If you want to dig deeper into the history of education in Britain, key archive collections are held at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick - including the archives of major trade unions (such as the National Union of Teachers), student organisations (such as the National Union of Students), pressure groups concerned with the reform of education (such as the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education), and the University of Warwick itself.
To find out more about some of the potentially relevent archive collections, try our list of archives that can be used to research the history of education.
For background information on using archives and visiting the Modern Records Centre, have a look at our advice for students.
A small number of documents, arranged by themes covered by the module Sociology of Education, are highlighted below.
= This symbol after a link means that it links to the catalogue entries for the documents (and not a digitised version). Catalogue entries include the reference numbers which will help you to order up the original items to read at the MRC.
The majority of documents referred to on this webpage are still in copyright. This limits what we can digitise and make available online. We would like to thank the National Union of Teachers and National Union of Students for allowing us to reproduce in-copyright material from their archives as part of this resource.
Links to 'ready-made' searches of the archive catalogue are also included below - these present you with a larger list of documents on certain key themes. All of these sources are available to order up and read at the Modern Records Centre.
The 1944 Education Act and post-war reconstruction:
'A plan for education', 1944
National Union of Teachers' pamphlet, addressed to parents, which outlines "the kind of education they want for their children and how to get it"
Council for Educational Advance leaflets on the 1944 Education Act:
The Council for Educational Advance was set up in 1942 by the Trades Union Congress, Co-operative Union Ltd., National Union of Teachers and Workers' Educational Association, to campaign for an Education Bill which would provide equal opportunities for education by removing financial and social barriers.
'The school-leaving age and educational opportunity' (part of the text is missing from the back of the leaflet)
Ministry of Education pamphlet, explaining the government's ideas for 'educational reconstruction' in schools. It includes an outline of the proposed differences between the three types of secondary schools - grammar, technical and modern - and an explanation of the selection process.
'Another year at school', c.1946
Poster published by the Bureau of Current Affairs, looking at the requirements of the 1944 Education Act and the present state of intrastructure.
Statement presented to the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) by the Workers' Educational Association. It includes comments on obsolete buildings, levels of illiteracy, and the role of education in society.
Illustrated Ministry of Education pamphlet on "the boldest investment in manpower, money and materials that any war-crippled nation has ever made". It includes information about the situation before 1944, an outline of the 1944 Education Act, and information about the different types of secondary education that will be available - including short chapters on grammar, modern and technical schools.
'Learning to live', 1947
Heavily illustrated 'citizen's' handbook from the Birmingham and District Council for Educational Advance, produced for the city's Education Week. It includes a simplified guide to the 1944 Education Act, looks at educational provision in Birmingham, and calls for agitation "in our cities and villages, our neighbourhoods, our streets, our homes" to ensure that the Act is enforced.
'Out of school', 1948
Illustrated report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) on the "natural interests and pursuits of school children out of school hours". It looks at recreation and facilities available for play, and the relationship of play with more formal areas of education. The appendix includes several case studies (a playground, play centre, children's flat and East London boys' club) and a summary of responses to a questionnaire on leisure sent to 4,000 children.
'Story of a school', 1949
Illustrated Ministry of Education pamphlet, describing "a headmaster's experiences with children aged seven to eleven". Taking inspiration from the 1944 White Paper on Educational Reconstruction ("the curriculum is too often cramped and distorted by over-emphasis on examination subjects and on ways and means of defeating the examiners"), the headmaster of a inner-city Birmingham school decided to focus on teaching through creative art, making "the three R's... a secondary consideration".
Illustrated Ministry of Education pamphlet written for parents, explaining the primary school system and ideas behind teaching.
A list of more documents on the 1944 Education Act is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Selective education and the eleven plus:
'The development of secondary education, with particular reference to the Secondary Modern school', 1956
Pamphlet which includes the text of a conference speech by Dr Elfed Thomas, Director of Education for the City of Leicester. He comments on the division of pupils by perceived ability, the role of secondary modern schools, the proposed raising of the school leaving age, and the local situation in Leicester. Problems referred to include pupils' "acute sense of their failure to qualify for grammar school admission and [depression caused] by the ill-concealed disappointment of their parents", unstable homelife, lack of belief in the value of the education provided, and female pupils' interest in sex.
