• In the case of Education Secretary v Tameside BC [1977] ac 1014, it was found that an objective standard is used for assessing unreasonableness for which a variety of opinions may be deemed reasonable.
  • Unreasonableness does not equate to what the person conducting the review deems as subjectively wrong.
  • Additionally, the judges asserted support towards the courts having the authority to assess material mistakes of fact.

Facts of the Case

  • An education authority run by the Labour party implemented decisions to extend control to grammar schools and bring them under their comprehensive scheme.
  • This policy was reversed when the Conservative Party won the local authority election and decided not to assess applicants for grammar schools with exams, but with reports, records and interviews.
  • Section 68 of the Education Act 1944 gave the Education Secretary the authority to make decisions in relation to the use of this act if they believed that the local authority’s decision was ‘unreasonable.’
  • Under the Act, the Labour Education Secretary appointed the education authority to implement their scheme, for which the Divisional Court granted an order for (which subsequently overtook the local authority)


  • The key issue was deciding whether the local authority’s decision was deemed unreasonable

Held by the Court of Appeal

  • The appeal was dismissed and therefore it was found that the decision to implement the comprehensive scheme by reversing the education policy was unreasonable.
  • The point of section 68 was not to empower the Education Secretary to replace his opinion for the local education authority with regards to the decision to undertake.
  • He was only entitled to interfere if it could be shown that the authority was contemplating to act unreasonably.

Lord Wilberforce

  • Given that the council had a political mandate to pursue the grammar schools policy and massively supported by parents, it would be impossible for the secretary of state to conclude that the decision was Wednesbury unreasonable. 
  • Lord Wilberforce recognised that the local education authority had a political mandate to extend their control to the grammar schools, and this was supported by parents. As such, Lord Wilberforce found that it would be impossible for the education secretary to decide that the plan was unreasonable. 
  • The authority’s selection plans were opposed by a number of the teachers’ unions, and there was the likelihood of non-cooperation by some of the head teachers in the primary schools in production of records and reports. The department letters and affidavits do not rely upon this matter, for understandable reasons, but they must be assumed to have had it in mind. Is this a fact upon which the Secretary of State might legitimately form the judgment that the authority was acting unreasonably? [1052]

Lord Russell of Killowen

  • Lord Russell of Killowen discusses what the term ‘unreasonably’ could mean and chooses to take an objective stance.
  • ‘Unreasonably’ is a very strong word indeed (post, p. 1075C). Facts subsequently brought forward as existing on June 11 could not properly be relied on as showing that the authority’s proposals were not unreasonable unless they were of such a character that they could be taken to have been within the knowledge of the Secretary of State (post, p. 1076E).