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The National Archives

Boys’ Home Industrial School – Boxing Class 1910 (MH 102/2692 f79) View in our catalogue

How we were taught

Lesson at a glance, what was school like 100 years ago, teachers' notes, external links, connections to curriculum.

Only in the 20th century were young children no longer regularly expected to work alongside adults. By 1918 school attendance was not only compulsory but the school leaving age was raised from 12 to 14 years old. A generation earlier, in the 1860s, one third of children in England and Wales did not attend school at all and right up until 1881 children were not required to go.

Edwardian schools in the period 1901-1910 were similar in some ways to those of today.

Use the photographs in this lesson to discover how children were taught at the beginning of this century.

1. Look at Source 1. This is a photograph taken at Boys’ Home Industrial School in 1910. Can you find :

  • the master’s desk
  • a framed photograph
  • any evidence of heating and lighting

2. Look at Source 2. This is a photograph of boys from the Boys’ Home Industrial School studying and playing dominoes. Can you explain :

  • what the classroom might have been like in the winter
  • how what is on the wall is different from your classroom
  • why the windows are so large

3. Look at Source 3. This is a photograph of a physical exercise display. It was taken on Founders Day at the Boys’ Home Industrial School in about 1910. Can you describe :

  • the uniform the boys are wearing
  • the equipment they are using

4. How different is this school to the school you are at today? Make a list of the things that are different and the things that are the same:

Do you think that school teachers in Edwardian times would normally sit with the children, or do you think these teachers posed for the photographs?

The Boys’ Home Industrial School, which is featured in these photographs, was based in Regents Park Road, Primrose Hill, London. The school was founded to provide ‘for the maintenance and training of destitute boys not convicted of crime’. Boys who attended the school were trained in a number of disciplines, including baking, printing and shoemaking, and some boys went on to work for the William Morris Company once they had left the school.

Industrial Schools were different in a number of ways from local board or church schools. Children were likely to board at the school because the intention was for them to be separated from bad influences at home. You can see in Sources 1 and 2 that the children wore uniforms, unusual in British schools of the period.

One thing that the school would have shared with others of the period would have been the use of corporal punishment, usually the cane (although Scottish schools used a thick leather strap called a ‘tawse’). Corporal punishment in state schools was outlawed in 1987.

The early 20th century saw the true start of mass education in Britain in the way we would recognise it today. In 1902, the Conservative government of Arthur Balfour passed an Education Act which brought state primary schools and local secondary schools under the control of local councils for the first time.

The Act was needed because the provision of some schools for older children had actually been challenged in court. However Balfour also considered an educated workforce vital to maintaining Britain’s position at the forefront of world trade and technical achievement.

In 1906 the election of the new Liberal government led to considerable social reform. With the growth of the new Labour Party, Liberals were keen to show that they were the real party of working people. The Education (Provision of Meals) Act of 1906 introduced ‘school dinners’ and was followed by a further Act in 1907 which gave local authorities powers to authorise medical examinations in schools. It was hoped these would help diagnose childhood diseases early.

In this lesson, students examine a series of photographs from the Edwardian period. The photographs show an industrial school for boys at Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill in London. For more detail about the history of the school see our External Links below. Industrial schools were set up to educate children, boys in this case, to keep them from poverty and crime and provide them with training for the future-in printing, shoemaking or baking for example.

In Edwardian schools, children had lessons in the ‘three R’s.’ reading, writing and arithmetic and physical education or ‘drill’. Girls were generally taught sewing and needlework. In addition to their daily lessons, young people usually attended Sunday school for their religious education.

It is useful to discuss with students the following questions:

  • How different does Edwardian education appear from today?
  • Why have these photographs been taken?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using photographs as evidence?
  • What other sources could we use to find out about the history of a school?

Further activities:

  • Students could investigate the history of their own school.
  • Interview their parents/guardians or an older generation to find out if schooling has changed from when they were younger.

Illustration : Boys’ Home Industrial School – Boxing Class 1910, MH 102/2692 f79

Source 1 : Boys’ Home Industrial School Classroom 1910, MH 102/2691

Source 2 : Boys’ Home Industrial School – Boys at work and play, MH 102/2691 f12

Source 3 : Physical exercise display on Founders Day at the Boys’ Home Industrial School c1910, MH 102/2692 f26

Fernhurst Edwardian School Days Documents and photographs from one Devon school at the turn of the century.

Ragged Schools, Industrial Schools and Reformatories A very informative article from the Hidden Lives Revealed archive. A full history of the school which appears in this lesson.

Key stage 2 Changes in an aspect of social history, such as crime and punishment from the Anglo-Saxons to the present or leisure and entertainment in the 20th Century

Key stage 3 Ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901

Related resources

School dinners.

Why were school dinners brought in?

Britain 1906-1918

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A short history of education in England

Schoolsmith · Published: Nov 9, 2017 · Updated: Feb 5, 2019

While writing the Broad Curriculum set of articles I became pre-occupied by two questions. The first was “What is the point of education?” which I address here . If we know what the point of education is everything else should fall into place; the curriculum, the structures, the sponsorship, and so on. But it seems we don’t. Which led to the second question; “Why is education such a mess?” Nothing in the media makes me feel positive about our education system. I hear plenty of sneering, claims and counter claims, and reports of system failure and disenchantment. I don’t see long term consensus, strategy or momentum. So, I started to read some history of education books to understand, at least at a superficial level, how we got here. Because history has a habit of repeating itself.

What follows below is the briefest summary of Acts of Parliament or periods of history that have shaped the education landscape. It seems to me that the history of education in England is a 1,500 year evolutionary quest to answer five major questions;

  • What is school for?
  • Who is school for?
  • What should the curriculum be?
  • Who should control and manage schools?
  • Who pays for schools?

The history of education for priests started in 597

St Augustine gets the credit for starting the history of education in England. In 597 he founded King’s School, Canterbury and 604 King’s School, Rochester. He established two types of school; grammar schools for teaching Latin to priests and song schools for training “sons of gentlefolk” to sing in cathedral choirs. The curriculum of grammar (Latin), with occasional rhetoric and logic was to last for at least 1000 years. The model was rolled out to all cathedrals and large churches by 1100.

Education was limited to male nobles and gentry who wanted to enter the priesthood. The age range was typically 11-14. For nobles who didn’t want to be priests there was home tuition followed by placement at a noble house for chivalric training.

As well as the language of the Bible and religious service, Latin was also the language of law, diplomacy and trade. As towns prospered through trade so the demand for grammar schools increased. But trade also led to more secular requirements such as philosophy, medicine, law which were outside the church’s supervision. Some “free grammar schools”, free from church control, and free to teach other subjects, started to appear from 1150 onwards.

In 1391 Richard II outlawed education for serfs unless permitted by the lord of the manor. Serfs were a valuable economic commodity, so unlikely to receive educational encouragement from their masters. This attitude was to persist for another 500 years.

The history of education for the elite started in 1382

Following the decimation of the priesthood as a result of the Black Death, Winchester College was established in 1382. It was to replenish the ranks by educating scholars (poor) and commoners (gentry). The education of scholars was without charge. The commoners paid. Winchester was the feeder school to New College, Oxford. Universities were new independent learning institutions, independent from church control.

