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Types of Schools in England

This page covers only school types up to the mid 20th century

Source: The Local Historian's Encylopaedia (3rd Edition) John Richardson ISBN 0948667834

  • Adult School Movement: founded by the Quakers and later called the National Adult School Union, the movement provided non-denominational, but religiously based, education in 19th-century
  • Bluecoat Schools: the first Bluecoat School was Christ’s Hospital in London, founded in 1553 as a refuge for orphans. The boys wore distinctive long blue coats and yellow stockings. The archives of the school are in the Guildhall library London. About 80 Bluecoat schools, essentially charity schools which taught grammar, were established in the following 200 years, though sometimes the uniform could be other colours such as Blue Coat, Grey Coat, Green Coat and Black Coat schools .
  • Board schools: Forster’s Education Act 1870 divided the country into educational districts each administered by a school board. The schools were secular and nondenominational and as such were presented by the voluntary, usually religious, schools many of which had to close for want of pupils. The first board school opened in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1872. In 1902 board schools became council schools
  • British Schools: in 1908, followers of the Quaker Joseph Lancaster, formed the Royal Lancastrian Society to carry out his educational ideas. The society altered its name in 1810 to the British and Foreign Schools Society once Lancaster, an indifferent financial organiser, had cut himself off from the movement. The special feature at the society’s education was the use of the monitorial system by which older children taught groups of younger ones under the supervision of a staff member. The method was cheap and was copied by other types of schools including those which later were part of the state system. In 1824 Parliament made a grant of £24,000 to elementary schools which was shared between the British and National schools. By 1851 there were 1500 hundred British schools in the country, drawing their support mainly from Nonconformist families.
  • Cathedral and Monastic Schools: the earliest schools were those attached to cathedrals and monasteries. The first one appears to have been at Canterbury in the early seventh century, King’s School is its present-day successor. At the Reformation when they went out of existence many were reintroduced as grammar schools.
  • Chantry Schools: in the Middle Ages it was common for a person to endow a chantry so that priests might, in perpetuity, pray for his soul. Sometimes a small school grew up from this request. They went out of existence at the Reformation but some were reintroduced as grammar schools.
  • Circulating Schools: founded to cater for the sparse and scattered Welsh population in the late 17th century, the Rev Thomas Gouge founded the society in order to instruct all Welsh children in English. In 1730 Rev Griffith Jones in Carmarthenshire founded what was known as a Circulating School. The instruction was carried out by itinerant teachers serving localities for 3 to 6 months. The schools were for adults as well as children and the Welsh language, rather than English, was used. It is estimated that by 1777 there were over 6000 such schools in Wales.
  • Common Day Schools: private, low fee, elementary schools for poor children. These largely disappeared after the 1870 Education Act.
  • Dame Schools: elementary schools run by women, the usual fee being three or 4p per week. These largely disappeared after the 1870 Education Act.
  • District Schools: the 1844 the Poor Law Commissioners were empowered to educate workhouse children in District Schools large enough to serve several workhouses. The schools declined after the 1870 Education Act.
  • Factory Schools: an Act of 1833 made the employment of children dependent upon the child receiving a certain amount of education at school. It is estimated by1843 about 40% of the children in the manufacturing areas were attending factory schools. This type of school had been pioneered earlier by Robert Owen and David Dale.
  • Grammar Schools: these schools have their origins in the Saxon ecclesiastical establishments which taught young man for the priesthood. In the middle ages such schools were established by private benefactors, Trading Guilds or ecclesiastical bodies but many grammar schools date from the 1550s, a period when new foundations were endowed to replace those lost at the Reformation. By the 17th century boarding and day grammar schools existed. Endowments provided free or almost free basic education; the terms of these gifts usually precluded extension of the curriculum away from the classical subjects but by the 19th-century it was common for the schools to charge a fee for new subjects such as science. Many of the schools, which had since become public schools, were at the time run down and poorly financed. The Grammar Schools Act 1840 gave powers to grammar schools to teach subjects, for a fee, other than those stipulated in their original statutes.
  • Industrial Schools: the early industrial schools were for poor children, many of whom were sent to them by magistrates who felt that they needed to escape their family background and to learn a trade. The name was also used to describe state aided schools later in 19th-century when English boys were taught a craft and girls usually training for domestic service.
