Education Reform Act 1988

The Education Reform Act 1988 is widely regarded as the most important single piece of education legislation in England and Wales since the 'Butler' Education Act 1944.[citation needed]

Education Reform Act 1988
Long titleAn Act to amend the law relating to education.
Citation1988 c. 40
Territorial extentWhole 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 Northern Ireland and Scotland also extend there
Royal assent29 July 1988
CommencementVarious dates from 29 July 1988 to 1 August 1992
Other legislation
Amended byFurther and Higher Education Act 1992, Education Act 1996
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Education Reform Act 1988 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from


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

  • Academic tenure was abolished for academics appointed on or after 20 November 1987.[1]
  • An element of choice was introduced, where parents could specify which school was their preferred choice.
  • City Technology Colleges (CTCs) were introduced. This part of the Act allowed new more autonomous schools to be taken out of the direct financial control of local authorities. Financial control would be handed to the head teacher and governors of a school. There was also a requirement for partial private funding. There were only fifteen schools that were eventually set up. The successor to this programme was the establishment of academies.
  • Controls on the use of the word 'degree' were introduced with respect to UK bodies.
  • 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 eleven.
  • 'Key Stages' (KS) were introduced in schools. At each key stage a number of educational objectives were to be achieved.
  • 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 head teacher and governors of a school. For further education colleges, the greater autonomy brought in by the 1988 Act was extended by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 to become complete independence of local authority control, as colleges were 'incorporated'.
  • The National Curriculum (NC) was introduced.


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'Edit

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.


The act required "broadly Christian" acts of worship in schools. The National Muslim Education Council objected and requested that the wording to be changed to "the worship of the one supreme God".[2]

This requirement was built upon in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.


  1. ^ Times Higher Education, 5 December 1997, Memories of jobs for life
  2. ^ New community, Volume 18, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick, 1991, p.465.