Peter Cadogan Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Peter Cadogan

Crowther and the Future of British Education

(Spring 1960)

From International Socialism (1st series), No. 1, Spring 1960, pp. 5–12.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg, with thanks to Paul Blackledge.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Peter Cadogan is a Cambridge school teacher. He was one of the spokesmen for party democracy in the Communist Party debates arising out of the events of 1956: and subsequently a signatory of the minority report of the Commission on inner-party democracy. He was expelled, joined the Labour Party, and hit the national headlines at the Scarborough Conference of 1958 when he demanded, in the foreign policy debate, that Britain quit NATO. Since then he has been active as a spokesmen of the left on the implications of CND, while at the same time finding himself under attack from various quarters for his outspokenness. He is currently engaged in a battle for readmission into the LP, from which he was expelled last year.

The significance of the Crowther Report on secondary education between the ages of 15 and 18 has been completely missed by the labour movement. It requires only a little thought to see that this is not really surprising. The movement has, or ought to have, a guilty conscience.

The Labour Party’s own policy statement on education Learning to Live (1958) proved a political and professional non-starter. It put nothing in the least inspiring before socialists and the general public. At the General Election it was a flop. It contained nothing new for the teaching profession.

This situation the Crowther Report has done, and will do, a great deal to remedy, not because it contains all the answers by any means but because it contains the essential one. For the rest it does a useful job. Educational thinking and action has now to be on a different plane.

The Cool Reception

Why the lukewarm response to the Report?

In the first place very few people, other than specialists, have actually read it and few are likely to do so for the time being. This goes as much for teachers as for anybody. The Report is physically a somewhat vast and forbidding document running to 520 pages and packed with statistical table; and graphs. Getting through it takes time, much more than the average person can hope to find.

It is, however, extremely readable.

In the second place, and quite apart from its bulk, it is after all an official document and one produced on the instructions of a Tory Government. We should not hold this against it, for what has been produced is a professional job by professionals – not a party political tract. Its appreciation requires us to distinguish carefully between positive aspects that call for strong support and negative features an omissions that call for the kind of criticism that produce constructive alternatives.

However the Report is a political document – about education; it was made at the request of the state and its central purpose is to recommend action by the state.

Teachers, educationists and administrators can only do so much. They cannot themselves decide to build schools; in the last analysis they cannot even buy books and equipment; they cannot decide salaries and conditions and they cannot alter the general school leaving age. They cannot, in a word, control the purse-and-policy strings of their profession. This is the business of politics. It is because of that, that they, with progressive people generally, should be prepared to think and act politically as well as professionally on the Crowther Report.

There are emotional factors governing the reception of the Report and the reader would be well advised to consider how this applies in his own case.

To those people who have been to Grammar Schools of one kind or another (or to Public Schools) the prospect of raising the school leaving age to 16 can be – and usually is – a matter of indifference. They themselves were all right and unless they have taught in Secondary Modern Schools the problem tends to be as remote as Chamberlain’s Czechoslovakia. They tend to assume that their own situation will obtain for their children and if there is any doubt about it the bank-balance is usually invoked, education paid for and that is that. Extended provision for fee-paying schools is a significant feature of our new consumer-and-war economy and at this point the eyes of the Crowther Report are piously averted!

Because a large part of the grammar-school parent group is all but incapable, in the nature of things, of really appreciating the situation in Secondary Modern Schools, the pity is that much of the liveliest element in the generation of public opinion is self-silenced.

Conversely, yet producing a similar result, to those who left school at 14 the case for having their children stay on until the age of sixteen is one that calls for an active imaginative effort extending beyond personal experience, as well as the acceptance of a cut in the domestic economy. Only a minority will – and do – feel very strongly that their children should have something they themselves never had.

Where therefore does the recognition of the need for change, and the actual pressure for it, come from?

