Education and Politics in Scotland, 1900-1930

Roberts, John Hywel (1990) Education and Politics in Scotland, 1900-1930. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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At the start of the twentieth century Scotland had a nation-wide network of publicly-controlled schools. Although these schools were managed locally, generally by elected boards, the educational system itself lay under the direction of central government, with authority exercised through the Committee of the Privy Council and the Scotch (later Scottish) Education Department (S. E. D. ). The aim of this investigation is to examine the system of education as it developed between 1900 and 1930, paying particular attention to political and cultural pressures while, at the same time, considering how these pressures influenced the processes of policy making and management, and shaped the character and quality of schooling. Much of the study is based upon a scrutiny of the records of the S. E. D. and the Treasury, parliamentary papers and debates, and archival material from the private papers of individuals; with additional data taken from autobiographical and other printed sources, contemporary both the period in question and more recent. The first chapter provides a brief survey of the main trends and characteristics in the Scottish environment up to the outbreak of the first world war. Between 1872 and 1914 some of the marked changes in that environment included a movement of population from rural to urban areas and a significant expansion in heavy industry. Nonetheless, it is suggested, the outward appearance of success disguised a spirit of conservatism which failed to respond to new discoveries in science and technology. Failure to tackle problems was also evident in the scale of social deprivation and bad housing. Education, however, was provided in a clearly-defined pattern of institutions, consisting of parish schools for the majority of children, burgh grammar schools and academies for a selected few. Throughout, emphasis was placed on meritocracy and scholastic achievement. All were part of a strong bureaucratic structure of educational management which, in essentials, had remained largely static since 1872. In Chapters 2 and 3 the political context within which this system of education operated until 1918 is outlined. Up to 1906, parliamentary control lay in the hands of the Unionists. Thereafter, despite controversy over legislation on social issues and a constitutional crisis, the Liberals remained in office until the advent of a coalition government in 1916. Dissension over questions about home rule, tariff and trade, land reform and a programme on welfare, together with the hesitant early growth of the Labour party, coloured the background against which education in Scotland was to develop. But this development was also determined by the personalities of the legislators at Westminster. Many shared similar educational backgrounds. Their career patterns were often interlocked; while their family ties and social environment reinforced their professional and business relationships. Following this general discussion in the first three chapters, the inquiry goes on to examine in detail a number of themes forming an integral part of any account of the relationship between education and politics in Scotland. In Chapter 4 it is argued that the partnership governing the conduct of Scottish public education depended upon the maintenance of an efficient administrative framework; a framework containing a reasonably equitable balance between the powers of the central authority and the responsibilities of local bodies. As analysed in Chapter 5, the key objective in the attacks on the existing pattern of administration and organization was a need to modernize the structure and replace the parish-based method of management with a more efficient one built upon a county or district base. The impact of the Treasury, it is noted in Chapter 6, was equally important. As noted in Chapter 7, boards and schools had often to exist on inadequate equipment and staffing. Comparisons with data used in the Conclusion reveal that such problems were not unique to the Highlands. Nonetheless, the degrees of the difficulty, especially in the counties of Inverness and Ross and Cromarty, were sufficient to provide a constant source of concern to local managers and centralized administrators alike. Chapter 9 surveys the main trends in Scottish educational development between 1918 and 1929.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Education history, Education policy
Date of Award: 1990
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1990-78171
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 15:38
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 15:38

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