Chapter 3: Reflective Web Activities (RWA)

RWA3.1: Societal context of the first special schools

The National Archives has uploaded source materials related to the 1833 Factory Act.

What do you feel the material included here tells us about the economic and social context, and the way children were seen in society at the time when special education was first established?

RWA3.2: Developments in the education of blind children

The BBC 4 radio programme You and Yours broadcast a programme about the history of the Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool on 1th April 2004. If you are interested in why and how this was founded, and how it developed, click here for the transcript. You might also like to read the extract below from Royal School for the Blind (1814), which relates to how, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, poor blind individuals were viewed as objects of charity to be trained in ‘habits of industry’ so that they could earn their living and would not be a burden to those around him [sic].

An account of the School for the Indigent Blind, in St. George's-Fields, Surrey, p. viii, London: Philanthropic Society:

‘The object of the School for the Indigent Blind is to instruct persons of that description in a trade, by which they may be able to provide, either wholly, or in part, for their subsistence; an useful act of Charity, were no other good to result from their labour, than the relief afforded by it to their poor friends or relations, on whom the cost of maintaining them is frequently a heavy charge, but of which the benefits will appear far more important, when considered with refer­ence to the comfort of the Blind themselves, and to the effect which habits of industry must necessarily produce on their feelings and general character.-It is perhaps difficult to conceive any two situations in the infinite varieties of civilized life, more different from each other, in respect to happiness, than the condition of a blind person, with his faculties benumbed by sloth, and his spirits depressed by the consciousness of being a burthen to those about him, and that of the same individual engaged in constant employment, and feeling that he contributes, by his daily occupation, to the comforts of the family of which he forms a part.’

How far would you say that attitudes to those with sensory impairments have changed since that time?

RWA3.3: Understanding opposition to education for (almost) all

Educating other people’s children has not always been popular with everyone. The British Library offers a brief overview of the main points of the Forster Education Act and the issues that faced Forster in putting the Bill through parliament. Looking at this, you can get some idea of just how unpopular the idea of education for everyone’s children was with some people.

How do you react to this material?
If education for all was not entirely popular, how do you imagine some people might have reacted to educating children who experienced difficulties of various kinds?

RWA 3.4: Official attitudes towards those with difficulties in learning at the start of the twentieth century

It might be instructive to read the words of a commentator on the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act yourself so that you can judge for yourself what official attitudes towards those with difficulties in learning were at the start of the twentieth century. Whilst probably not quite within the living memory of many people, 1913 is not that long ago! This text can be accessed here. The discussions that took place in Parliament relating to the Mental Deficiency (Scotland) Act of 1913 were recorded in Hansard and can be found here.

How do you react to this material?

RWA3.5: Contribution of Sir Cyril Burt and controversies surrounding IQ testing

More information on how the profession of educational psychology developed through the twentieth century, Burt’s role, the controversies that surround IQ testing, the categorisation of children and its consequences, can be found in this 2017 article, ‘An evolving discipline: Exploring the origins of educational psychology, educational selection and special education’ (Hill, 2017). You may wish to refer back to this when you read the discussion of norm-referenced assessment in Chapter Four.

What, in your view, are the most important points to take from this article?

RWA3.6: Debates and controversies around selection in education
If you are interested in reading more about the 1944 Education Act, associated legislation, and the debates and conflicts that surround this, you may wish to read Chapter Five of Gillard’s Education in England: A Brief History (2011). If you are also interested in current debates around the tripartite system of education you can find a critique of the BBC’s coverage of this system here.You can also find the reflections of a teacher who worked in secondary modern schools here, printed in the education section of The Guardian newspaper of 11th February, 2013.

To what extent do you feel that a selective system is compatible with the concept of inclusion? What about, for example, dyslexic learners’ needs in relation to the selection examination? In the author’s view there is no straightforward answer to this. What do you think?

RWA3.7: Experience of failure, aged 11, and effect on future life chances

In this article in The Guardian newspaper on 4th May, 2017, the author discusses his criticisms of the tripartite system from his own personal, experience: what it felt like to fail the 11+ examination when his friends had passed, unequal numbers of grammar school places in different local authorities, teaching to the test in many schools, the potential effect of 11+ failure on future life chances, poor quality of the secondary modern school building and facilities, and so on. This article is, broadly, about the effects on individual learners of the application of a national testing system that results in the categorisation of children and access to what we might see as privileged education for some.

Many other people, of course, have benefitted from a grammar school education, but what is your own reaction to this article?