Education has been a cornerstone of British life for centuries, with hundreds of schools, colleges and universities, including some of the most renowned in the world. In the early modern period, charity schools and free secondary schools, open to children of any religious belief, became more widespread. In 1844, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, established the “Ragged School Union” to provide free education to indigent children. This was followed by Parliament voting on sums of money each year for the construction of schools for poor children in 1833, marking the first time the state was involved in education in England and Wales. In response to the Uniformity Act of 1662, religious dissidents created academies to educate students from dissenting families who did not wish to subscribe to the articles of the established Church of England.
The Protestant Reformation had a great impact on education and literacy in England, as it encouraged the reading of the Bible in English (the vernacular language). University College London was founded as the first secular school in England, open to students of all religions (or none), followed by King's College London; the two institutions formed the University of London. The skills that young people learn by studying Cultural Education subjects have helped ensure that the United Kingdom has cultivated a creative and cultural environment for many years. In addition to professional qualifications such as GNVQ and BTEC, numerous exams and grades have been taken in secondary education in England. This week, Culture at King's at King's College in London released a new consultation (pdf) on young people's access to the arts.
Deborah Bull is a dancer, writer and presenter, and director of cultural associations at King's College London. I concurred with the consensus against excessive centralization in English education, but I wanted to improve educational standards and avoid wasting public money on inefficient teaching, particularly in church schools. Greater attention to these areas, in addition to continuously focusing on participation through schools, could help address the persistent disparity in artistic participation between those with high levels of education and wealth and those who do not.