGLI offers examinations in Tinplate and Zinc Work in conjunction with plumbing -subjects later separated for exam purposes. CGLI offered 24 subjects with 816 candidates increased to 49 subjects with 6,607 candidates in 1890.  First sandwich course established in either Glasgow University or the Royal Technical College, Glasgow. Examination entries at Queen University Ireland totalled 748. Victoria University admits women to degree examinations. Between 1880 and 1900 the total number of science honours graduates in England and Wales was 530.
1881 London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) founded. CGLI offers examinations in Woodworking, Metalworking and Mechanical Engineering. First examinations in Framework Knitting (Hand and Machine) held at Technical School Leicester. University College Liverpool founded. Women admitted to all honours degrees at Cambridge.
1882 Union of Institutions dissolved (See history on this website).CGLI offers examinations in Carpentry and Joinery. CGLI offers examinations in plumbing. 1883 Lower Certificate Examination established.
1884 Samuelson Report: Royal Commission on Technical Education. Henry Armstrong introduced a 3 year diploma course in chemical engineering at the Central Institution London. Examination entries at Royal University Ireland 2,364 with 1,458 passes. Oxford admits women to honours degrees in Mathematics, Science and Modern History.
1886 Institution of Municipal Engineers start examinations. CGLI offers examinations in Bricklaying and Masonry – later offered separately.
1887 CGLI hold first international examinations. The London Chamber of Commerce start examinations. First CGLI examinations held overseas in New South Wales Australia.
1888 Oxford Local Examinations Board introduces shorthand examinations. School Leaving Certificate instigated. London University requirements for matriculation were in the following subjects: Latin, One Language e.g. French, German etc. English Language with Geography and History, Mathematics, Mechanics and Hydrostatics and one of the following science subjects Chemistry, Heat and Light, Magnetism and Electricity. In 1889/1890 Botany was introduced. 6,000 candidates for CGLI examinations.
1889 The Welsh Intermediate Education Act. First Treasury grant to University Colleges (£15,000).
1890 London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) began examinations. Examination entries at the Royal University Ireland 2,658 with 1,783 passes. Number of students in science 138 and 30 in technology.
1891 Typing examinations introduced by SoA. Regent Street Polytechnic founded courses and examinations offered included; bricklaying, electrical work, plumbing, printing and watch making. Education provided free. CGLI offered Examinations in Bookbinding.
1892 First CGLI examinations staged at Woolwich Polytechnic. ordinary Science Examinations grant for most rudimentary science results abolished.
1893 ‘Technical Education: Its Progress and Prospects.’  P Magnus. JoSA. School leaving age raised to 11. All degrees and offices open to women at University of Wales.
1894 Bryce Report. Reported in 1885 and stressed the pivotal role of examinations. GLI offers examinations in Cabinet Making. Women admitted to degrees at Durham University.
1895 Union of Educational Institution (UEI) that had started examinations 1896. Covered the Midland region comprising Cornwell, Devon, Hampshire, Huntingdon and Staffordshire. University of Durham establishes a Certificate for Secondary Teachers.
1896 The Central Welsh Board (CWB) founded and this became the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) in 1948. UEI started examinations. CGLI offers examinations in Plasterers’ Work. CGLI offers examinations in Painters’ and Decorators’. University of Oxford instigates a course on education and awarded a Diploma in Education. Diploma in the Science and Practice of Dairying established. Highland Society of Edinburgh along with Royal Agricultural Society of England developed National Diploma examinations.
1897 Institution of Civil Engineers Entrance Examinations started. CGLI offers examinations in Bookbinding. First Apprenticeship and Skilled Employment Committee established.
1899 Board of Education (BoE) created.  School leaving age raised to 12. Cockerton Judgement – limited powers of School Boards.


Important Dates in regard to the development of examinations.     The detail.  
1900 Board of Education (BoE) established –replacing the Education Department and the Department of Science and Art. CGLI offered examinations in Building Quantities. London Board of Education recognised higher elementary education. University of Birmingham Examinations Board founded.
 1901  CGLI Technological examinations held in 380 centres with 34,246 candidates and there were 904 candidates in manual training examinations for teachers. In session 1901/02 only 3,000 students studying technology in Britain in universities and colleges.
1902 Balfour Education Act. Provided for the creation of a system of state secondary school. Little attention on examination system preferred to maintain the status quo with the universities playing a central role. University of London Extension/Examining Board founded.
1903 Board of Education creates three branches for: Elementary Education, Secondary Education and Technological and HE in Science and Art. Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) founded comprising the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield. University of London Junior School Certificated introduced. WEA founded.
1904 ‘Regulations for Evening Schools, Technical Institutions and School of Art and Art Classes.’ Cd.2172. BoE. Secondary Regulations introduced a subject-based curriculum.
1905 Army Leaving Certificate introduced. University of London Higher School Leaving Certificate introduced. 12 Polytechnics in various parts of London. Junior Technical Schools (JTSs) started.
1907 ‘Regulations for Technical Schools, Schools of Art and other Schools and classes for FE.’ Cd 3555. BoE. JMB Examinations Board founded.
1908 Society of Arts received its royal charter. National System of School Certificate examinations established. BoE and the Secondary Schools Examination Council founded. In 1908-1909 session 1,500 candidates entered the three levels of the London University School Examinations along with 6.700 candidates who entered the London University Matriculation Examinations.
 1910 Number of science honours graduates in England and Wales was 800 and 431 in technology.
1911 ‘Report of the Consultative on Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Cd. 6004. Dyke Ackland Report. BoE. East Midland Educational Union (EMEU) founded. Covering Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland. ‘Science Examinations and Grouped Course Certificates.’ Circ 776. (20th June) BoE. ‘Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Cd 6004. BoE. Coal Mines Act advocated higher qualifications for mining engineers. Board of Education discontinued the old lower grade ‘Science and Art’ examinations Circular 776 – advanced grades ceased in 1918 – this stimulated the development of Regional examining boards e.g. UCLI, UEI, EMEU and NCTEC (f 1921). (See biography on this website). Only 2,550 candidates entered the BoE Higher Examinations with only 985 passes. University of Bristol School Examinations Council founded.
1912 2,558 candidates took the Higher Examinations in Science and 9,182 the Lower Examinations in Science. Institute of Mechanical Engineers introduced entrance examinations.
1913 Institute of Mechanical Engineers introduced examinations. Institution of Electrical Engineers introduced examinations. Board of Education (ED) Regulations for new category of Junior Technical Schools (JTS). Junior Technical Schools began in London.
1914 ‘Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Circ 849. BoE. Concept of grouped subject to be passed in the first examinations rather than in single subjects. 23,119 candidates took CGLI examinations in 73 different subjects in 467 centres.
1915 ‘The Examination of Secondary Schools.’ Circ 933. BoE.
1916 Institute of Brewing proposed introducing examinations postponed until 1920.
1917 ‘Scheme for the Better Organisation of Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Circ. 1002. BoE. ‘Examination of Secondary Schools.’ Circ 996. BoE. Secondary School Examinations Council (SSEC) established (SSEC) to oversee School Certificate examinations. Training scheme for disabled ex-servicemen.
1918 ‘Examinations in Science and Technology.’ Circ 1026. BoE. National standards for examinations established School Certificate and Higher School Certificate created. Eight approved School and Higher School Certificate Examination were those of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate, Oxford Delegacy for Local Examinations, Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board, University of London, Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board, University of Durham, University of Bristol and the Central Welsh Board.1919 28,000 pupils entered for one or more school certificate examinations in England and Wales. 1919 between 1919 and 1950 the number of candidates who entered 1st examinations in England and Wales increased from 28,000 to 99,900. ‘Locals’ and later the School Cert operated a system of grouped subjects but in 1951 the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels reverted back to single subject entry. Government insisted that CGLI cease examining at lower levels – which then became the responsibility of teacher dominated regional examining bodies – not liked by employers – eventually overturned in 1933 following the Concordat agreement.
1920 Joint Committees (JCs) in National Schemes established to oversee curriculum and examinations in vocational subjects resulted in Ordinary and Higher Certificates and Diplomas administrated by joint committee – finally dissolved in 1987 following the introduction of TEC/BEC/DATEC awards .Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council replaced the Northern Union of Mechanics Institutes. Between 1920 and 1950 the number of candidates who entered for the Higher School Certificate went from 3,200 to 34,400.
1921 National Certificate (Nat Cert) scheme introduced see following years the subjects that were introduced (This scheme was for 5 years of part-time study). The driving force behind this development was  H. S. Hele-Shaw) National Certificates in Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry started. In fact between 1921 and 1951 15 National Certificates were introduced in engineering, mining, commerce, textiles, chemistry, physics and metallurgy. Pitman Commercial Examination Department established at the Phonetic Institute.
1922 Nat Cert in Electrical Engineering introduced. Royal Aeronautical Society introduce examinations. In 1922/23 session there were 9,200 students awarded 1st degrees and 1,600 higher degrees. 1,017 candidates from 46 schools and colleges sat for ONC Mechanical Engineering with 521 passes.
1923 ‘Differentiation of the Curriculum for Boys and Girls in Secondary Schools’ Consultative Committee BoE HMSO. Ordinary awards granted 663 and 168 higher awards.
1924 Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council (NCTEC) was reconstituted. Covering Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland, Westmoreland and Redcar (North Riding of Yorkshire).
1926 Nat Cert in Naval Architecture introduced. Institution of Gas Engineers introduced examinations. Closure of Finsbury Technical College.
1928 Board of Education Committee (Atholl Report). ‘Examinations for part-time students.’ BoE.
1929 Nat Cert in Building introduced.
1931 The School Certificate Examination. BoE/SSEC.
1934 Nat Cert in Textiles introduced.
1935/36 National Certificate in Commerce introduced. In 1939 the Association of British Chambers of Commerce took over the function of the professional institute of the examinations. Institute of Marine Engineers introduced examinations (1935).
1936 ‘Secondary School Examinations.’ Circ 1448. BoE.
1937 International Institute Examination Enquiry. ‘A Conspectus of Examinations in GB and NI. P.’ Hartog and G. Roberts. ‘The Investigators’ School Certificate Report.’ A very detailed analysis of the examinations. BoE.
1938 Report of the Consultative Committee on Secondary Education, with Special Reference to Grammar Schools and Technical High Schools. Spens Report. BoE.
1939 Nat Cert in Commerce introduced. 3,999 ONCs and 1,331 HNCs awarded.
1941 Nat Cert in Production Engineering introduced. Women admitted to the basic training courses held at Government Training Centres (GTCs).

‘Curriculum and Examinations in Secondary Schools. Norwood Report.’ Endorsed the tripartite system following recommendation of the Spens Report 1938.  BoE. Nat Cert in Civil Engineering introduced.

