A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Investigator’s Instructions


The support given to recent proposals for changing the English educational system showed that there was widespread interest in educational reform. It now remains for the Administrators to make these legal provisions a reality and if this is to be done efficiently, the Administrators must understand clearly the state of opinion on the subject amongst the general public.

This inquiry is part of a scheme of research designed to ascertain that state of opinion and to relate it to the background of informants. The present interview is concerned with opinion on the educational system as it is now and the main feature of the proposed changes - the raising of the school leaving age. Other inquiries will be concerned with the relationship of members of the public to the local educational authorities and with opinion on the development of school meals and similar social services.

The Ministry of Education has informed every local education authority in whose area the survey is being made and there is no need to call on this office unless you are specially asked to do so.


The sample represents civilians in England and Wales aged 20-54 (inclusive). This excludes most of those who have left school during this war and those above an age at which they would have a direct interest in educational reform.

You will have to find out the exact age of the informant before you begin the interview. People who were 20 last birthday are included, but not people who are under 20. People who were 54 last birthday are included, but not people who have reached the age of 55.

On your quota sheet you are shown the number of people to be interviewed in different localities. One of these localities may be a rural district. If, for any reason, this rural district is not suitable, e.g. if it is urban in character though rural in name, you may choose another rural district instead near one of the towns in which you are working. The rural area should be such that you are able to find agricultural workers living in it.

The quota sheet also shows the number of men and women to be interviewed in different occupation groups. Please use your standard list of definitions of occupations and read this through to refresh your memory before starting work. The “War Manufacturing” group on your quota includes “Heavy Manufacturing” and “Light manufacturing (l)” oh this list. The “Other Manufacture” group on your quota corresponds with “Light Manufacturing (2)” on the list.

Housewives should be interviewed at home, and the numbers to be interviewed in different economic groups are shown on your quota sheet. Use the same method of selection as that used in First Line Shortages, calling at houses in different types of area until the required quota in each economic group is made up. Not more than five interviews should be made in one street.

If the housewife at the house you call at is aged 55 or over, you will have to make your excuses and go to another house.

If you interview at home, a housewife who goes to work for 30 hours per week or more, she should be classified according to her working occupation and not as a housewife.

Workers should be selected at work. Please be careful about your method of selecting individuals. If possible, take the names at random from a list of workpeople, rejecting any you may pick who are not in the right age group. If no list is available, and too many people are employed for you to be able to prepare one yourself, either obtain permission to visit each shop or department, and choose workers on a random principle, or if that is not possible, specify precisely what you need, i.e. so many men and women workers from each shop or department.

It may be desirable, as the questionnaire is a long one, not to interview more than a few workers at each place of work. If the manager is unwilling to spare workers for as long as you need you should take the names and addresses of the workers you select and arrange to see them at home. In this case, if you want to interview say three people, it would be better to write down the addresses of five, using the extra two as substitutes if you should not be able to find the others at home.

Most interviewers have one to two unoccupied people to interview. These may be found in the homes of the housewives you interview. These will be mostly unfit or between jobs. You should not interview students as these count as being still at school.

In addition to the general samples, there are special samples in particular areas for which separate instructions will be given. These areas are being chosen because there are special features about the local education arrangement which may have influenced local opinion on some of the topics being investigated.


A great deal of preliminary work has been done. The research scheme and the questions here proposed have been discussed with authorities in education amongst whom are: President of the National Union of Teachers, Director of the Institute of Education (London University), Professor Cyril Burt and the Directors of Education in Birmingham, Sheffield, Monmouth, Wakefield and Oxford. Apart from pilot work carried out by the Survey’s investigators, notice was taken of the results of surveys carried out by 4,000 Women’s Institutes and a study published in the Scottish Educational Journal.

It is extremely important that the information obtained on this schedule be the carefully considered opinion of the informants. There may be questions to which many people will not know the answer, but there should not be any answer recorded which informants have not had sufficient time to consider. In the pilot inquiry, interviews averaged about 40 minutes each. The schedule has been shortened and should now take less than that time for most informants, but investigators must be quite sure that the full purpose of each question has been understood. Where it is found that the purpose of the question is beyond the informant, then that should be written on the schedule and not any answer which can be squeezed out of the informant. There should not be many questions which cannot be understood, however, and the responsibility therefore, rests with investigators to go into as much detail as necessary.