Winchester changed the grammar school model in several ways. Firstly, it was free (independent from the Church). Secondly, it was linked to an institution pursuing academic excellence (a university). Thirdly, its pupils were boarders so came from far beyond the immediate. Fourthly, it used a prefectorial system of control (power vested in senior pupils). And fifthly, it was wealthy due to its endowments. As a result it became popular with the wealthy and the ruling class. The boarding and prefectorial aspects prepared pupils for posts at Court, diplomacy and the army. The model was adopted in 1440 by Eton College, endowed by King Edward VI. Seven others followed.

The history of education from Henry VIII to the Industrial Revolution

Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries meant the refoundation of their associated grammar schools as free or joint Church/State enterprises. The compromise suited Henry as head of both State and the Church and enabled him to retain teaching clergy. But even though Church influence reduced dramatically, the curriculum did not change.

William Tyndale’s English Bible, the first in English, was distributed widely through churches. Albeit for only three years during Henry’s reign. Some sources suggest that Tyndale’s Bible contributed to the history of education because it was the first incentive to encourage the poor to read.

There were about 400 grammar schools in 1519, when Henry came to the throne. In the 16 th and 17 th centuries the number of grammar and schools grew to nearly 2000 with sponsorship (endowments) from philanthropic merchants. In the majority of cases, the size of the endowments paid for little more than the schoolmaster’s salary. The terms of the endowment also restricted the curriculum to Latin and Greek, though some may have ventured into the Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric). However, for most, the curriculum stayed narrow and failed to adapt to the evolving needs of science, maths and languages teaching.

The narrow curriculum also blighted the fee-paying charity grammar schools (public schools). Twinned with corruption, they fell into disrepute in the decades leading up to the early 1800s.

Grammar school pupils were still predominantly male. Girls education, if any, was little more than Bible reading and homecraft.

The history of education for the masses started around 1750

The Industrial Revolution brought a profound change to British society. The population doubled from 1750 to 1820, and then doubled again to 1870. Many moved to the industrial cities and cheap child labour was prevalent. Laws passed in 1802 required apprentices and children to receive some form of basic numeracy and literacy schooling. However, only the most enlightened factory owners observed them.

For children aged 7 to 11 schooling expanded through this period. But it was random and informal. It consisted of a mixture of “petties” (small schools linked to the grammar schools), writing schools, private schools, Dames Schools, Charity Schools, Sunday Schools and Ragged Schools. The curriculum rarely ventured from reading the Scriptures.

The quality of education and the curriculum certainly didn’t promote the Industrial Revolution and British Empire. But sustaining them would make demands of the curriculum.

National Schools (from 1811) and British Schools (from 1808)

The National Society was established in 1811 with the ambition of establishing a National School in every English and Welsh parish. The Society built schools next to parish churches. Charitable in purpose, affiliated to the Church of England, the curriculum majored on religious education. The established Church had returned to the history of education. Charitable and missionary.

The Royal Lancastrian Society (later the British and Foreign School Society) had a similar mission but was non-denominational, and less extensive.

Both sought to provide elementary education for the poor, and on a very limited budget. Similarly, they both used a monitorial teaching style. Older and more able pupils were taught with standardized repetitive exercises. And they in turn taught the younger and less able pupils. As a result one teacher could teach a class of hundreds of pupils.

The curriculum was basic but it was the first attempt at universal education. Access to elementary education rose from 58% in 1816 to 83% in 1835. But average attendance was for one year only. Their legacy is as faith schools within the state system.

Grammar Schools Act 1840

This Act represents the beginning of active State intervention in the history of education. Up until now education had been the preserve of the Church, religious charities, and philanthropic individuals.

Grammar schools were in crisis with too narrow a curriculum to cater for the needs of a growing manufacturing economy and Empire. The 1840 Act made it lawful to apply the income of grammar schools to purposes other than the teaching of classical languages, with the schoolmaster’s consent.

Now that grammar schools could teach new subjects, they could charge a growing and wealthy middle class for schooling in subjects of value such as English reading and writing, maths, science and languages.

It led to a new breed of fee charging grammar school. Sometimes founded by non-conformist religions (Methodist, Quakers), they had headmasters with high Victorian moral purpose. Academic exams were introduced. And, this being the age of railways, and Empire, they were boarding schools, preparing pupils for careers in administration and the Services.

Boarding and, especially, sport became the most important element of education at these schools. H.H. Almond, the headmaster at Loretto, famously listed the educational priorities at his school as “First character, second physique, third intelligence, fourth manners, fifth information”.

Public Schools Act 1868

The decline in standards and competitiveness of the nine leading independent Charity Schools (Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester, St Paul’s and Merchant Taylors’) led to the Clarendon Commission report into their conditions and finances. The Act led to the reconstitution of the first seven of those schools. They were to have independent governing boards, independent of the Crown, clergy or government.

The Taunton Report 1868

The report published by the Taunton Commission which stratified educational need according to social class. It was to influence educational policy for nearly 100 years.

It divided parents into three “grades”, in effect, gentry, middle and working classes;

  • The “first grade” who wished for their children to be educated up to and beyond the age of 18, and who had “no wish to displace the Classics from their present position in the forefront of English education”.
  • The “second grade” who wished their children to be educated to the age of 16. These parents would “approve of a curriculum which included not only Latin, but also a thorough knowledge of those subjects which can be turned to practical use in business”. Meaning English, maths, science, and a modern language.
  • The “third grade” who wished for their children to be educated to the age of 14. These parents belonged to “a class distinctly lower in the scale”, and who wanted a curriculum with no Classics but only reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The Endowed Schools Act 1869

Acting on the Taunton report of 1868 the Act established the Endowed Schools Commission. The Commission had the legal authority to change the terms of the endowments of individual schools to address the uneven distribution of (endowed) grammar schools throughout the country, and the paucity of education for girls.

It formalised the stratification of education into public schools (mostly boarding with a classical education, preparation for university), grammar schools (day schools to age 16), third grade schools sending children into employment at 14.

It also established the fee paying academic grammar school for middle classes. Which led to a growth in grammar schools under the auspices of Victorian principles of self-improvement.

Elementary Education Act 1870 (The Forster Act)

For the first time, the government mandated the provision of elementary education for children aged 5-13. Attendance was compulsory for boys and girls, aged 5-10, thereafter until attainment of the “educational standard”.

As stipulated by Taunton (1868) the curriculum was limited to the 3Rs (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic). The schools were all fee paying, with exceptions for qualifying “poor”.

Board Schools were to be built where current provision by Church and private schools was inadequate. Board schools were funded by the state, secular, and managed by locally elected school boards. By 1900 Board Schools accounted for half of all elementary schools. An unexpected consequence of this new school building initiative was that Church schools doubled in number (to 12,756) by 1895, capitalizing on the 50% maintenance grant. But they overstretched and ran out of money.

There were attendance exemptions for illness, children in employment, and those living too far from the school. But exemptions were revoked in 1880 and enforced by School Attendance Officers.

There was a prevailing sentiment that universal education was probably a good thing to keep Britain competitive in manufacturing. But this is still a time when the idea of education for the masses was controversial. If working classes could think, then they might consider their lives unsatisfactory and revolt.

Some Board Schools established higher age range classes; “higher tops” and “higher grade” schools. This was beyond their remit.

Education Act 1902 (The Balfour Act)

By the turn of the century, Church schools taught one third of elementary age children. The schools lacked cash, were “appallingly old and out of date” and “pigsty schools”. Trading cash for influence, control and “efficiency” the Balfour Act was highly controversial.