1944 Ordinary awards granted 4,070 and 1,405 Higher Awards .

1945 Higher Technological Education. Percy Report. MoE. Nat Cert in Applied Physics introduced. Nat Cert in Metallurgy introduced. Advisory Committee on Education (Scotland) recommended a comprehensive system for all secondary pupils 12-16 with a common core curriculum and leaving examination.
1946 ‘Youths’ opportunities, FE in County Colleges.’ MoE pamphlet No.3. Central Youth Employment Executive established (CYEE).
1947 Northern Advisory Council for FE established. School leaving age raised to 15. Nat Cert in Applied Chemistry introduced. Institution of Mining introduce examinations.
1948 ‘Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Circ 168.  (23rd April) MoE/SSEC. ‘Education and Training Act’. 7,997 ONCs and 4,509 HNCs awarded. Welsh Joint Education Committee founded.
1949 CGLI Memorandum on the Origin, Development and Work of the Institute. CGLI. Scheme for Scottish Leaving Certificate accepted. ‘Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Circ 205. MoE. The Year Book of Technical Education and Careers in Industry, H. C. Dent (Ed.), Black.
1950 ‘Professional Bodies Requirements in Terms of the GCE.’ Circ 227. MoE. UGC Policy Statement on Applied Science. UGC. In 1950/51 session there were 17,300 awarded 1st degrees and 2,400 higher degrees.
1951 The School Certificate and Higher School Certificate replaced by GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. These were offered by: University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES). Joint Matriculation Board (JMB). University of London School Examinations Board (LSEB). Northern Ireland Schools Examination Council – not based in a university. University of Oxford Delegacy Examinations (ODLE). Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board (OCSEB). Southern Universities Joint Board for Schools Examinations (SUJBSE). Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC).Joint Standing Committee to advice on technical and commercial GCEs. Nat Cert in Chemical Engineering introduced. National Diploma in Agricultural Engineering established. National Retail Distribution Certificate introduced.
1952 Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) assumed examinations to its other functions. Nat Cert in Mining introduced. ‘Examinations in Secondary School’ Circ 256 MoE (Sept).
1953 Associated Examining Board (AEB) established by CGLI. Nearly 800 centres in Britain and Northern Ireland for RSA examinations. CGLI offered a single 3-year stand alone craft courses in Heating and Ventilating Engineering practice.
1954 ‘Technical and Commercial Subjects in the GCE.’ JMB. Southern University Joint Board for School Examinations founded.
1955 Council of Technical Examining Bodies established. National Council of Technological Awards established- Diplomas in Technology Dip Tech) and College of Technologists scheme followed. ‘Examinations in Secondary Schools.’ Circ 289. MoE.  Liberal Education in a Technical Age, NIAE.
1956 ‘Technical Education.’ Cmd. 9703. MoE. Diploma in Technology (Dip Tech) instigated – enrolled 965 students for 37 courses in 1957. 31.835 candidates for ONC (16,176 passed) and 12,568 candidates for HNC (8,176 passed). External Examinations for Secondary Schools. College of Preceptors. March.
 1957 49 Dip Tech programmes accredited.  Recent Developments Affecting the Pattern of Craft, Technical and Technological Training. BEAMA Education Conference report and papers.
1958 ‘Awards at Universities and other Institutions of FE.’ Circ.339. MoE. Beloe Committee appointed to look at other than GCE Examinations CSE introduced in 1965. Carr Committee. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Rules for the Examination and the Submission of Theses. July. The Royal Institute of Chemistry. Regulations for Admission to Membership. June. 62 colleges in which degree study could be undertaken existed along with 13 technical colleges affiliated to universities which could award those university degrees – examples were the London University External Degrees. 18,000 National Certificates and 10,000 Higher National Certificates awarded.
1959 15 to 18. Crowther Report. MoE. ‘Report on the Wastage of Students from P-T Technical and Commercial Courses.’ MoE/ NACEIC. ‘National Council for Technological Awards List 10.’ NCTA. National Council for Technological Awards Second Report. First examinations for the Mechanical Engineers Craft Course. Up to about 1959 CGLI structured its qualifications as a continuous 4-5 year syllabus divided into two parts – first part a 2-3 year part-time course leading to an ‘Intermediate’ Certificate which was followed by a 2 year part-time course leading to a ‘Final’ Certificate. In some cases a further 2 years would gain a ‘Full Technological Certificate.
1960 ‘Secondary School Examinations Other than the GCE.’ MoE/SSEC. Beloe Report. Around 1960 Voluntary Industrial Training Councils established. Teacher training courses extended to 3 years. ONC Business Studies introduced.
1961 National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design (NCDAD) established. ONC/OND/HNC in Business Studies introduced.  Institution of Scottish Examination Board created. Scottish Council for Commercial Education established. ‘Better Opportunities in Technical Education.’ Cmnd 1254. MoE. Secondary School Examinations other than the GCE. College of Preceptors. Scottish Council for Commercial Education (SCCE) founded. ‘Examinations  than the GCE.’ College of Preceptors. ‘Secondary School Certificate Regulations and Syllabuses.’ Union of Educational Institutions and in same year the equivalent document from the Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes. G1 courses in Engineering started. CGLI General Regulations. CGLI and Heating and Ventilation Engineering Regulations and Syllabus for 1961. RSA Ordinary (Single Subject), Examinations for Part-Time Students
1962 Scottish Association for National Certificates and Diplomas (SANCAD) established to oversee National schemes for Scotland. Curriculum Study Group established in the MoE. Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) introduced. ‘Professional Bodies Requirements in Terms of GCE.’ Circ 5/62. MoE.  ‘Awards for First Degree and Comparable Courses. The University and Other Awards Regulations.’ Circ 9/62. MoE. Yorkshire Council for FE YCFE) assumed examinations to its other functions except for the Redcar region. Curriculum Study Group established with the MoE. Higher Grade Qualifications (Scotland) introduced. HND in Business Studies started – initial enrolment 380 candidates. In the session 1962-63 1,400 first degrees of University of London were awarded to students in FE colleges of whom 1,100 were in Science and Technology. HND Business Studies introduced with 380 enrolments. G* and G2 courses started in Textiles.
1963 Technical Education MoE. The Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board established. ‘Certificate and  Senior Certificate Examinations.’ Report by examiners. College of Preceptors. ‘Regulations for the ACP and LCP Examinations from 1963 onwards.’ College of Preceptors. ‘Secondary School Certificate Regulations and Syllabuses.’ East Midland Educational Union and in same year the equivalent document from the Northern Countries Technical Examinations Council. ‘JMB. What it is and what it does’ Petch. J. A. JMB. Certificate in Office Studies (COS) introduced. 12.000 students registered for University of London external degrees – 8,500 full-time. G course started in Mining. CGLI offered courses for operatives in session 1963-1964. New ONCs established 2 years designated as O1,O2. London Chamber of Commerce (Incorporated) Regulation, Syllabuses and Time Tables of Examinations. The Nuffield Foundation Science Teaching Project. Report. October. 8,000 Dip Tech awarded.
1964 National Examinations Board in Supervisory Studies established- later called NEBS Management. Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) established and receives charter – abolished in 1992.Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations (SCCE) established followed recommendations by the Lockwood Report. MoE replaced by the DES. University of Durham School Examination Board dissolved. HND in Business Studies introduced. Industrial Training Act enacted – established a Central Training Council and 29 Industrial Training Boards (ITBs). ‘Schools Curricula and Examinations’. MoE. There were 113 craft and 110 technician qualifications being offered by CGLI. G courses in Science, Shorthand and Construction started. Approximately 120 professional bodies offered examinations in such subjects as science, technology, commerce etc.
1965 Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) introduced following the Beloe Report – ceased in 1987. A number of Regional examining boards were established namely: Associated Lancashire Schools Board. East Anglian Examinations Board. East Midlands Regional Examination Board. Metropolitan regional Examination Board. Middlesex Regional Examination Board. Northern Regional Examination Board. North West Regional Examination Board. South East (Regional) Examinations Board. Southern Regional Exams Board. West Midlands Regional Examination Board. West Yorkshire and Lindsey Regional Examinations Board. Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Examinations Board. Later the Yorkshire Boards merged to create the Yorkshire Regional Examinations Board and the Metropolitan and Middlesex Boards merged to create the London Regional Examinations Board. CSEs replaced by CGSEs in 1986/87. First CNAA honours degrees in Business Studies introduced. Multiple choice examinations began to be introduced in 16+ examinations. National Diploma in Design (NDD) replaced by the Diploma in Art and Design (Dip. AD). Number of colleges offering Dip. Ad stood at 40.
 1966 Agreement between CGLI and the six REBs concluded. The six BEBs were Union of Education Institutes, Welsh Joint Education Committee, East Midlands Educational Union, Yorkshire Council for FE, Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes and Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council). G courses started in Printing.
1968 CGLI set up a Skills Testing Service as a result of the Industrial Training Act that provided practical tests for training outside the traditional FE system. Dainton Report – Enquiry into the Flow of Candidates in Science and Technology. DES/Council for Scientific Policy. HMSO. London- advocated a broader ‘A’ level qualification to attract more people into science. ONC in Public Admin introduced first certificates awarded in 1970.
1969 Haslegrave Report of Technician Courses and Examinations – (Ad Memo 21/69). Examinations Techniques Development Unit (ETDU) established at CGLI. Higher Certificate in Office Studies introduced.
1971 The London Chamber of Commerce changed its name to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry Examinations Board.
1972 School leaving age raised to 16. TOPs introduced.
1973 The Technician Education Council (TEC) created. Schools Council attempted to introduce N (Normal) and F (Further) level examinations – failed. ‘Examination Structure’ Schools Council. WP 46. ‘Preparation for Degree Courses’ Schools Council WP 47. Government established TEC and required CGLI to abandon its very successful technician examinations.
1974 The MSC established. The Business Education Council (BEC) created. Assessment of Performance Unit established by DES to promote the development of methods of assessing and monitoring the achievement of pupils. ‘Vocational Courses in Art and Design’ (Gann Report) DES HMSO. CGLI developed Foundation courses.
1976 ULCI merged with NWRAC. ‘School Examinations and their Function.’ UCLES publication.
1978 1978 Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP) introduced – two main approaches work experience and work preparation. ‘School Examinations’. (Waddell Report).
1979 Ferryside agreement which regulated relations between CGLI and the REBs and the RACs which were not REBs. Mansell Report ‘A Basis for Choice’ published. School Examinations (Waddell Report) recommended a single examination at 16 to replace GCE ‘O’ levels and the CSE – the GCSE introduced in 1986. LEA Arrangement for the School Curriculum-LEAs had to publish curriculum policies. ‘Proposals for the Certificate of Extended Education (CEE)’ Cmnd 7755 (Keohane Report) DES. 13% of school leavers achieved 2 GCE ‘A’ levels.
1980 ’16-19′ (Macfarlane Report) DES/LEAs. DATEC established (The Art and Design element of TEC and BEC).
1981 Northern Advisory Council for FE (NACFE)merged with the Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council to become the Northern Council for FE (NCFE). ‘A Basis for Choice (ABC) in Action’ A report by CGLI/BTEC/RSA/FEU on pilots of ABC 1979-1981 FEU London. ‘A New Training Initiative: A Programme for Action’. Cmnd 8455. DoE.
1982 Cockcroft Report into mathematics. ‘New Technical Education Initiative (TVEI)’ Press Release DES. ‘TVEI’ announced – MSC. ‘Mapping and Reviewing the Pattern of 16-19 Education’ Schools Pamphlet No. 20. School Council replaced by Examinations Council and School Curriculum Council,
1983 Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) introduced. Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) pilots introduced  (Sept.) – a further 12 in Sept 1985 aimed eventually to establish 103 in 98 education authorities. YTS introduced. ’16-18s in Scotland: An Action Plan.’ SED. Edinburgh. ’17+ A New Qualification’ DES HMSO.
1984 BTEC created by the merger of TEC and BEC. Secondary Examinations Council (SEC) and School Curriculum Development Committee (SCDC) replaced by the Schools Council. ‘TVEI Review’ MSC. ‘The NVQ Criteria and Related Guidance’ NCVQ London. Scottish Certificate of Education for 14-16 year olds introduced. University of London Entrance and Schools Examinations Council and School Examinations Department renamed University of London School Examinations Board.
1985 Pitman Examinations Institute sold to Longman Group. ‘CPVE in Action’ FEU London. ‘Academic Validation in Public Sector HE’ (Lindop Report) DES HMSO. ‘TVEI Review’ MSC. ‘Progressing to College: A 14-16 Core’. FEU. New examination announced for 17 year olds (CPVE). Participation post-16 lower than in 2009 -participation in vocational and academic routes was: 18% for academic qualifications and 3% for vocational qualifications by 2001 these figures became 40% for ‘A’ levels and only 18% for vocational qualifications. However by 2009 the figures were still 40% for ‘A’ levels but vocational awards increased to 28% (10% increase since 2001).
