Constitutional & Legal Foundations
Between the late 1990s and 2001, education in the United Kingdom moved into a state of anticipation and uncertainty with regard to laws affecting education. As noted elsewhere in this essay, the realities of devolved governments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are prompting each nation to conduct self-studies and to contemplate possible repeals or rewriting of some educational laws passed by the English Parliament. In general, each nation's local governments are kept in check by the system of educational appropriations and grants, the main source of funding for these schools.
Local governments that administer and carry out the directives of the national education system are called LEAs, an abbreviation of local education authorities. These were put in place when Parliament passed the important 1902 education act, also known as The Balfour Act. In 1984, an education act passed by Parliament took some control away from LEAs, giving the national government more power in deciding how some assigned block grant moneys were spent for educational purposes.
An important law affecting Scotland was the 1980 Education Act, giving the Secretary of State for Scotland the power to regulate local education matters and to give directives to local authorities. This was followed by a 1981 Education Act, allowing parents the right to choose the school best-suited to the needs of their children, In 1986, another education act was passed that affected LEAs, for it gave parents a greater right to be heard on educational matters. A controversial education act passed in 1988 enjoined LEAs from allowing any schools "to promote teaching. . .the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." The law was widely criticized as being unclear and possibly prejudicial to a minority.
Between 1986 and 1998 were passed an unusually high number of education acts, and some of these were subsequently repealed or replaced by other education acts. The most important education acts served to empower the UK nations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland to take responsibility for the shaping and governing of their educational systems during the process of devolving.
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