As this essay will argue, the reforms during this period took radical and comprehensive changes characterised with optimism and progressivism, which despite revolutionising the educational system in Britain, failed to achieve the more important goals of democratising education.
The Education Act 1944, also known as the Butler Act, is landmark legislation in education reform, such that according to Giles, it was meant to provide a "drastic recasting of our educational system" (cited in Jones, 2002, p.15). Aside from the establishment of the Ministry of Education, creating in England and Wales the first government department dedicated to education, it also seeks to establish a free nationwide system of compulsory education through the introduction of a tripartite system of secondary education (Gillard, 2004). Hence, according to Williamson (1979), "[it] laid the basis for a system of free [education] for all and held out the promise of equality of opportunity in education irrespective of a child's social background" (cited in Megahed, 2004, online), where focus is placed on secondary education and creating a citizenry who can contribute to the nation's development.
Among its salient features include: expanding the schooling age of children, establishing a range of support services for students, creating provisions for voluntary schools, and requiring students to engage in religious acts and acts of worship, among others. As illustrated by its provisions, bulk of the Act's contents was aimed at reforming the administrative aspect of the educational system. As Gillard (2004) observes, except for the provision regarding religious worship, the Butler Act does not say much about the curriculum, such that it left the decision on the hands of the teachers. Thus, what the Act successfully achieved was creating a tripartite educational system involving the central government, to set the policies and provide resources; the Local Educational Authorities (LEA), to mediate between local schools and the central government; and the head teachers and other governing bodies at the school level to manage resources and set school policies (Gillard, 2004). Furthermore, it also divided secondary schools between the grammar schools, technical schools, and the new founded modern schools, each with its own admission requirements (Brauns and Steinmann, 1997).
After suffering from dire economic, political, and social conditions during the war, however, it was only logical for countries, including Britain, to embark on restoration programs that will restore both the political and economic strength of their nation. As a result, governments adopted social policies grounded on programs aimed at empowering its citizenry, such that according to Morrow and Jones (1999), capitalist societies, such as Britain were perceived as "[forms] of government in which the citizens [would] reach minimum levels of social welfare, including education, health, social security, employment, and housing" (cited in Megahed, 2004, online). Hence, under the leadership of the Labour Party, who won the general elections after the war, the Butler Act was implemented in an era where the welfare state was "the most important reform for raising the quality of working class life in the