1. Why use this guide?
Use this guide to find policy and administration records for technical colleges and further education between 1836 and 1997.
These records cover the establishment, development and management of technical and further education institutions, and government policy relating to technical and further education in general.
We do not hold personnel records for teachers or personal files on pupils. Read Teachers and pupils for further guidance.
2. Essential information
In 1836 a government grant was obtained to create the first school of design.
During the 19th century the development of technical education was largely instigated by the Science and Art Department of the Board of Trade (formed in 1853).
In 1856 the Science and Art Department transferred to the Education Department.
The Science and Art Department was responsible for administering grant-aid to art schools (from 1856) and to schools of design and technical schools (from 1868).
The Technical Instruction Act 1889 permitted local authorities to levy rates to aid technical or manual instruction. County and borough councils began to provide technical instruction by day and evening classes.
The Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Act 1890 diverted 'whisky money' from publicans to local authorities for assisting technical education or relieving rates, boosting investment in technical instruction.
By the end of the 19th century continuing education was provided by a variety of bodies in a number of forms:
- day continuation schools Day schools for adults and young adults, mostly in urban areas.
- evening schools and classes
- mechanics institutes
- schools of art
- university extension lectures
- tutorial classes
- Working men's colleges and courses
Under the 1902 Act changes to conditions attached to government grants encouraged the expansion of technical education. Local Education Authorities (LEAs) took over most of the evening continuation schools.
Major changes occurred after the Second World War. Junior technical schools Day schools providing courses for boys and girls for two or three years after public elementary school, continuing their general education and preparing them for industrial employment., commercial schools and schools of art were fully integrated into the revised system of secondary education.
3. General search tips
Use the advanced search in Discovery, our catalogue, to search within department code ED (Department of Education), where most records for technical and further education are kept. Use keywords, such as:
- school name
- type of technical education
- name of committee
Refine your initial search results by date. Use our catalogue to 'browse by reference' through document descriptions in the relevant series and identify document referencesA unique set of letters and numbers identifying a document in The National Archives..
Not all relevant records are searchable by the named examples above. There are more specific record series A grouping of records held by The National Archives, based on common function or subject. with information on technical and further education, many of which appear throughout this guide.
Read our catalogue search help for more guidance.
4. The Science and Art department and 19th century developments
Browse our catalogue for:
- surviving correspondence between the Board of Trade and schools of design in BT 1. Browse by date
- the minutes of meetings of the Science and Art Department (1852-1876) in ED 28
- files relating to the Royal College of Art. Browse by hierarchy from ED 23/16, with later material (post 1944) in ED 167
- building grant files in ED 29
- correspondence and papers relating to art and science buildings in WORK 17, with plans in WORK 33
Technical education was considered by several Royal Commissions in the latter part of the 19th century. For full details search the Parliamentary Papers for papers of the:
- Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science (Devonshire Commission, appointed 1870)
- Royal Commission on Technical Instruction (Samuelson Commission) which reported in 1884
The bulk of the papers relating to the provisions stemming from the Technical Instruction Act 1889 have been destroyed. Browse surviving files in ED 46.
5. Practical instruction courses
Payment of a special grant for practical instruction in domestic subjects was first authorised under the Code of Regulations for Elementary Schools in 1875. This led to similar arrangements for other practical subjects.
New provisions were introduced in 1906 awarding grants for each course of instruction.
Browse papers relating to the provision of these courses in:
6. Trade Schools and vocational courses
The need for preliminary technical education for young people going into particular trades had been accepted from the end of the 19th century.
Trade Schools A type of school which provides technical courses related to trade for boys and girls for two or three years after leaving public elementary schools. provided technical courses for two or three years after children left public elementary schools.
Use our catalogue to search by name of school within:
- ED 98 for Junior Technical Schools Day schools providing courses for boys and girls for two or three years after public elementary school, continuing their general education and preparing them for industrial employment.
- ED 82 for Technical Schools, which provided day or evening classes or part-time or full-time vocational courses
Between 1920 and 1987 Joint Committees oversaw the curricula and the award of National Certificates and Diplomas in vocational subjects. Committee members were drawn from technical colleges, professional bodies, the Board of Education and its successors and teachers' organisations.
Browse minutes and papers of the Joint Committees in ED 182.
In 1967 the Haslegrave Committee was appointed to review this system.
