The Changing Experience of English Secondary Education

Robert Galvani


This paper considers developments in state secondary education in England from the debate on the 1944 Education Act to the publication of Circular 10/65 which established comprehensive education as ‘official’ government policy in 1965. The period starts with the development of a ‘tripartite’ system of different types of secondary schools and ends with the start of official reorganisation on the basis of a single type of school designed for all abilities and aptitudes. The historical cast of education reforms are examined through the lens of biography: contrasting published contemporaneous accounts by pupils and teachers with the story of my secondary education at one of the early London comprehensive schools. The English selective system, the historical effect of class and the effect of ‘cultural capital’ and social reproduction (Bourdieu, 1977) on the educational attainment of children of the time are examined valuated and considered. It is contended that failure to address the underlying cause, namely education organised by class, by introducing comprehensive institutions at the inception of mass secondary education, has been responsible for the failure to create a system that encouraged an increase in social mobility, the consequences of which, are still evident to this day.

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Editor-in-Chief: Prof Norbert Pachler
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
ISSN 1746-9082

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