Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: December 22, 2019
Webpage updated: April 03, 2021

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On Thursday December 18th 1902 Royal Assent was given to a new Education Act that abolished the School Boards and transferred their schools, and those of the religious organisations, to the County and County Borough Councils.   This meant that the cost of providing education was now chargeable to the local "rates".  

The Act gave these new Local Education Authorities (LEAs) powers to establish new secondary and technical schools in addition to the existing elementary ones, for which the County Borough Councils were able to charge an extra two pence in the pound on the rates.  This was supplemented, it seems, by monies collected under the Customs and Excise Act 1890, commonly called "whiskey money".

By providing that every school was governed by a body of managers, this Act took away the election of local school boards and the ability of local nonconformist churchmen (and women) to influence local education, as they had done under the previous system.  This became a major political issue throughout the country and was one of the main reasons that the Conservatives lost the 1906 General Election to the Liberal Party.  In the case of the former Board schools, known as "Provided Schools", two-thirds of the managers were to be appointed by the local authority and in the case of the former Church, or "Non-provided Schools", one-third of the members were to be Council appointed.

The Local Education Authority was responsible for both the provision and maintenance of "Provided" schools but in the case of the "Non-Provided" ones it was the managers who took that responsibility.  They were also required to make alterations and improvements as reasonably required by the Authority.  However, the LEA had to make good all fair wear and tear.

Interestingly, the new Act made liaison with the Police more useful as they were now empowered to report the names of children found in the streets when they should have been at school.

This Act also put the previously voluntary church schools under Government control by providing them with funding but the responsibility of the various churches involved was limited to providing religious education: the LEA was responsible for all general education.

Prior to the coming into force of the new Act the block grant paid to schools by the Board of Education had been paid annually at the end of each school's individual financial year.  From 1903 it was was to paid quarterly.  This was not serious for former Board schools, where the financial year was the same as that for the local authority, but for the former voluntary schools, where the financial years differed considerably, the new system was going to leave the Local Education Authority with a financial shortfall during the first year of operation.  In Plymouth alone the shortfall was expected to be 2,300, equal to 1d on the rates.   

In that same year the Provision of School Meals Act was passed but there is no information at present as to what extent this was acted upon in the Three Towns.  The response is thought to have been very low.

Although it was possible for local councils to adopt the new Education Act as from Friday May 1st 1903, Devonport did not take it up until Monday June 1st 1903.  The new Education Committee consisted of twenty-seven members elected from Devonport Council and ten co-opted from elsewhere.  Alderman W Littleton was appointed the Chairman.  They appointed Mr William H Crang as the secretary of the Committee and Director of Education for the Borough.  The Committee also appointed members of the committee to be school managers.  By the end of 1903, Devonport could boast 19 schools, over 400 teachers and some 13,000 pupils.

The Schools for which the Local Education Authority became responsible were: Devonport Municipal Science, Art and Technical School; Keppel Place Higher Elementary School; Cornwall Street Elementary School; Ford Elementary School; Johnston Terrace Elementary School; Montpelier Elementary School; Morice Town Elementary School; Saint Budeaux Foundation Church of England Junior School; Saint James the Great Church of England Elementary School; Saint John Street Church of England Elementary School; Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Elementary School; Saint Mary's Church of England Elementary School; Saint Stephen's Church of England Elementary School; Stoke or Somerset Place Elementary School; Stuart Road Elementary School; Victoria Road Elementary School; York Street Elementary School; and Exmouth House Special School.

Between 1903 and 1914 the Devonport Local Education Authority opened, or became responsible for, the following new schools:

Ker Street Elementary School 1904

Devonport High School for Boys
Purchased 1906

Weston Mill Temporary Infants' School 1906
(formerly Sir John Jackson's School)

Paradise Road Elementary School 1907

Paradise Road Special Instruction School 1907
(Formerly Exmouth House Special School)

Keyham Barton Roman Catholic Elementary School 1907
(formerly the Keyham Barton Roman Catholic Senior Mixed, Junior Mixed and Infants' School)

Devonport Municipal Secondary School for Girls 1908
(soon renamed the Devonport Secondary School for Girls)

King Street Elementary School
(formerly the Royal Naval and Military Free Schools)
Transferred by its Trustees 1910

Camel's Head Elementary School 1912
New build.

Keyham College Road Elementary School 1914
New build.

Following the amalgamation of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport in 1914, the Plymouth Local Education Authority took over the responsibility for the schools in Devonport and East Stonehouse.