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Children's Charter (1945)


Main image of Children's Charter (1945)
35mm, black and white, 18 mins
DirectionGerry Bryant
Produced byCrown Film Unit
SponsorsMinistry of Education
 Ministry of Information
PhotographyJonah Jones
 Chick Fowle
CommentatorA.J. Parr

The effects of the 1944 Education Act on the future education of children in Great Britain.

Show full synopsis

The 1944 Education Act, commonly associated with Conservative politician Rab Butler, was one of the most far-reaching legislative interventions of the wartime coalition government. It was sometimes dubbed the 'Children's Charter', also the title used for this film requested by the Ministry of Education to explain its implications.

Early in production there was much debate about suitable treatment, perhaps contributing to the film's occasionally rushed and muddled feel. Nonetheless, an immense amount of information is compressed into a relatively short running time and, in classic documentary fashion, special effort made to incorporate both town and country, and different social classes, into an inclusive vision of Britain.

Creating the 'tripartite' system of grammar schools, secondary moderns and technical schools, the Act has been credited with enabling a massive expansion of social mobility but also accused of having fostered new divisions. Interesting ideological tensions are evident throughout the film, and debates still raging today are prefigured.

Though not one of the Crown Film Unit's most major productions, it illustrates well how the Unit was being put onto a post-war footing. Minor director Gerard (Gerry) Bryant made several films at Crown before going on to an extremely varied career spanning documentary, fiction and television - his final professional duties were as director of several of the final editions of Mining Review in the early 1980s.

Patrick Russell

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. A free education (3:12)
2. Two boys (2:18)
3. The majority (2:49)
Complete film (16:30)
Monthly Film Bulletin review