Who was behind the 1944 Education Act, which guaranteed free education for all in England and Wales?
The Education Act 1944 made major changes in the provision and governance of secondary schools in England and Wales. It is also known as the "Butler Act" after the President of the Board of Education, R. A. Butler. Historians consider it a "triumph for progressive reform," and it became a core element of the post-war consensus supported by all major parties. The Act was repealed in steps with the last parts repealed in 1996.
Butler designed the Act as an expression of "One Nation Conservatism" in the tradition attributed to Disraeli, which called for paternalism by the upper class towards the working class. The Act ended the traditional all-age (5-14) elementary sector, enforcing the division between primary (5–11 years old) and secondary (11–15 years old) education that many local authorities had already introduced. It abolished fees on parents for state secondary schools. It brought a more equitable funding system to localities and to different school sectors.
Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, (9 December 1902 – 8 March 1982), also known as R. A. Butler and familiarly known from his initials as Rab, was a prominent British Conservative politician. The Times obituary called him "the creator of the modern educational system, the key-figure in the revival of post-war Conservatism, arguably the most successful chancellor since the war and unquestionably a Home Secretary of reforming zeal".