1986 ‘Review of vocational qualifications and the establishment of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications NCVQ).’ H G De Ville ISBN 0 112705901.  Introduced a competency-based, outcome-measured national infrastructure -had profound effects on education and training providers. NCVQ merged with SCAA to form QCA in 1997. JTS and Restart for adults began. GCSE introduced. YTS extended to 2 years. ‘The European Schools and the European Baccalaureate.’ DES.
1986/87 ‘O’ levels and CSEs replaced by GCSEs – first awarded in 1988. Staying on rate for post-16 year olds in England was approximately 46%. ‘Changes in Scottish NAFE Examinations’. Publication 1a/48 CNAA.
1987 Advanced Supplementary (AS) levels introduced. Open College founded. The National Qualifications Framework.’ NCQV. London. The NCVQ Framework created. (March) NCVQ .’Progression from CPVE’ FEU London. ‘Current developments in School Curriculum and Examinations’. SCUE. SCDC. SEC. CNAA. ‘Work Experience in TVEI: Student Views and Reaction’. NFER.
1988 ‘Advancing A-levels.’ Higginson Report. DES. HMSO. London. GCSEs first awarded. The Management Charter Initiative (MCI) launched. National Curriculum (NC) started. National Curriculum Council (NCC) and the School Examination and Assessment Council (SEAC) replaced  School Curriculum Development Committee (SCDC) and Secondary Examinations Council (SEC). AQA established AEB+SEG+NEAB.NWRAC/ULCI became CENTRA (the FE Centre for the Regional Association of LEAs). NVQS and SVQs introduced. Career Development Loans (CDLs) introduced. Education Reform Act-introduced National Curriculum and testing regimes. ‘The National Certificate: A Guide to Assessment’ SCOTVEC. ‘Introducing a National System of Credit Accumulation’ NCVQ London. MSC becomes The Training Agency (TA). ‘NVCQ and its Implementation’. NCVQ Bulletin No 1. ‘Planning the FE Curricula’. FEU. ISBN 1-85338-080-6. national Curriculum Council consultation on science and mathematics.
1989 Training in Britain. TA/DE. ‘Generic Units and Common Learning Outcomes’ (June) NCVQ. ‘Vocational Qualifications: Criteria and Procedures’ NCVQ. International Curriculum and Assessment Agency for Examinations (ICAAE) founded focussed on business and ICT awards.
1990 CGLI purchase Pitman Examinations Institute (PEI). Training Credits introduced. British Baccalaureate published IPPR – went nowhere! Government lifts restriction on schools offering BTEC courses. Core skills first proposed for GCE ‘A’ levels – failed. ‘Core Skills 16-19’ National Curriculum Council (NCC).Howie Committee appointed to review extension of the Scottish Highers qualifications e.g. S5 and S6. S. O. Edinburgh. ‘Common Learning Outcomes: Core Skills in A/AS levels and NVQs’. G Jessop. NCVQ. YTS renamed Youth Training (YT).
1991 The CPVE replaced by the Diploma of Vocational Education (DVE). Youth Training replaced by Modern Apprenticeships and then phased out in 2002. SATs piloted in primary schools. ‘A Survey of the International Baccalaureate’. DES. ‘Access and opportunity’ Cmnd 1530. SED. Edinburgh. HMSO. ‘Beyond GCSE’.  Royal Society. London. Ordinary and Advanced Diplomas (Consultation Document) published. DES. London. ‘General Scottish Vocational Qualification’ A consultation paper SCOTVEC. ‘Ordinary and Advanced Diplomas’ Consultation Document DES. ‘A Framework for Growth’. APVIC. National Records of Achievements (NRAs) launched.
1992 ‘Upper Secondary Education in Scotland’ (Howie Report) SOED Edinburgh HMSO. ‘Beyond GCSE’ Royal Society. The national Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) established. Government asks NCVQ to develop GNVQs. SVQs introduced in Scotland.
1993 GNVQs launched nationally initially piloted. School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) replaced National Curriculum Council and School Examinations and Assessment Council. Dearing Report ‘The National Curriculum and its Assessment.’ Modern Apprenticeships announced – began in 1994 in 14 occupational sectors later extended to cover over 50 sectors. ‘Towards a Unified Curriculum’. APVIC. ‘Post Compulsory Education: A National Certificate and Diploma Framework – A Discussion Paper. FEU. Rainbow in Discussing Credit)
1994 CENTRA assumed responsibility for North West LEAs. GNVQ in FE Sector in England.’ National Survey Report by FEFC. ‘Higher Still’ announced a new unified system in Scotland to embrace all 16+ provision except SVQs and other work-based qualifications, SO. Edinburgh. Modern Apprenticeships introduced. CGLI proposals for a Technological Baccalaureate – came to nothing reintroduced in 2013. ‘Identifying and Measuring Knowledge in Vocational Awards’. CGLI Research report 63. ‘GNVQs in Schools and Colleges in Northern Ireland’. DENI. A* introduced in GCSEs. Foundation GNVQs introduced. The FEFC ceased allocating funds according to mode of course e.g. f-t and p-t but determined to fund the nature of the qualification sought. Northern Ireland Examinations Council became the Northern Ireland School Examinations and Assessment Council replaced by the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment  (CAAE).
1995 DfEE created. Review of 100 NVQs and SVQS.’ Beaumont Report. DfEE. ‘Assessment Review.’ Capey Report. NCVQ. London. University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations abolished. ‘An Interim Report on the Wales FE Credit Framework.’ Fforwm Wales Modularisation and Credit Based development Project. Fforwm. Cardiff. ‘GNVQ Quality Framework.’ NCVQ/BTEC/CGLI/RSA. NCVQ. London. ‘Education and Training- Implementing a Unified System of Learning’. Pring and Brockington etal). ‘Learning for the Future Project’ Post-Compulsory Qualifications – options for Change. (Spours and Young). ‘Tackling the Mathematics Problem’. London Mathematical Society. Institute of Mathematics and its Application. Royal Statistical Society. ‘Employers Use of the NVQ System’. IES Report 233. University of Sussex. GNVQs piloted. ‘Towards a Single Qualifications System.’ NEAB. ’14-19 Strategy for the Future: The Road to Equality.’ NUT. MAs available for young people. 354,000 NVQS/SVQs awarded and 84,000 GNVQs (Session 1995/96). Other vocational awards numbered 423,000 in session 1995/96. Percentage of females taking NVQs/SVQs approx. 53%, GNNQs/GSVQs approx. 53% and other vocational awards approx. 51%.
1996 ‘Review of Qualifications for 16-19 Year Olds.’ Dearing Report. SCAA, Edexcel created following the merger of BTEC with the London Examinations Board – BTEC + ULEAC. ‘Review of 100 NVQs and SVQs’ (Beaumont Report) NCVQ/SCOTVEC. ‘Review of GNVQ Assessment’ (Capey Report). Modern Apprenticeships introduced. Dearing Report Review of Vocational Qualifications for 16-19 year olds.’ ‘The Welsh Baccalaureate’ Institute of Welsh Affairs. (Jenkins and David). GNVQ offered as a more work-based alternative to the so-called academic qualifications of GCSE and ‘A’ levels. ‘Proposals on 14-19 Education.’ NAHT. 459,000 NVQs/SVQs awarded and 93,000 GNVQs (Session 1996/97. Other vocational awards numbered 439,000 in session 1996/97. CGLI entered agreements with NEAB and WJEC to simplify the admin and verification processes of IT systems in their centres. Training Credits extended to all in England, Scotland and Wales.
1997 Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) created following the merger of NCVQ and SCAA a massively powerful quango. Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) established. AQA created from merger of AEB and NEAB – CGLI involved with GNVQ programmes but remained independent for all other qualifications. QAA for HE founded replaced HEQC. National Traineeships introduced to replace Youth Training eventually became Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). ‘Introducing the National Advanced Diploma’. SCAA/NCVQ. ‘Key Principles for Curriculum and Qualifications Reform from 14’. AoC, ATL, GSA, HMC. NAHT, NUT, PAT, SHA, SHMIS, NASUWT. NATHFE. ‘Towards an Overarching Certificate: Qualifying for Success’. DfEE. ‘The Key Skills of Students Entering HE’. DfEE. GNVVs introduced. 22,853 applicants to HE possessed level 3 GNVQ (93.6% offered places).
1998 ‘The Learning Age’ Cm 3790. DfEE. College of Preceptors becomes the College of Teachers. OCR established MEG+OCEAC+RSA Examinations Board. New Deal for Young People (NDYP) introduced. New Deal for Long-Term Unemployed (NDLTU, ND 25+) introduced. New Deal replaces YTS. National Literacy Strategy (NLS) introduced. Union Learning Fund created. Institute of Health Care and Development (IHCD) acquired by Edexcel. CGLI award their millionth NVQ. CGLI awarded 48% of all NVQs – but NVQs only accounted for 32% of all CGLI business. NCFE offered over 70 qualifications. New Code of Practice for GNVQs proposed. FEDA, AoC, Edexcel, Fforwn and NOCN agreed to introduce a qualification framework based on units and credits to assist the curriculum of lifelong learning.
1999 Moser Report ‘Improving literacy and numeracy; a fresh start.’ Review of the national Curriculum QCA/DfEE. National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) introduced. ‘Improving the Value of NVQs and Other Vocational Qualifications (OVQs). FEDA/QCA. (Sept). ‘Education and Training Development Agenda: Towards 2000. DfEE. Joint Council for General Qualifications established comprised AQA, Edexcel, OCR along with CCEA and WJEC covered a range of qualifications GCSE, ‘A’ level, GNVQ, Certificate of Achievement, Key Skills and Advanced Extension Awards.
2000 Federation of Awarding Bodies founded comprising CGLI, Edexcel, OCR and LCCIEB. CENTRA along with AOSEC, EMFEC and Learning South West to form the Awarding Body Consortium (ABC). University for Industry (UfI) became operational. Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit (ABSSU) founded. Level 2 apprenticeships introduced. ‘Guide to the Basic Skills Initiative’. FEFC. Advanced Subsidiary levels replaced Advanced Supplementary levels. Review and reform of GNVQs. Vocational ‘A’ levels introduced replaced Advanced GNVQs. Advanced Subsidiary (AS) levels introduced. Between 2000 and 2009 the number of 16-18 year-olds working for level 3 Apprenticeship qualifications decreased by 50% from 60,000 to 30,000. From September three compulsory units were introduced at the Intermediate and Foundation of GNVQ. Revised versions of Part 1 GNVQs introduced (September). The British Association of Open Learning (BAOL) launched BAOLO Direct an online directory of more than 780 products, 500 services and 750 courses.
2001 Prototypes for Foundation Degrees launched. ConneXions service established – advice and information for teenagers. ‘AS’ level programme ‘Use of Mathematics’ introduced – extended from Autumn 2002. CGLI introduced higher level qualifications (i.e. level 4 and 5) – piloted from 2001.
2002 Institute of Leadership and Management created – NEBS Management +ISM. Vocational GCSEs proposed – introduced in September replacing Foundation/Intermediate and Part1 GNVQs. Advanced Subsidiary examinations (AS) introduced. Foundation degrees launched nationally. GNVQs phased out and replaced by so-called vocational GCSEs and ‘A’ levels. Jobcentre Plus launched. Technical Certificates introduced in FMAs and AMAs – to provide the underpinning knowledge and understanding required for the relevant NVQ level. ITOs replaced by the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). Green Paper ’14-19 Extending Opportunities, raising standards’ published – main focus on qualifications. Review of first year of Curriculum 2000 published LSDA.
2003/4 Technical Certificates introduced to enhance the theoretical content for apprenticeships. Edexcel taken over by Pearson and became a profit making organisation. ‘Making Mathematics Count’. HMSO.  ‘Review and Development of Graduate Apprenticeships’. UVAC.
2004 Mike Tomlinson Report ’14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications.’ -recommendations rejected by government. National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) became part of CGLI. Apprenticeship frameworks rebranded.
2005+ A recent series of reviews and reports e.g. Foster, Leitch along with a number of government initiatives have brought about the development of vocational diplomas, revised apprenticeships and an apparent commitment to skills improvement and vocational education. Hospitality Awarding Body (HAB) ( Hospitality and Catering) became part of CGLI. ’14-19 Education and Skills’. Cm 6476. DfEE.
2006 Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification introduced also known as the Welsh Baccalaureate (WB). 2006/07 Leitch Review of Skills – led to the establishment of Commission for Employment and Skills CES). CGLI with AQA start to develop Specialised Diplomas for piloting in 2008.
2007 School leaving age to be raised to 18 possibly in 2013 (Cmnd 7065). DCSF created replaced by the Department for Education (DfE/DFE). Functional skills introduced as a 3 year trial. ‘The UK’s Science and Mathematics Teaching Workforce’. A State of the Nation Report. Royal Society. ISBN 9780-85403-663-9.
2008 A set of interesting statistics. In 2006/07 – 763,000 vocational qualifications were awarded. In 2005/06 – 619,160, 2004/05- 532,478 and for 2003/04 the figure was 441.957. These were consistently below the targets set by the government and the 2006/07 percentage increase showed a deceleration on previous years. Testing and Assessment/ Report by House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee. Diplomas launched.  CGLI Centre for Skills Development founded. ‘Draft Apprenticeship Bill’ Cm 7452. ‘The Diploma: a guide to employers’ DCSF. National Apprenticeship Service announced. ‘Science and Mathematics Education’. State of the Nation Report – Royal Society- ISBN 978-0-85403-826-8.
2009  Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act.’ Created a statutory framework for apprenticeships. 11+ in Northern Ireland abolished. There were over 180 apprenticeships frameworks in place. OECD. PISA Report.
2010 Diplomas abolished. QCDA abolished. 17,000 Foundation Degree programmes run in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. ‘National evaluation of diplomas: first year of delivery.’ 25/3. DfE. Research. Good practice in involving employers in work-related education and training.’ Ofsted.
2011  ‘Vocational qualifications: long term effect on the labour market.’ 24/6. BIS. Research. ‘Outcome for first cohort of diploma leavers.’ 27/10. DfE. Research. ‘Intermediate and low level vocational qualifications: economic returns.’ 28/9. BIS. Research.
2012  ‘Apprenticeships for Young People.’ Ofsted.
2013  ‘Tech Bacc for 16-19’. BIS 16/12/2013. ‘Vocational Qualifications for 14-19 olds’. BIS. 16/12/2013. 3 levels for apprenticeships introduced – Intermediate, Advanced and Higher – Intermediate = 5 GCSES/2 , Advanced ‘A’ levels , Higher NVQ4/Foundation degree


