Flow of Ideas
School Fees, Local Education Authorities and the 1944 Education Act

Glenn Rikowski, London, 1st April 2006

A few weeks ago, I obtained a copy of the 1944 Education Act for a Masters student of mine who is exploring it for her Masters Dissertation. She was unable to get it in Northampton, and due to poor health could not travel to London. So I got it for her. When I got a copy I checked it out. I had never actually looked at this milestone Act in any detail before. In terms of its salience for what is happening today in the ‘satanic testing mills’ of England’s schools, it was more revealing than I could have figured. It is particularly pertinent to the situation regarding the charging of school fees in public sector schools.

Specifically, on school fees for public sector schools, it states:

“No fees shall be charged in respect of admission to any school maintained by a local education authority, or to any county college, or in respect of the education provided in any such school of college” (His Majesty’s Government, 1944, Section 61 (1), p.48).

That’s pretty clear then.

Now, the White Paper of October 25th 2005 (Her Majesty’s Government, 2005) sought to abolish local education authorities. Moreover, the White Paper advocated that all reference to ‘local education authorities’ should be removed from all previous legislation. Would this include the 1944 Education Act, one wonders? The 1944 Education Act makes it clear in the above quotation that schools maintained by local education authorities (LEAs) could not charge fees. But what if local education authorities are abolished, and the very concept and term are removed from all previous legislation? Does this not at least open the way to the possibility of fees being charged without prior legislation blocking the process?

Very clever: LEAs can’t charge fees, ergo: get rid of LEAs! New Labour’s flirting with ‘co-payment’ in schools (where the users of educational services pay part of the cost of the services) also takes on an added significance when the 1944 Education Act and the White Paper (Her Majesty’s Government, 2005) are read together. However, the Education and Inspections Bill (House of Commons, 2006) appears to maintain a role for LEAs. The maintenance of LEAs is essential if the prior legislation on no school fees for those schools maintained by LEAs is to have any legal force. When I read the White Paper on LEAs I was puzzled as to why there was such emphasis on erasing the term ‘local education authority’ from prior legislation. I could not see why they wanted to go to such lengths. Having read the 1944 Education Act I am puzzled no longer.

Of course, in 1993, further education colleges and sixth form colleges were ‘set free’ from LEA control. Thus: the 1944 Education Act’s stipulation that ‘county colleges’ maintained by LEAs could not charge fees lost its full force then in relation to the further education sector. Now, New Labour is free to manipulate the fees system in the further education sector as it sees fit. It might reduce or abolish some: such as in the recent Budget, where young people under 25 doing level 3 qualifications for university entrance will not be paying them – in order to boost the proportion going onto higher education. On the other hand, ‘recreational’ adult education services in further education colleges encounter fee hikes; as these courses are not deemed to be significant enough in terms of developing ‘human capital’ (labour-power) for the UK’s ‘knowledge economy’.

New Labour seeks to let the ‘laws’ of money and markets loose in all sectors of education, though in different ways: sometimes to aid labour-power development, at others to smooth the way for profit-making enterprises, or for raising funds from users (parents, students or employers).

Many important battles have already been lost (e.g. specialist schools, higher education fees), but the contradictions of the ‘system’ begin to assert themselves in ever more powerful forms. Yet New Labour cannot quell the multitude of forms of resistance that are building against these ‘laws’. Indeed, it does not even recognise or see some of these forms.


Her Majesty’s Government (2005) Higher Standards, Better Schools for All – More choice for parents and pupils, Cm 6677, Norwich: The Stationery Office. Online at: http://www.dfes.gov.uk

His Majesty’s Government (1944) Education Act, 1944, 7 & 8 Geo. 6. Ch. 31, 3rd August, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

House of Commons (2006) Education and Inspections Bill, Bill 134, 54/1, 28th February, London: The Stationery Office Limited. Available online: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmbills/134/2006134.pdf

© Copyright, Flow of Ideas, Ruth Rikowski and Glenn Rikowski. Website by [whiteLayer]
Call for Authors
Printer Friendly
Order by DateAlphabetical[Close menu]