The Act established the Local Education Authorities (LEAs), with the ability to raise local taxes to fund schools and disbanded school boards. Church, board and endowed grammar schools now came under the supervision of one of 328 LEAs.

LEAs paid for the teachers, maintenance of all schools, but if the Church schools wanted a denominational curriculum, they had to pay for their own new buildings. The Act didn’t include non-conformist schools, only Catholic and Church of England.

The Act also led to the establishment of over 1000 new “municipal” or “county” secondary schools, including 349 girls’ schools.

The LEA was responsible for secular curriculum in all schools. The curriculum for the county and municipal schools now included science and languages. In 1904 the Board of Education mandated a four year subject-based course of English, geography, history, foreign language, mathematics, science, drawing, manual work, physical training, and, for girls, housewifery. For the first time in the history of education the broad curriculum was available to all.

The school leaving age had been raised to 11 in 1893, 12 in 1899 and then to 14 in 1921.

Education Act 1944 (The Butler Act)

In the spirit of post war consensus and the desire for social reform the Butler Act created an educational landscape that is recognizable today. State education was now free for all children.

The Act created separate primary schools (5-11) and secondary schools (11-15). LEAs also had to ensure nursery provision, disability provision and boarding. The compulsory school age was raised to 15, then 16 in 1973.

Secondary education, stratified in the Taunton Report (1868) became formalized in the Tripartite system consisting of grammar schools, secondary modern schools and secondary technical schools. Selective entry to grammar schools was to be based on the Scholarship Exam (later 11+). 1951 saw the introduction of national exams, the General Certificate of Education “O” and “A” Levels.

Another Church school compromise traded funding for control of admissions and the RE syllabus to give rise to Voluntary Controlled and Voluntary Aided Schools.

Some independent schools, particularly in the North of England, became Direct Grant schools, funded directly by central government to provide free places for many but still charge others. They became the most academically successful grammar schools.

The School Health Service was established, requiring the provision of school meals, free milk, medical and dental care. Now schools were responsible for more than just teaching.

Circular 10/65 (Comprehensive schools)

The Tripartite system was deeply unpopular and socially divisive. Some LEAs abandoned it in favour of comprehensive education in mixed ability schools. A 1965 government circular encouraged others (rather than compelled them) to do likewise. The result was a mixed implementation. Some LEAs retained the 11+ and grammar schools, most went fully comprehensive abandoning the 11+ and streaming.

By 1975 Direct Grant funding ended. Of those grammar schools, 100 schools became fully independent, 50 became comprehensive schools.

1967 Central Advisory Council For Education Report, Children and their Primary Schools (The Plowden Report)

The Plowden Report was important because it was a state of the nation report on education in England. It was optimistic and did much to promote new ways of teaching; Progressivism. It espoused humanism and child-centred approaches; “at the heart of the educational process lies the child”. In other words, individualized teaching and learning with teachers responsible for the curriculum.

If the 60s represents a high water mark for post war educational experimentation and idealism the 70s were a turning point in the history of education. Education policy starts to convulse from one political leaning to another with no clear direction or momentum. It started through the 70s and 80s when a popular consensus of declining standards and school discipline led to a new measurement and results oriented culture at the Department for Education.

Education Reform Act 1988 (The Baker Act)

The Act introduced a compulsory National Curriculum consisting of 14 subjects. Teachers were no longer in charge of the curriculum. But they were accountable for it through the introduction of compulsory assessments (SATS) at ages 7, 11, 14 and 16 (GCSE). League tables became the evidence of excellent teaching or otherwise. Independent schools and grammar schools came to dominate these tables raising questions and feelings of resentment.

The Baker Act marks the beginning of a long process to wrest control of schools away from LEAs and teachers to an alliance of parents and central government. The aim was to boost standards by creating a market in education of competing schools. Parents could choose which school to send their children. Schools with declining headcounts would have to improve or shut down. Market forces were to determine the history of education.

Schools were now to receive funding relating to the number of pupils at the school. Grant Maintained status gave a school more generous funding from central government if the school’s parent body voted to opt out of LEA control. The Act also saw the introduction of City Academies. These were state schools outside LEA control with autonomy in budget control and curriculum. They became prominent as academies and “academisation” in the subsequent Blair, Brown and Cameron administrations.

And so did “Specialist schools”, which were first established by the 1988 Act. With the aim of improving achievement, specialist status allowed state secondaries to specialise in an area of the curriculum. Though they still had to observe the National Curriculum. 88% of schools participated. Specialisms were one of; the arts, maths and computing, business and enterprise, music, engineering, science, humanities, sports, languages, or technology.

1992 Education (Schools) Act

The 1992 Act established Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education). Ofsted was to ensure compliance by inspecting schools on a six yearly cycle. It would publish its reports and it had the power to name and shame underperforming schools.

Together with the imposition of the National Curriculum, testing and league tables, the bureaucratic burden of Inspections starts the steady demise of morale in the teaching profession.

History repeats itself. The history of education repeats itself.

Today we find ourselves in a funding crisis. Who will pay for our schools? Central government? LEAs? The Church? Other religious denominations? Charities? Businesses? Wealthy individuals?

We find ourselves in a curriculum crisis. Child-centred or teacher-led? Fact-based or skills-based learning? Exams or course work? SATs or a broader curriculum?

We argue about who should be controlling our schools. Central Government? LEAs? Academy Trusts? Charities? Businesses? Teachers? Parents?

We hear daily and weekly reports about skills gaps, falling standards, grade inflation, declining social mobility, overstretched, understaffed, plummeting morale.

The education debate seems to focus on knocking independent schools, educational fads, silver bullet “one size fits all” solutions, and the whims of a here-today-gone-tomorrow education minister with a vanity project for their CV.

We’ve been here before. Many times.

The history of education shows that up to 50 years ago, education was principally geared towards getting a job. That’s no longer the case, it seems. If we could agree the purpose of education (and I return to the opening sentence of this article), then we can agree the curriculum to fulfill that purpose. Everything else follows. And there may be more than one purpose and there may be more than one curriculum. One size doesn’t fit all.

I’m sure there should be a call to arms here, a manifesto. For the moment, rather than admit to not being smart enough, I’ll sleep on it, let the dust settle, get on with being a parent.

History of Education; Further reading

I have skated over a great deal of detail. If I have piqued your interest in the history of education I can recommend three sources in particular;

  • Gillard D (2011) Education in England: a brief history
  • David Turner (2015) The Old Boys: the decline and rise of the public school
  • Leach AF (1915) The Schools of Medieval England

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Timeline: A history of education