Terminology and jargon abounds in assessments, examinations and testing below I provide some basic definitions which \I hope will help the reader.

Assessment:  The process of observing learning; collecting, describing, recording, scoring and interpreting information about the learner’s. Formal methods of assessment include: Tests/examinations which can be practical and/or academic, written/oral, seen/unseen, essay/objective tests, multiple choice/open-ended, timed/untimed etc.

Tests/examinations on modules of syllabuses

Coursework, continuous assessment, graded assessment throughout the programme.

Assessment, examination, test: Three terms referring to devices or procedures for getting information about the competence, knowledge, skills or other characteristics of the person being assessed, tested or examined. The three terms are often interchangeably, but there are some distinct differences between them. Assessment is the broadest of the three whilst examination is the narrowest.

Assessment Approaches: Two main forms namely Criterion-referenced (learner who has attained a certain standard) and Norm-referenced (allowing a certain quota to pass the test/assessment).

Competence — the possession and development of sufficient skills, knowledge, appropriate attributes and experience for successful performance of life roles. FEU.

Competency Test: A test to see if the learner has attained the minimum standards of skills and knowledge. Can be understood as a capacity or capability in the learner or as an element of an occupational role.

Correlation: A statistic that indicates how strongly two measures e.g. test scores tend to vary together.

Course Work: Consists of assignments such as essays, paintings, projects, reports etc finished by the learner during the programme,

Credential Inflation: Ever-increasing numbers of learners who are drifting into further and higher education in order to acquire extra qualifications, which are devalued as more people acquire them.

Criterion Referencing: Making test scores/assessments meaningful without indicating the learner taking the test/assessment position in the group. On a criterion-referenced test/assessment, each individual learner’s score is compared with a fixed standard, rather than with the performance of the other learners taking the test/assessment.

Evaluation: Both qualitative and quantitative descriptions of how the learner is progressing in order to attain the project goals.

Formative Assessment: Assessment occurring during the process of a unit, module or programme. Formative assessment is done before instruction begins and/or while it is taking place.

Grade Inflation: Grade inflation is said to occur when the pass marks appear to increase every year BUT standards do not (they can either remain the same or decline). It is a very controversial issue in Britain.

Norm-Referencing: Making test scores meaningful by providing information about the performance of one or more groups of test takers (called the ‘norm groups’) A norm-referenced scores score indicates the test taker’s relative position in the norm group.

Objective Scoring: Scoring system in which an answer/response will receive the same score, no matter who does the scoring. No judgement is needed in the scoring rule.

Objective Test: A test designed for which the scoring procedure is completely specified enabling agreement among different assessors/examiners. A correct-answer test.

Performance-Based Assessment: A test of the ability to apply knowledge/competence in a real-life or work-based situation.

Qualification Inflation: The level of qualification required for employment increases with time e.g. where once 2 GCE ‘A’ levels was sufficient to gain employment it then becomes a first degree.  

Reliability: Measure of consistency for an assessment process or instrument. If reliable should give similar results over time with similar learner populations and contexts.

Rubric: A set of rules for scoring the answers/responses in test/assessments.

Self-Assessment: The learner uses an assessment list or rubric to assess their own work.

Standards: Agreed values used to measure the quality of the student performance, instructional techniques, curriculum etc.

Subjective Scoring: Any scoring system that requires judgement by the examiner/scorer

Summative Assessment: Evaluation at the end of the unit/module of instruction or an activity or plan to determine the learner skills, knowledge, competence or the effectiveness of the activity/task.

Validity: The test/assessment/examination accurately measures the desired/agreed goals. 

Chapter 10 – Developments between 1920 and 1940

This entry is part 10 of 20 in the series A Short History of Technical Education



The Great War inevitably brought about many changes in education for example the existing apprenticeship programmes were seriously disrupted by the war. However, wars stimulate change and often as a result some innovate practices are introduced in order to increase productivity and tackle the challenges of the urgent need to accelerate manufacturing for the war effort. For example the Ministry of Munitions introduced much shorter training schemes by training workers in just one or two operations. More physical resources e.g. modern equipment was made available to technical schools and other institutions offering technical instruction. After the war the government training priorities centred on disabled ex-service personnel. In 1925 the Interrupted Apprenticeship Programme allowed individuals who had their apprenticeships disrupted by the war to complete their schemes. Training Centres were established offering six month to eighteen month programmes in a range of trades and were aimed at people who could relatively easily gain employment. Instructional Centres were established for the long term unemployed. Interestingly if people did not accept the offer of training their unemployment benefit was withdrawn. Training schemes were introduced for women but again the main purpose was to prepare them for employment in domestic occupations such as cookery, housework, laundry and needlework. Courses included both residential and non-residential to prepare unemployed women and girls for employment in domestic areas. Between the two world wars approximately 2 million people received some training with around 1.5 million attending Junior Instructional Centres. Junior Instructional Centres were managed by the LEAs under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour which had in 1919 assumed total responsibility for all government funded training although the post war recession and the subsequent depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s caused many of the training programmes to be severely curtailed. However even with the involvement of the Ministry of Labour training was still mainly seen as the responsibility of the employers – the government saw their role as supporting the most vulnerable in society e.g. disabled ex-service personnel.

