1953: Building the free secondaries

6th June 2003 at 01:00
When Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, the education system was in a post-war frenzy of construction and expansion, setting up the grammar, secondary modern and technical secondary schools demanded by the 1944 Education Act.

Pupil-teacher ratios in primaries reached a peak of 31:9 as teacher recruitment failed to keep pace with the results of the baby boom.

Most secondary systems - even in Labour-controlled authorities - were based on the11-plus. The minority chosen for grammars studiedclassics rather than citizenship and took O-levels (introduced in 1951). The rest left secondary moderns at 15. But some authorities, notably London and the West Riding, were establishing comprehensives. And Labour's 1953 manifesto proposed the abolition of selection.

Social conservatism ruled under Churchill's Conservative government.

Middlesex education committee banned known communists and fascists from headships. The Lord Chief Justice ruled that a head was within her rights to refuse admittance to a pupil wearing "slacks". Florence Horsbrugh became minister of education - the first Tory woman in the Cabinet.

Lollipop ladies (now school crossing patrols) were introduced. With a fraction of today's cars in Britain, there were more than 5,000 road deaths in 1953 - 1,500 more than today.

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