'The education story', 1959
Illustrated pamphlet produced by the National Union of Teachers to create "an impression of life in school today", and provide "a better understanding of our schools and our educational system". It gives an idealised view of contemporary schooling in the fictional town of Clumton, with sections on the village school, nursery and infants' schools, the junior school, 'decision at eleven', the secondary modern school, the grammar school, and technical and further education.
'The average child', 1962
Evidence submitted by the National Union of Teachers to the Newsom Committee, on "the education of pupils between the ages of 13 and 16 of average or less than average ability".
'It wont rain roses', 1963
Pamphlet published by Goldsmiths' College Campaign for Education, and written by "angry" trainee teachers. It includes sections on the state of secondary modern schools, "the scandal of the eleven plus" and the school leaving age.
Third edition of "a factual report for the guidance of associations and members of the National Union of Teachers", written as "scarcely a week passes without some reference in the ... press to the proposals of some local authority to modify, or even abandon altogether, its eleven-plus procedures". The report includes sections on the provision and structure of secondary education since the 1944 Education Act. Appendices include a summary of 'Objections to the present system of allocation' (the 11-plus), and information about areas which are changing to the comprehensive system.
'Comprehensive education now', [c1970]
Leaflet issued by the Comprehensive Schools Committee, "a national organisation founded in 1965 to provide information about the changeover to a comprehensive secondary system".
'Why level down by making 3 out of 4 children failures at 11+ when we can level up by giving all our children equal educational opportunity in a comprehensive school?', [1970?]
Leaflet issued by the Comprehensive Schools Committee, setting out the arguments for comprehensive schools and against selection at 11.
'Stop the eleven plus', 
Leaflet issued by STEP (Stop the Eleven Plus), a Surrey campaign group. It sets out "the case for comprehensives".
Joint survey for the National Union of Teachers and Campaign for Comprehensive Education by Caroline Benn. It examines the "new bi-partite system", in which selective and comprehensive schools co-exist.
National Union of Teachers' response to the election of the Conservative government in 1979. It attacks the proposed "attempt to turn back the comprehensive clock... on the grounds that local education authorities should be 'free' to plan what education system they think fit", counters "the myth of the 'Golden Age'", and argues that "parental choice can only truly be exercised in the comprehensive system".
A list of more documents on selective education, including grammar schools, secondary modern schools and the eleven plus examination, is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Class and income:
'Education under social handicap', December 1964
Short government report issued by the Department of Education and Science. It looks at the role of "an unfavourable social environment" on children in education, and the effect of "handicaps arising in the home environment, and those arising at school".
Report of a national conference organised by the Council for Educational Advance "to consider the effect of social and other factors which limit educational opportunity".
'Education: A priority area', undated [early 1970s]
Illustrated article on "what it means to be a teacher in an Educational Priority Area" by Dr E.C. Midwinter, Project Director of the Liverpool Educational Priority Area Project. It looks at the work of teachers and the social background of pupils in an area of Liverpool undergoing slum clearance, as well as broader issues relating to the situation of 'EPA' teachers.
Report by the Education Working Party connected with the Paisley Community Development Project.
Report of an "action-research project" carried out for the Home Office Community Development Project in the Hillfields area of Coventry between 1971-4, by The Grubb Institute of Behavioural Studies.
'All their future', 1975
"A study of the problems of a group of school leavers in a disadvantaged area of Liverpool", produced by the Department of Social and Administrative Studies, Oxford University. The report was based on a survey of school leavers carried out as part of the Home Office Community Development Project in Vauxhall, Liverpool, between 1972-5.
National Union of Teachers' pamphlet. It contains a historical overview of the 'struggle for education 1833-1983' and was intended to "inspire our efforts to continue the struggle to achieve equal educational opportunity for all our children and to resist attempts to reverse the progress that has already been made". Sections on the 1944 Act, selection, comprehensive schools and positive discrimination are included.
A list of more documents relating to class and economic inequality in education is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Pamphlet from the National Association of Schoolmasters. It argues that "all boys over the age of eight should come under the predominating influence of a man", as "this policy is essential to the manly development of the boy".