Education is in the process of becoming a science and an art, and in science and art decisions are not made by majority vote. They are made as part of a process of experimental investigation and discovery taking place between people.

On the subject of raising the school-leaving age the opinions of parents are important. But further, and equally important, is what is found to be best for young people as the result of examining the whole experience of education to date in relation to present needs and future possibilities. It is necessary for educational science to establish a clearly demonstrable case and to be emphatic about the conclusions that it produces. It is the business of science to lead rather than to follow.

Yet the decision to raise the school leaving age is not simply educational. It is an act of state to be undertaken by the government of a class-divided society. It has to go through the machinery of the party system, be embodied in legislation and dependent upon the voting of public money.

It is in the context of this politico-educational situation that we have to read the key proposition, “the promise of secondary education for all cannot be redeemed unless it is continued for all to 16.” (p. 116)

The decisions to raise the school-leaving age to 14 and then to 15 were not taken on the strength of a referendum and on that basis might not have been taken at all. These decisions were taken on the merits of the case as discovered and pushed by a responsible and growing minority. The same situation, only more so, will obtain over raising the school leaving age to 16.

In terms of people, however, it needs to be recognised that two generations of parents have been educated in state secondary (i.e. grammar) schools. This is a new phenomenon since the great majority of these parents are themselves the offspring of those who had only an elementary education.

It is an established proposition, which the Report takes for granted, that parents will want for their children at least as good an education as they have had themselves. Thus it is partly from the generation of parents who were at state secondary schools in the thirties that the new intensive demands have arisen: more grammar school places; smaller classes; abolition of the 11+; GCE and extend courses in the Secondary Modern Schools.

Further, many working class parents to whom secondary education was denied clearly recognise the ever increasing importance of training and “paper qualifications.” Time and again their experience at work demonstrate this, sometimes with painful clarity. They are in consequence all the more resolved to get their children into Grammar Schools or failing that to raise new educational demands.

Since 1944 then, notwithstanding the limiting factors mentioned earlier, parents have pressed for a new extension of five-year education in the state secondary school system. So much so that the Report concludes that even if nothing done by way of legislation, the school leaving age in the course of the next ten years will be raised to 16 for half the pupils of Britain. This can be said on the firm basis of present achievements and existing tendencies.

On the other side of the picture there is the ceaseless activity of imaginative teachers, administrators and enterprising local education committees and governors. People with vision have, in the last fifteen years, turned the Secondary Modern School into the most important educational laboratory of the post-war world.

Finally, boys and girls themselves have confounded the “experts” of the 1943 Norwood Report who found, with much convenience to themselves that there were three types of children. Therefore the three types of school should remain Q.E.D. Fortunately however (and unfortunately for Norwood) large numbers of the boy and girl hewers of wood and drawers of water in the third class schools have since been passing a GCE examination designed to exclude them.

Just as intermediate education built up without legislative authority between 1870 and 1902, laid the foundations of the modern grammar school system and just as local technical and medical colleges founded the modern university system (which is not based on Oxford and Cambridge as is commonly supposed) so countless local experiments in Secondary Modern Schools and Comprehensives of one kind or another have today prepared the way for the future, the next big step.

Progress has been such that if five year secondary education will soon be enjoyed by half the population it becomes perfectly feasible to envisage and plan it for all.

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child the community must want for all its children.” (p. 108)

The Content of the Proposed Reform

The proposal to raise the school leaving age to 16 is not a matter of mere quantitative increase. In the opinion of the present writer it can, depending on what is made of it, constitute nothing less than the most dramatic and revolutionary change in the whole history of English Education. Its implications are historic. Ultimately it challenges the whole class basis of our school system. It is the knell of privilege and the first pre-condition round which the education of two-thirds of the country’s children (i.e. the great majority of the working class) can be fundamentally re-orientated.

These results will not necessarily follow in any set time. For present purposes it is enough to see that they will follow … What actual progress we make in the next decade depends on what we make of the Report. But then in turn what we make of the Report depends to some extent up how clearly we see ultimate implications and objectives and how consciously and explicitly we work for them.

