Raising the school leaving age: participation and policy in historical perspective

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Education
Department Name: Humanities and Social Sciences

Abstract

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Publications

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Description Raising the school leaving age (ROSLA) has not received the recognition it deserves in understanding educational expansion and transformation. ROSLA affected educational structure and content, including building and teacher supply, pedagogy and curriculum and had significant financial implications in achieving 'secondary education for all'.

We identified continuing opposition to ROSLA. During the 1950s, some Conservatives argued for lowering the school leaving age. Only gradually did a concern with 'wastage' in grammar schools extend to all children, informed by the idea of human capital. In 1964, the Conservative Edward Boyle announced the decision to raise the school leaving age to 16. This represented not only an attempt to deflate Labour Party election promises, but also reflected an expanding view of education within the Conservative Party. ROSLA continued to play a major role in political debate throughout the post-war years, and the two-year delay from 1968 had significant political and educational implications.

In the 1960s and 1970s, ROSLA facilitated arguments for comprehensive schooling based upon a five-year secondary course. Distinctive forms of education targeted at the 'less able' were developed. The impulse for common schooling could paradoxically lead to an emphasis upon the separate needs of particular groups of students that were rarely well-resourced - assumptions about different types of education based on small groups were not widely practised. The built environment also impacted upon ROSLA and broader educational debates. After 1947, wide-ranging aspirations relating to 'secondary education for all' were curtailed by shortages and a hutting operation (HORSA) instituted. The bulk of post-war school building was carried out on the assumption of compulsory education to 15. By the 1970s, temporary accommodation and 'ROSLA blocks' contributed to a diverse educational provision which attempted to address the needs of older pupils.

Case studies reveal a diversity of responses in organisation and curriculum. Locally, there was a slow reaction to national debates which only quickened in the years immediately preceding 1972. Some authorities embraced ROSLA as a means to expand education but others used it to help preserve selective schooling, offering pre-vocational courses for 'rosla students'. ROSLA created a situation in which vocational education became a concern in the 1970's and 1980s.

Our project fosters understanding of the policy to raise the participation age especially in relation to the issue of preparedness and continuing historical dilemmas. Discussions with the Participation Unit are on-going. The long preparatory phase to 2015 has parallels in the past that indicate the policy will be altered in practice as it is slowly filtered through various levels of educational practice. Some preparations have already been halted, notably certain diplomas. As in the past, reduced funding will further limit opportunities for those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). This reflects an historical oscillation in the ways that educational expansion has been perceived alternately as a cost and an investment, a change of emphasis which took place with the incoming Coalition Government in 2010. Historical tensions between differentiated and common provision are very apparent in contemporary debate.
Exploitation Route The project has a potential contribution to make to policy-makers and practitioners involved in raising the participation age, particularly in relation to the idea of preparedness for change. It could also help to raise awareness the variety of ways in which a similar reform was implemented in the past.

In terms of educational research, this project provides a good example of the way in which historical understanding can contribute insights into contemporary policy. The kinds of tension and contradictions faced in the past continue to have a resonance today: for example, viewing education as a cost and/or investment; between common and differentiated curricula; and the respective roles of schools, further education and other training providers. These and other issues all have long roots which need to be teased out through historical research.

There is also a wider relevance for the social history of modern Britain, which places education in a pivotal role in understanding changing perceptions of youth and young people in relation to adulthood and citizenship. The expansion of compulsory state education contributed directly to increased expectations about the potential of young people as well as highly gendered fears about the rise of crime and delinquency. These concerns also have long and significant international parallels and repercussions.
Sectors Education

URL http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/57752.html
 
Description Our finding on the raising of the school leaving age and the raising of the participation age have fed into academic and practitioner research in these areas. Internationally, there has been a recognition of the work and others have been researching in a similar area. We also produced a briefing note for the Participation Age Unit at the Department for Education which highlighted a number of historical issues that may be relevant to the raising of the participation age.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Briefing note for Participation Age Unit, Department for Education
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description 'Raising the School Leaving Age. Making do or building for the future?' History of Education Annual Conference, Putting education in its place - space and materialities in the history of education, University of Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Led to discussion on building and archictecture in relation to school leaving age

Fed into an article published in History of Education
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description BBC London Drivetime interview 24 July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Sustained radio interview sustained on the topic as a result of a previous media performance

Received feedback about relevance of the topic
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description BBC Radio 5 Live Interview, 24 July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Led to discussion on radio plus offer to talk on BBC Radio London

Greater awareness of raising the participation age
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description BBC Wales interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Generated discussion and phone in on radio

Feedback from radio participants
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Contesting the life cycle of school, work and citizenship: the case of the Crowther Report, 15 To 18 (1959), Social History Conference, Glasgow, 2010 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Sparked an interesting discussion of the school leaving age in British history

Collaboration with colleagues, fed into a number of publications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Raising the school leaving age : participation and policy in historical perspective, dissemination event, Institute of Education 
Form Of Engagement Activity Scientific meeting (conference/symposium etc.)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact A dissemination day-long seminar for the project with presentations by the three team members:

Gary McCulloch: Conservative Government and the raising of the school leaving age 1959-1964

Steven Cowan: Social and historical contexts of raising the school leaving age

Tom Woodin: Raising the participation age in historical perspective

Led to further collaboration with the Participation Age Unit at the Department for Education

Led to discussion and collaboration with colleagues in the UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010
 
Description Raising the school leaving age in historical and comparative perspective 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact An analysis of key themes in the history of the raising of the school leaving age which engaged with the researchers at University of Waikato, New Zealand

It led to requests to talk and further collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Raising the school leaving age in historical and comparative perspective, talk at Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact An analysis of key issues relating to the school leaving age in historical perspective which sparked considerable interest in international comparisons

Requests for collaboration and sharing information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Raising the school leaving age in historical and international perspective', International Standing Conference on the History of Education (ISCHE), University of Utrecht 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Led to discussion of school leaving age in an international context

Fed into a number of journal articles and monograph on the topic
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description The British education system : compulsory education from the early years to leaving school 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An outline of project findings relating to the school starting and leaving ages at Jiangmen Teachers Training College in China

Requests for further talks and information as well as international collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Youth, childhood and the raising of the school leaving age, seminar, Institute of Education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Generated an interesting discussion about the role of the school leaving age in changing meanings of youth and childhood

Led to further collaboration and fed into publications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012