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Technical education in the city of Wakefield : the place of Thornes House Grammar School

George, Nora J.


Nora J. George


Derek H. Webster


A record of a steady, largely unnoted move towards a sufficient technical education in Wakefield Metropolitan District from the 1850s to the present time is the material cause of this thesis. The theme is the consequences of inescapable obligations imposed by central government through several Acts from the mid-nineteenth century to the present time which have been appraised as far as possible in their effect on two institutions: Wakefield (Technical) College and Thornes House Grammar School. The particular throws light on the general; theory translated into action produces unforeseen outcomes and tensions in addition to desired, planned results. State educational foundations in other counties of England will have had problems unique to each area: the common factor is the humanity of staff and pupils affected by central legislation which last casts a shadow if it does not totally colour the cultural ambience in which they work. Studies of institutions throw into relief interrelations between local and central administration as well as social interaction. Problems which apparently are educational are also reflections of groups' or districts' experience in the past. 'History' is a driving force, not a cliche.

The research falls into three sections. Part One is concerned with the technical aspect and traces the development of technical instruction in Wakefield, the West Riding of Yorkshire, from the foundation of the independent Industrial and Fine Art Institution through its years under the local authority to its present, incorporated status as Wakefield College.

Part Two covers the foundation and early life of Thornes House Grammar School, from the time it was established in 1921, in response to the 1918 Education Act, to 1961, when Mr. C. C. Bracewell, M.C., M.A., retired as Headmaster.

Part Three outlines the effect of local political response to declining rolls and population change in the district on Thornes House School, combined with the weight of central government intervention in boundary re-organisation. When the succeeding comprehensive school which followed Thornes House Grammar School was closed, Thornes House buildings and Park were allocated to the College, finally to be sold to the College in February 1995. Access was left to other WMDC schools to use certain facilities.

Through the lives of Wakefield College and Thornes House Grammar School the history of the struggle for secondary education for the total educable section of the population is epitomised. Two strands of argument are plaited through the fabric of this account. One: the concept of praxis, informed action, as demonstrated in the idiosyncratic balance of theory applied to action by the local population in its response to central authority's incomprehension of a heterogeneous community lying at the crossroads of a spreading county; second the equally individualistic interpretation of social obligation by those local dominant social groups which followed each other in each generation. That the Riding needed trained, educated middle range people as well as a skilled workforce was recognised, but, children of their time, these people earmarked a classical education for their own offspring as their prerogative. Across this period their reference group quite impartially worked hard for the Industrial and Fine Art Institution and the following Technical College/School, and introduced a broadened curriculum and teacher training. The lives of all these people, now part of local history, and sadly short on biographical detail, form two Interludes, and demonstrate a move from a voluntary, dispassionate yet benevolent autocracy of the nineteenth century to the business acumen of the following wealthy lower middle class supported by the professionalism of a rising, ambitious local administration, their names recorded in County Council and City Minute and Log Books.

The Conclusion endorses the foreword that technological knowledge must now of necessity be part of an educated person's cultural luggage and as Brighouse stated, 'the education system must educate everyone.' The technical/technological sector has a wide remit in the spread of I. Q. from elementary to higher education, and subscribes to the words of Viscount Milton, 'the wider appreciation more than a single skill,' in its response. It has been attempted to suggest it comes back to the use of language, and some questions: Whom do we teach, what do we teach, why? to arrive at informed action. The argument has run through time - the lives of two institutions which had to put up a struggle to survive, and which have been overtaken by external circumstances - weighing in the process dissonances and harmonies, the principle of voluntary effort balancing professional administration; centre/locality; a 'liberal' curriculum/contrived, teaching - the 'good' teacher or 'teacher effectiveness.' A poor argument is not resolved by a worse one, but by dialectic. In effect, classical and technological aspects are both needed, and we are back with people of the calibre of Milnes-Gaskell, Sir Michael Sadler, Sir Alec Clegg and A.H.D. Acland, and those forgotten names who first spoke on behalf of the Society for the Promotion of Technical Education last century and in the early years of this. They are thin on the ground.


George, N. J. (1995). Technical education in the city of Wakefield : the place of Thornes House Grammar School. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Feb 10, 2017
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Education
Public URL
Additional Information School of Education, The University of Hull
Award Date Sep 1, 1995


Thesis (39.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 1995 George, Nora J. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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