Although Chuter Ede, the Labour Deputy to Rab Butler, described the 1944 Education Act as containing only one school, the common secondary school, in practice the system which operated in most of England and Wales from the 1940s to the 1960s was in name tripartheid and in practice bipartheid. A combination of educational theory derived from the wartime Norwood Report which referred to three types of children, the academic, the technically minded, and the 'rest', and a scarcity of resources and school buildings, meant that instead of common secondary schools there were instead selective Grammar Schools for an academic elite and Secondary Modern Schools for the rest. Technical Schools were rare. Admission to Grammar Schools was on the basis of passing a selective examination at 11 (the 11 Plus) and was free. The proportion passing varied from LEA to LEA depending on the number of available Grammar School places but averaged 20%. The examination was weighted to give an equal number of male and female passes - without weighting 70% of passes would have been by girls.

In some rural areas with scattered populations and in some urban areas where extensive bombing meant schools had to be rebuilt, Comprehensive Schools attended by all pupils were provided. In 1966 Anthony Crosland, the Minister in the first Labour Administration since 1951, issued a Circular (10/66) from his Department inviting LEAs to prepare plans for reorganising their secondary school provision on a comprehensive basis. This broad hint was later backed up by legislation and by the mid 70s (the policy was continued under the Conservative Government of 1970-74) most English and Welsh Secondary Schools were Comprehensives. Many of the non-Catholic Direct Grant Schools refused to abandon selectivity and left the state system to become private day schools.

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1996