  • 1910 - The Times Educational Supplement begins publication on September 6 as a free monthly with The Times.
  • 1911 - Consultative Committee on Examinations in Secondary Schools report recommends that children take public exams at 16. More than 80 per cent of 14 to 18-year-olds receive no education at all.
  • 1912 - Maria Montessori publishes The Montessori Method.
  • 1913 - The National Union of Teachers campaigns for a national salary scale.
  • 1914 - The TES becomes a separate paper, priced 1d. The First World War begins in the summer.
  • 1915 - John and Evelyn Dewey publish Schools of Tomorrow.
  • 1916 - The TES becomes a weekly paper.
  • The Lewis committee examining plans for post-war education of adolescents recommends leaving age of 14.
  • 1917 - Exam council set up for secondaries: School Certificate examinations begin. Conscription causes teacher shortages.
  • 1918 - Fisher Education Act raises school leaving age from 12 to 14 and ends all fees for elementary education.
  • 1919 - The Burnham Committee introduces national pay scales for elementary teachers.
  • Bradford uses intelligence tests in secondary selection.
  • 1920 - State scholarships to universities introduced: 200 initially, 360 by 1936.
  • 1921 - Free milk provided for all children in need.
  • Geddes report on national expenditure leads to 6.5 million cuts in education.
  • 1922 - Crisis hits economy. Teachers forced to accept 5 per cent pay cut and to contribute 5 per cent of salary towards superannuation. Times newspapers, including The TES, are sold to the Astor family.
  • 1923 - Pay for certificated teachers in England and Wales averaged 310 for men and 254 for women.
  • The first photographs appear in The TES.
  • Jean Piaget publishes The Language and Thought of the Child. A S Neill founds Summerhill School.
  • 1924 - “Black list” of worst buildings in urban areas is produced. More than 16,000 classrooms in England and Wales still accommodate two or more classes.
  • 1925 - Educational broadcasting begins on the radio (John Logie Baird does not begin demonstrating television until the following year).
  • 1926 - Hadow Report on the Education of the Adolescent recommends separation of primary and secondary education at 11. “Modern” as well as grammar schools to be established. Direct grant schools begin.
  • 1927 - Bertrand Russell founds Beacon Hill School with his wife Dora. Cyril Burt publishes The Measurement of Mental Capacities.
  • 1928 - The Board of Education reports 21 LEAs are using IQ tests for secondary selection, and notes that this is premature.
  • 1929 - Open-air schools prove popular; 170 classes are held in London parks all-year round - these were thought to combat tuberculosis and other childhood infections.
  • 1930 - Undergraduate population reaches 30,000 as more state university scholarships provided.
  • 1931 - House of Lords defeats bill raising leaving age to 15.
  • Teacher pay slashed by 10 per cent.
  • 1932 - Grammar schools open to all according to ability, rather than giving a proportion of places to the brightest elementary pupils.
  • 1933 - Hadow Report on nursery and infant education emphasises need for new open air schools.
  • 1934 - Cyril Burt’s interpretation of intelligence tests refuted by research at the London School of Economics.
  • 1935 - Marion Richardson publishes Writing and Writing Patterns.
  • 1936 - Education Act calls for raising of leaving age to 15 in September 1939 (postponed by the outbreak of war).
  • 1937 - Handbook of Suggestions for Teachers emphasises the need for child- centred primary education.
  • 1938 - The Spens Report on secondary education recommends: expansion of technical and vocational courses; a leaving age of 16; and tripartite system of grammar, technical and secondary modern schools.
  • 1939 - Evacuation after the outbreak of the Second World War in September means that, by the end of the year, a million children have had no schooling for four months.
  • 1940 - A ship evacuating 90 London children to Canada is sunk by a torpedo. Herwald Ramsbotham, president of the Board of Education, refuses to ban conscientious objectors from teaching. H C Dent, a former headteacher, becomes acting editor of The TES.
  • 1941 - Gas mask practice is held for children every week or fortnight. 425,000 London children now evacuated.
  • 1942 - A call to schools to keep rabbits for food. Plus Labour proposes leaving age of 15, multilateral schools, free lunches, and nurseries for under-fives. Paper shortages force The TES to discontinue publication of School Certificate results.
  • 1943 - The Norwood Report supports tripartite division of secondary education into grammar, technical and modern schools.
  • 1944 - The Butler Education Act creates a Ministry of Education; ends fee- paying in maintained schools; organises public education into primary, secondary and further; and introduces the tripartite system.
  • 1945 - The Minister of Agriculture calls for 100,000 older schoolboys and girls to help in the fields.
  • 1946 - Free school milk is introduced, and free school dinners postponed. 90 per cent of university places reserved for men of HM Forces.
  • 1947 - The leaving age raised to 15 in England and Scotland. Secondary Schools Examination Council recommends General Certificate of Education at O, A and S-level.
  • 1948 - A five-year plan is launched to train 96,000 teachers, 60,000 of them women, to reduce secondary classes to 30 and primary to 40 by 1951.
  • 1949 - The Conservative Teachers’ Association asks the government to act on teachers alleged to be spreading communist propaganda.
  • 1950 - A Schools Code (for Scotland) reduces maximum primary class to 45 from 50.
  • 1951 - O and A-levels are introduced.
  • The TES goes up to 4d, its first price increase since 1923.
  • 1952 - The BBC launches pilot schools television scheme.
  • 1953 - The Labour manifesto, “Challenges to Britain”, proposes abolition of selection at 11. Middlesex education committee bans known communists and fascists from headship.
  • 1954 - The 11-plus is said to be wrongly allocating one in three pupils.
  • 1955 - The last gas lamps are removed from London schools by the London County Council.
  • 1956 - Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for boys launched (girls begin in 1958).
  • 1957 - Britain’s first school TV programmes are broadcast by Associated Rediffusion in May, with the BBC following in September.
  • 1958 - The first aided comprehensive for Jewish pupils opens in London. Brighton probation officers blame coffee bars for an “unprecedented rise” in juvenile delinquency.
  • 1959 - The Crowther Report on 15-18s recommends leaving age of 16 by 1968, and a target of half of children in full-time education to 18 by 1980 (by 1980/81, 29 per cent were).
  • 1960 - The Beloe Report proposes Certificate of Secondary Education.
  • Berkshire primary survey reveals 46 schools still with earth closets; 35 without mains water; six lit by gas; eight lit by oil; 22 with open fires.
  • 1961 - A campaign to persuade 50,000 married women back into teaching is launched. The TES publishes a complete Billy Bunter story. In Latin.
  • 1962 - Leeds experiments with primary French.
  • A S Neill’s Summerhill published.
  • 1963 - London and Manchester end 11-plus.
  • 1964 - The Ministry of Education becomes the Department of Education and Science (DES).
  • TES Scotland launches.
  • 1965 - Circular 10/65 requires LEAs to propose schemes for comprehensive reorganisation on lines laid down by the DES. The General Teaching Council for Scotland is established.
  • 1966 - The Schools Council calls for 16-plus exam to replace CSE and GCE. A disaster in British education: landslide engulfs Aberfan schools, killing 144. The TES and sister papers are taken over by Lord Thomson.
  • 1967 - The Plowden Report advocates expansion of nursery schooling and introduction of educational priority areas.
  • 1968 - The Newsom Report on public schools calls for integration with state schools and an assisted places system.
  • 1969 - The first of the “Black Papers” published, which criticises what the authors believed was excessive progressivism in education.