  • Junior Schools: these schools were established by the 1918 Education Act but were not commonly called Junior Schools until after 1926. They taught children aged from 7 to 11, whereas the earlier elementary schools are catered for children from 7 to 14.
  • Mechanics Institute’s: the name is derived from manual workers and craftsmen. A Mechanics’ Institute was established in Chester in 1810 and a similar organisation existed in London in 1817. The London Mechanics’ Institution was founded, very much on the inspiration of Dr George Birbeck in 1823. By 1825 there were about 70 institutions around the country. The educational results were mixed and the institutes were not particularly well supported by the men the founders had in mind; in part this was due to the institutes’ speculation in science as a principle subject.
  • National Schools: the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church was formed in 1811 and gradually absorbed schools already established by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK). By 1851 the National Society controlled over 17,000 schools and shared a government grant of £24,000 in 1824 with the rival British Schools. The 1870 Education Act, which provided free education for children, led to the society’s gradual decline.
  • Pestalozzi Schools: some schools were established in the 19th century in which teaching was based on the theories of Johann Pestalozzi (1746 to 1827). In the curriculum the rote learning of the schools was abandoned and pupils were encouraged to learn from direct experience instead; the subject list was also expanded to include science, architecture and astronomy.
  • Preparatory Schools: the rejuvenation and popularity of Public Schools in the second half of the 19th century encouraged the establishment of preparatory schools in which younger pupils could be prepared for admission to Public Schools.
  • Public Schools: the term “public schools” is now generally accepted as denoting about 200 independent schools, mainly in the south of England. Many derived from old grammar schools especially those which, in the early days, boarded scholars. Approximately one third of today’s public schools were grammar schools founded between 14th and 17th centuries. They became known as public by their ability to attract pupils from outside the county. In 1868 The Public Schools Act required each school to draw up a constitution that laid down conditions for the appointment of governors.
  • Ragged Schools: these schools began with the work of a Portsmouth cobbler, John Pounds. From 1818 he provided the school, which was entirely free, for the poorest children. In 1844 Lord Shaftesbury helped to organise an official union of schools; by 1869 there were about 200 establishments as well as allied night and Sunday school.
  • Secondary Modern Schools: introduced with the Education Act 1944 that introduced the classification of secondary education into Secondary Modern, Technical and Grammar schools At the end of primary education in Junior Schools, pupils were examined on the subjects taught.and assigned to a school category based upon their exam performance and aptitude.
  • SPCK: the Society for The Propagation of Christian Knowledge was founded in 1698. It provided schools for the industrial poor and by 1750 that were at least 1500 of them supported by voluntary subscriptions. They set the pattern for charity education with an insistence on subordination, frugality and gratitude. They declined in importance in the first half of the 19th century and many were taken over by the National Society.
  • Sunday Schools: the first Sunday school appears to have been in Catterick, Yorkshire in 1763, but the movement was popularised by Robert Raikes who founded a school in Gloucester in 1780. He engaged four women to teach and charged pupils a penny each per week. In 1785 a Society was formed for the Establishment and Support of Sunday Schools throughout the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Sunday School Union was founded in 1803 to improve such schools in the London area.
  • Workers Educational Association: The Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men, as it was first called was founded in 1903 by Albert Mansbridge, the first branch being at Reading in 1904. The association assumed its present name in 1905.
  • Workhouse Schools: were encouraged by legislation in 1844 when Poor Law Commissioners were empowered to provide education for workhouse children. It was generally thought that the children should be educated outside the workhouse buildings and district schools were thus established.
  • Working Men’s Colleges: in 1842 the Sheffield People’s College was founded by the Rev R S Bayley; it was open to both men and women for a fee of nine pence per week. Classes were held at 6:30 AM and 7:30 PM. Its success inspired the foundation of the Working Men’s College in Queen Square London in 1854, a venture closely connected with the Christian Socialist Movement. Classes were open to all men over the age of 16 who are competent in the three “’R s”. Between 1855 and 1868 a dozen or more such colleges were formed in England and two in Scotland. The Working Women’s College was founded in 1864 in Queen Square, London, which in 1874 changed its name to The College for Men and Women.
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