Pamphlet from the National Association of Schoolmasters (NAS). It argues that girls should have female teachers and boys should have male teachers, due to "the scientific fact that there are typically masculine and feminine emotions, tastes, interests and aptitudes, even in young children". It also argues for the need for a male headmaster, on the grounds that "the service of men under headmistresses is repugnant in the extreme". The NAS was opposed to the National Union of Teachers, which it regarded as being "overwhelmingly feminine".
Report on a conference arranged by the Association of Assistant Mistresses, to debate the benefits and problems of co-educational (rather than single sex) schools. It includes references to the development of the comprehensive system, the curriculum (including facilities and staff for teaching of maths and science, and involvement of boys in domestic science), different physical and emotional rates of development amongst boys and girls, and extra-curricular activities.
Equal Opportunities Commission pamphlet written by Valerie Hannon. It provides advice to teachers on "increasing equality of opportunity between the sexes in schools" and "the development of non-sexist education" since the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act.
Pamphlet for the Women into Science and Engineering campaign, produced jointly by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and the Equal Opportunities Commission. It contains 11 letters from women taking industrial apprenticeships (e.g. dockyard fitter, electronic engineer, welder, electrician, etc.), aimed at encouraging young girls to consider a career in science or engineering.
Equal Opportunities Commission report on a project in the London Borough of Croydon "to evaluate guidelines for good practice in the IT curriculum". It attempted to address the issue, following the introduction of computers into schools, "that many girls have already turned their backs on the opportunities which information technology and the competent use of computer equipment offer, and that computer studies is dominated by boys". The report includes a section on attitudes to information technology (as well as maths and science) amongst Croydon girls and boys.
Pack issued by the National Union of Teachers. It includes sections on books and other resources, the school curriculum, gender divisions amongst teachers, the nature of the school environment, special education, single sex schools, sexual harassment, language, the media, careers' advice, and exams.
Joint report published by Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education) and the Equal Opportunities Commission. It looks at the comparative under-achievement of boys, the role of the National Curriculum, different attitudes to certain subjects amongst boys and girls, differences in personal and social development, and comparisons between single-sex and mixed schools.
Large report written by Madeleine Arnot, Miriam David and Gaby Weiner, and published by the Equal Opportunities Commission. The "research report considers educational reforms and gender equality in schools in England and Wales in the period 1984-1994", in particular "whether the various educational changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s have strengthened or interrupted previous trends and / or generated new trends towards greater gender equality".
'Educating for sex equality - Tackling gaps traps and stereotypes', undated [c2000]
Lesson plans on stereotypes, equal pay and work-life balance for secondary schools, produced by the Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland.
A list of more documents relating to aspects of gender in education is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Race and religion:
Short extracts from essays written by four white fifteen year old girls at a secondary school in London after "they were asked by their teacher to write frankly their opinions about the recent outbreak of racial violence" in Notting Hill. All express racist opinions, and three openly express hatred of "coloured people". The accompanying editorial includes references to the effects of local poverty, colonialism and a new "cult of youth" and Teddy Boy violence.
Outline of the policy of the National Union of Teachers on "the incorporation of immigrant children". It includes comments on teaching of English, discipline, "active colour prejudice" between children, and the debate over integration.
"Survey of the problem", including sections on "integration or assimilation", "the role of the school", "the health of the school child", and "teachers from overseas".
Pamphlet by Marina Maxwell on her experiences as a teacher in London. She comments angrily on the treatment of black and white working class pupils by the majority of teachers.
Article on education and race written by a Leicester teacher, published in the magazine 'Libertarian Education'. It includes a transcript of "a taped discussion between three 5th year [i.e. aged 15/16] Indian girls and a teacher about the problems of Indian young people growing up in England today". When you follow the link, look in the section on 'Race relations and the far-right' (you will need to sign in with your Warwick login).
'In black and white: Guidelines for teachers on racial stereotyping in textbooks and learning materials', 1979
National Union of Teachers' guidance, including a "checklist for using books for multi-ethnic education".