  • 1970 - Margaret Thatcher is appointed education secretary.
  • The Conservative government replaces Circular 10/65 with Circular 10/70, leaving LEAs to decide future of secondary education in their areas.
  • 1971 - The Times Higher Education Supplement launches, a spin-off of The TES.
  • Controversy over the sex education film Growing Up and The Little Red School Book. Mrs Thatcher abolishes milk for the over-sevens.
  • 1972 - The school-leaving age is raised to 16. Pupil governors are appointed in Hounslow, Brighton and Wolverhampton. UK schools have 570 video recorders.
  • 1973 - The NUT strikes for a better London allowance.
  • Roy Hattersley reveals Labour plans to abolish public schools.
  • 1974 - Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow quits teaching for a better-paid job as a warehouse administrator. The Houghton Report increases teachers’ pay by 30 per cent.
  • 1975 - A black paper proposes exams at seven, 11 and 14.
  • William Tyndale School in north London taken over by inspectors. Chancellor Denis Healey cuts 76 million from the education budget.
  • The TES sponsors the first Schools Prom.
  • 1976 - Prime minister James Callaghan’s Ruskin College speech launches the “Great Debate” on education.
  • 1977 - HMI criticises teaching of maths, science and languages and calls for political education for all 11 to 16-year-olds. A TES poll finds most teachers in favour of caning, tests at eight, 11 and 15, and grammar schools.
  • 1978 - The Warnock Report on special education gives rise to the 1981 Education Act requiring local authorities to assess pupils and identify the provision they require.
  • The TES and other Times newspapers suspend publication during strike action.
  • 1979 - Strikes during the “winter of discontent” cause some school closures and 280 million is cut from education.
  • The TES resumes publication in November.
  • 1980 - Assisted places at independent schools are introduced.
  • Anti-corporal punishment group STOPP criticises The Beano for its preoccupation with caning. Rupert Murdoch buys Times newspapers, including The TES.
  • 1981 - The Government launches a programme to put a computer in every school. The Rampton Report blames teachers for ethnic underachievement and calls for more black teachers.
  • 1982 - Sir Keith Joseph, education secretary under Margaret Thatcher, demands that “ineffective” teachers are sacked.
  • 1983 - The Schools Council is replaced by the Secondary Examinations Council and School Curriculum Development Committee.
  • 1984 - A race row breaks over the views of Bradford headmaster Ray Honeyford, who outlined concerns about multiculturalism in The TES and the Salisbury Review. He is sacked and reinstated.
  • 1985 - Schools are disrupted by a teachers’ pay dispute.
  • 1986 - The GCSE is introduced for teaching, replacing O-levels and CSEs.
  • Education Act (2) sets down rules on sex education, admissions and political indoctrination. It also abolishes corporal punishment and requires governors to publish annual reports and schools to hold parents’ meetings.
  • 1987 - The Teacher Pay and Conditions Act marks the end of the Burnham committee, which negotiated teachers’ pay.
  • 1988 - The Education Reform Act ushers in the national curriculum; national testing at seven, 11 and 14; Ofsted; local management of school budgets; grant maintained schools and city technology colleges.
  • 1989 - The first teacher supply agency, Time Plan, is launched. Education secretary Kenneth Baker sets out plans for articled teachers who would train on the job after university rather than taking a PGCE.
  • 1990 - The Inner London Education Authority is replaced by 13 new education authorities.
  • 1991 - The New Schools Bill proposes privatisation of the local school inspection service.
  • 1992 - General National Vocational qualifications are introduced.
  • 1993 - The NASUWT teaching union achieves a landmark victory when the Appeal Court rules its boycott of national curriculum tests is a legitimate trade dispute. Education secretary John Patten announces that tests will be slimmed down.
  • 1994 - Tony Blair is elected leader of the Labour Party and faces controversy over his and his wife Cherie’s decision to send their son Euan to the London Oratory School, a high-performing faith school a long way from Downing Street.
  • 1995 - A mini-riot breaks out at the NUT conference, with shadow education secretary David Blunkett forced to retreat into a cupboard.
  • 1996 - The Dunblane massacre: Thomas Hamilton shoots dead 16 pupils and their teacher at a Scottish primary school before turning the gun on himself. The BBC broadcasts controversial Panorama programme on the Ridings School in Halifax.
  • 1997 - The New Labour government scraps assisted places. Education minister Stephen Byers “names and shames” 18 failing schools.
  • 1998 - Introduction of Literacy Hour and the National Year of Reading. The first serving heads are knighted.
  • 1999 - Former IRA leader Martin McGuinness appointed education minister for Ulster. First state-funded Sikh school opens in Hayes, north-west London.
  • 2000 - The death of Victoria Climbie leads to an inquiry and changes to the running of schools and local authorities. The General Teaching Councils in England and Wales begin registering teachers.
  • 2001 - New AS levels are introduced as a result of Curriculum 2000. Alastair Campbell, the prime minister’s press secretary, announces that the days of “the bog standard comprehensive” are over.
  • 2002 - A row over grading of the A2 and AS levels leads to changes in results for 10,000 students. The first academies open their doors.
  • 2003 - A teacher workload agreement is signed by employers, the government and teacher unions (except for NUT). Teach First teachers start to work in schools.
  • 2004 - The Children Act - the legislative part of Every Child Matters - is designed to get education and social services working more closely together. In Wales, pupils take key stage 2 and 3 tests for the last time after the Assembly votes to scrap them - and TES Cymru is launched.
  • 2005 - The Tomlinson proposals for overarching diplomas are rejected by Ruth Kelly, then education secretary, who proposes a separate work-based diploma instead. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver campaigns for better school dinners.
  • The TES is sold by Rupert Murdoch’s News International to Exponent, a private equity group.
  • 2006 - Des Smith, a former headteacher and member of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, is caught promising an undercover reporter that businessmen could gain a peerage by sponsoring an academy. A row over whether Muslim teachers should wear the veil is sparked by the sacking of a part-time teaching assistant, Aishah Azmi.
  • 2007 - The Department for Education and Skills is split, with schools moved into the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The TES is sold to Charterhouse, another private equity company.
  • 2008 - The TES reveals major problems with the marking of key stage 2 and 3 tests. Ed Balls, then schools secretary, later announces he is scrapping KS3 tests.
  • 2009 - The Charity Commission issues first reports on independent schools, examining how well they meet tests for public benefit. City workers who have lost their jobs as result of the global financial downturn are targeted to become teachers.
  • 2010 - The new Coalition government’s education secretary Michael Gove announces he is scrapping a range of educational schemes and quangos to save money, including the GTC for England, QCDA, Becta, and Building Schools for the Future.
  • 2011 - The Academies Act becomes law signalling the way for the transformation of the landscape of English education.
  • The TES is relaunched as a magazine
  • 2012 - Michael Gove’s DfE reveals plans to rethink GCSEs, originally planning to rebrand them O-levels.
  • 2013 - The new National Curriculim is published.
  • 2014 - Michael Gove is reshuffled out of the DfE and replaced by Nicky Morgan.
  • 2015 - The Education and Adoption Bill is published, signalling the introduction of the “coasting” category of school.

