History seminars at the IHR

History of Education

Convenors: Gary McCulloch (Institute of Education, University of London),
Dr Georgina Brewis (Institute of Education, University of London)

For enquiries relating to this seminar please contact Gary McCulloch: G.McCulloch@ioe.ac.uk

Venue:  Mainly Bedford Room, G37, South Block, ground floor.  Otherwise, as stated in the programme, below.

Time: Thursdays, 5.30pm




Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
5 February Circular 10/65, comprehensive education, and the hidden legacy of the 1944 Education Act

Professor Gary McCulloch (Institute of Education, University of London)

The Education Act of 1944 is well recognised for the direct and immediate contributions that it made to the development of a national education system.  Seventy years on, it is possible to appreciate more fully its indirect and delayed effects, and what might be called its hidden legacies.  One of these was the introduction of comprehensive education as a national policy under Circular 10/65.  This paper will trace the connections between the 1944 Act and Circular 10/65.  In particular, it will analyse the key mediating role of Michael Stewart, the Labour Party education policy review of 1957-1958, and the 1958 report Learning to Live that arose from this.  These formed part of the party's revisionist approach under Hugh Gaitskell and helped to provide the basis for Labour's policy on comprehensive education when it returned to power in 1964.

5 March Parents, teachers and children's well-being in London, 1918-39

Dr Hester Barron (University of Sussex)

This paper explores the everyday interactions between parents and elementary school teachers in interwar London. In historiography, popular memory, and by contemporaries, the relationship between teachers and parents has often been characterised as one of mutual hostility. However, by the interwar period, half a century after the introduction of compulsory elementary education in England and Wales, the principle of schooling was widely accepted and there was little hostility to issues of curriculum or teaching. Instead, controversies centred over how far the responsibilities of the school extended into children's wider upbringing. How far beyond the school gates did the influence of the parents stretch and vice versa? Rather than a constant state of mutual enmity or hostility I argue that relationships between teachers and parents were dynamic and fluid, and could be constructive as often as confrontational. Parents themselves occupied a distinct place within the power hierarchy, and had some influence over the conduct of teachers. What parents often objected to was not the legitimacy of rules per se, but rather the exercise of arbitrary power, reflecting a nuanced interpretation of what was acceptable, within the parameters of the time.

Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
7 May Creating 'mothers of the nation': Girls' education in Nazi Germany

Dr Lisa Pine (London South Bank University)

This paper will examine gender-specific girls' education in Nazi Germany, focusing on two important, inter-related aspects of Nazi educational work. The first part of the paper will discuss school education and the second part will consider gender-specific training in the League of German Girls (BdM). Education for girls in the Third Reich was differentiated from boys' education through its emphasis on motherhood and the family. The Nazi pedagogue Alfred Bäumler stated that under National Socialism there was not to be a general education, but a separate male and female education. Hence, girls' education was considered to require a distinctive character, rather than being part of the overall education of both sexes. The essence of the female nature and its significance to the future of the nation was underlined. The role of motherhood and family life was central to girls' education.  Education in schools was complemented by the work of the BdM. National Socialist ideological training of girls included physical and domestic training. Particular attention was given here to the dissemination of Nazi ideology and there was considerable emphasis of the future 'mother function' of German girls. Training took the form of a weekly Heimabend, weekend educational sessions and household schools. The BdM 'household schools' provided specific training in household management and childcare. The paper will end with a short discussion of the work of these 'household schools'.

4 June The British Association, Science Education and the Training of Character, 1870-1914

Dr Heather Ellis (Liverpool Hope University)

The promotion of science education in British schools at both elementary and secondary levels in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has received significant attention in recent years. Here studies have focused on a range of advocacy groups, both public and private, including the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), which saw the promotion of science among the general public as one of its primary goals. The BAAS also forms the focus of this paper. In the main, however, historians have paid attention to the potential practical and economic benefits of such education, particularly against the background of growing rivalry with continental powers, Germany in particular. The advocates of science education, including the BAAS, were, however, in many cases, equally concerned with science as a training in character, particularly in those traits of rational thinking, self-control and perseverance considered central to popular ideals of masculinity. The value of science in this sense was stressed especially in the context of the need to train men to serve and preserve the British Empire. As this paper will show, science education was an overtly gendered issue for the British Association. In line with the arguments put forward by a number of Royal Commissions, science was advocated almost exclusively for boys; for girls, it was at best recommended for what it could teach about domestic hygiene and childcare; at worst, it was rejected as unsuitable for encouraging 'unfeminine' character traits and giving girls ideas 'above their station.'