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Modern Britain

Key Dates in English Education

by Jackie Speel, 31 May 2008. Updated 19 October 2023

Part 3: 1975 to 2004

Part 1: Up to 1899
Part 2: 1900-1972
Part 3: 1975-2004


13 April: ILEA announced grammar schools under its authority were to be abolished and a fully comprehensive system imposed on all secondary school children by 1977.

Alternative Ordinary Syllabuses aimed at 17+ introduced: the equivalent CSE Board examination was the Certificate of Extended Education, operated from 1976, reviewed by Keohane Committee, which reported in 1980.

October Report - An Education Service for the Whole Community.

Secretary of State for Education and Science announced the government's intention to withdraw financial support from direct grant grammar schools by stages from 1976 unless by the end of 1975 they indicated the intention to seek entry into maintained sector.


26 October: Department of Education and Science announced national testing of children's performance in mathematics would begin 1978 with similar tests in reading and writing introduced 1979 to establish national standards in the three-Rs.


12 May: Education Secretary announced that pupils over sixteen would receive weekly grants, means tested, to encourage them to remain in higher education.

14 July: New examination to replace GCE O level and CSE recommended by Waddell Committee.

23 February: Report on future development of higher education published by Department of Education and Science.

27 February: Draft circular issued by Department of Education and Science stating that from 1980 no students would be admitted to teacher training courses unless they had proved their competence in English and mathematics.

July Committee under Chairman James Waddell reported to Secretary of State for Education and Science that a common system of examining at 16+ to replace GCE O levels and CSEs was educationally feasible.

Schools Council issued final proposals for a broadening of Sixth Form curriculum by increasing the number of subjects studied and for a new system of examinations at N (Normal) and F (Further) levels to replace A levels.


12 March: First step in legal action against a local education authority for failing to go fully comprehensive taken by Shirley Williams, education secretary who declared Bromley Education Authority to be in default of its statutory duty because it had failed to comply with her directive to end selection at four grammar schools.

26 March: Education Secretary Shirley Williams (Labour) announced as Secondary Heads Association's annual conference in Coventry that A levels would be retained but O levels would be replaced by a new examination in 1985.

23 July: Education Secretary, Mr Carlisle (Conservative) told MPs that proposals to scrap GCE O levels and CSEs and replace them in 1985 by a single examination had been postponed for further consultation before a final decision was made.

18 September: ILEA voted to ban corporal punishment from its 1100 schools by February 1981.


19 February: Details of a single examination for sixteen year-olds with grades from one to seven to replace GCE and CSE were announced by the Education Secretary: implementation to take seven years.

February: Secretary of State for Education Mark Carlisle announced development of 16+ examination to proceed: National Criteria developed for all twenty NC subjects, with working parties consulting exercises 1981-1983, and passed to Department of Education and approved 1984.

28 April: Comprehensive examination into running of its schools and colleges by ILEA ordered by Education Secretary (Mr Carlisle).

14 October: Education Secretary announced proposals for two major examinations to improve standards of job seekers and enlarge education of A level candidates, the first at 17+ for average or below average children wishing to remain at school or further education colleges and the second at A level, to complement A levels and be known as I (Intermediate) levels.

Education Act

HMI Report - Education Provision by the Inner London Education Authority.


25 March: Department of Education and Science, and Welsh Office published 'The School Curriculum', providing guidelines aimed at improving educational standards.

12 November: HM Schools inspectorate published a critical report on ILEA teachers and officials.


26 January: Report of Committee of Inquiry into teaching of maths in schools published.

29 March: Education Secretary announced that the merger of O levels and CSEs had been shelved indefinitely.

22 April: Education Secretary announced he had abolished the Schools Council and replaced it with two smaller bodies, the Examination Council and the School Curriculum Development Council.

James Report on Secondary Education and Training.


21 March: Sir Keith Joseph, education secretary, published White Paper, 'Teaching Results'.

23 October: The Catholic Education Council instructed all diocesan schools commissioners in England and Wales to phase out corporal punishment in Roman Catholic schools.

Hargreaves Report (Improving secondary schools).

Technical and Vocational Education Initiative announced.


6 January: Sir Keith Joseph authorised wide changes in examination system for sixteen year-olds and a campaign to improve standards of education and conduct: on 30 June announced in parliament that O levels and CSEs would be replaced by GCSE course, starting in England and Wales in autumn 1986.

