Elementary Education, Society & Politics in Hertfordshire 1918-1939

Parker, David Hugh (1993). Elementary Education, Society & Politics in Hertfordshire 1918-1939. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ff09


This thesis explores the elementary education policies of Hertfordshire county council during twenty-one years of unprecedented local change. It examines the influence of major local pressure groups, and it places county educational affairs in the wider context of wildly fluctuating national economic and political fortunes. It contends that against this uncertain background the apparently disparate developments in Hertfordshire were actually the results of coherent LEA policies which fulfilled a range of local needs.

The LEA pursued a consistent policy of vocationally-biased rural education. Far from being associated with parsimony and poor standards, this policy brought the county national fame as an educational pioneer. Vocationalism also increasingly dominated urban elementary schools. Here, too, it stemmed from a social class perspective of education which considered a particular range of manual, technical and commercial occupations the natural climax of elementary schooling. These developments served to strengthen the desire, and the opportunity, to maintain the marked distinctions between the elementary and secondary spheres.

The LEA's success owed much to its skilful accommodation to, and sometimes circumvention of, government action. Although possessing long-term objectives, it was shrewdly opportunist in its actions to secure them. The remarkably uneven distribution of urban facilities is seen as the logical, and popular, result of a county policy of devolution, the LEA making a virtue out of the self-determination local communities possessed regarding the advancement or restriction of elementary education.

The 1936 Education Act proved both a windfall and a watershed in county affairs. It overcame the financial, political and religious impediments to expansion and reorganisation, and it heralded dramatic changes in the partnership between the LEA and local districts, and between the LEA and Anglican Diocese of St.Albans. Finally, it was instrumental in setting seals of approval and permanence on the county's interpretation of elementary education.

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