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It was during the 1840s that a newly-reforming government in Britain tackled the acute problems of conditions in the factories by appointing special inspectors to report on how factory owners met new stipulations for health and safety. At the same time, and as society moved towards a national system of compulsory education (not finalised until 1870), Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (HMI) were dispatched to ensure that the ‘elementary schools’ came up to the standards warranting the continuation of their state grants. The most famous of the inspectors at this time was Matthew Arnold, appointed in 1851.

Thereafter, HMI became a powerful and respected presence in the making of education policy until in 1993 the then Tory government dissolved HMI into a system of competing ...

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