Michael Howard (Llanelli), John Humphrys (Cardiff), Dylan Thomas (Swansea), Anthony Hopkins (Cowbridge)... all great Welshmen helped on their way by grammar school education. It is little wonder that the Welsh Conservatives have started a debate about how academic selection might help to raise standards in state schools. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the ‘Butler’ Act of 1944, it is an opportune moment to take stock.
The 1944 Act was introduced by a Tory Secretary of State, but under a National Government with all-party support. As Labour’s spokesman John Parker said when the bill was introduced: “We welcome the intention to make secondary education available to the whole people and we think it right and proper that a Bill which will give secondary education to the whole people should be brought in by an all party National Government. We are particularly pleased to see the Tories accepting progressive ideas and I welcome the fact that the two main parties are collaborating in trying to pass this Bill as law. In all our big educational advances there has been a sharing of ideas.” (Hansard 19 January 1944).