Power, policy and personality in Scottish education 1885-1928


Humes W (2021) Power, policy and personality in Scottish education 1885-1928. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 53 (3-4), pp. 233-248.

This paper examines a period in Scottish educational history when civil servants, not politicians, were in the ascendancy in the initiation of policy. The first three Secretaries of the Scotch/Scottish Education Department (SED) – Henry Craik (1846-1927), John Struthers (1857-1925) and George Macdonald (1862-1940) – enjoyed considerable authority, which enabled them to set the tone of the Department’s relations with schools and local authorities. This was possible for a number of reasons: the administrative challenges following the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872; the growing strength of the civil service; weak political leadership; the location of the SED in London, not Edinburgh. The paper examines the Department’s reaction to criticism, including demands for an Advisory Council on Education. It is argued that while some of the policies pursued by Craik, Struthers and Macdonald represented sensible pragmatic responses to rapidly developing circumstances, their management style established a pattern that had unfortunate longer-term consequences.

Scottish education; political leadership; civil servants; bureaucratic control

Journal of Educational Administration and History: Volume 53, Issue 3-4

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online28/02/2021
Date accepted by journal03/02/2021