Even with all the political developments associated with secondary education in the early 20th century there was still great uncertainty about technical and scientific subjects and their place in the school curriculum. In the early 1930s there were still only about 100 junior technical schools enrolling approximately 30 000 students in 1937. Before the Second World War day release schemes for apprentices from industry still operated at a very low level. Regional development of technical education was equally slow although the first really concerted effort to establish any semblance of regional co-ordination occurred in 1928 when the Board of Education created the Yorkshire Council for Further Education.

A series of financial crises during most of the 20th century linked with the massive national debt as a result of the two world wars inevitably caused all sorts of problems for the country. The shortage of money on many occasions during the century and the failure and inability to invest in education held back many essential initiatives to tackle skill shortages and to create and sustain a well qualified workforce. The continued lack of money to maintain a quality public sector of education sadly explains why even today problems still persist across the technical and commercial education system.

The two most important clauses in the 1918 Act were finally enacted following the 1921 Education Act namely the raising of the school leaving age from 12 to 14 and the possibility of creating a system of part-time continuation education for young people not in full-time education ultimately up to the age of eighteen. Both these important clauses, if they had been implemented immediately would have acted as a catalyst which would have brought about a greater degree of integration and coherence between the academic and technical streams of education. However the lack of money brought about massive cuts in public expenditure in the 1920s and 1920s and this coupled with a general culture of hostility from parents and surprisingly employers towards technical education continued to significantly curtail essential and crucial developments. Only one authority namely Rugby operated a system of part-time continuing education on a statutory basis. It was only after the 1944 Education Act that these two proposals were reinstated. The period between 1902 and 1939 witnessed the development of a mass secondary school system although it was only after the Second World War that it was completed. Colleges, many of which had been created from early developments i.e. Mechanics’ Institutions and Workingmen’s Colleges developed slowly and were very much dependent on the support and insight of the local authorities. Too often the colleges had to operate in outmoded accommodation with outdated and inappropriate equipment. Too often the situation can be summed up by the expression ‘make do and mend’. To illustrate the parlous state of investment the government’s commitment to spend £12 million on capital projects in 1939 actually saw less than £2 million expended. I will describe the development of the colleges in later chapters.

The Hadow Report in 1926 ‘Education of the Adolescent’ recommended the raising of the school leaving age to 15 and the creation of secondary education for all children which would follow consecutively on six years of primary education. The purpose of secondary education was therefore extended to include ‘modern secondary schools’ where the education might have a ‘practical’ and ‘realistic’ bias – note the use of the word might! In 1930 the Ministry of Labour became responsible for more training. In 1938 the Spens Report recommended the expansion of the technical schools and the continued development of the tripartite system of secondary education namely separate grammar, technical and modern schools. Two typical quotes from the report highlights the concerns felt by the members namely ‘We are convinced that it is of great importance to establish a new type of school of technical education quite distinct from the traditional academic Grammar School.’ and ‘The natural ambition of the clever child has been turned towards the Grammar School and the professional occupations rather than towards Technical High Schools and industry. This tends inevitably to create a disproportion in the distribution of brain power as between what may be broadly termed the professional and industrial worlds. Further, there is the regrettable and undesirable difference in social esteem.’ The report also recommended that the school leaving age should be raised to 16 years. The report argued that a new type of higher school of technical character should be developed as a first step from the existing Junior Technical Schools (JTSs). Clearly most of these recommendations were subsequently refined by later Reports and Education Acts and obviously the Second World War had a major influence on the new structures of the education system including technical education after the war. In 1932 the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance argued that attendance at Junior Instruction Centre or a courses of Instruction should be regarded and enforced as a normal condition in respect of unemployment whether through the Insurance Scheme or in the form of Unemployment Benefit .

Even in the early 1930s there were still only about 100 junior technical schools that enrolled approximately 30,000 students by 1937, for example. Before the Second World War day release schemes for apprentices from industry were at a very low level. Regional development of technical education was equally slow although the first really concerted effort to establish any semblance of regional co-ordination occurred in 1928 when the Board of Education created the Yorkshire Council for Further Education.

The two most important clauses in the 1918 Act that would eventually influence technical education were the raising of the school leaving age and the possibility of creating a system of part-time continuing education for young people not in full-time education ultimately up to the age of eighteen. Both these important clauses, if they had been implemented quickly, could have acted as a catalyst, which would have brought about a greater degree of integration and coherence between the academic and technical streams of education. However massive cuts in public expenditure in the 1920s and a general culture of hostility from parents and surprisingly employers significantly retarded these crucial developments. Only one authority namely Rugby operated a system of part-time continuing education on a statutory basis. It was only after the 1944 Education Act that these two proposals were reintroduced. The trade unions continued to show little interest in technical education outside the existing apprenticeship programmes. The reason for this reluctance seemed to stem from a fear that the unions would lose influence and their ability to control wages and conditions of service of their members when in they were in employment.

Technical Schools and Institutions.

Because of the historical development institutions were often composite in character, comprising programmes identifiable in more than one category in terms of level, mode of study and attendance. For example a technical college could comprise a Junior Technical School for boys, a similar school for girls, a senior full-time course in a specific trade along with evening courses in this and other related trades.
Table 1 illustrates the types of institutions offering technical teaching and instruction in 1935.

Table 1. Types of Institutions involved in Technical Education and Instruction.

  • Junior Technical Schools
  • Technical Day Classes
  • Day Continuation Schools
  • Evening Institutions
  • Senior full-time programmes in Colleges of Further Education.

Table 2 illustrates the range of provision for these technical institutions along with the enrolments for 1934.

Table 2. Enrolments and Range of Provision in Technical Institutions.

Junior (<16)

Full-time courses No. of Students in England and Wales
Junior Technical Schools 22,158
Technical Day Classes 1,223
Part-time courses   No. of Students in England and Wales
Day Continuation and Work Schools 15,658
Evening Continuation Schools 205,648
Juvenile Instruction Centres   23,543
Technical Day Classes   2,077
Grand totals   PT 250,906 / FT 23,381

Senior (>16)

Full-time courses No. of Students in England and Wales
Senior Courses in Colleges   8,709
Technical Day Classes   1,366
Part-time courses
Evening Classes in Colleges and Institutions 636,677
Technical Day Classes 23,350
Grand totals PT 660,027 / FT 10,165

Source: Education in 1934. HM Stationery Office 1935 reproduced in Technical Education (Fabian Research Bureau, 1936).

In 1937 a Board of Education Pamphlet 111 listed 4 types of junior technical and commercial schools (excluding art institutions). These were those i) preparing pupils for entry to specific industries or groups of industries, ii) preparing pupils for specific occupations, iii) preparing girls for home management and iv) preparing pupils to enter commerce. In 1935/36 194 junior technical and commercial schools existed with 23,844 pupils on roll. On March 31st 1938 there were 248 schools with 30,457 pupils on roll. In the year 1937/38 there were 224 junior technical and commercial schools with 28,169 pupils on roll.

These figures provide an interesting set of insights into how students were able to undertake technical studies e.g. note the low level of day release compared with evening attendance. Young people who had shown promise at primary school might be offered day release e.g. in 1934 approximately 25,000 boys and girls were so released on a basis of two half-days to attend technical subjects these would be enrolled in technical day classes and day continuation schools. In 1935 there were 53 Day Continuation Schools in England and Wales of which 46 were controlled by LEAs and 7 were provided by private companies. Also note the large number of titles for the institutions. In fact evening student numbers had reached a peak in the early 1900s and except for a few fluctuations remained relatively constant until the 1940s. From the 40s the driving forces were the increase demand for scientists and technologists in industry coupled with the acute shortage of skilled and highly qualified researchers and technicians and this led to a number of reviews, which in turn brought about an expansion.

Some Statistics on Number of Students Enrolled in Colleges and Other Institutions.
It might be helpful to present some data on student numbers and subjects to illustrate how the technical education system was developing and how people were participating in art, commercial and technical education. The following statistical data is taken from the Board of Education Annual Report for 1936 and shows class numbers and class entries classified according to specific subjects. In 1936 there were just over 100,000 evening classes in England and Wales with approximately 2.5 million class entries – remember students could enter themselves for more than one subject so it is not the number of students that is shown in the following tables.

Table 3. Evening classes in 1936.

Subject-group No. of sub-groups or Individual subjects No. of classes in group No. of class entries
Commercial 23 20,262  475,912
Engineering trades 33 8,087 159,888
Building 21 4,688 79,778
Mining 2 1,236 23,701
Printing 5 669 12,423
Clothing and Textiles 20 2,971 43,160
Chemical 16 757 12,208
Food and Drink 4 332 6,000
Domestic 13 15,095 289,567
Manual Subjects 3 5,686 132,476
Natural Sciences 10 5,810 117,509
Art 10 1,974 44,356
Languages 20 4,199 76,189
Hygiene 3 2,290 49,356
Others including: Physical Training, Social Sciences and Music 13 10,958 287,978
Miscellaneous 6 584 15,753


Numbers do not show detail for English and Mathematics as these key subjects wee offered mainly as a servicing subject for a very wide range of other programmes.
Analysis of the detail above shows that industry, commerce and domestic subjects were the most popular.
Table 4 shows the class entries in Colleges and Evening Institutes in 1936.

Table 4. Class Entries in Colleges and Evening Institutes.

Colleges  Evening Institutes
Subject-group Class entries Subject-group Class entries
Industry 276,190 Commerce 612,307
Commerce 134,565 Industry 372,153
Natural science 55,517 Recreational 309,453
Liberal studies 42,254 Domestic 299,038
Domestic 39,135 Liberal studies 178,245
Recreational 16,104 Natural science 61,992


Fascinating to see that study in evening institutes was three times that provided in colleges. A culture of going to college full-time or during the day was only growing slowly.

Table 5 illustrates the relative proportions of the various modes of attendance at a typical college. It also proves of interest reflecting the domination of evening study. The figures are taken from an average college and its annual return in 1936.

Table 5. Profile of Modes of Attendance at a Typical College in 1936.

Student hours
Mode of attendance Average annual hours %
Full-time 41,900 22
Part-time 22,300 12
Evening 126,400 66
Totals 190,600 100

Table 6 shows the enrolment pattern in schools of art and colleges.

Table 6. Enrolments in Schools of Art and Colleges 1936.

Colleges Art Schools
Mode of attendance Total % Total %
Full-time 12,505 5 5,729 8.7
59,829 91.3
Totals: 253,124 100 65,558 100


It must be remembered that art students represented a relatively small proportion of the total student numbers in colleges. The schools of art were in many ways monotechnics and able to offer a much wider range of art and design subjects much of it at the higher levels because of their better facilities.
The cost of educating a student in university and colleges has always been an issue and even today a great deal of debate continues about what the real costs should be to provide a high quality and relevant curriculum. Table 7 provides an interesting insight to the costs in the late 1930s.

