The Impact of the 1870, 1902 & 1918 Education Acts in the UK. Educations Acts of 1870, 1902, and 1918, and examines their complex interaction with the social and political concerns of the culture in which they emerged.
The British educational system was traditionally reserved for members of the social elite. In the middle ages, universities were largely the domain of ruling class boys, although a small number of boys of lower social classes were included. In the fifth century, some grammar schools offered to teach to the poor, but again, education was largely reserved for upper-class males. By the seventeenth century, schools had begun to resemble the modern system, but many people did not approve of educating the lower classes, fearing that it would “make the working poor discontented with their lot” (Chitty 2004, cited in Gillard), and education for the poor consisted largely of moral, rather than intellectual, teachings. The Industrial Revolution saw a great change in the national education system, as industry needed workers with more advanced reading skills. (Davin 1996) Even then, opposition to educating the poor was intense. Thus Tory MP Davies Giddy famously noted “giving education to the laboring classes of the poor … would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society has destined them.