The criteria of formation of Statement Two

Here we consider the circumstances of the formation of Statement Two; explore the authorship and authorial standing of the report in which Statement Two is located; consider the positioning of the statement within the report, and ascertain the rules that have governed the production of the statement.

Circumstances of production

Labor won a landslide general election victory under Clement Atlee’s leadership in July 1945, only three months after many of the provisions of the 1944 Act came into force. Atlee appointed Ellen Wilkinson as Minister of Education, the first woman to hold this office. Her main task was to continue with the implementation of the 1944 Act; but progress was slow. The Post-war financial situation was extremely tight, and the government was criticized for being sluggish in building the necessary new primary and secondary school buildings and for making significant cuts to educational budgets in favour of increasing investment in arms in the face of the developing Cold War.10 Local education authorities shouldered the bulk of the work, being barraged with circulars and instructions from the Ministry.11

The Conservative Party, under an aging and ailing Churchill, returned to power in 1951. George VI had died in 1952 and Queen Elizabeth acceded to the throne, her coronation in 1953 being seen by 27 million people across the world. The Festival of Britain (1951) was designed to celebrate the success of the British nation, both in the recently ended hostilities and more generally in terms of innovation and a hopeful future.12 An new Elizabethan period began, with a more consumerist mind-set, and with it an increased demand for better-paid employment. By the early 1950s, the post-war ‘baby-boomers’ were of school age and both pupil and teacher numbers increased significantly.13 However, parents were expressing dissatisfaction with the Tripartite system of Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools, and Rab Butler (now Chancellor of the Exchequer) hadfurther cut funding to education such that it was being outspent seven times over by arms.14 The marginalization of education was further demonstrated in that when Florence Horsbrugh was appointed Minister of Education in 1951, Churchill denied her a place in Cabinet.15 This then, was the context in which the 1954 ICE report was produced.

The Institute of Christian Education (ICE) study and research committee

The Institute of Christian Education was formed in 1935 from a combination of groupings that each emerged from a scries of conferences and meetings in the early 1930s. The ‘Association for Teachers of Religious Knowledge’ (ATORK, a professional and technical body aiming for a status comparable with other teacher associations) developed in parallel to the ‘Christian Education Group (Provisional) for the Consideration of Problems affecting Christian Education in our time at Home and Overseas’, which was formed under the leadership of William Temple (then Archbishop of York).16 Delegates at a joint conference in Derbyshire in 1934 resolved to bring the groups together by forming the ICE.17 Initially, membership grew from 1335 in 1936 to nearly 2000 by 1939 and a decade later it had grown to become ‘a body some three thousand teachers and Biblical scholars’.18 A similar number of members was reported in 1954, perhaps suggesting a lack of any significant growth in the decade following the 1944 Education Act.19 Whilst the ICE, as the first professional teacher association for teachers of religion, was set up to ‘help’ and support teachers, it was controlled and driven by ecclesiastical protagonists.20 For example, William Temple gave the address at inaugural council meeting of ICE on 30 June 1936.21

Basil Yeaxlee, who had been Principal of Westhill College from 1930 to 1935, was a key figure in the development of ICE, being involved in the organization of the 1931 conference from which it originated.22 Yeaxlee was the first editor of Religion in Education (1934-1957), a member of the ICE Council and the Research and Study Committee, and he firmly held the belief that ‘no education is adequate without the living encounter with God and the response of personal faith’.23 He emphasized the degree to which ICE was ‘ecumenically-influenced’ and described the way in which it focused on ‘the nature of religious education, promoted Bible study which was spiritually and critically informed, and attempted to increase the resources and improve the methods of RI teaching in schools’.24 Looking back on this period a little later, Yeaxlee claimed that the ‘Institute has won the confidence of local education authorities, colleges, schools and other corporate bodies which turn to it for advice and practical help in their ordinary work or special undertakings’, concluding that the Institute ‘has come to be regarded as the natural body to be consulted about almost any aspect of thought and action within its accepted province’.25

One of the reasons for this positioning of ICE as influential was the publication of its professional journal Religion in Education.16 But even more

Making little Christians 53 so, the advice and support it offered to teachers by its Study and Research Committee through their publications, including a series of pamphlets on religious education for pupils aged 7-11 and 11-16.27 The BCCED, for example, also considered the work of the ICE’s Study and Research Committee both valuable and informative, deferring to it in their own deliberations on the inadequacy of agreed syllabus content; they considered it ‘advisable to study the material gathered by the ICE Research Committee in order to consider what action arises therefrom.’28

The Study and Research Committee was one of a number of standing committees formed immediately after the establishment of ICE. The remit of the Committee was focused on.

study and research on the fundamental problems of Christian education and on the relations of the church, state, and community in education. Systematic help is also needed for all who are responsible in any way for inspiring, directing and training youth in harmony with the Christian philosophy of life.29

The first meeting of the Committee took place in June 1936 at which the members agreed that the issue of the nature and content of syllabuses for use in secondary schools was ‘a practical and pressing question with which the Institute should immediately concern itself.’30 Over the subsequent few years, most of the Committee’s regular meetings were taken up with the discussion of papers produced by members of the group and a significant amount of energy was expended on attempting to devise and agree upon a ‘Christian Philosophy of Education’.31

By the late 1930s, the emphasis had shifted considerably, and the main object of discussion was ‘Christian education in the light of present day forces’; in particular the Council (of ICE) was ‘setting out to discover whether it could find a practical Christian alternative to the various non-Christian programmes such as Communism and Nazism, which have such an attraction for ardent youth at the present time’.32 One of the outputs from this period was the production, in 1939, of a paper outlining ‘suggested subjects for inclusion in a book on how to teach religion in public and secondary schools’, which included chapters on ‘The Place of Religion in Education’ (in which the questions ‘Can it be taught?’ and ‘Is Religion the unifying factor in education?’ were posed), and ‘The Syllabus’ (in which it was asked ‘Is Christian propaganda permissible in a rate-aided school?’).33 Only one further meeting took place before the outbreak of war, and there the discussion focused on how the ‘Scripture’ chapter of the 1938 Spens report could be made more widely known.

The next meeting of the Committee took place in December 1945 and, understandably, the main order of business was a review of the repercussions of the 1944 Education Act. One question considered in some detail was, ‘How can the courses laid down in the Agreed Syllabuses be made to have a vital connection with the religious development of the child?’

on the basis that ‘at present the spiritual application of the lessons seems often to be neglected’. A further discussion centred around the topic of how to ‘secure support of parents, and continuity in Christian teaching given at school when the pupil leaves’.34 These foci, together with involvement of Yeaxlee, with his specific emphasis on encouraging a personal faith response in RE, perhaps reveal something of the ideology of the group and contribute to the circumstances in which the content of the report became possible.

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