Table 7. Cost of Courses to Institutions per Student (1930s).

Institution and mode of attendance  Annual Cost (£) Total cost of each completed course (£)
Technical college-evening 10 50 (5 years)
Technical college-part-time 26 156 (6 years)
Technical college-full-time 65 195 (3 years)
University-full-time 125  375 (3 years)

A really fascinating statistic that Richardson (1) carried out was the average fees paid per student to attend different courses in colleges and universities in the 1930s. Table 8 shows his calculations.

Table 8. Price of Education to the Student.

Institution and mode of attendance Estimated Annual Cost (£) Cost of completed course (£)
Technical college-evening 4 20 (5years)
Technical college-part-time 30 180 (6 years)
Technical college-full-time 90 270 (3 years)
Modern university e.g. civic 160 480 (3 years)


Interesting to compare with the equivalent fees and expense incurred by today’s students.
To complete this statistical presentation table 9 shows the overall numbers of students attending Further Education in 1936.

Table 9. Total Numbers of Students Attending Various Institutions in 1936.

Institution type Male Female
Universities 38,127  11,886
Art Colleges 33,087 31,511
Technical Colleges 280,748 71,297
Evening Institutions 352,125 388,927
Day Continuation Schools 8,564 10,506
Agriculture 11,000 2,000
Adult Education 3,939 4,726
Totals 727,590 521,221
Grand total for females
and males: 1,248,811


This table makes fascinating reading on a number of counts e.g. .the proportions of females studying in various institutions and the continuing dominance of evening and part-time study. It is interesting to make a comparison with current university enrolments patterns in 2008 when female enrolments at university for the first time exceeded those for males – at last some sort of equality is being achieved reflecting the demographic realities of the population.
Teachers in Technical Education.

In 1934 there were 3,854 full-time teachers many of those teaching languages, mathematics and science were graduates whilst the majority of the teachers of technical and vocational subjects possessed appropriate technical training and experience in the work place. These were supported by 10,000 part-time teachers and instructors again the majority being drawn from commerce and industry. At this time no technical training institutions existed for teachers and very few formal structures were available to help teachers and instructors develop teaching techniques. May just learnt on the job. However in 1936 the Nottingham University College in collaboration with the Board of Education instigated a full-time, one-year post-graduate course for the training of teachers of technical subjects mirroring existing ones offered for secondary school teachers. This pioneering course was a forerunner for later training colleges that were established as the number of teachers in technical and commercial education increased and he development of PGCE focused on teaching in technical education. Technical training colleges were created later e.g. Bolton College of Education (Technical), Garnet College London, Huddersfield College of Education (Technical) and Wolverhampton Technical Teachers’ College. [I will consider in more detail later the teachers and teacher training in Further Education – a title that is now accepted].


Although a much fuller account is provided in the separate history of technical and commercial examinations on this website it will be helpful to link some examination statistics with the data and information on student numbers, institutions and the courses describe above. Examinations have always played an important part in technical and commercial education. A number of awarding boards organised and provided external examinations for the wide range of institutions presenting their students. There were a number of Local/Regional Examining Unions offering very efficient systems of examinations. They involved local employers and he institutions by way of advisory committees to draft curricula and syllabuses for examinations that were in demand from their own areas. In areas not covered by these Examining Unions national bodies like the CGLI, [R]SA and London Chamber of Commerce offered a very wide range of subject examinations. The Joint Committee described earlier continued to offer ONC/ONDs and HNCs/HNDs developed during the 1920 and 30s. The total number of O/HNCs awarded in 1931 was 2,792 rising to 5,330 in 1939. In 1939 the number of candidates for mechanical / electrical engineering and building was 1,833, 1,133 and 533 respectively.

Table 10 illustrates how the number of candidates increased during the period covered by chapters 9 and 10 i.e. 1900 to 1940.

Table 10. Number of Candidates entered for CGLI at Various Years During the 1920/30s.

Year No. of Centres No. of Subjects No. of Candidates No. of Passes
Pass Rate
1900 390 64 14,551 8,114 (55.8%)
1910 418 75 24,508 14,105 (59.6%)
1915 419 72 15,625 9,866 (63.1%)
1919 312 65 8,523 5,221 (61.3%)
1920 321 67 9,825 6,231 (63.4%)
1925 299 73 8,676 5,738 (66.1%)
1930 402 86 14,721 9,616 (65.3%)
1935 433 108 18,656 12,084 (64.8%)
1939 556 125 34,174 22,000 (64.4%)
1940 427 116 15,163

It is Interesting to note the impact on the numbers at the time of the Great War and the beginning of World War 2. The passes show a fair degree of consistency albeit still with a high failure rate.

The [Royal] Society of Arts continued to grow after it had transferred the technological examinations to CGLI in 1879 and specialised in vocational subjects other than technical e.g. commercial, secretarial and office related subjects. It continued and still continues to be a major player in education and examinations [see the history of technical and commercial examinations]. The number of entries was small in the1880s but by 1890 the number of candidates had risen to 2,315 and continued to increase steadily during the 1890s and by 1900 had reached nearly 10,000. The increase can be linked to the whiskey tax as this created more classes in commercial subjects. Another factor that contributed to the increase was the introduction of bronze medals in 1891. The Society also introduced, at the turn of the new century, the three stages denoting level of study namely: elementary  aimed at day continuation schools); intermediate and advanced (this was finally introduced in 1905). The Society also reintroduced the group certificate an idea that had first been considered in the 1870s but failed to gain credibility. The group certificates at the three stages or grades quickly became accepted. After these reforms the number of candidates increased dramatically from 1900. Table 11 shows the growth in entries for RSA examination between 1900 and 1929.

Table 11. Number of Entries for [RSA] Examinations.

Year 1900 1905 1911 1919 1925 1929
No. of entries: 9.808 23,803 30,000 31,000 71,000 100,000


Again the Great War had an impact on entries and entries remained fairly constant up to and throughout the Second World War. After the war entries continued to increase e.g. 154,100 in 1949. Other examining bodies included the London Chamber of Commerce that had started offering examinations in commercial subjects in 1890 and the Pitman Examination Institute again offering commercial subjects [see biography].

The University Sector:

In the mid-1930s there were twelve universities and five university colleges but these institutions could not award degrees. Departments of technology were slowly being created within the university sector and some would cooperate with the local larger colleges e.g. Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Loughborough and Nottingham to reduce the possibility of unnecessary duplication. In 1934 there were 4,439 students enrolled full-time in these higher education institutions and the majority of the graduates preferred to enter the technical side of industry e.g. industrial design, research and development and testing rather than the production side of industry. Even in the 1930s there was a mismatch between supply and demand i.e. an over production of chemists and a shortage of biologists. Apparently nothing changes. Today our shortages are for mathematicians, physicists and statisticians.

Commercial Education:
In commerce recruitment for degrees was still relatively small. However, as industry became more sophisticated the demand for more qualified administrative, clerical, financial, legal and secretarial staff grew so institutions began to offer courses in a wide range of subjects. Subjects like accountancy, banking, book-keeping, law, shorthand, and typing. A number of these subjects were overseen by professional bodies some of which offered examinations, set standards and granted professional membership grades depending on the person’s experience and position in the company. Many other commercial occupational areas were offered by a variety of institutions including:

  • Junior Commercial School. In 1936 there were 44 such institutions enrolling 5,259 students. These institutions provided instruction in commercial subjects and the so-called ‘office arts’ as well as continuing the students general education.
  • Senior Full-Time Courses. There were 45 of these enrolling 1,447 post-certificate students. Examples of programmes included secretarial courses mainly for females, Intermediate B.Com and B.Sc. (Economics) and more specialised commercial programmes in, say, merchandising.
  • Evening Classes. Subjects offered at the junior level included arithmetic and accounts, English and commercial correspondence (literacy and business communications), shorthand and an optional foreign language. The senior courses were of three years duration and had commerce as a mandatory subject. In addition optional subjects were available including book-keeping, commercial arithmetic, foreign language, and shorthand, a trade subject reflecting the student’s employment interest and typing.
  • Advanced courses were obviously found in the larger institutions that could provide the facilities, qualified staff and resources to prepare the students for professional examinations. For example in London there were 23 Senior Commercial Institutes complemented by a number of privately run commercial institutions.

Other Developments that were Relevant to Technical and Commercial Education.

In 1911 the East Midlands Educational Union was founded and in 1920 the Northern Union of Mechanics’ Institutions (founded to 1848) was reconstituted as the Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council. In 1935 the National Association for the Advancement of Education for Commerce was founded. The British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education (BACIE) was established in 1934 following the merger of the association of Education in Industry and Commerce (founded in 1919) and the British Association for Commercial Education.
In 1919 the Board of Education established a committee to investigate ‘Education for Engineering that praised the quality of work in the Junior Technical Schools. In spite of the lack of funding to build and improve the accommodation of institutions some technical institutions/colleges were built during the period from 1900 and 1940. These included: Liverpool School of Commerce (1924), Loughborough Technical Institute (1909), Municipal Technical Institute (Norwich -1901), Rugby Technical and Art School (1920) and Workington County Technical and Secondary School (1912). Obviously the names of these institutions were changed later following the various reforms to the technical education system and the requirements of a number of Educations Acts.

Other institutions created earlier continued to operate and evolved from amongst others the Mechanics’ Institutions movement after their long and illustrious histories, A few examples include Birmingham Municipal Technical School (1895), Brighton Technical College (1897), Cardiff Science and Art School (1865), Glasgow Commerce College (1845), Leeds Mechanics’ Institution (1824), Leicester School of Commerce (1896), Manchester Mechanics’ Institution (1824), Mechanics’ Institution (Lancashire and Morecambe-1824), Northampton Institute (1891), School of Arts (Heriot-Watt Edinburgh (1821) and Science School and Technical College (Gloucester-1873). It is interesting to note the multitude of titles again these were rationalised during the rest of the 20th century.

A far more comprehensive chronology is provide in Appendix 1 that attempts to record many of the founding dates of key developments in technical and commercial education. In addition Appendix 4 provides more detail of key people and organisations in the technical and commercial education.


During the period from prior to the Great War and through the interwar years the major factor suppressing the further development of technical education was a succession of economic depressions and as a result a lack of money to invest in expanding the national education system and especially for technical and commerce education. The expenditure by the Board of Education in 1938 was £51 million – the same as it was for the period 1921/22! . High levels of unemployment during this period created little commitment to develop and sustain a skilled workforce – this has been a recurring issue throughout this country’s history and its attitude to technical education.