5 April: Sir Keith Joseph told parliament that the successor body to the ILEA would be directly elected when the GLC had been abolished.

Jan Sir Keith Joseph, in speech to Northern Education Association, afterwards known as the Sheffield Speech, stated the need to raise attainment in secondary schools, and the role of school examinations in achieving this.


10 January: New qualifications for seventeen year-olds - Certification of Pre-Vocational Excellence - published.

14 March: Report of Inquiry under Chairman Lord Swann into education of children from ethnic minorities published.

15 March: Standard criteria issued by examination boards, the Secondary Exams Council and the Education Secretary for GCSE test on a national basis published.

March: Final version of the National Criteria published - 17+ examinations to be replaced by GCSE (Mature) from 1988, and also GCSE (External) to be developed.

21 May: Department of Science Green Paper, 'The Development of Higher Education in the 1990s'.

24 September: Chairman of Headmasters' Conference announced public schools were to be designated as independent schools.


1 January: School Masters and Women Teachers' Association followed the NUT by deciding to boycott development of GCSE examination.

20 February: Education Bill passed - parents had increased role in running state schools, curbing political interference in schools and submitting teachers' work to assessment.

7 April: Kenneth Baker announced a major overhaul of in service training for teachers.

14 May: Audit Commission for Local Authorities in England and Wales published report 'Towards Better Management of Secondary Education'.

2 July: Government White Paper 'Working Together - Education and Training' published.

18 July: Kenneth Baker, Education Secretary, announced that the Burnham Committee was to be disbanded and replaced by another body to deal with pay and conditions of service.

14 October: Kenneth Baker announced entry requirements, courses and possible locations of proposed new technology colleges: on 23 February 1987 a West Midlands school was designated the site of the first city technology college.

First elections to the Inner London Educational Authority: previously a special committee on the GLC composed of GLC members for the areas covered by the twelve inner London boroughs, one representative for each borough, and one appointed by the Common Council of the City of London. GCSEs introduced: first examinations May-June 1988.

National Council for Vocational Qualifications NCVQ established.


23 February: Kenneth Baker announced the establishment of a review of standards and contents of A level examinations.

5 March: Kenneth Baker outlined plans for a national curriculum which would require all children to take tests in up to ten subjects at four stages during their school career.

1 April: White Paper on higher technology published: polytechnics to be taken from local authority control.

June: Secretaries of State for Education and for Wales issued a consultation document about the establishment of a National Curriculum: core subjects English, mathematics, combined sciences, technology, modern foreign languages, history and/or geography, art/music/drama/design 70% of studies - rest to include a selection from additional science, a second modern language, classics, home economics, history, geography, business studies, art, music, drama, religions studies.

September: Advanced Supplementary examinations introduced, first examinations taking place in summer 1989.

September: AS levels introduced.

11 September: Government published proposals for abolition of ILEA.

20 November: Government published Education Reform Bill - including introduction of National Curriculum and an end to artificial limits on parents' first choice of schools.


29 January: Government told ILEA to reduce budget by 12%.

4 February: Kenneth Baker announced that ILEA would be abolished in 1990.

9 February: London teachers staged a one day strike protesting against government imposed spending cuts.

27 February: Students marched London against Education Reform Bill.

2 March: Kenneth Baker issued a rebuttal of criticism of Education Reform Bill issued by Roman Catholic Church.

8 March: Kenneth Baker announced independent inquiry under Lord Elton into standards of discipline in schools.

10 April: Several professional associations claimed local authorities were unable to cope with school requests for GCSE materials.

13 April: Postal ballot of parents with children going to ILEA schools showed nearly 95% opposed to abolition of ILEA.

25 April: Survey in Teachers' Weekly found that 22% of teachers had no training for GCSE and 23% had had one day or less.

17 May: Amendment intended to postponement abolition of ILEA defeated in the Lords.

20 June: Kenneth Baker approved plans for senior staff employed by ILEA to hold joint appointments with thirteen inner London boroughs who would take over responsibility for education in the ILEA area.

24 August: GCSE examination boards claimed that results of new examination showed the system was a success.

31 August: GCSE examination boards cleared by the Joint Council for the GCSE of rigging results to show that standards had risen.