Published version of evidence submitted to the Swann Committee of Inquiry by the National Union of Teachers. The policy statement provides a summary of how the NUT thought that "the education of all pupils for life in a multiracial, multicultural society" could be best achieved.
Revised version of a pamphlet first published by the National Union of Teachers in 1981. It includes anti-racism policy statements made by the Borough of Haringey Education Service (1978), Beaufoy School (1982), and Holloway School (1981, produced in response to the discovery of a National Front leaflet in the school).
National Union of Teachers' leaflet, countering common arguments against "combating racism and meeting the need for multi-cultural education in school" (e.g. 'I'm not a racist', 'We haven't any black pupils', 'The parents don't want us to...', 'They ought to learn our ways', and 'We do projects on slavery').
National Union of Teachers' advice on "keeping alive anti-racist and multicultural approaches within the statutory framework of the National Curriculum".
Papers re 'How the West Indian Child is made Educationally Subnormal in the British Education System', by Bernard Coard, 1971 and 2005-6
Bernard Coard’s pamphlet was first published by the Caribbean Education and Community Workers’ Association in 1971. It was addressed directly to black parents and set out the “scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain”. These papers include a reprint of the original pamphlet, and 21st century papers on aspects of race and education (including 'Race, ethnicity and education under New Labour', by Sally Tomlinson, and 'It Takes a Nation of Millions (and a particular kind of education system) to Hold Us Back', by David Gillborn).
A list of more documents relating to aspects of race and religion in education is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Sex and sexuality:
Statement by the Executive of the National Union of Teachers. It advises teachers on how to provide pupils with information about sex through three possible methods - the direct (sex education), the indirect (nature study and biology), and the "artless" ("leaving appropriate books where they will be seen by boys and girls and allowing them to discover for themselves the information").
Article in the Warwick Boar, profiling the university's GaySoc and arguing "the importance of having a society for gay people in a modern university".
Guidance issued by the National Union of Teachers for its members. It includes comment on 'Section 28', the section of the 1988 Local Government Act which made "promotion" of homosexuality in schools illegal.
Guidance issued by the National Union of Teachers on supporting LGBT students and "tackling homophobia within the school environment".
National Union of Teachers' pamphlet, providing "advice for members on LGBT equality in education with guidance for school representatives".
A list of more documents relating to aspects of sex and sexuality in education is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Changing state: The 1988 Education Reform Act
Our holdings on the 1988 Education Reform Act include:
National Union of Teachers' leaflet, expressing concern that the proposed Bill will "be divisive and lessen opportunities for the majority of children", and "not take account of the needs of our multicultural society".
Open letter to both Houses of Parliament from the Council for Educational Advance (CEA), outlining their objections to the Bill. One of the signees of the letter was the CEA's President, the sociologist Richard Hoggart.
Pamphlet written by Professor Ted Wragg, published by the National Union of Teachers. It "looks at the ideology which underpins the Bill, in particular the principle of the free market in education, as well as the associated notions of competition, privatisation and efficiency".
Leaflet which "puts forward 25 good reasons why [teachers] should join the NUT's campaign to defend education".
National Union of Teachers' guide to the new legislation, including sections on the National Curriculum, open enrolment, local management of schools, and grant maintained schools.
National Union of Teachers' pamphlet. It argues that "education has been put in peril by the Government's decision to bring in the National Curriculum and Local Management of Schools without adequate provision of teachers, resources or time", and emphasises the increase in teachers' workloads. Quotes from teachers are included at the back.
Leaflet containing a joint statement made by five teachers' organisations. It opposes government plans to replace the system of Local Education Authority schools with Grant Maintained schools.
Commentary by the National Union of Teachers on proposals which they argue seek "to dismantle the education system founded on the 1944 Education Act", and cause teachers to "become de-professionalised at the altar of political ideology". The pamphlet contains sections on 'Key problems', 'What the White Paper leaves out' and 'Industrial relations and conditions of service implications', together with a summary of the White Paper.
