University of Leicester
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Curriculum development under the School Board for London: Physical education.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 09:15 authored by Jonathan. May
The central government in this country, when establishing successively the Committee of the Privy Council on Education, the Education Department and the ad hoc School Boards, had no thought of becoming involved in the development of educational policy except in the "broadest sense. Indeed, throughout the lifetime of the Board of Education and Ministry of Education and even now under the Department of Education and Science, this has remained largely true despite the considerable powers of the Minister since 1944. Central government in education is concerned with overall matters of minimal provision, national co-ordination and financing, and the local government agencies are in most matters the policy making bodies. A great deal, therefore, depended upon the initiative of the School Boards, and later the local education authorities. At the outset, it was the School Board for London which was the largest and perhaps the most influential amongst the new education authorities. One of the many problems facing the School Board for London in 1870 was the development of an appropriate curriculum for its schools. In the event this was done in three phases, building the various subjects it seemed sensible to support, reacting to problems which arose which suggested too much pressure was being put on pupils, and the development of a balanced, co-ordinated curriculum. Within this we can detect the development of physical education. Accepted, in theory if not too often in practice by both the nation at large and the School Board for London, the subject that we would today classify as physical education usually took the form of military drill. National objectives in the matter were more concerned with national defence than education, but this was by no means generally true of educationists. Exercises, particularly of the Swedish variety, were added to drill largely upon the initiative of the School Board for London. In fact the programme of Swedish Gymnastics for girls and a choice of Swedish Gymnastics or English Combined Gymnastics for boys, which was decided upon by the London Board, became the basis of physical education in state schools throughout England and Wales for over a quarter of a century after the dissolution of the School Boards. Developments in Swimming, Gymnastics with apparatus and Games also took place during this period, and the School Board for London played a leading role. In the training of teachers in and of physical education and the establishing of an embryo inspectorate, publishing syllabuses and developing facilities the School Board for London was also significantly active. The School Board for London claimed that it established a firm foundation for a whole educational system which went far beyond its original brief to provide a sound and cheap system of elementary education, and that where it went, on the whole, others followed. It claimed that in the absence of a strong policy making central authority, it established many key traditions in education in this country. It suggested that this was true of the development of the curriculum of elementary schools. A consideration of the information available would seem to establish that this was in fact true where physical education was concerned.


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University of Leicester

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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