Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: December 24, 2019
Webpage updated: April 08, 2021




On Thursday December 18thth 1902 the 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 the Act did not stipulate an "appointed date" for the commencement of the Local Education Authorities, it seems that the Board of Education had April 1st 1903 in mind.  However, things did not go according to plan.  The Board of Education could not give formal approval to Plymouth Borough Council's scheme for education in its area until after the last meeting of the Plymouth School Board had been held on Thursday March 27th 1903.  A further delay of fourteen days had to be allowed that took it past April 1st.  The Board of Education therefore wrote to Plymouth Borough Council asking them to request the Plymouth School Board to remain in place between March 27th and April 30th 1903.  Although Plymouth had already chosen its Education Committee, the Plymouth Local Education Authority did not officially come in to existence until Friday May 1st 1903, which was once month ahead of the Devonport LEA.

Mr Ernest Chandler Cook (1866-1946), the secretary of the Plymouth School Board, was appointed to the same position in the Local Education Authority.  Mr Thomas W Byfield was Assistant Secretary for Higher Education; Mr George W Wherry, Assistant Secretary for Elementary Education; and Mr John Donnelly the Superintendent Attendance Officer.  The Authority's Medical Officer was Mr Thomas P Puddicombe MRCS Eng., LRCP Lond., DPH Lond.

The Schools which now came under the control of the LEA were: Municipal Science, Art and Technical School; Corporation Grammar School; Plymouth Navigation School; Regent Street Technical Day School; Regent Street Advanced Commercial Evening School; Regent Street Intermediate Secondary School; Castle Street Elementary School; Cattedown Road Elementary School; Charles Boys School; Compton Elementary School; Grey Coat Junior school; Holy Cross Roman Catholic Elementary School; Holy Trinity Church of England Elementary School; Household of Faith Girls' School; Hyde Park Road Elementary School; King Street Elementary School; Laira Green Junior Mixed and Infants' Elementary School; Mount Street Elementary School; Oxford Street Elementary School; Palace Court Elementary School; Prince Rock Elementary School; Public Elementary School; Saint Andrew's Church of England Elementary School; Saint Boniface Roman Catholic Elementary School; Saint Catharine's Church of England Elementary School; Saint James the Less Church of England Elementary School; Saint John's Church of England Elementary School; Saint Peter's Church of England Elementary School; Salisbury Road Elementary School; Special Instruction School; Sutton Road Elementary School; Treville Street Elementary School; Union Street Elementary School; Wolsdon Street Elementary School; and the Deaf School (Mixed).

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.