A list of more documents on the 1988 Education Reform Act is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Teachers and teaching: changing practices, roles and identities
Text of speech by Sir Martin Roseveare, Senior Chief Inspector, Ministry of Education, to the National Union of Teachers' conference. He talks about the role of teachers and their changing relationship with pupils - from "mere purveyors of information and instruction" to "builders of character and guardians of culture", as part of "a highly skilled job making constant demands on judgment".
'School of the future', undated [c1966]
"Verbatum report of a two day conference organised by the National Union of Teachers to discuss teaching methods and equipment, trends in school organisation and design, and developments in all these fields in the next twenty years and the position of the teacher in regard to them". It includes an opening speech by the Secretary of State for Education Anthony Crosland, emphasising "the extraordinarily rapid pace of change in education today".
'Who are the teachers?', 1969
Pamphlet by Guardian Education Correspondent Richard Bourne, published by the National Union of Teachers. It looks at the responsibilities and role of teachers, and profiles four teachers (in a comprehensive, a junior school, a grammar school and a primary school).
'Teachers talking', [c1974]
Report produced by the National Union of Teachers for the Houghton Inquiry into teachers' pay. It summarises the results of a survey of teachers on the "increased demands made upon the teaching profession in terms of responsibility and time". The report includes sections on changing teaching methods, demands on teachers' time, pupil co-operation and behavioural problems, teachers' relationships with parents, and school administration and management.
Collection of essays by teachers connected with the Trotskyist rank and file movement, intended as a "counter-attack" as "ideas which formed the basis of 'progressive' educational thinking ten years ago are denounced as ultra-left extremism", whilst "the lunatic right-wing fringe... dominate[s] the stage". It includes sections on mixed ability teaching, examinations as a form of assessment, 'language, class and educational failure', and 'politics in schools - sociology is not enough'.
'Today's teacher', 1984
National Union of Teachers' pamphlet, setting out "the new developments in education which make additional demands on teachers' professional skills, expertise and time". It includes a summary of "the increasing demands on the teaching profession" and "the testimony of serving teachers" (through anonymised quotes).
National Union of Teachers' leaflet. It argues that the proposed legislation "threatens the security of every teacher" through school closures and increase in the power of school governors.
'A charter for professionalism: Issues for the future of the education service and the future of teachers', 1989
National Union of Teachers' pamphlet, which argues that teaching is "a profession under siege", due to changing status.
'Ready-made' searches of the MRC's catalogue are available for the following subjects:
- The changing roles and responsibilities of teachers
- Free schools and libertarian education
- School curriculum
The forces of privatisation: from 'New Labour' to the present
Booklet, setting out the National Union of Teachers' response to the government's proposed educational reforms, as set out in the Green Papers 'Meeting the challenge of change' and 'The best for teaching and learning'.
Leaflet in which "the NUT asks you to join the campaign against the privatisation of education", including a list of 'Reasons to say no to privatisation'.
National Union of Teachers pamphlet which asks "are commercial companies helping schools by providing them with new resources or exploiting them to obtain new customers?'.
National Union of Teachers' response to the government White Paper 'Higher standards: Better schools for all'. It includes a section on "the implications of 'Choice' and 'Diversity'", and argues that in practice the proposals would bring division and a growth in inequality.
Comparative review of the government White Paper 'Higher standards: Better schools for all', the Education and Inspections Bill, and the National Union of Teachers' statement 'Bringing down the barriers' by Professor Peter Mortimore, former Director of the Institute of Education.
National Union of Teachers' leaflet, containing the text of a composite motion on the Education and Inspections Bill. It attacks what is viewed as "a market approach" to schooling, which would increase segregation and produce "a group of unwanted children" - "those who will depress a school's test results and league table position".
Pamphlet which sets out the National Union of Teachers' opposition to the government's academies initiative.
A list of more documents on subjects relating to 'the forces of privatisation' is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
The making and shaping of Higher Education
Our holdings on the post-1944 development of Higher Education include:
Report prepared by the National Union of Students, including sections on the function of universities, entrance, curriculum, methods of teaching, relations between staff and students, student life, and graduate employment.
'Higher education - the future', c.1963
Statement by the National Union of Students on the 1963 Robbins Committee report. It includes comments on the "democratisation of Higher Education", academic freedom, the types of new institutions to be developed, the role of government and "student matters" (including funding).
