The 1870 Education (Amendment) Act enabled local authorities to set up schools funded by the local rates taxation system. Schools were run by Boards but were not free: parents were required to pay about 2d (2 pence) a week for each child attending. Although in London the School Board introduced separate classrooms for each age group and a central hall for whole-school activities, teaching in the early Board schools was often poor. Classes were large, often comprising over 60 pupils.
In London up to a quarter of children failed to attend school. This was because their parents could not afford the fees, because the children were too weak or ill, or because they worked full-time to help support their families. In 1891, the government introduced free education for all children up to the age of 11. In 1899, the school-leaving age was raised to 12 years.
Education was intended to instil obedience, discipline and 'habits of cleanliness' into the lives of the poor. Regular attendance was rewarded with medals, certificates and prizes. But despite the efforts of the London School Board, full attendance was still not achieved, and at the beginning of the 20th century many London children continued to work full-time in a range of occupations including domestic service and street selling.
The 1902 Education Act transferred responsibility for elementary and secondary schooling from the London Schools Board to London's local authorities. As well as setting up new secondary and technical schools with increased provision for girls, the local authorities paid for 7,000 scholarships, accounting for the education of more than a third of all secondary students.
Local Education Authorities maintained school buildings, developed curriculums and attended to the welfare of children. In 1906, the Provision of School Meals Act introduced free school meals for the poorest pupils, but local authorities did not always fulfil this obligation. A report issued in the 1930s revealed a link between low-income, malnutrition and under-achievement in schools. This led to the passing of the School Milk Act in 1946 that provided all school children with a third of a pint of free milk each day.
The 1918 Education Act made attendance at school compulsory up to the age of 14 years. The act also introduced medical inspections, nursery schools and centres for pupils with special needs.
The 1944 Education Act raised the school-leaving age to 15 and provided free secondary schooling in three different types of schools: grammar, secondary modern and technical. Entry to these schools was based on the '11 plus' examination.
In 1951, the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate were replaced by the General Certificate of Education at Ordinary and Advanced levels in individual subjects.
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