Education in the UK: a history
Derek Gillard

first published June 1998
this version published May 2018

copyright Derek Gillard 2018
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Chapter 5 : 1750-1860

Towards mass education


The Industrial Revolution

In the middle of the eighteenth century, as the Industrial Revolution began, most of England's six million people lived and worked in the countryside. By the end of the century this number had risen to nearly nine million (Lawson and Silver 1973:226) and a greater proportion of these lived in towns, as more efficient agricultural techniques freed workers from the land and made it possible to feed a large non-agricultural population.

This trend continued into the nineteenth century. By 1831 the total population of England and Wales was nearly 14 million, a quarter of whom lived in the forty-three towns which now had populations of over 20,000. Relative world peace, the availability of money, coal and iron ore, the invention of the steam engine and the coming of the railways (the Liverpool-Manchester railway opened in 1830), all combined to facilitate the construction of factories for the mass production of goods, notably textiles. In thirty years, Manchester and Greater London doubled in size, raw cotton imports increased fivefold and coal production more than doubled (Lawson and Silver 1973:258).

As well as causing large numbers of people to move to the new industrial cities, especially those in the midlands and the north, the factory system also increased the division and specialisation of workers and resulted in low wages, slum housing and the use of child labour. Thus the Industrial Revolution exacerbated the problems of a society 'divided into those with land or capital or profession and those with no wealth, no possessions and no privileges' (Benn and Chitty 1996:2).

By the 1830s

England had great industrial and urban communities with high mortality rates, inadequate and unhealthy water supplies, large areas of insanitary and overcrowded housing and little or no local or national machinery to implement basic reforms. In this context words like 'society', 'town' and 'education' had by 1830 come to have quite different implications from those of half a century before (Lawson and Silver 1973:259).
The rapid expansion of urban populations resulted in problems which were both educational and cultural:
the canals, the cotton mills, iron foundries and - later - the railways, brought into being communities working to new forms of industrial discipline, dislocating old patterns of life and the traditional culture and pursuits of the countryside. Child labour and child crime became major social phenomena. ... The new urban communities were cut off from the familiar attentions of squire, vicar, poor-law overseer and schoolmaster. The new towns spread without planning, without local government, franchise, churches or schools (Lawson and Silver 1973:227).
Rural areas also suffered - from the impact of new methods, the enclosure of land, the rising population and nearby urban developments. 'Poverty and illiteracy were no less acute in rural areas during this period than they were in towns' (Lawson and Silver 1973:227).

For the poor - in both town and countryside - education still seemed irrelevant. Indeed, any young man who attempted to 'improve his condition' was seen as

a disaffected person, who was not satisfied with the station in which God had placed him, but, forgetting the humility that belonged to his condition, was contriving how to raise himself out of his proper place (Booth 1858:7 quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:227-8).
The population of England and Wales continued to rise. By 1851 it was almost 18 million, half of whom lived in urban areas, and reformers began to realise that there was a 'close association between poverty, dirt and disease' (Lawson and Silver 1973:279). The cholera epidemics of the early 1830s and late 1840s were one of the factors which led to the passing of the 1848 Public Health Act. Improved sanitation and the appointment of local medical officers of health were 'important steps towards the improvement of urban conditions', but 'the areas least touched by education continued to be those least touched by other aspects of social reform' and action to improve conditions in these areas 'was delayed by hostility and apathy' (Lawson and Silver 1973:279).

While the Church of England and the nonconformist churches provided schools, they were 'unable to adjust to the conditions of the growing towns' (Lawson and Silver 1973:280). Some clergymen made valiant efforts, but large urban parishes often received little support from the church as a whole.

In mid-nineteenth century England, therefore,

Poverty, overcrowding, disease, crime and illiteracy continued to be part of one and the same phenomenon, and where it was worst it tended to receive the least attention (Lawson and Silver 1973:280).
Against this background there was 'a fundamental argument about the purposes of education' (Williams 1961:140). Williams identifies two strands of this argument: 'the idea of education for all, and the definition of a liberal education' (Williams 1961:140).

It was a complicated debate in which, Williams argues, three groups participated: the 'public educators', the 'industrial trainers' (the powerful group which promoted education in terms of training and disciplining the poor as workers and citizens) and the 'old humanists' (Williams 1961:142).

The curriculum which evolved during the nineteenth century was 'a compromise between all three groups, but with the industrial trainers predominant' (Williams 1961:142). This was 'damaging both to general education and to the new kinds of vocational training' (Williams 1961:143).

Equally damaging was the obsession with social class which cast its shadow over educational developments:

The continued relegation of trade and industry to lower social classes, and the desire of successful industrialists that their sons should move into the now largely irrelevant class of gentry, were alike extremely damaging to English education and English life (Williams 1961:143).