Occupation: classify according to standard definition.
No. of children: Any children provided they are still alive, should be included, whether they are at home or away from home, married or single. If the informant has no children ring “X” opposite “None at All”.
Education: Classify according to last type of school attended. If the informant went to a private school this should count as elementary if he/she left school at 14, and as secondary if he/she left school at 15 or older. Shorthand/Typing colleges count as Code 4. Only full-time education is to be counted, not evening courses.

The schedule is devised to indicate general opinion on the educational system. The first section enables people to give their opinions on those parts of the educational system on which they have had experience, either for themselves or for their children. The second section brings the discussion round to some of the changes proposed by the new Education Act and you will see we are paying special attention to the raising of the school leaving age. The third section deals with the subject of curricula. All the sections are really interwoven in the sense that the information provided by any one section will help us to check opinions recorded in another section. Thus, information obtained about people’s opinions on the subjects which should be taught at school can be related to satisfaction or dissatisfaction with education as they have experienced it, or to their opinions on the raising of the school leaving age, or again to their opinions on the aims of education.

Question 1 is really put in as an introduction to the interview. You will see that the question is repeated at the end of the schedule after a full discussion, which it is hoped will take place during each interview and where, it is expected, rather fuller answers will be obtained to this question. Question 1 however, should be taken seriously although at the beginning of the interview there may be many people who are a bit stumped by it.

It was decided that the exact wording of this question - “What do you think are the aims of education” should be followed immediately by “What do you think education is for?”.

Questions 2 and 3 will give the background of the person’s opinions against which the other answers can be put. They are completely open and should afford the possibility of informants’ expressing any criticisms which they have of the educational system.

Question 3 brings the interview down to the informant’s present experience. You will see that part of the classification will have recorded the informant’s last educational level.

Questions 4 and 5 talks about their children, what kind of education they have had or are having, and what the parent thinks about them. These questions only apply to those informants who are married and have children aged under 20.

In question 4 we are asking for the occupation of the under 20’s who have left school and their wage and contribution to family income. The reason for this is to find out to what extent contributions by children to family income influences the parent’s opinion on question 8, 9 and 10. Similarly It is possible that the answers to question 6 may influence their answers to this latter question.

Some definitions arising out of questions 1 - 6 may be useful for investigators By “AIMS” of education is meant what the results of education should be. Some people will want to interpret this as “are” rather than “should be”. The attitude of investigators should be that we want to know what people think about the aims of the educational system as it ought to be.

By “WHOLE SYSTEM OF EDUCATION” (question 2) is meant the educational system as it now is, including changes proposed by the new Education Act, so far as they are known to the informant. That is to say, the system of education as they know it. This question too, is an invitation to be as critical as they wish, but please try to make the criticism constructive.

Children who are “still normally members of your household” means children who have no other permanent home, whether they are actually living at home or whether they are away in the forces or away for some other reason. (Adopted children should be included.)

Classify the children’s education according to the last type of school attended, using the same definitions as those given above for informant’s education.

Where something other than codes 1-5 are given, please write in what it was in the space provided next to code 6.

The second part of question 4 asking what kind of education would have been preferred to the kind the children actually had, is being left open because people may not be quite specific in their preference, and we have thought it better to deal with the coding of this in the office.

“NETT WEEKLY” wages should be given, i.e. the amount that the child receives after insurance, income-tax, etc. have been deducted by the employer. If the wage is not known write “D.K.”. Some probing will be necessary to make sure that the amount given is the actual nett wage.

The amount “contributed to family income” should be the amount handed by the child to the mother (or other person) excluding only any that is being given back (regularly) for pocket money. It does not matter whether the amount contributed goes into the family pool or whether part of it is spent by the mother on clothing etc., for the child. If the mother has control of spending the money, this counts as “contributed to family income”. In some cases the whole pay packet may be handed over, if the amount handed over varies, get an average if possible.

In question 5 children in nursery classes of elementary schools, war-time nurseries, factory nurseries etc. to be included under the heading “nursery”.


Questions 7 - 11 deal with the raising of the school leaving age and you will see that in the main this section consists of open questions. In question 7 please record all changes introduced by the new Act which people know about. As far as possible please record the actual words used.

Question 8 brings the interview down to the direct question, and you will see that it requires you to be certain that all informants understand that for the purpose of question 8, the school leaving age is being raised to 15 next year, and to 16 in a year or two’s time.

Question 9 similarly requires you to be quite sure that everybody understands that there is going to be free secondary education for all children from 11 years of age upwards. This question must be asked to everyone, whether or not the raising of the school leaving age is mentioned in answer to the previous question.

It was decided that question 9 should be asked in the following form: “By the new Act, Primary (Elementary) Education will end at 11 years. From the age of 11, all children will be given another stage of education which will take them up to the age of 15/16. It will be compulsory and will be free for all. What do you think of this?”.

