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Education Reform Act 1988: Wikis


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Education Reform Act 1988
UK Government Coat of Arms
United Kingdom Parliament
Long title: An Act to amend the law relating to education.
Statute book chapter: 1988 c. 40
Territorial extent: Whole act England and Wales; ss. 131, 134, 202-205, 207, 214-216, 231, 232, 235-236 and 238 and Sch. 8 and 11 Scotland; ss. 208 and 217(1) Northern Ireland; amendments of legislation which extends to Scotland and Northern Ireland also extend there
Date of Royal Assent: 29 July 1988
Commencement: Various dates from 29 July 1988 to 1 August 1992
Other legislation
Amendments: Further and Higher Education Act 1992, Education Act 1996
Status: Substantially amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Official text of the statute as amended and in force today within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

The Education Reform Act of 1988 is widely regarded as the most important single piece of education legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since the 'Butler' Education Act 1944. (Scottish education legislation is separate from that of the rest of the UK.) It also forms the basis for the United States' No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The main provisions of the Education Reform Act are as follows:

  • Grant Maintained Schools (GMS) were introduced. Primary and secondary schools could, under this provision, remove themselves fully from their respective Local Education Authorities and would be completely funded by central government. Secondary schools also had limited selection powers at the age of 11.
  • Local Management of Schools (LMS) was introduced. This part of the Act allowed all schools to be taken out of the direct financial control of Local Authorities. Financial control would be handed to the headteacher and governors of a school
  • 'Key Stages' (KS) were introduced in schools. At each key stage a number of educational objectives were to be achieved.
  • An element of choice was introduced, where parents could specify which school was their preferred choice.
  • League tables, publishing the examination results of schools, were introduced.
  • Controls on the use of the word 'degree' were introduced with respect to UK bodies.


Date of commencement Provisions Authority for commencement
29 July 1988 ss. 1; 2(1)(b) and (2); 3 and 4; 14 and 15 and Sch. 2; 20 to 22 and 23(1); 25; 33 to 45 and Schedule 3; 46 to 104 and Sch. 4 and 5; 105; 112 and 113; 116; 119; 137 to 151; 153 to 201 and Sch. 8 as far as relating to the Education Assets Board, Sch. 9 and 10 and para. 67 of Sch. 12; 202 to 208 and Sch 11; 212 and 213; 217; 219 so far as relating to grant-maintained schools; 221 to 225 and 227(1); 230 to 235 and Sch. 6; 236; Part I of Sch. 12, paras. 60, 81, 82 and 102 of that Sch. and s. 237(1) so far as relating to those provisions and s. 238 s. 236(1)
29 September 1988 ss. 2(1)(a) and (3); 6, 8, 9, 10(1), 11 and 13 and Sch. 1 s. 236(3)
1 April 1990 Part II of Sch. 12; Part I of Sch. 13 and s. 237(1) so far as relating to those provisions ss. 236(4) and (5)

Use of the word 'degree'

The Act uses a common technique in UK legislation in that it makes it illegal to offer or advertise any qualification that appears to be, or might be mistaken for a UK degree. This restriction is then removed in respect of qualifications from bodies on a list maintained by Statutory Instrument.


  1. ^ Times Higher Education, 5 December 1997, Memories of jobs for life


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