Social, political and educational movements

The dramatic social, political and economic transformation of England during this period served to reveal the utter inadequacy of the country's educational provision. A number of reports highlighted the deficiencies and called for more and better schools. One such report - by the Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders in the Metropolis - looked at 12,000 parishes in 1816, and found that 3,500 had no school, 3,000 had endowed schools of varying quality, and 5,500 had unendowed schools of even more variable quality (Williams 1961:135).

Faced with the appalling lifestyles and abject poverty which industrialisation often inflicted on its workers, campaigners began to call for better pay and conditions, for wider democracy and the extension of the franchise, and for the education of the poor. Popular movements sprang up, many actively concerned with education.

Literary and philosophical societies

Literary and philosophical societies (philosophical here meaning scientific) were founded in the late eighteenth century, reflecting an interest in applied science inspired by the Industrial Revolution.

The first of these was the Lunar Society of Birmingham (so named because it met on the night of the full moon), founded in 1775, which included among its members Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), James Watt (1736-1819), Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817), Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795), Thomas Day (1748-1789) and Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) (O'Day 1982:212, Simon 1974:25)

Several members of the Lunar Society wrote significant educational works.

Joseph Priestley, best known as a scientist but also 'a practising educator throughout most of his life' (Simon 1974:25), developed ideas on the theory and practice of education and on psychology. He argued that the curriculum should include modern history, policy, arts, manufactures, science, mathematics and commerce (Simon 1974:33) but, like all dissenters, he was 'adamantly opposed to education becoming a function of the state' (Simon 1974:34), believing that government would use it to promote uniformity of thought and belief.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth collaborated for a while with Thomas Day in writing the History of Sandford and Merton (1783-9), which became 'one of the most popular children's books of all time' (Simon 1974:25). Later, with his daughter Maria, he wrote Practical Education (1798), 'certainly the most significant contemporary work on pedagogy' (Simon 1974:25), criticising rote methods of learning and the narrow classical curriculum of the contemporary grammar and public schools. It was the Edgeworths, above all others, who based their educational practice on a full grasp of the achievements of contemporary science and who were concerned to prepare children for a predominantly scientific culture (Simon 1974:53).

Erasmus Darwin, 'one of the first to study the effect of physical circumstances on mental development' (Simon 1974:55), argued that education in science and practical subjects should be extended to girls. In his Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools (1797), he advocated a curriculum covering grammar, languages, arithmetic, geography, civil and natural history, arts and sciences, including botany and chemistry, astronomy, mechanics, hydrostatics and optics, electricity and magnetism (Simon 1974:52).

Many other literary and philosophical societies - notably those in Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester - copied Birmingham's example. Their members, who had often been educated at dissenting academies and Scottish or continental universities, included cotton spinner Robert Owen (1771-1858), 'who was to play no small part in crystallizing this movement of ideas into educational action' (Lawson and Silver 1973:230-1).

Some societies published papers, established libraries, and gained international reputations. By 1829 Newcastle Society's library had over 9,000 volumes including works by Jeremy Bentham (of whom more below), the French philosopher Claude Adrien Helvetius (1715-1771), William Godwin (1756-1836), Joseph Priestley and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) (Lawson and Silver 1973:230).

In Scotland, university teachers were active in philosophical societies in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The Royal Society of Edinburgh had a particular interest in geology; Anderson's Institution, founded in Glasgow in 1796, promoted links between science and local industry and provided artisans with scientific instruction; while at the Edinburgh School of Arts, founded in 1821, James Nasmyth (1808-1890) taught mathematics and chemistry (Stephens 1998:62-3).

The interest in science was accompanied by the establishment of public museums and libraries:

The earliest known provincial public library was that created by Richard Greene in Lichfield. In 1780 the Scottish Society of Antiquaries founded that museum which was later to be known as the National Museum of Antiquities. Most significant of all, however, was the foundation of the British Museum in 1753 and its opening to the public in 1759 (O'Day 1982:212).
The literary and philosophical societies were not working-class organisations: 'The best known of the societies were ... designed for gentlemen' (O'Day 1982:212). They were established by what Brian Simon calls 'the most advanced section of the middle class' (Simon 1974:62). As such, they found themselves under attack from both sides - by revolutionaries on the one hand (in the Birmingham riots of 1791 Priestley's Unitarian meeting house was destroyed, along with all his scientific apparatus and twenty years' worth of notes), and by the reactionary forces of the church and the aristocracy on the other (persecution forced Priestley to flee to America in 1793) (Simon 1974:69).


The two parties which dominated political life - Whigs and Tories - were seen by the politically conscious middle class as aristocratic factions. They held power through an outmoded and corrupt political system and their one concern was 'to uphold the interests of the large landowners as against those of all other sections of the community' (Simon 1974:72).