We do not create a classless society by waiting for it. We have to work all the time to build its constituent parts in advance. This is what is meant by duality in historic change. It is not “gradualism.” Politically we shall have to reach and pass a point of climax and no-return.

How can it be that a most “respectable “ body of people can make a revolutionary proposition like this ? The answer is that it is only a proposition. Highly intelligent observers and practitioners have perceived the truth and written it down – but so far nothing whatsoever has been done. The whole educational world is waiting for the politicians. No sooner was the Report in print than it was attacked from all sides and the man who led the attack was Crowther himself!

He provided us with a classic exercise in how to damn with faint praise, when on January 6th 1960, summing up discussion of the annual conference of the Incorporated Association of Headmasters in London he was reported follows in the Times Educational Supplement of January 8th:

So far as the school leaving age was concerned, it was a pity that compulsion had to apply at the same age to all (there might, he mused, be an ideal world in which children school, like eggs at a packing station, marked with a guarantee of maturity). Meanwhile we had to choose an age which the risks of leaving it too late were just about balanced by the risks of leaving it too early. The council had toyed with the idea of 15.5 but had given it up as administratively inconvenient. While he himself was not sure that 16 (or indeed any other age) was the right age, he was certain that 15 was wrong. (My emphasis – P.C.)

Now in most contexts there would be nothing unusual, much less startling, about this kind of comment. But coming from Sir Geoffrey Crowther immediately after the issue of report and directly querying its central and critical proposition, it is startling indeed. It shows which way the wind is blowing and all sorts of people – some doubtless well-intentioned – are trimming their sails accordingly.

The report to date is so much paper and there are plenty of pigeonholes in the Ministry.

Crowther, Politics and Socialism

From the foregoing it should be plainly seen that at the moment what is important about the Report is its political heart and the political action necessary to make it beat. It would be as well to ask what its relevance is to the future and to our conception of socialism.

Socialism is a condition of world society in which the possible production of wealth exceeds need, where the organisation of production is planned consciously and not by the blind operation of the market and where work replaces labour through the elimination of laboriousness. Politically it is a situation in which the state and all its instruments are in decline by virtue of the redundancy of their functions. Socialism is also an idea, the product of a certain reading of history that leads us to suppose that all these things are possible and that we should ourselves be their agency.

Needless to say socialism cannot be engendered by educational means alone. It will only be possible when for a complex of reasons the old order can no longer continue as before, when its adaptive capacities are exhausted and when people are faced with black disaster – particularly war – on the one hand or taking power into their own hands on the other. Socialism, unhappily, will not be the product of sweet reason in a rational society. The facts of power must be faced.

Yet whilst the central question is which class or alliance of classes controls the state, it is also true that over the whole field of human endeavour a parallel struggle is waged in every place affected by the antagonism of classes and interests.

Under capitalism, and by way of contradicting it, vast progress can be made in all directions by the efforts of those whose interests and ideas are not of the old order. There is nothing final about this kind of progress; ultimately it is all dependent upon the revolutionary transformation of the state. In the first half of the seventeenth century a tremendous struggle was waged on behalf of common law and representative government but all the successes registered were in the last analysis dependent upon the destruction of the Court of Star Chamber, the Court of High Commission, personal monarchy and the divine right of kings. Our situation is analogous.

So today it is possible, though difficult, to advance in science, art, education, the ideas and organisation of the Labour Movement and in internationalism. The list is endless. Every advance, no matter how limited, adds to the strength of the totality of forces making for change. It was weakness in this respect that nullified the October Revolution. The medieval back-log was too great for the underdeveloped forces of science and socialism.

We, therefore, are deeply involved in the accumulation of our own kind of “capital,” in people and ideas, pending the final political resolution and the consequent diffusion of that capital in the creation of a classless society. Our yardstick is not the dollar or the pound sterling but the conscious human relationship.