During the period covered by chapters 9 and 10 the importance of technical education was continually stressed by government and other relevant parties but resulted in little sustained or meaningful action. As I said earlier it was a period of slow evolution. The long awaited revolution following the expansion between 1870 and 1905 did not materialise. The Board of Education appeared to encourage and cajole but the State, because of financial constraints or indifference towards technical subjects failed to establish a comprehensive national system for technical education. The result was that the country was still denied an adequate system for the provision of secondary education for all and most certainly had an ill-formed system for technical education when the Second World War began 1939. The war again highlighted the lack of sufficiently qualified scientists, technicians and technologists and the poor state of engineering and manufacturing in Britain. The country survived more by luck and through outside support mainly from America. This fascinating but perplexing issue has been brilliantly explored and described by Barnett (2)

Chapter 11 will describe the developments after the 1944 Education Act and beyond that began to create a technical education system that we can begin to comprehend in terms of the current structures and practices. The country attempted, only partly successfully, to learn from the mistakes and problems identified in the war including the urgent need to develop and support a more effective technical education system. Amongst other developments was the rationalisation of the technical and commercial education landscape.


  1. Richardson. W. A. ‘The Technical College. Its Organisation and Administration.’ OUP. 1939.
  2. Barnett. C ‘The Audit of War.’ Macmillan -M Papermac. ISBN 0-333-43458-7. 1987.

Other useful references:

  • Venables. P. F. R. ‘Technical Education. Its Aims, Organisation and Future Development.’ Bell and Sons. 1955.

In order to help the reader comprehensive book lists, chronology and glossary are provided in separate section of this website.






To complement the history of technical and commercial examinations a comprehensive glossary of terms is included to assist the reader.

Chapter 1 – Short History of Technical and Commercial Examinations. A Reflective Commentary

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series The History of commercial & Technical Examinations

Introduction and Background.

This first chapter will provide a brief introduction and some general background to the topic. The following chapters will attempt to provide a relatively short history of the development of technical and commercial examinations primarily in England over the past two centuries. Hopefully it will complement the history of technical education that is also on this website. In common with the history of technical and commercial education it is a very fascinating and at times a complex topic and as a result I cannot hope to do full justice it.

The main focus will be on England but I will attempt to include contributions made in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Scotland and Ireland made a number of significant contributions to the examination system e.g. the Edinburgh School of Art and Trinity College, Dublin, both of which I will describe. Also I will try and include some brief descriptions of other disciplines such as agriculture, art, design. The account will attempt to describe the impact, influences and consequences that arose from the Industrial Revolution that progressively shaped technical education and the development of a national system of examinations. A whole series of social, cultural, economic and political factors interacted during this period that influenced and determined the pace and ultimate shape of technical education and the related examination system. Recurring themes in this account will be the various fragmented initiatives and the ideas of a number of visionaries which were presented over many decades and ultimately shaped the system of technical education and the associated examination system. In hindsight if many of these worthy, innovative and farsighted initiatives/ ideas had been adopted at the time and resourced properly the history of technical education would have been very different and would have mirrored the positive progress and achievements of our main competitors on the continent and America.
In addition I will add some personal observations and asides to a number of the issues described in the history.

As already mentioned the evolution of the system for technical and commercial examinations in England mirrors many of the characteristics that figured in the development with technical education. The development was slow and haphazard with little involvement by government, a reluctance by the State to intervene and a philosophy dominated by a laissez -faire and voluntarist approach that has so defined and determined much of British history. In addition to these elements a multitude of factors were also in play including the ongoing reluctance of industrialists and business people to give wholesale support to the development of technical education and assessment techniques arguing that it was the State’s responsibility to fund and organise instruction and assessment. Another major retarding factor contributing to the slow and ad hoc development of an examination system was the absence of a national education system before 1870. Obviously this was an essential prerequisite for subsequent scientific and technical studies in order to allow pupils/students to progress on to further study. Even when a national education system was introduced the instruction of science, technology and tradecrafts was practically non-existent in most schools. Also the cultural hostility to scientific, technical, practical activities and occupations contributed to the inertia and resistance in developing an effective system for technical and commercial education and a relevant programme of examinations.
The Beginnings of Examinations.

Historically it had been long recognised time that assessments/examinations played an important part in the organisation of education including in technical subjects. An examination system would provide evidence of a student’s achievement and the examinations provided the instructors/ teachers syllabuses and curricula frameworks to work to. It also provided comparative evidence of how technical schools and colleges were performing. Scotland as usual led the way with formal accreditation methods with the Edinburgh School of Arts awarding certificates from 1835 to successful candidates after three years of attendance, which included classes in chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy during the first year. In addition to these certificates which entitled students to life membership of the School ‘attestations of proficiency’ were awarded at the end of each annual course of lectures to successful candidates but only after a ‘strict examination’. By 1850 only 38 candidates had achieved a Diploma of Life Membership reflecting the high standards of the system. In many ways Edinburgh School of Art was strictly the pioneer of class examining. The techniques used by the School of Art greatly influenced individuals like James Booth, Henry Chester and James Hole who were very involved and influential in developing public/common examinations from the mid-1850s. Trinity College, Dublin, had introduced a system of examinations for its degrees long before Oxford and Cambridge and is now seen as pioneer of university assessment. Interesting to note that James Booth [see biography] was a graduate of Trinity |College, Dublin and was greatly influenced by their examination system. England only later developed a formal structure for examinations although the Society of Arts had recognised significant and meritorious discoveries and inventions by awarding medals and money since its foundation in 1754.

It was only during the second half of the 19th century that employers began to require evidence of educational attainment or paper qualification from their employees after passing an examination. However it must be noted that the numbers of qualified workers required with the scientific and technical knowledge to understand and operate the machinery was small at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. As the Industrial Revolution gained momentum the supply of qualified workers did not keep pace with the demand and this again confirms the negative attitudes to technical and vocational studies and employment. Simple comparisons with continental countries readily highlight this country’s backwardness. Technical education during most of the 19th century was offered in a heterogeneous set of institutions e.g. Mechanics’ Institutions, Working Men’s Colleges etc. [see history of technical education for fuller description]. Most of the classes were by part-time and evening study. Also the geographical spread of the provision was patchy until practically the end of the 20th century. Institutions catering for full-time students only really got established during the first few decades of the 20th century. Although it was the Industrial Revolution that acted as a catalyst for the development of technical education it took over a century before the government became convinced about the necessity of technical education in an industrialised country. One common positive feature in the development of technical subjects and their related examinations was the contribution of a small number of visionaries (see later) who argued strongly for the introduction of an effective system of examinations as the instruction of science and technical subjects emerged. Their ideas and recommendations had to wait many years and in some cases decades before they were implemented. Mention of these initiatives and individuals will be made later and many appear in the short biographies in appendix 4 of the website.


Apprenticeships were the main vehicle for technical education and training before the Industrial Revolution and were provided by the Craft Guilds. The ‘master’ craftsman had a duty under the indenture (basically a contract and agreement between the master and apprentice) to teach the art, craft and as was often said ‘the mystery of his trade’. At the time this approach worked well and created a flow and maintained a stock of skilled craftspeople for the majority of trades and crafts that existed during this period. Completion of the apprenticeship and the honouring of the indenture recognised the skills and ability of the apprentice who could then practice his craft or trade [see the history of technical education for a fuller account of apprentices]. Prior to the First Industrial Revolution crafts and trades practiced were mainly associated with agriculture and rural crafts. However as the Industrial Revolution gained momentum the apprenticeship system began to lose its significance and importance as the craftsman and the workshop were gradually replaced by the machine and factory. The Industrial Revolution brought with it narrower forms of specialism associated with the operation of machines coupled with larger numbers of less skilled workers, which undermined the traditional master-apprenticeship relationship. This period witnessed massive transformations with people moving to the cities from the villages and towns where craftspeople had worked alone or in small groups in workshops. Skills were transferred from the craftsperson to the engineer/designer of the machines. Skilled workers were replaced by machine operatives working in larger units carrying out highly repetitive tasks i.e. increased emphasis on sub-division of labour that meant the traditional methods of apprenticeship were increasingly irrelevant. Another reason for the collapse of apprenticeships was the increased competition that resulted in a different attitude and relationship between master and trainee. As competition increased both from domestic and overseas sources and the resultant need to maximise and maintain profit margins the masters increasingly did not want to teach the young apprentices because of cost in terms of time, money and the fear of plagiarism.
Personal observation.

Apprenticeships still have a major role to play today. If the programmes are configured, managed, delivered and monitored in conjunction with employers they can make a significant contribution to creating a more work ready, better-qualified and skilled workforce. The programmes must be valued by employers , parents, politicians, and society in general and possess parity of esteem with the so-called academic qualifications e.g. GCSEs, ‘A’ levels and degrees. In the past practical, technical and vocational courses have inevitably been seen as second class and ‘for the less able’. Previous reforms of the apprenticeship programmes, particularly throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, have failed to recruit sufficient numbers. Another factor has been persistent political interference and prejudice (remember the Thatcher years?) that contributed to the negative image of apprenticeship programmes. During the mid-1970s I witnessed a 70% decline in apprenticeships and day release students at a college in East Anglia across the Construction, Engineering and Science Departments. Similar negative attitudes beset and impeded the pre-vocational/work preparation and work-based programmes developed by the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) as well as the innumerable reviews and reforms to technical/practical based programmes over many years e.g. Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE), Technical Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) and General Vocational National Qualifications (GNVQ) et al.

The current initiatives to reform and invigorate apprenticeship programmes will I fear also fail. The essential features of the way the content is taught and learnt and how the work is assessed/examined is still based on traditional academic methods. Sadly continued political dogma exercising a short-term philosophy/mentality and the lack of a sustained and effective employer involvement will yet again create a set of programmes that will be seen as second class. The whole current debate about the context of work based learning and assessment is superficial and flawed e.g. the developments of ‘functionality’ in key subjects such as mathematics, literacy and information technology. The functional subjects being introduced currently in literacy and numeracy are still too academic and divorced from the realities of the workplace e.g. the functional mathematics papers are pale imitations of the GCSE papers. The papers must be about applying the concepts in real workplaces. Also the ongoing debates about skills and how they can be defined and learnt are flawed [see articles on the website]. I will consider the current developments in later chapters. A true understanding of the challenges and requirements created by work-based learning and assessment is essential if meaningful and valued programmes are to be established that address the future needs of employers, employment and the economy.

The Impact of Science and Technology.

Technical and scientific instruction was meagre before the mid 1820s but as the Industrial Revolution gained momentum interest in science and its practical value began to increase both among the workers and in the minds of the general public. There was a growing awareness of the scientific ideas of Francis Bacon, Galileo, Newton and other scientists coupled with the inventions resulting in the design and use of machines in a wide range of industries associated with cotton mills, foundries, telegraphy, transport (road, trains and canals), the military and agriculture etc. New methods and approaches to disseminate information and raise awareness about scientific and technical methods were required as Britain’s industrial economy and wealth grew. A number of key developments and movements contributed and drove this change of approach including Mechanics Institutes. They played a major part in increasing the interest in technical and scientific knowledge along with the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and other literary, scientific and technical societies and bodies.