In the 1790s there was much discussion of new educational ideas associated with political radicalism (partly inspired by events in France, where the revolution began in 1789), philanthropic traditions, utilitarianism, the evangelical movement in the Church of England, and the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) (Lawson and Silver 1973:228).

Corresponding Societies

The first working-class political organisations were the Corresponding Societies. The London Corresponding Society, whose members were largely artisans and mechanics, was formed in 1792, declaring that

Instruction is the want of all ... the Society ought to favour with all its powers the progress of human reason, and to place instruction within the reach of every citizen (quoted in Simon 1974:180).
Its activities were designed to promote systematic education. Francis Place (1771-1854), then a poor journeyman tailor, described the methods used at the Covent Garden division in 1794:
I met with many inquisitive upright men and among them I greatly inlarged my acquaintance. They were in most if not all respects superior to any with whom I had hitherto been acquainted. We had book subscriptions ... (and) the books for which anyone subscribed were read by all the members in rotation who chose to read them before they were finally consigned to the subscriber. We had Sunday evening parties at the residence of those who could accommodate a number of persons. At these meetings we had readings, conversations, and discussions (quoted in Simon 1974:181).
Similar groups were established in other towns, notably Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Norwich, and began to spread French revolutionary ideas among artisans and tradesmen, who were becoming aware of the effects of economic change. The Sheffield Constitutional Society was said to have had two thousand members, most of them 'the lower sort of workmen' (Simon 1974:182).
Political activity, coupled with thorough discussions at Sunday 'class' meetings, in which each member participated in an organised way, provided a new form of political education, much deeper than had ever been available before (Simon 1974:129).
A new popular literature, addressed to the common man, propagated the most radical political views and was read in ever-widening circles. Tom Paine's The Rights of Man (1791) and Age of Reason (1794-5), Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and William Godwin's Political Justice (1793), all published within four years of the start of the French Revolution, viewed education as part of the search for a fair social order and the pursuit of human rights.

After 1815, new groups were formed in London and the provinces. In the north, the campaign for parliamentary reform in 1816-17 led to the formation of the so-called Hampden Clubs which, like the Corresponding Societies, promoted discussion in organised classes coupled with political activity. There were also moves to create secular Sunday schools, with the aim of replacing the religious indoctrination of children with a rational education (Simon 1974:187-8), and there were some female societies, such as the Blackburn Female Union (Simon 1974:191).

This tradition of working-class self-education, begun in the 1790s through the efforts of men such as Francis Place and William Cobbett (1763-1835), resulted in many working men being very widely read

not only in contemporary radical literature, but also in the political and social writings of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Studied against a background of social and political struggle, these works stimulated fresh efforts to achieve elementary political rights and, not least, to claim the right to knowledge (Simon 1974:186).

It was Adam Smith (1723-1790) who, in The Wealth of Nations (1776), 'first advanced the demand for popular education as the essential concomitant of the growth of factory production' (Simon 1974:138).

Some measure of the influence of his argument may be gauged from the fact that it is summarised in James Mill's article on education in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1818) and in Dr. J. Kay's The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes in Manchester in 1832, both works of seminal importance which were widely read. It also formed the basis for the educational policy advocated by Malthus in his Essay On the Principle of Population (1798) (Simon 1974:138).
Smith's laissez-faire economics and the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) were both influential. They argued for minimal state interference but made an exception in the case of education.

The Benthamites

were very active in parliament, publicized their views widely and had a strong impact on informed middle-class opinion. Antagonistic to the hegemony of the landed classes and to religious influence in education, they sought the rule of an enlightened middle class supported by an educated upper working class (Stephens 1998:14).
They called for monitorial schools for the poor, the reform of secondary education, a middle-class university for London, mechanics' institutes, and for cheap informative literature and untaxed newspapers. In their view, the different social classes should be educated for their particular roles in society - 'the poor to work intelligently and the middle classes to govern intelligently' (Lawson and Silver 1973:231).

In Scotland, Benthamites supported the parochial schools because, though they were religiously based, they taught secular subjects. 'There was general agreement that the inclusion of moral and religious education would strengthen the social order and benefit national unity' (Stephens 1998:14).

The Scotsman James Mill (1773-1836) was another important radical: Brian Simon describes him as the 'Spokesman of the Middle Class' and 'the leading educational theoretician of the Radical movement' (Simon 1974:74). He moved to London in 1802 to earn a living as a journalist and six years later met Jeremy Bentham. The two formed a partnership which, for a quarter of a century, was at the heart of the radical movement.