The business of getting at the truth about the universe and conveying it to the coming generation is clearly at stake in every classroom every day and in every school text. To point this out in the setting of socialist ideas is not to urge “indoctrination” – for that is the death of science and the teaching process, and is what Stalinism in education amounts to. (Russian teachers get results not because of indoctrination but in spite of it.)

Under the present system it is perfectly possible for research workers to make new discoveries, for teachers to increase their understanding of their own subjects, for us to get a better grasp of how consciousness develops from birth to adulthood and for us to make all sorts of changes in schools to meet the newly discovered possibilities. The obstructions are immense but we can set about removing them and there is no need to be pessimistic about the issue. History is on our side.

The Setting of Present Problems

It was not until 1918 that in practice the school-leaving age for all was raised to 14. It was raised to 15 by the Education Act of 1944. In both periods a pupil was, and is, entitled to leave at the end of the term in which he reaches the prescribed age. The Report launches a useful word to describe those who leave at Xmas or Easter – “bye-term” leavers.

When the school leaving age was raised to fifteen the effect of the new fourth year was to make what might properly be described as secondary education a possibility for those who would stay on voluntarily for the final fifth year – and take an external examination. The result of the fourth year has therefore been all sorts of experiments with “extended courses,” principally that for the GCE but also for pupils who completed the fourth year when they were not obliged to do so by law.

The idea that the goal of the “A” Stream in a Secondary Modern School is the General Certificate of Education is now clearly established in practice, and is very generally but by no means universally applied.

This is a strained and unnatural situation for the Secondary Modern School. The GCE examination is a bad examination even for Grammar Schools. It can be taken in one subject or in ten or more. It was not designed as a school-leaving certificate but this is what it amounts to. It has the essential merit of being fully “recognised” by employers, the Civil Service, institutes of further education and the Armed Forces, and it provides the only existing focus for secondary education. In the absence of a proper school leaving certificate and a complex of examinations for other purposes we hobble along on the GCE.

It is above all the spontaneous (i.e. without the Ministry’s encouragement) development of 5th Forms in Secondary Modern Schools that has put educational thinking where it is today.

“There is now sufficient experience to justify us in saying that the ordinary boy or girl can benefit by staying at school until 16.” (p. 106)

And then again,

“If, as we believe, secondary education for all is really necessary in the general interest, and if, as we also believe, it cannot from its nature often be completed before 16, then it follows that compulsory school life should extend to 16.” (p. 107).

Part III of the Report contains an often brilliantly argued series of cases for this conclusion. This should be read – if nothing else.

“The life of secondary modern schools should be planned on a five year basis.” (p. 91). In making this proposition the Council considered and rejected the case for a completed fourth year as the next objective – and as put forward in Learning to Live. [1] “To call this completion of the fourth year an extended course is, we think, a misnomer. The ground covered is only that of the school’s normal syllabus.” (p. 85) And to that one can say from experience – “Amen and again Amen!”

Since it is indeed true that secondary education properly so-called cannot be undertaken in less than five years, the existing fourth year – or even a completed fourth year – must necessarily have a hand to mouth existence and character. Enterprising headmasters and staff will, and have, tried anything and everything; Royal Society of Arts and Union of Educational Institutes examinations at 15; technical and commercial courses; projects and visits and the Lord knows what! In the last analysis what happens to fourth years ? The answer is simple enough – teachers “cope.” This is the situation that cannot be allowed to continue. It is not, emphatically not, the fault of the teaching profession.

The addition of an extra year to school life after the end of the war besides producing the Secondary Modern GCE also led to an over-lush series of experiments with certain bastard subjects, General Science, Social Studies and Civics. They are as dead as the dodo and ought to be given public burial since germs from the carcase are still infesting certain places. (General Science has even reached GCE status. The examination paper in that subject is an incredible document!). There is no substitute for the basic disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, history and geography.

