Secondary education and the working class : Wigan 1920-1970
This study traces the development of educational provision for working class people in Wigan from 1920 until 1970. The main investigative tool of the study is oral evidence, gathered from interviewing a wide cross-section of people who attended different schools, triangulated against primary archive sources. The main theme of the study is that there was a clearly identified 'dual' and 'differentiated’ system of secondary provision for children in the town. For a small minority of pupils education was delivered in the selective grammar schools, who had access to a superior curriculum with clearly defined outcomes and qualifications. This was undertaken m establishments that were well equipped, and was delivered by teaching staff, who were all university graduates. And contrasts strongly with the lower status non-selective schools, which the majority of working class pupils attended, where the curriculum and ethos were constantly changed and experimented with, to address a growing concern regarding the attainment and progress of the pupils who attended these schools. The establishments that the non-selected pupils attended were poorly equipped, and pupils were taught by non-graduate teachers. The study will also highlight how this 'differentiated' and 'dual system' was maintained by the highly contentious 1l+selection process, reinforced through the social and financial restraints on working class families which pertained whenever the opportunity arose for their children to attend a selective school. In addition, the study reveals how pupils' experience of discipline was influenced by their gender and the status of the school they attended. The witness testimony and primary archive material reveal how the emergence of the welfare state, alongside the increased prosperity and affluence of working people after 1945, contrasted sharply with the abject poverty and hardships that working people experienced during the inter-war years. Nevertheless, despite the post war gains of the Welfare State, the secondary education system remained a mechanism of social differentiation and control. The consequences of this were made a profound impact on the experience, identity and life chances of working class people.