Education, Welfare Policy and working-class children: A study of Preston, 1919 to 1939.

Hughes, David (2002) Education, Welfare Policy and working-class children: A study of Preston, 1919 to 1939. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Education, Welfare Policy and working-class children:
A study of Preston. 1919 to 1939.

By the first decade of the 20th centuzy, over thirty years of progressive reform since the 1870 Education Act had demonstrated the need for a system of welfare provision that would ensure working-class schoolchildren were sufficiently healthy to benefit from their education. There were also national security fears associated with the poor standard of fitness of many potential recruits for military service in the Boer War. Arising from these concerns the 1906 and 1907 Education Acts introduced school meals and the school medical service. These Acts were significantly reinforced by the 1918 (Fisher) Act, which also sought to expand working-class education. Although the provision of services developed considerably between 1919 and 1939 there has been recent criticism of the permissive nature of much of the legislation and the associated manipulations of the Board of Education. It has been claimed by historians that these resulted in varying local levels of provision and a 'convenient' emphasis on less expensive aspects of the services provided, to the detriment of more important considerations.
Further to this, in his 1997 critique of the implementation of education welfare policies Welshman has suggested that there has been insufficient local research into the subject.
The purpose of this thesis, therefore, has been to provide a local dimension to the research and also to put this in a wider context by associating it with the expansion of education. The thesis seeks to test the criticisms by investigating how the county borough of Preston fared in fulfilling its responsibilities to its working-class schoolchildren through the period.
Account has been taken of existing interpretations of the application of national policies.
Preston's experiences and performance have been examined and evaluated to determine the extent to which they conformed to these interpretations, or were at variance with
them. The thesis concludes that whilst the criticisms of the legislation and a manipulative Board of Education are generally borne out, the particularly difficult economic circumstances and the social issues were the greater fundamental constraints.
Preston took advantage of the flexibility offered by the legislation and the Board to achieve objectives that did not necessarily conform to the policy norms. In that respect, its working-class schoolchildren received a higher level of welfare provision than those in many other areas. However, its adequacy to wholly meet the problem of education disadvantage for many of those in the service remained an elusive target.

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