University of Leicester
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The English higher grade schools - a reassessment.

posted on 2015-11-19, 09:16 authored by Meriel. Vlaeminke
The thesis focusses on the English higher grade schools of the later nineteenth century. It originated in a concern about the relevance of educational institutions to Britain's unique decline from world dominance to acute economic difficulties. The Introduction identifies the turn of the century as a time of gathering tensions in English public education, when the development of a popular and self-contained network of institutions was mounting a real challenge to the established system. The first Chapter surveys the common verdicts about higher grade schools --- a focus of those tensions --- in existing work; Chapter 2 identifies the characteristics of a 'typical' higher grade school --- locally conceived, offering a broad curriculum, and accessible to all social classes. The next two Chapters are a case study, tracing the optimistic development of higher grade schools in Bristol in the 1890s and then their battle for survival after 1902. Chapter 5 demonstrates that Bristol's experiences were duplicated in other parts of the country, as a secondary school system of a very different nature --- centrally controlled, attached to literary studies, and selective on the basis of cost --- was formulated. Amongst a number of unexpected findings was clear evidence that the egalitarian experience of girls in higher grade schools fits none of the existing interpretations of the history of women's education, a discovery which is explored in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 examines the educational principles which guided the resolution of tensions outlined in the Introduction, and finally the perspective broadens to reassess the higher grade school movement in the wider social, economic and cultural context. The conclusion reached is that the emergence of the higher grade schools represented an important example of a recurring alternative educational and cultural tradition in England. Their suppression constituted a major victory for traditional values, and a wasted opportunity of great and lasting significance.


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University of Leicester

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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