The Content of the Five Year Course

The major single weakness of the Crowther Report is on the subject of what is to be the educational content of the proposed five year course. As and when the political decision is taken the new prospect will explode in the staff rooms, education offices and school publishing enterprises of this country. At the moment everyone is lying doggo and waiting! The prevailing atmosphere equates with that of the H-bomb prospect – it may never happen!

The fearful question is simple enough: If we are going to keep the other two thirds on at school until they are sixteen what on earth are we going to teach them? At the moment let us not pretend otherwise, we have no answer; and no one will seriously attempt it until the Minister names the day, When the D-day of English education is announced educationists of all kinds will fall to and make a start on the creative and organisational tasks that circumstances present to us.

The Report recommends that the school-leaving age be raised in one of the school years beginning September 1966, 1967 or 1968. Different members of the Council had different opinions about the best date. But, “Given the will, the extensive problems of building, of organisation and teachers supply can be met by 1966.” So why delay?

“There is another reason for choosing the earliest possible date. By 1966 the ‘bulge’ will be passing rapidly from the secondary schools, and the graph of the school population aged 15 will be entering a level phase. This phase, however, will only last until 1969 when a ‘new bulge’ will be reaching the top of the secondary schools. Raising the school-leaving age early in this level period would give the schools the substantial advantage of a chance to settle down before the ‘new bulge’ is upon them.” (p. 58)

We should plump for 1966 and take immediate steps to make this a major public issue now. Reaction must not induce us to forget the critical declaration,

“... we would urge that a decision be taken now and that a consistent programme of action in all relevant fields be set on foot and pursued with the vigour necessary to ensure that, by the chosen date, the conditions are prepared for the extra year in school to provide its full benefit for all the nation’s children.” (p. 159)

Some Errors and Omissions Not Accepted

Blank cheques should be given to no man in politics – not even Crowther. Certain criticisms must be made.

Consider the following statement, taken from page 87:

“... broadly speaking there are no pupils in the grammar schools who should not be externally examined. But there are many such in the modern schools. None of the advocates of external examinations for modern schools, so far as we know, contemplates their going more than one-third, or one-half at the furthest, down the scale of intellectual ability. We should enter a vigorous protest if they did. The majority ought not to be subjected to an external examination.”

This apparently touching plea is an echo of the past. It is the new form of the “type “ theory. It used to be the “academic” as distinct from the “practical.” Now we have the examinable as distinct from the non-examinable – the old heresy translated.

There is not the slightest doubt that in schools at the moment there is a vast range of ability. The top 30 percent, are the actual or potential GCE candidates. The top 5 percent, are the high-fliers beloved of Lord James. The bottom 5 percent are the backwards. But no matter how the figures are juggled the fact is inescapable that there is a middle of well over 50 percent, who are average boys and girls.

It is around the concept of the average pupil that the whole of educational theory and practice ought to be re-orientated.

This essential proposition the Report fails to make. It is the context of the concept of the average that the needs an provision for the brilliant and the backward can be seen and worked on in a balanced way – and only so. There is no other way to redress the present unbalance of education in general and of secondary education particularly. This thesis is powerfully suggested in passages of the Report – it begins but never arrives. We are handed down the theory of dual identity (suitably refurbished) in the form quoted above.

An important conclusion as regards external examination follows from the concept of the average: if all pupils are to have a five year course at least (in a secondary school) this can only be made meaningful to them, to parents and to teachers if it culminates in the attainment of an objective readily comprehensible to all and of a completely convincing character – this objective can be nothing less than an external School Leaving Certificate.

A general school-leaving certificate is an idea way ahead of Crowther. Just what it should consist of is a very open question calling for a great deal of experimental study that takes into account first the very considerable accumulation of experience we have had with external examinations to date We shall be required to re-think the content of the basil subjects – English, Mathematics, Foreign Languages, Physics Chemistry, Biology, History, Geography, the Arts, the Crafts and Physical Education – devise a five-year course that the average boy will be able to cope with and prescribe the final examination accordingly.