Question 10. Here we are putting to people what we know to be the principal conflict of opinion on this question. Here once again the question must be asked, whether the subject was mentioned in answer to question 7 or not. The first part of question 10 is pre-coded and section (a) asks informants to indicate the reason for their answer. Section (b) asks those who think that children ought to be at work to indicate whether it is because the educational system as they know it at the moment needs changing for it to be worthwhile for children to continue at school after 14.

If answered as code 1 and changes are mentioned, these could be recorded in (a) - “Why?”

In question 10a “Why?” should be asked of everybody answering question 10 in order to note the reason for the answer precoded in question 10.

Question 11 is an open question which the Ministry of Education has asked us specially to keep in the schedule. “MORE” means more than is now spent, because obviously the new proposals will involve an increase in the total amount spent. It is estimated that when the Act comes into effect, 4d. will be spent for every 3d. spent before, and after a few years 6d. will be spent against every 3d. spent before the changes.


In the next batch of questions we are enabling people to comment on the kind of subjects taught in schools First of all in an open way with no suggestions about present subjects at all, and then in question 17 by direct reference to a list of subjects.

Questions 12-16 deal with suggested alterations in a detailed way. You have first to find out whether any change of the sort we indicate is desired and after this, for what subjects and for what reasons. Informants may not be able to name the subject correctly, in which case you should try to get down the kind of subject they are trying to indicate. The “WHY” for each subject requires you to find out the purpose of the change which they indicate.

In question 17 you will have to be quite sure that informants understand what you mean by the various groups of subjects. Before recording any answers to this question, you should read out the whole list of subjects explaining carefully what kind of things are meant by the titles and then explain that you are going to ask for their opinion separately for boys and girls for each of the groups of subjects. Then put the subjects one by one. It may be that the order in which the subjects are read out will have an influence on the kind of answers given. Will you, therefore, for half of your quota read the list from top to bottom and the other half of your quota from bottom to top, indicating at the head of the table, the order in which you have read the groups.

“Big”, “Medium” and “Small” refers to the part each group of subjects plays in the education of boys and girls. Please code this answer as “for some” where people say the subject should play a big part in the education of some and a small part in the education of others. Similarly, where it is said that the subject should be taught to some only and play a big part in the education of that particular group, record this as “for Some”.

In questions 12 - 16 and 17 any corrections which informants wish to make in their replies to any of these questions may be made on the form. That is to say, in answering question 17, if the informant wishes to change any of her answers to question 12 - 16 she may do so and the former reply should be altered on the form.

Please keep a record of whether the subjects in question 17 are being read out from top to bottom or from bottom to top.

Question 18 is a straightforward opinion question on the subject of boarding schools.

If people wish to add qualifications to their answer to this question, please write the qualification on the schedule.

Question 19 is really the key opinion question in the schedule. You will see that here we have asked you to record everything that people say and then to ask informants to select from what has been said, the principal point in the informant’s opinion. The informants may say that no one of the points which have been mentioned is more important than any other, in which case record this comment.

The purpose of asking for the “MAIN AIM” as well as the complete aim is to check the method of using first answers which we have used in coding questions of this sort in the past.

It will also enable us to assign some kind of weight to the kind of things which people actually mention. There should be quite good answers to this question since it comes at the end of the interview after detailed discussion on various aspects of education and investigators should take as much time as necessary to get the informants to see what is meant here.

It is very important that you note here everything the informant says at this stage. Some people are not recording the answers given to this question where what is said in question 1 is repeated, and this will make it impossible for us to analyse question 19 completely. Where people say, in answer to question 19, that they have already answered this in question 1, please record again what they said in answer to question 1.

Please note that if informants consider that all aims are equal and are unable to select a “main aim” this should be recorded on the schedule and not left blank.

Question 20 This is going to be standardised on all schedules from now on, Quite clearly it would give us much better information on the subject of the reception of our surveys than the total of the number of refusals.


  1. 1. Questions 1 and 2 must be asked at the beginning of the interview and any additions to the answers which informants wish to make must not be recorded under 1 and 2, but separately.

  2. 2. Questions 7 - 10 as a group may be asked after or before questions 12-17 as the interviewer finds convenient, but if asked after, then this fact should be recorded on the schedule at the top, before the classifications.

  3. 3. Question 11 may be asked in its present position or later in the interview. There is no need to note any change of position.

  4. 4. Question 19 must be asked at the end of the questions on education, i.e. before question 20 but after all other questions.

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