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Bridget Phillipson education secretary

History resources, stories and news. Author: Dan Moorhouse

Evolution of education - a history of schooling

The Evolution of Education: A Look Back at the History of Schools

We have become so accustomed to education worldwide that people seldom wonder how schools began. Today, we generally consider education a mandatory part of growing up. Modern education implies a process where the individual acquires or imparts basic knowledge to another. Schooling today helps people develop the skills they need for daily living. It is also vital for learning social norms and developing sound reasoning and judgment. Research has also found that education plays an essential role in eradicating poverty and hunger, allowing people a chance at better living. Although we all recognize the significance of schooling today, its evolution to this state is not well documented. This article examines the history of schools and how education metamorphosed into what it is today.

Why Is Schooling Important?

People go to school for various reasons, mainly to improve their careers and livelihoods. Generally speaking, most of the benefits of schools relate to the individual’s life goals and future well-being. Quality education helps people develop good communication skills, teaching the arts of reading and writing. Evidence also shows that education helps students develop critical thinking skills, thereby boosting creativity and improving time management. For most people, however, education is an important tool for meeting individual basic qualifications for work. In modern society, the more educated you are, the higher your chance of landing a well-paying job.

Education helps individuals meet basic job qualifications while promoting gender equity and helping empower girls and women. Students get to develop enhanced problem-solving skills and become more self-reliant. Schools also offer opportunities for interaction and developing social skills. Moreover, quality education increases stability and financial security while supporting the economic growth of nations.

What Are the Various Types of Education?

Generally, three main types of education are formal, informal, and non-formal. Formal schooling entails education that takes place in traditional classroom settings and academic institutions. This form of schooling allows students to acquire basic skills like reading and writing. However, students also learn more complex academic concepts and acquire the theoretical knowledge needed to thrive in the workplace. Today, the education sector has changed greatly, and students can easily order assignments from platforms like .

The second type of education is the informal variant, where students learn outside the premise of formal academic institutions. Often informal learning allows people to acquire skills and knowledge from home through self-driven approaches. It includes browsing through educational sites and visiting libraries.

The third type is the non-formal variant, which combines formal and informal schooling. While it follows a timetable and systematically develops curricula like formal instruction, it also allows greater flexibility and self-direction. Moreover, it does not require students to attend formal school systems. Online education is one such form of non-formal instruction. Check out this essaywriter review on insights on how students can use the internet to get help with assignments.

A Brief History of Education

A history of education

The history of schooling is longstanding, with intricate development shaping how people seek and interact with knowledge. Schooling dates back to written records in ancient ages. According to research, education in Asia can be traced back to the teachings of three major religious and philosophical traditions: Hinduism, Islam, and Confucianism. Continually, towards the end of the 18 th century, education in East Asia metamorphosed according to the wave of Neo-Confucianism. The British introduced a radical change in South Asia by launching more modern schools. The main objective was to prepare future government officials and train interpreters. As a result, this led to diminished ties between students and communities, thereby changing South Asia’s conventional objective of education.

In America, education was not a requirement in the 17 th century, although it remained a dream of many. The main form of education during that era was Puritan, where parents were mandated to teach their children morals and religion. As the settler population increased, each colony was mandated to have at least one school teaching academics. However, these schools mostly served the wealthy members of the community. Harvard was the first college established in 1636, with the first academic for girls created in 1787.

The growth of public schools continued, with technology emerging to transform the education sector in monumental ways. The introduction of technology in education in the 1970s sped up the sector’s growth, with immense evolution following in the 20 th century. Today, students can easily get help with projects online. Check out this essaywriter review for tips on how to get assistance with assignments.

School and education have been around for a while, though standardized education is fairly new. It is important to note that modern education is much more than attending school and earning a degree. It entails the process of widening an individual’s skillset and knowledge base.

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Education Policy Institute

Home / Publications & Research / Benchmarking English Education / Education: the fundamentals – Eleven facts about the education system in England

Education: the fundamentals – Eleven facts about the education system in England

A major new report on education in England is published today by UK 2040 Options, led by Nesta, and The Education Policy Institute.

The report combines data, analysis and insights from over 75 education experts on the education challenges facing the next government and possible solutions to improve outcomes.

The report shows that:

  • All sectors of the education system are facing a workforce crisis. In schools, only 69% of those who qualified 5 years ago are still teaching, and 15% of that cohort left in their first year. 
  • The pupil population in England is set to decline significantly due to low birth rates. The state school population currently stands at 7.93 million children, and this will fall by around 800,000 by 2032. 
  • The number of pupils with  an education, health and care plan for more complex  special educational needs and disabilities has increased by around 50% in just five years – but funding has not caught up with the level of need and is based (in part) on historic data.
  • Only 5% of primary schools reached the Government’s target of 90% of pupils reaching the expected standard in key stage 2 reading, writing and mathematics in 2019.
  • Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds experience an attainment gap (relative to their more affluent peers) equivalent to 19 months of learning by the time they sit their GCSEs. Two fifths of this gap has appeared by the age of 5. 
  • Absence from education is now one of the most pressing issues facing England’s education system – persistent absence (missing more than 10% of sessions) has increased from 13% to 24%.
  • Closing the gap between skill supply and employer demand could increase national productivity by 5% – 42% of vacancies in manufacturing and 52% in construction are due to skill shortages.

The report, which follows UK 2040 Options publications on  inequality and wealth ,  economic growth ,  health  and  tax , also includes evidence of progress. England recently came fourth in the world for primary school reading proficiency and well above average in maths and science in Years 5 and 9.

But the report also reveals a system that is struggling. Thousands of children start school each year without basic skills, the disadvantage gap is growing, and education at every level is experiencing a chronic recruitment and retention challenge.

Over 75 subject experts from across a range of sectors took part in the project. There was wide agreement about the need to grapple seriously with the workforce crisis across all parts of the system, and the group put forward suggestions for how this could be achieved while continuing to improve the quality of education provision. 

More broadly the group proposed policies to:

  • Support the growing number of children  with special education needs and disabilities and rebuild parents’ trust in the system;
  • Address challenges inside and outside the school gates to improve educational outcomes, including lifting families out of poverty and increasing targeted funding for disadvantaged pupils;
  • Make the skills system more equitable, higher quality and tailored to the needs of the economy. 

Alex Burns, Director of UK 2040 Options, said:   “Education has been less prominent than other areas in recent policy debate – we feel a long way away from “education, education, education”. But if we are to be serious about improving people’s lives and boosting the economy we will need to make sure that the education system is thriving. Whilst there are clear areas of progress, this report demonstrates the scale of the challenge for the future in areas like workforce, the disadvantage gap and support for children with special educational needs.” 

Jon Andrews, Head of Analysis at the Education Policy Institute, said:  “ Whatever the outcome of the next election, it is clear there is much to do to get education back on track following a hugely disruptive pandemic and a decade dominated by funding cuts. A focus on the early years, greater funding that is targeted at the areas in need of it the most, and a plan to ease the recruitment and retention challenges facing schools must form cornerstones of any new government’s education strategy.”

You can read the report in full here.

history of education system in uk

About UK 2040 Options

UK 2040 Options is a policy project led by Nesta that seeks to address the defining issues facing the country, from tax and economic growth to health and education. It draws on a range of experts to assess the policy landscape, explore some of the most fertile areas in more depth, test and interrogate ideas and bring fresh angles and insights to the choices that policymakers will need to confront, make and implement.

About Nesta

We are Nesta . The UK’s innovation agency for social good. We design, test and scale new solutions to society’s biggest problems, changing millions of lives for the better.  This report was produced in partnership with Nesta, as part of UK 2040 Options.

history of education system in uk

Jon Andrews

History of Education Society

Types of school in nineteenth-century England

by Ken Clayton | Jul 9, 2018 | 0 comments

Research into the history of education in nineteenth century England reveals a variety of different classifications of school. This blog provides an explanation of some of the more frequently encountered descriptions.

Board schools: By the late 1860s there was a wide range of voluntary schools in England and Wales, many funded or supported by religious denominations. Attendance was optional but a campaign began in Birmingham with the support of industrialists for compulsory, non-religious, free elementary education to be provided for all children. The 1870 Education Act was, in some degree, a response to this campaign although it did not settle the question of compulsory attendance. It allowed the voluntary schools to remain but established school boards across the country. One of their tasks was to compare the number of school places in their areas with the number of school-age children. Where there was a shortfall, the boards were responsible for establishing new schools. These were the Board Schools in which religious education had to be non-denominational. A similar situation was created in Scotland through a separate Act in 1872 (Parliament, n.d. online).

