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Education in the UK

  • 4 August 2023
  • By Derek Gillard

After teaching for 31 years in primary and middle schools, including eleven as head teacher, I retired (at the age of 52) in 1997 and a year later created my first website, which contained, in addition to an assortment of personal material, an education section consisting of the essays and dissertation I had written for my DipEd and MA courses at the University of London Institute of Education in the 1980s.

In 2001 I added the text of a lecture I gave to American teachers taking part in a summer school in Oxford. This became the basis of my history of education in the UK which, last revised in 2018, now comprises half a million words with links to the texts of almost 400 documents.

By the beginning of 2004 one of my essays – about the Plowden Report – was attracting a significant number of hits, and emails began to arrive asking where copies of the report could be found. As Plowden had long been out of print and was not available online, I applied for – and was granted – a licence from HMSO to put the text of the report on the website. I retyped the first thirty pages of the 1000-page report before a friend suggested that a scanner and some OCR software might be quicker! I took their advice and, by the end of October 2004, the complete Plowden Report was online.

I then started work on the six Hadow reports (1923-1933). By this time it was clear that the education section of the website was the only one achieving a significant number of visitors, so in May 2006 the other sections were removed and the site was renamed Education in England.

Since then, the full texts of more than 800 historic documents have been added to the site, including all the major reports on education – Bullock, Warnock, Cockcroft, Swann and Elton etc; education department publications and circulars; HMI, Ofsted and select committee reports; Official Papers; and more than 250 Acts of Parliament.

At first the site contained only material relating to schools in England (reflecting my own career and field of knowledge) but as it grew I began to add documents about education in Scotland (which has its own education system), Wales and Northern Ireland; and later on documents relating to further and higher education, of which there are now more than twenty (I’ve listed the more important ones below).

As a result, visitors began suggesting that the title Education in England, with its strapline ‘a history of our schools’, was now inappropriate and misleading. I agreed, and the site has now been renamed Education in the UK, with a new strapline and URL.

The site is well-used, with around 400,000 visits each year – about 7,000 a week. Typically, 40 per cent of visitors are from the UK and 15 per cent from the US, with China, India, France and Germany accounting for another 15 per cent. Sri Lanka, Swaziland and Ukraine have been among the 21 countries which have featured in the weekly top six countries.

I maintain a mailing list (currently numbering 560 names). Those on the list receive termly emails informing them when I’ve posted an update listing additions to the site. If you’d like to be on the mailing list, just send me an email ([email protected]).

Creating and maintaining Education in the UK has given me a purpose in life since I retired from teaching – it’s what gets me up in the mornings! I get many emails from around the world asking questions or thanking me for the site, and the knowledge that I’m providing a service which people find useful is immensely rewarding.

Documents relating to further and higher education

The following reports are already available. If there’s a document you’d like to see on the site, just drop me an email.

There are also several White Papers, Acts of Parliament, and department circulars. You can access this website here: Education in the UK.

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1 comment

  1. Ros Luvas says:

    That is a fascinating record of Education in the UK over the years, an interest of mine from another point of view – that of the demise of the various Vocational Education Initiatives from CPVE to GNVQ/AVCE and resulting consequences from lack of CEG, WEX and any useful employability skills.

    My MA Thesis 1996 at Post 16 Institute recommended an allowance to cover travel and books, be introduced to keep 16 year olds at school described the effects on motivation when Careers Education and Guidance was on the curriculum for all.

    Do you know of Tony Gibson PhD and his work in the 70’s and trials carried out across Norfolk and Derbyshire to support the idea of Changing Teachers’ Attitudes of different ways of learning in classrooms,?

    Ros Lucas – [email protected]

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