The Mechanics’ Institutions developed over the period 1824 to 1850 and in 1850 there were 610 Institutes with 102,000 members. In 1851 there were only eight universities in the UK of which only two had departments of engineering (two in London and one in Glasgow). The period around the 1840/50s witnessed the creation of formal educational establishments throughout England including the creation of The Royal College of Chemistry (1845), the Government School of Mines (1851) along with other higher education institutions and professional bodies. Even though the Mechanics’ Institutions movement was in decline after the mid-1850 they had established the precedent for the future development and shape of technical education and the essential requirement for an appropriate examination system. A number of the original Institutes transmogrified into larger technical institutions and a number of these later became large technical colleges, polytechnics and universities. The development albeit slow of a national system of technical education and the resultant need for examinations was supported by other national developments. These included after 1850 an emerging national school education system at both elementary and secondary level, the growth of public examinations and the gradual development of a national network of technical institutions, universities, university colleges and professional bodies.

As a result of these and other influences by the early 1850s a number of important defining features of technical education and instruction had emerged including the crucial recognition that industrial success depended on an established and effective system of technical education. Increasingly it was the impact of the application of science and the resultant technological developments that required new skills and more focussed methods of instruction, training and assessment. The need to apply scientific and technological principles to industry and industrial processes required the instruction of these basic principles coupled with practical experience delivered in realistic working environments and this was gradually recognised. This realisation of the need to integrate theory and practice was to occupy much of the subsequent design and development of technical/vocational education and its systems of assessment.

Personal Observation.

Interesting to note even in the mid 19th century it was argued by a number of individuals that the basic fundamental principles of science and technology could not be taught in the workplace – an argument that still persists today in the design and provision of work based/vocational education and training. One of the continuing and central questions ever since has been how to achieve the balance between the theoretical and practical aspects and how to assess these elements whether in the work place, realistic working environments or by simulation. The assessment of the skills, knowledge and understanding gained in the work place is a complicated but critical issue. Initially with limited physical resources the Mechanics’ Institutions and the other educational institutions could not provide the appropriate workshops and equipment and were often unable to recruit experienced instructors/teachers. As a result the emerging technical education, instruction and examinations were prone to be theoretical and involved little practical activity or work based assessment. The issues associated with work based assessment and the application of the underpinning knowledge and understanding in the workplace has always been a challenge to the management of vocational and technical examination. These issues have figured in the endless debates associated with the so-called academic vocational divide that persist even today. However whatever the merits of these debates the belief that apprenticeships could provide the foundations of scientific and technical knowledge brought about the first faltering attempts to create and organise a national system of technical education and a system of related examinations.

The following chapters will attempt to describe the developments in technical and commercial examinations from the 18th century up to the current time.


  1. Montgomery. R. J. ‘Examinations.’ Longmans. 1965.
  2. Roach. J. ‘Public Examinations in England 1850-1900.’ CUP. 1971.

A comprehensive book list is provided on this website along with a comprehensive chronology and glossary of terms for technical and commercial examinations which I hope will be helpful to readers.

Charles Knight (1791-1873)

Author, ’ Popular Educator,’ Pioneer Populariser of Inexpensive Publications and Publisher.


Charles Knight merits a biography not only for his work with Henry Brougham [see biography] on the publications for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge but as a person committed to publishing written material for the wider public. In the early 19th century books and newspapers were incredibly expensive and out of the reach of the majority of the population. Charles Knight with other visionaries e.g. Chamber brothers attempted to produce informative and attractively presented literature to the workers and their families.

Charles Knight was born in Windsor and was apprenticed to his father’s bookselling business. ( One story that is told about his fathers business was that King George 111 came across a copy of Tom Paine’s book ‘The Rights of Man’ in the shop and was not at all pleased about the publication. Subsequently the book was banned and Paine charged with seditious libel). On completion of his apprenticeship Knight entered journalism and became an established author and publisher for the next forty years. When he was asked “sir, what do you travel in?” he replied “in Useful Knowledge, sir”.

In 1825 he developed a plan for a National Library publishing inexpensive books on art, history and science. In 1827 Thomas Brougham appointed him to oversee the publications for the Society of the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and he became the superintendent of the Society’s material and from 1829 its publisher. The publications provided invaluable information for workers enrolled at the Mechanics’ Institutions and included the following titles: Library of Useful Knowledge (1837+), Penny Magazine (1832-1845), Quarterly Journal of Education (1831-1836). Knight and Brougham appointed a group of highly regarded scholars and business people who were supported by equally high powered members who served on the editorial board and acted  as writers for the journals. Below is a copy of the front page of the Penny Magazine of 1833.

Penny Magazine 1833

Many of the publications were scientific in nature. Initially many of the publications proved popular and profitable but eventually because of excise duty and tax issues very high losses were incurred. For example the Biographical Dictionary lost £5,000 and the Penny Cyclopaedia lost a massive £30,000 of which £16,500 was associated with the paper tax. Inevitably Knight could not sustain such losses and sadly the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and its publications ceased. Interestingly the demise of the publications mirrored the fate of the formal lectures staged initially at the Mechanics’ Institutions. For example the Library of Useful Knowledge was seen as being too scientific and assumed prior knowledge that did not exist and as a result proved too difficult for the average worker. In retrospect many of the readers of the publications were from the more skilled and well-off workers but nevertheless the endeavour was a remarkable and brave experiment to bring informative reading material to the masses.

Knight continued in publishing after finishing with the Society. Publications included such titles as The Land We Live In, Local Government Chronicle (1855), Popular History of England (8 volumes 1856-62), a biography of William Caxton and many famous authors. In 1864 he retired as a publisher but continued to write until his death in 1873. He wrote his autobiography ‘Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century’.

Charles Knight was a remarkable individual who helped to make a massive contribution to publishing inexpensive literature as well as being an influential author. He was a member of a small group of popular publishers including the two brothers William and Robert Chambers, John Cassell and Harriet Martineau. Harriet Martineau was a remarkable woman who worked closely with Charles Knight. She was born in Norwich in 1802 and published ‘Illustrations of Political Economy’ in 1832. Later she wrote a number of books on the ‘Poor Law and Paupers’, and a five volume set of ‘Illustrations of Taxation’. Harriet Martineau was a remarkable woman for Victorian times and a unique figure. She was a very productive writer producing thirty-four volumes in just over two years. She was also instrumental in helping to create the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women after writing an article in the Edinburgh Review a publication that was founded by Thomas Brougham. Later in life she delivered lectures to the mechanics in the Lake District. See biography on this website to H Martineau.


  1. Knight. C. ‘Passages of a Working Life.’ 2 volumes. Bradbury. 1864/65.
  2. Webb. R. K. ‘Harriet Martineau- A Radical Victorian.’ Heinemann. 1960.
  3. Gray. V. ‘Charles Knight. Educator, Publisher, Writer.’ Ashgate. Aldershot. ISBN-10:07546 5219 X. 2006. An excellent and highly informative account of this remarkable man.

Thomas Huxley (1825-1895)

Author, Biologist, Educator and Research Scientist.

Thomas Huxley was born in Ealing in 1825 son of a mathematics teacher. Mainly self taught he began a medical apprenticeship and soon won a scholarship to the Charing Cross Hospital where he gained an MB degree in 1845 from University of London. At the age of 21 he signed on as an assistant surgeon and was involved in surveying the seas around Australia and New Guinea aboard H.M.S. Rattlesnake. During this time he continued his studies and carried out fundamental research on marine invertebrates the detail of which he sent back to England. On his return the England he found that his research papers had been enthusiastically received and some had been read at the Royal Society and as a result he was soon acclaimed as a pioneering and brilliant biologist in his own right and was also elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1851.

In 1854 he became a lecturer in Natural History at the Government School of Mines that later became the Royal School of Mines and was later appointed as the first Dean of the Normal School of Science that eventually became the Royal College of Science (RCS) in 1889. He remained as joint Dean of both colleges until his death in 1895. He was a very strong advocate of technical education and like others before him e.g. Lyon Playfair and George Birkbeck fought hard for the subjects to be more fully recognised, valued and funded. He realised the importance of good science teaching and how essential it was that scientists and technologists received an effective grounding in the sciences and technology. He actively supported the various Parliamentary Bills on Education and was often used as an expert witness or as a full member on a number of Royal Commissions e.g. the Devonshire Report. Thomas Huxley was appointed a Member of the School Board of London in 1870 and played a major part in establishing the London elementary education system. As a Board member he argued strongly for liberal education. He frequently lectured to working men’s’ classes and believed that the detail of even the most complex topic could be communicated if carefully and sympathetically explained.

In 1868 he became Principal of the South London Working Men’s College in Blackfriars Road – courses cost six pence and a penny to attend one of his lectures. He wrote extensively for periodicals including the Westminister Review, Macmillans Magazine and Comtemporary Reviews on many themes including general education and technical education.

He met Charles Darwin in 1856 and became a great friend and supporter of his ideas. Following the publication of the ‘Origin of the Species’ Huxley became a passionate supporter and defender of the theory of evolution so much so he became known as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’. He also helped to refine the theory and published a seminal book ‘Evidence on Man’s Place in Nature’ just five years after the ‘Origin of Species’. Huxley was an energetic individual pursuing a wide range of causes and interests. Throughout his life he worked incessantly as a researcher, scientist, teacher and writer. He lectured widely including at the Royal Institution where he held the Fullerian Professorship.

Huxley wrote a fascinating and influential book entitled ‘Science and Education’ in 1883’ (1). The book is a collection of his writings and lectures and contains a number of very interesting essays including one on ‘Technical Education’ written in 1877 (pages 402 to 426) and an ‘Address on behalf of the National Association for the Promotion of Technical Education’ delivered in 1887 (pages 427 to 451).

He was elected President of the Geological Society in 1869 and was President of the Royal Society between 1883 and 1885.

To reflect on his wide range of interests he was a member of the following Royal Commissions:

>trawling for herring on the coast of Scotland (1862)

>UK fisheries (1863-65)

>Contagagious Diseases Acts (1870-71)

>Scientific instruction and the advancement of science (1870-75)

>Scottish Universities (1876-78)

>Medical Acts (1881-82)

>On the Royal College of Science for Ireland (1866)

>On science and art instruction in Ireland (1868).




  1. Huxley. T.H. ‘Science and Education.’ Macmillan. 1905.
  2. Bibby. C.’ T H Huxley, scientist, humanist and educator’. Watts London. 1959.
  3. Peterson. H. Huxley, prophet of science’. Longmans Green London. 1932.
  4. Irvine. W. ‘Thomas Henry Huxley’ Longman London. 1960.