Branch schools: There is surprisingly little information available about branch schools. However, judging by Stephens’ work and comments made by James Riddall Wood of the Statistical Society of Manchester in evidence to the Select Committee in 1838, branch schools were elementary schools supported by a grammar school or a religious establishment such as a church or chapel (Stephens, 1964, pp501-548 and Report, 1838, p122).

British schools: According to Lawson and Silver, there is a clear thread that started with Lancasterian schools at the end of the seventeenth century. In 1808 Joseph Fox, William Allen and Samuel Whitbread, supported by several evangelical and non-conformist Christians, formed the Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor and this was re-named the British and Foreign School Society for the Education of the Labouring and Manufacturing Classes of Society of Every Religious Persuasion in 1814. In that form it supported a number of non-sectarian schools run on Lancasterian principles and the connection with the Society was shown by calling them British Schools (Lawson et al, 1973, p241).

Certified efficient schools: By the nineteenth century schools could be eligible to receive grants from central government, provided they were inspected by HM Inspectors. However, the 1870 Education Act introduced new conditions to be met if a school was to be designated a public elementary school. Of these, the most difficult for what are now termed faith schools was that children could not be forced to attend ‘any Sunday school, or any place of religious worship, or […] attend any religious observance or any instruction in religious subjects in the school’. Beyond that, the school had to be available for inspection. However, they would be termed ‘certified efficient’ if they agreed to be inspected even though they refused to abide by the religious restrictions. This position was ‘regularised by the Elementary Education Act, 1876’ (National Archives, n.d. online).

Commercial schools : These were schools that taught subjects beyond the traditional classical curriculum. Leinster Mackay suggests that they were schools for middle-class children (1971, p67)

Dame schools : By the mid-nineteenth century, Dame schools had been a familiar part of the educational landscape for hundreds of years. In the seventeenth century they are thought to have been elementary schools run by widows. It may have been this type of school that led Charles Hoole to write that teaching in Petty Schools was too important to be ‘left as a work for poor women, or others, whose necessities compel them to undertake it, as a mere shelter from beggary’ (Hoole, 1637, p28). Leinster-Mackay has them as ‘schools run by women which are based on the private profit motive’ by the nineteenth century (1971, p24).

G rammar schools: The origins of the Grammar schools lie in the teaching activities of religious houses – monasteries, cathedrals and others – which grew up in England after the Conquest. During the twelfth century, these schools were largely concentrated on cathedrals with every cathedral being obliged by the Third Lateran Council, to provide teaching for clergy and local children. The main purpose of these schools was to teach Latin grammar mainly to junior clergy (Lawson et al, 1973, pp. 21-22). This remained as a central part of the schools’ curriculum even towards the end of the seventeenth century. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Mann reported that just over seventy per cent of grammar schools were teaching ancient languages, compared to just under eight per cent of other endowed schools (HMSO, 1854, p. xlix).

Industrial school : Gear explains that schools of industry, to be found in the latter part of the eighteenth century were sometimes referred to as industrial schools and were intended to provide work for unemployed children. In addition to work they provided an elementary education. By the nineteenth century the definition had changed and a series of Acts of Parliament resulted in the setting up of residential schools ‘for vagrant and destitute children’ where they would receive training to prepare them for work in shoemaking, tailoring, printing and other trades as well as a basic education (Gear, 1999, p9).

Lancasterian schools: The English educator, Joseph Lancaster, built on the work of Andrew Bell who had run a school in Madras in which older children were taught by adults and before passing on their knowledge to younger children, hence the system is also referred to as Madras or Monitorial. In reality, this system had been in use in British grammar schools since at least the seventeenth century. However, Lancaster attracted the attention of influential individuals and a Royal Lancasterian Society was formed but Lancaster argued with the trustees and started his own school. This failed, he was declared bankrupt and left the country (Allen, 1846, p173).

National Schools: The Anglican National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales , known as the National Society was founded in 1811 with the aim that ‘the National Religion should be made the foundation of National Education, and should be the first and chief thing taught to the poor, according to the excellent Liturgy and Catechism provided by our Church’. Schools opened and managed by the Society were called National Schools (Hopkins, 2011, online).

Private Adventure School: In this context, the word ‘adventure’ is used in the sense of risking a loss (OED, 2018, online). These schools were privately funded in order to make a profit for investors. The description acquired a pejorative meaning leading to those who supported such schools demanding the description of ‘private enterprise’ or ‘private establishment’ (Leinster-Mackay, 1971, p67).

Ragged schools: The foundation of the first Ragged School is credited to John Pounds of Portsmouth who began providing education for poor (ragged) children in the early 1840s. The idea caught on and the Ragged School Union was established in 1844 (Lawson et al, 1973, p284). In his report of 1854 Horace Mann wrote that ‘The primary object of the Ragged School is to convert incipient criminals to Christianity’ although he softened this somewhat by adding that ‘all ragged schools, in greater or less degree, attempt a double object — both to cultivate the minds and hearts of vagrant children and to raise their physical and social state’. Children in some schools were fed and some even had dormitories. It appears to have been relatively common for Ragged schools to provide industrial training for children and, in many cases, helped them to get jobs or to emigrate when the time came for them to leave school. Teaching was undertaken by a mix of paid and voluntary teachers. Mann suggests that they were funded entirely by voluntary contributions (HMSO, 1854, p. lxv).

Sunday schools: Sunday schools prior to the introduction of compulsory full-time education, provided one of the several means by which children might learn to read. In some cases, this was linked to religious instruction whereas in others the Bible was used ‘Simply to acquire the art of reading’ although this applied to only seven per cent or so of children attending Sunday schools in Wales, for example. The same source shows that half the children were taught to write, around one third were taught arithmetic while a minority were taught other subjects such as Geography and History (Kay Shuttleworth, 1848, p95).

Allen, William (1846) The Life of William Allen Vol III, London, Charles Gilpin.

Gear, Gillian Carol (1999) Industrial Schools in England 1857-1933 ‘Moral Hospitals’ or ‘Oppressive Institutions’? PhD Thesis, University of London Institute of Education.

HMSO (1854) Census of Great Britain, 1851 Education England and Wales Report and Tables London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Hoole, Charles (1661) A New Discovery of the Old Art of Teaching Schoole London.

Hopkins, Colin (2011) ‘Education: Vision for a million children’ in Church Times (online) Available at Accessed 29 May 2018.

Kay Shuttleworth, J. P. (1848) Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry Into the State of education in Wales (1848) London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Lawson, John and Silver, Harold (1973) A Social History of Education in England London, Methuen & Co.

Leinster-Mackay, Donald P. (1971) The English private school 1830-1914, with special reference to the private proprietary school (PhD Thesis) Durham University.

National Archives (n.d.) Education Department and Board of Education: Certified Efficient Independent and Private Schools, Files (online) available at Accessed 18 May 2018 .

OED (2018) “adventure, v.” in OED Online, Oxford University Press, Available at Accessed 30 May 2018. (n.d.) ‘Going to School’ in Living Heritage (online) available at Accessed 13 May 2018.

Report from the Select Committee on Education of the Poorer Classes in England and Wales […] Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed 13 July 1838 (1838), p122.

Stephens, W. B. (ed) (1964) ‘Public Education: Schools’, in A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham , pp. 501-548. (online) Available at Accessed 13 May 2018.