- ED 46/917 for the proposal to set up the Haslegrave Committee
- ED 163 for the committee's minutes, papers and evidence
- ED 163/35 contains a copy of the report with comments and implementation files in ED 212/52-55 and ED 212/117-119
In 1973, following the Haslegrave Committee recommendations, responsibility passed to the Technician Education and Business Education Councils and the Joint Committees gradually disbanded.
7. Technical colleges
Higher technical education involving prolonged courses of study was encouraged by the provision of a fixed annual grant to technical institutions.
You can search our catalogue by college name within ED 90 for the work and organisation of technical colleges.
ED 90 also contains information on Grouped Course Certificates, a scheme initiated in 1907-1908 and on applications for approval of National Certificate courses.
Browse ED 182 for the records of Joint Committees which administered National Certificate and National Diploma courses until the 1980s.
8. Evening institutes
The merging of evening continuation and evening technical school provision after 1902 resulted in LEAs and other managing bodies providing:
- part-time day and evening courses, including day continuation classes
- courses at works schools and elsewhere in a variety of vocational, domestic, art and general subjects
After 1926 they became known as evening institutes. Search by name of institute within ED 41 for their files. Few papers survive prior to 1918.
9. Day continuation schools
The 1918 and 1921 Education Acts provided for compulsory part-time attendance at day continuation schools by school-leavers between 14 and 18.
The system only ever came into partial operation and attendance reverted to the voluntary system.
You can search by name of school in ED 75 for:
- information on the provision, organisation and curriculum of the schools
- correspondence and minutes on various local arrangements
10. Tutorial classes
Tutorial classes developed as part of a movement to expand facilities for adult education, fusing the interests of the Workers' Educational Association and the University of Oxford.
The classes were recognised by the Board of Education in Regulations of 1908/1909 and grant-aided.
- ED 73 for files on adult education tutorial classes, including material on university extension courses and lectures (note papers relating to recognition before 1924 have been destroyed)
- ED 76 for files on adult education vacation courses. These were designed as short residential courses of one or two weeks, provided by 'Responsible Bodies' and subject to the same regulations and conditions as tutorial classes.
- surviving Adult Education Residential College files in ED 68 (few survive before 1930)
- policy files on adult education in ED 80
11. Other technical colleges
Papers of other colleges in the technical field are in:
12. Inspectors' reports
Browse ED 114 for HM Inspectors' (HMI) reports on further educational establishments.
HMI reports on technical schools are also within files of individual institutions (see series listed above)
For further information read our guide on Education Inspectorate reports.
13. Developments since 1944
Until 1956 colleges offering further education were organised on a three tier system of regional, area and local colleges.
- ED 155 and ED 46 which contain papers on local authority schemes for the establishment of county colleges
The need for greater collaboration between the universities and local authorities was acknowledged by the Percy Committee on Higher Technological Education.
Its 1945 report resulted in the establishment of national colleges providing training in specialised fields, developed from within existing institutions, with support from particular industries.
- ED 46/295-296 for papers of the Percy Committee
- ED 165 for files on the policy decisions leading to the establishment of these colleges and recording their development and progress
14. Robbins Committee on higher education
Its report in 1963 made a number of recommendations including the expansion of higher education, the foundation of six new universities, that colleges of advanced technology and colleges of education should in future award degrees and the promotion of further institutions to university status. Browse:
- ED 116 - minutes of the committee
- ED 117 - papers of the committee
- ED 118 - surveys and evidence submitted to the Committee
- ED 46/941-949 - the setting up of the committee and its workings
The Committee's report can be found via Parliamentary Papers online.
For files on those technical and further education colleges upgraded to technological universities with degree-awarding status search by institution name within ED 168.
15. Henniker-Heaton Committee (1962)
The Henniker-Heaton Committee investigated opportunities for young people under 18 to be released from work to attend daytime technical education courses.
Minutes and papers of the committee are in:
16. Adult education after the Russell Committee 1969-73
The broad issue of non-vocational adult education, including its financing and administration, was considered by the Russell Committee (1969) which reported in 1973.
- Adult Education: A Plan for Development in ED 175/25 for all aspects of adult education and encouraged partnership between statutory and voluntary bodies
- agenda, minutes, papers and evidence submitted in ED 175
- records of the Adult Literacy Resource Unit, set up in 1975, and its successors the Adult Literacy Unit and the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit in FL 1-FL 3
Records after 1995 became the Basic Skills Unit records. These have been transferred to the University of London Institute of Education.
17. Further reading
Read Education and the State from 1833 by Ann Morton (PRO, 1997) for further background information and references to other original sources.