This sort of achievement will only be possible when certain other conditions obtain. There has to be drastic and effective action to reduce the size of classes and on this subject it should be plainly stated that the goal of 30 per class is not good enough. We should now start to think of the problem of the size of the classes in educational and not administrative terms.

For this purpose may a little experiment be commended to the reader? Ask teachers what size their classes ought to be, to get the best possible results regardless of all considerations save the educational ones. The answer will vary between 15 and 25. The extraordinary thing is that this salient truth, known to every teacher, is one that never finds its way into the reports and pronouncements of the “experts.” Round it we should now start to think and work.

Secondly there is the urgent and quite unsolved problem of the backward 5 percent. In the average Secondary Modern School there will be some half-a-dozen pupils at the bottom of the “C” Stream over whose heads nearly all instruction is consigned to oblivion. Of some it can even be said that they are more backward at the age of 15 than they were at 11, because in the meantime their very backwardness has itself become a cause of emotional disturbance and they have ceased to believe in their ability to learn.

This problem the Report, by its own confession, sidesteps. (Preface, XXIX and p. 92) This is all the more shameful as the first and essential step towards a solution is simple and quite well known. A Secondary Modern School should have junior and senior “progress” classes designed expressly for backward pupils. Their aim: to cater especially for illiteracy and innumeracy and to put pupils back into the main stream of the school’s normal classes as soon as possible.

We need an intensive research and training programme dealing with the nature and treatment of backwardness.

For some years there will be pupils who spend their school lives in “progress” classes or apparently anchored at the bottom of the C Stream. This situation calls for the invention of School Leaving Certificate (B) – which embodies the principle that no boy or girl may leave school until he or she has reached a certain basic level of education.

The Report makes no reference to the existence, much less the work, of the Guild of Teachers of Backward Children, Perhaps, one fears, the members of the Council had never heard of it!

But what about the brilliant ones? Will they not suffer from the concept of the average? Perhaps they will, but the probability is that it will do them a power of good in the long run. It has been round their educational requirements that the state school system has been tailored for the last sixty years. It is time for a change.

These are the boys and girls who can devour school libraries, who can most easily sustain school societies, who can work extremely well on their own and who as a general rule have parents that provide the maximum educational advantage in terms of domestic environment. There is only one thing they stand to lose and that is the process of grooming for membership of an elite. It is just that concept that we have had long enough. Today it is holding us back. It has to go.

The Sixth Form, the Working Class and Socialism

“One of the most striking and important features of English education since the war, and especially of the last six or seven years, has been the growth of Sixth Forms. The number of Sixth Formers is now considerably more than half as large again as it was ten years ago. We doubt very much whether the general public realises what a revolution is in progress – and still more in prospect.” (p. 226)


The fact that the Russians and the Americans have gone even further in this direction than we have in no way lessens the significance of this new development for us.

Consider this:

“The boys and girls who are entering Sixth Forms today, but who would not have done so a few years ago, are drawn to a very large extent from the children of manual workers, and especially of skilled manual workers.” (p. 230)

And this, of grammar and technical schools in general:

“Only 12 percent of the boys and girls came from homes where both parents had had a longer education than the legal minimum.” (p. 9)

These are facts that have political as well as educational importance. In the Labour Movement there is too little recognition that state grammar schools are today providing places primarily for the sons and daughters of the working class.

We still tend in one way or another to equate grammar schools with social privilege and snobbery and to resign ourselves to the prospect that our sons and daughters attending these schools will therefore be lost to the working class and its cause. It is true that there are plenty of major factors making for this result, but these are changing and our concern should be to see what can be done to expedite those changes.

