The immediate post-war Labour government introduced many social reforms under the guise of the Welfare State and nationalisation. But steps to reform the education system had already been taken in the Second World War.
Conservative politician RA Butler was appointed by Winston Churchill to be President of the Board of Education, widely considered to be a backwater during wartime. Yet Butler proved to be one of the most radical reforming ministers on the home front, managing to shake up the education system with the Education Act of 1944.
While this was often referred to as the Butler Education Act, it was in fact the Labour Government that introduced the reforms. In 1945 as the country moved into a more peaceful state the most pressing educational needs were to provide 70,000 new teachers, 600,000 new school places and replace or repair the five thousand destroyed or damaged schools.
Country houses and military camps were rapidly adapted as emergency training colleges for teachers. By 1951 these colleges had produced 35,000 teachers by means of a 12-month crash course. In April 1947 the education system was placed under additional pressures. Following the decision to raise school leaving age by one year to 15, an additional 168,000 pupils had to be housed. This happened largely through the ‘Hutting Operation for the Raising of School-leaving Age’ (HORSA) programme.
The investment into education during this period led to 928 new primary schools being built between 1945-50. This led to around 7,000 HORSA classrooms – some of which are still used even to this day.