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Education, education, education: a history of Labour's schools policies

Party has often backed comprehensive education but critics say it is driven by the 'politics of envy'

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"Education, education, education" was at the heart of Tony Blair's pitch to the British public in the run-up to the 1997 general election.

Now, 27 years on, the issue is still a central plank of Labour's manifesto, with Blair's eventual successor Keir Starmer promising to recruit 6,500 teachers and create 3,300 new nurseries within existing primary schools.

But his plan to scrap the VAT exemption on independent school fees has provoked opposition, a reflection of how Labour's approach to education has evolved and divided over the years.

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'Free at all stages'

The Labour Party was founded in 1900 and its first leader, Keir Hardie, said he believed that all working people should receive a full education that was "free at all stages" and "open to everyone without any tests of prior attainment at any age".

Implementing this did not prove as simple as hoped. As prime minister, Clement Attlee was able to implement the 1944 Education Act, which provided universal free secondary education and raised the minimum school leaving age from 14 to 15.

Later, Harold Wilson's government expanded comprehensive education and created the Open University. Between 1966 and 1970, the proportion of children in comprehensive schools increased from about 10% to over 30%.

'Education, education, education'

By 2007, after 10 years of Blair's premiership, the government was spending almost £1.2 billion on education every week, as the core "per pupil" funding had risen by 48% in "real terms", said the BBC , amounting to £1,450 more per year per child. 

Blair could point to some successes from this spending. In primary school tests just before he took power, 63% of 11-year-olds had reached the expected levels in English, 62% in maths and 69% in science. Nine years later, the test results were all up – 79% in English, 76% in maths and 87% in science. There were 35,000 more teachers and 172,000 more teaching assistants.

But there were also "failures", said the broadcaster, as a "stark gap" remained between the achievement of pupils in "affluent and deprived communities". Blair had promised that truancy rates were going to be cut by a third, with threats of jailing parents, but they were "unchanged".

'Leftward drift'

Jeremy Corbyn was passionate about education too. In 1999 he got divorced after a disagreement with his wife over whether their son should be educated at one of the country's best grammar schools or at a nearby north London comprehensive.

Corbyn favoured the local comp and his marital break-up echoed "tensions" within the Labour Party over selection in education and the future of the country's 160 grammar schools, said The Guardian .

After Corbyn became Labour leader in 2015, the party planned to scrap university tuition fees and restore maintenance grants. He also promised to invest in a National Education Service, modelled on "what the NHS does for healthcare", said the TES .

Corbyn also wanted children to be taught about injustice and the role of the British Empire, as education policy moved more towards the left.

'Politics of envy'

In the event of a Starmer government, empty primary school classrooms will be turned into nurseries as part of his plans to create an extra 100,000 childcare places.

Labour aims to create more than 3,300 new nurseries using spare schools capacity caused by declining birth rates, and the proposal will be funded by its "VAT raid on private schools", said The Telegraph .

Starmer said childcare is "critical infrastructure", "vital for children’s opportunities" and "essential for a stable economy", but Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said Labour's approach is the "politics of envy", said the Daily Express .

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  Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books. 

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How to register as a childminder and receive a grant worth up to £1,200

become a childminder

We’re making the biggest investment by a UK government into childcare  in history. Parents have the flexibility to choose how they spend their government-funded hours – and many are opting to use childminders.

Being a childminder is a rewarding role where you can have a real impact on the lives of children and their families. It’s also a flexible career which you can fit around your life.

If you’re new to the profession, you may also be entitled to a grant worth up to £1,200 to help start your business.

Here we explain everything you need to know about how to become a childminder and where to apply.

What do childminders do?

Childminders care for babies, toddlers and children in a home-based environment.

Lots of childminders do this alongside looking after their own children.

As a childminder, you will help develop children’s wellbeing and kickstart their learning, so they are ready for school when they reach the right age.

Your responsibilities could include:

  • Offering safe play activities, both indoors and outside,
  • Providing learning activities,
  • Planning, preparing and serving meals,
  • Speaking to parents and carers about their child's day.

Childminders are self-employed, so you’ll be running your own business and acting as your own boss.

How much do childminders earn?

The amount you earn as a childminder depends on a few factors, including the number of children you look after and the hours you offer.

Being self-employed is one of the benefits of being a childminder, as you can fit your work around the other commitments you have – including caring for your own children.

Childminders are benefitting from our investment in childcare. We are investing more than £400 million this year to increase hourly funding rates, meaning the national average funding rates for 24/25 are:

  • £11.22 for under twos. This is almost double the mean hourly fee charged to parents in 2023 at £6.05 per hour.
  • £8.28 for two-year-olds , up from £6.00 per hour in 23/24. This is significantly higher than the mean hourly fee charged to parents in 2023 at £6.07 per hour.
  • £5.88 for three- and four-year-olds , up from £5.29 per hour in 23/24. This is roughly the same as the mean hourly fee charged to parents in 2023 at £5.90 per hour.

To help you start-up your business, new childminders joining the profession may be able to apply for a childminder start-up grant of £600 if registering with Ofsted, or £1,200 if registering with a childminder agency. The grant size reflects the different costs of registering.

What qualifications do childminders need?

You don’t need any prior experience or qualifications to become a childminder, but you must complete a registration process.

To do this you'll usually need to:

  • demonstrate that you understand and can implement the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) if you’re looking to care for young children in the early years age-group. Childminders looking after school-age will also need to complete training. Find out more on Ofsted’s website here .
  • complete a paediatric first aid course.
  • complete child protection safeguarding training.

New childminders might be eligible to receive a grant to cover costs associated with registering, and once you’re registered, you could take further training, like a   free online course covering child development  during early years.

Find out more here .

How do I apply to become a childminder?

To become a childminder, you must register with Ofsted or a childminder agency.

You can register with Ofsted online here .

To register with a childminder agency, you must contact them directly. A list of agencies is available here .

Should childminders register with Ofsted or a childminder agency?

You can choose whether to register with Ofsted or a childminder agency.

If you register with Ofsted, you will need to organise your own support, finances and record-keeping. Ofsted charges an annual fee.

In contrast, childminder agencies provide you with practical support, and can also offer a range of additional services, such as help with the administrative side of your business. Childminder agencies are likely to charge you a monthly fee or percentage of your earnings. You can find out about childminder agencies and the services they provide here .

How many children can I look after as a childminder?

Childminders can look after a maximum of 6 children under the age of 8 per adult.

Of these 6 children, a maximum of 3 may be young children, and there should only be 1child under the age of 1.

The EYFS contains more information here .

Can I work with other people as a childminder?

Currently, childminders can work with up to two other people (childminders and/or assistants) under their childminder registration – meaning there can be a total of three people working together under a single registration.

We’re planning to expand the number of people who can work together as childminders to four people in total – this change will likely come into later this year.

Can I work as a childminder outside my home?

Childminders can currently operate from suitable location outside their home, such as a school site or community centre, for up to 50% of their time. Childminders can also organise outings, like a trip to a park or a local library. More information is available here .

We’re working to allow childminders to spend more time working from outside a home-based location – these changes will also likely come into effect later this year.

I’m a parent. How do I find a childminder?

Contact your local authority to find a childminder in your area. You can find your local authority website here .

You may also be interested in:

  • Free childcare: How we are tackling the cost of childcare
  • Thousands of parents of two-year-olds benefit from 15 hours free childcare - here's how
  • Everything you need to know about apprenticeships in early years and how to find one

Tags: Childcare , childminder , childminders , find a childminder , free childcare , wraparound

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