The annual prospectuses and handbooks contain information about the courses offered by university departments, and can include basic data about the development of the university. These have been digitised and are searchable by keywords.
Recordings of more than 200 oral history interviews recorded to mark the University of Warwick's 50th anniversary. Those interviewed include former students, staff (academic and non-academic), and senior administrators. The database is searchable by keywords.
'No to loans', 1967
In 1965 a fierce debate on the subject of student loans was triggered by the Department of Education and Science asking educational organisations for their views on student support. This National Union of Students pamphlet opposes loans by countering some of the arguments which had been put forward in their support (including the ideas that "public money is wasted by educating women" and that grants are a "middle class subsidy").
'Expansion of Higher Education 1970/1980', October 1970
National Union of Students report, including criticism of the current "binary" system, and comments on the proposed scale of expansion, current social composition of students and 'new' universities of the 1960s (including Warwick).
Critique of the University of Warwick by the historian (and soon to be ex-Warwick lecturer) E.P. Thompson. It was written after students had occupied the administrative building and found files which recorded surveillance by the university and local businesses of academic staff and students deemed to be 'subversive'. The short book criticises what Thompson believed to be the growing influence of commercial interests on education. Copies of this book are also available in the university library.
'Opportunity lost', 1989
80 page report on the National Union of Students' "survey of the intentions and attitudes of young people as affected by the proposed system of student loans". It attempted to analyse the extent to which potential students might be put off by the introduction of loans, and includes breakdowns of data by class and gender. An appendix includes data from a smaller survey on "the intentions of ethnic minorities".
A list of more documents on the development of Higher Education is available through this 'ready-made' search of the MRC's catalogue.
Student roles and identities in Higher Education
'This is your union', c1963
27 minute film, promoting the work of the National Union of Students. It features the national conference and other meetings, a ski-ing holiday, dramatic productions, journalism training, a debating tournament, a summer farm camp, Graduate Service Overseas and discounts for members on goods and services.
Recordings of more than 200 oral history interviews recorded to mark the University of Warwick's 50th anniversary. Those interviewed include former students, staff (academic and non-academic), and administrators. The database is searchable by keywords.
Student newspapers can include debate on social, political and educational issues, campus politics, reviews and more. So far we have digitised the first 20 years of the University of Warwick's student newspapers - more are gradually being added.
Draft pamphlet intended to "gather together the philosophy of the National Union of Students with regard to the rights and responsibilities of students". It includes sections on 'The student in society', academic affairs, student unions, student living conditions and international affairs.
National Union of Students statement on "the case for student participation in college government, the student's right of a fair hearing in disciplinary matters and the student's right of free association".
'On campus', 1970
25 minute film on the lives of University of Warwick students. It begins with the caption "The sixth former entering university often has difficulty in adjusting to a new academic and social life – students at the University of Warwick who have experienced the same problem decided to make this film to help".
'Student life', c1972
33 minute film produced by the National Union of Students. It focuses on protests against the Conservative government's proposal in 1970 to appoint a registrar for students' unions and to restrict their activities.
The more explicitly political role of the NUS can be seen in this introductory pamphlet given to students. It includes information about the union's campaigns, including protests against government proposals on the financing of student unions and trade unions, environmental pollution, internment in Northern Ireland, apartheid in South Africa and the Vietnam War.
Introductory pamphlet given to students. It includes a chapter on the 'no platform' debate ('NUS and the racialists'), and sections on the NUS's policy on women ('If you don't look they'll go away') and homosexuals ('The right to an identity').
Pamphlet "based on the experiences of ideas in education for Sussex", and published by Know Future / the Student Community Action Resource Project. Its stated aim is to create "an alternative society... - a society based on caring not cash, on need rather than greed". It includes sections on universities, privilege and class; 'what's worth learning'; and how to criticise the teachers and set up a 'de-schooling' counter course run by students.
Journal / magazine produced by the University of Warwick Women's Journal Society. All six issues have been digitised.
'NUS Student Charter', c1992
The charter outlines 10 rights that students should have, including the rights to representation, finance for study, accomodation, access, good teaching, and to complaint and appeal.