There are many important turning points in this history, but there is one that stands above all others. It is not a turning point that we can associate with a single event or a single individual or group. It was a change which sprang from many sources, each reinforcing the other and coming together to develop a momentum affecting the whole life of the nation. Some of these sources came from within the educational world itself-from the nascent teaching profession, from ambitious and innovative urban school boards, from permanent officials

within the Education Department and from new levels of parental expectation. More significant yet were the pressures bearing on the education system as a result of wider social and economic changes-from the progressive extension of the franchise; from the more confident demands of organized labour; from the perceived threat posed by powerful new international competitors; from calls across the political spectrum for a refocusing of ‘national efficiency’ and imperial leadership through collectivist agencies; from a new, more organic conception of the State’s role most clearly seen in the writings of TH Green-from that constellation of change culminating in what George Dangerfield memorably understood as ‘the strange death of Liberal England’ (Dangerfield, 1935). With that death, questions about national education could be framed in new ways or at least with changed emphases. Writing in 1918, Michael Sadler could, for example, ask a stark question which, a generation earlier, would have raised liberal eyebrows

What part can skilfully organized public education play in furthering the welfare and increasing the might of the modern State? (Sadler, 1918, p. 7)

In the life of that generation which straddled the turn of the century then, the very meaning of national education was being transformed. It is important to understand something of this cardinal moment, for in changing the scope of the education system itself, it also changed the implications of the mechanisms by which that system was supplied.