It is undoubtedly true that some grammar school teachers imbued with reactionary social values will consciously or unconsciously pass them on to their pupils. It is also true, however, that teaching is the only radicalised profession, the only one, that is, into which over a long term of years the working class has had customary entry. We are entitled to expect a great deal, one way or another, from the teaching profession – all the more so if we ourselves take the right attitude towards it. Teachers get very tired of listening to mere public lip-service.

A majority of teachers are perfectly capable of moving rapidly in a progressive direction. The extent to which that happens (and therefore to the schools) depends very largely upon the initiative of the Labour Movement and the dynamic of new socialist ideas.

On the subject of Sixth Forms and socialism, something must be done. There is no more fertile field. This is not to suggest the vulgar “capturing” of a debating society but rather the restatement and presentation of creative notions and scientific analysis in a way that strikes the imagination, appeals to the idealism and answers the questions that come naturally from the lips of intelligent young people.

For all too short a time Sixth Formers are in a condition of relative intellectual freedom and flexibility, with no axe to grind and no personal advantage to gain. The fact that so many are lost to socialism is largely the fault of socialists. Capitalism is not a defensible scapegoat for all our failures!

Crowther and Humanism

One cannot, conclude without quoting what to an experienced teacher is perhaps the most eye-popping judgement in the history of official educational literature.

”The adolescent needs help to see where he stands, but it must be given with discretion and restraint. He does not want to be ‘told,’ but he wants a guide, and a guide who will be honest in not over-stating a case. There is no period of life when people more need what the Education Act means when it refers, perhaps rather unhappily, to ‘religious instruction,’ and no period when it is more difficult to give. What is true of ethics and philosophy is true also of politics. The fact that politics are controversial – that honest men disagree – makes preparation for citizenship a difficult matter for schools. But it ought to be tackled ...” p. 114 (my emphasis – PC)

It would take several thousand words to expound the significance of that one paragraph. Here it must simply be left with the reader.

In Conclusion

There is a great deal more in the Report than can possibly be indicated here. It has been thought better to distil essentials rather than compile a summary. The Report also treats of apprenticeship, technical training, youth organisations, juvenile delinquency, part-time schooling, population, the economic background and future provision for the training of teachers.

It remains but to inscribe the slogans, and of these there can surely be no doubt.

Implement the Crowther Report! Raise the school-leaving age to 16! Minister – name the day!


Since this article was written the House of Commons – on 21st March – has debated the Crowther Report and the Government has announced its attitude towards it. As anticipated in the article the main recommendation – to raise the school leaving age to 16 by a specified date – has been shelved. No date is to be announced by the Minister.

The Labour Party did at last rally to the defence of the Report three months after its appearance and therefore three months late. (This occasion demonstrated most clearly that to depend upon the time-table of the House of Commons is to play right into the hands of the Tories.) For three months political and educational reaction has been sniping away at the Report without let or hindrance from the Labour leaders (or New Left Review for that matter) with the inevitable result that when Tony Greenwood, for the Labour Front Bench, got to his feet he was a general without an army.

Finally, despite the fact that Greenwood and others made many necessary comments, when it came down to wording the Labour amendment it was phrased in evasive non-fighting terms and actually passed the buck back to the Tories!” It called upon the Government to “formulate proposals to implement the main recommendations of the Report as soon as possible.” Instead, it should have called upon the Government “to declare that the school leaving age shall be raised to 16 during the school year beginning September 1966 and that the necessary building, training, equipment and re-planning be undertaken immediately.”

The debate was one further endorsement of the case made out in this article. A searching rethink and a great campaign over education and educational politics is now more necessary than ever.


1. In the long list of organisations and individuals submitting evidence orally or in writing to the Central Advisory Council for Education England that made the investigation and produced the Report, there is no mention of the Labour Party, the “shadow minister” Mr Michael Stewart or the National Association of Labour Teachers. No comment.

Peter Cadogan Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 6 November 2015