3 October: Secretary of State for Scotland Malcolm Rifkind announced proposals to introduced standardised English and mathematics texts for Scottish primary schools.

22 October: HM Inspector of Schools 'The New Teacher in School'.

4 November: First city technical college, Kingshurst, Solihull.

9 November: Government White Paper 'Top up Courses for Students'.

5 December: National Curriculum Council consultation report on science and maths: on 19 December Kenneth Baker accepted the proposals.

Education Reform Act - responsibility for higher education colleges taken away from local authorities- introduced National Curriculum.

Education Reform Act: abolished ILEA as from 1 April 1990.


15 February: Kenneth Baker told conference in London that he believed that the UK could move to universal education to nineteen.

22 April: John MacGregor, Education Secretary, agreed the general principles concerning content of A level syllabuses should be laid down centrally.

12 June: Borough of Wandsworth announced to plans to turn comprehensive schools to 'magnet schools' specialising in subjects.


9 April: Secretary of State for Education announced national testing in all subjects for primary schools was to be abandoned: testing would be in mathematics, English and science.

19 August: Schools Examinations and Assessment Council announced that the GCSE examining groups would be required to phase out awards based 100% on coursework assessment.


First City College for the Technology of the Arts (CCTA) known as Britschool, opened, Croydon.

Parents Charters first issued.


Education (Schools) Act: Office for Standards in Education, 'Ofsted', established.

Further and Higher Education Act - all further education and sixth form colleges from local authority control as of April 1993 - funded directly by central government through Further Education Funding Council for England, FEFCE, and Wales, FEFCW.

September: Diploma of Vocational Education superseded the Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) in schools and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Advanced Diploma (record of achievements of three and advanced GCE passes of which two be A level or NVQ at level 3, & denotes evidence of a certain level of attainment in English, mathematics & a modern foreign language).


Education Act.


A* (starred) grade for GCSE introduced.

Attainment tests for eleven year-olds piloted, for introduction in 1995.

Legislation passed abolishing two tier structure in Wales and Scotland with effect from 1 April 1996, replacing it with a single tier of unitary authorities.

September: Foundation GNVQs became available.


GNVQ piloted.

New subject criteria for GCSEs published, introduced in 1996 for first examinations in 1997. Revised curriculum, Key Stages 1 and 2.


Edexel founded by merger of BTEC and University of London Examinations and Assessment Council (ULEAC).


First of the Education Action Zones established.

September: General NVQs introduced.

October: NCVQ merged with Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority SCAA to form Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, QCA.


Independent/State Schools Partnerships launched.

Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) established.


September: All existing publicly funded schools incorporated into a new framework.


Summer: Revised A Level syllabuses introduced for examination in 2002, and Advanced Subsidiary level replaced Advanced Supplementary level examinations in summer 2001.

September: Foundation Stage of the National Curriculum introduced for children aged three to five. Areas of learning include: personal, social, and emotional development; communication; mathematical development; knowledge; and understanding of the world.

September: GNVQs overhauled: Key Skills for secondary school students introduced.

September: Special/Scholarship level Awards replaced by Advanced Extension Awards. Also Vocational A levels introduced - formerly Advanced GNVQ.


Education Act extended the National Curriculum to include the Foundation Stage.


August: Beacon Schools programme phased out - primary and secondary schools. Leading Edge Partnership Programme brought in.



Communicate School in Manchester established. An independent English language school, which later joined the Malvern International group of English schools. This was the start of a sharp rise in overseas students moving to the UK to study English for jobs in the country.


Computers used by examination boards from late 1950s - scaling of marks and admin tasks with their use increasing.

GCE taken by 20-25% of school population (varied with subject) - minimum age of sixteen removed.

The LCC after the 1903 Education (London) Act became the first body in London to deal with the subject of education as a whole.

The London School Board achieved much, but certain areas were not covered, including the separation of secondary and further/technical education, the provision of education for children needing special treatment, a school medical service and meals.

The Education Act inter alia abolished school boards, brought the voluntary schools under council supervision and provided for secondary education.

Various discussions on the relevance of examinations to professions have since taken place and students are now in better secondary schools.


Main Sources

Keesings Contemporary Archives, p 5236, 20-27/6/1942

The Butler Report



Text copyright © Jackie Speel. An original feature for the History Files.