The philosophic radicals called for new forms of secondary and higher education for the middle class, but they also

worked actively in the cause of the enlightenment of the masses on rational and unsectarian lines and advocated compulsory elementary education for all. ... Education was the essential concomitant of an enlarged suffrage (Simon 1974:126).
However, their aim in calling for mass education was that the workers should understand that
their interests coincided with those of the industrial capitalist; that their prosperity, like that of the middle class, was dependent on the institution of private property and the free play of capital (Simon 1974:127).
This view underpinned the changing attitude of the middle class to working-class education in the first half of the nineteenth century.


While the utilitarians called for secular education, the evangelical movement which grew up in the Church of England in the late eighteenth century was concerned

not to adapt people to new conditions, but consciously to warn against social and moral dangers, in order to reinforce traditional religious codes of behaviour (Lawson and Silver 1973:231).
The new evangelicals, whose leading members included William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and Hannah More (1745-1833), made extensive use of the printing press and the Sunday school. Two million of Hannah More's tracts were said to have been sold in 1795 alone (Lawson and Silver 1973:232).

The evangelicals were especially critical of Rousseauism. Rousseau and his English followers - notably Thomas Day and Richard Lovell Edgeworth - focused their attention on the development of the individual child and believed that 'the child was good, and corrupt society corrupted him' (Lawson and Silver 1973:233).

Radical-Whig alliance

There was little agreement about the role of the state in education: Joseph Priestley and William Godwin opposed state involvement on the basis that government would use education to strengthen its own position; evangelicals were more concerned with the spiritual good of the nation; Tom Paine (1737-1809) was willing to allow government to lay the groundwork of a national system; while Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) argued that education should be provided by the state because it was too important to be left to philanthropy. 'These diverse positions were to be a feature of educational controversy far into the nineteenth century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:235).

Senior members of the Whig party were prepared to support the expansion of education, but saw it as

a means of habituating the people to the existing social order and the dominance of the landed aristocracy rather than, in the Radical sense, of consolidating support for the middle class (Simon 1974:134).
This attitude is clear in their 'energetic propagation' of the educational schemes of the Swiss aristocrat, Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg (1771-1844) who, in 1799, had established on a large agricultural estate at Hofwyl, near Bern, model schools for the rich and the poor. The Whig politician and educational reformer Henry (later Lord) Brougham (1778-1868) visited the school for the poor, and described it to the Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders in 1818 as 'one of the most extraordinary and affecting sights that can be imagined' (quoted in Simon 1974:135).

Fellenberg's schools were very different, as the Whig Edinburgh Review noted: the poor were taught 'habits of industry, frugality, veracity, docility, and mutual kindness'; while the rich were encouraged to 'understand the true tenure of power, and especially of hereditary power, legitimate because of its public utility' (quoted in Simon 1974:135).

Fellenberg's ideas gained popularity in England and proposals were made for basing the education of the poor on industry in much the same way as Fellenberg based it on agriculture.

Seeking to promote an education which habituated the labouring poor to the prevailing social order, the liberal Whigs could make common cause with the Radicals - indeed, Brougham acted as their mouthpiece within the Whig party and in Parliament. The Radicals also gained support from wealthy dissenters, men such as the Quaker, William Allen and the Baptist, Joseph Fox (Simon 1974:135).
Failure to achieve moves towards parliamentary reform and mass education in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries did not deter the radicals. Events came to a head on 16 August 1819, when campaigners for parliamentary reform held a mass meeting in Manchester. In the 'Peterloo Massacre' which followed, soldiers attacked the crowds, killing eleven and wounding many more. The government responded by limiting the right to hold meetings and radicals retaliated in 1820 with what became known as the Cato Street Conspiracy, an attempt to murder Lord Liverpool and his Cabinet and start a radical revolution. The plot failed and the conspirators were hanged or transported.

However, during the 1820s Lord Liverpool's government became increasingly liberal in outlook, and the economy improved. Anti-trade-union laws were repealed and many trading restrictions were lifted. It was in this situation that 'a new sphere of educational activity opened out' (Simon 1974:153).

Mechanics' Institutes

Middle-class radicals were now mainly concerned with adult workers: they sponsored Mechanics' Institutes (the first was established in London in 1824) and established the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1827.

In these activities there was, once more, an alliance between Radicals and liberal Whigs, supported locally by the industrialists of the northern cities (Simon 1974:153).
Thus in 1825 a group of bankers and business men advanced 6,000 to found a Mechanics' Institute in Manchester. The workers themselves were allowed 'no representation whatsoever in the government of the Institute' (Simon 1974:157).

Both the institutes and the Society aimed to teach artisans the scientific principles underlying their trades. Because the institutes would not allow discussion of political or religious matters - and even banned newspapers (Simon 1974:158) - working men interested in ideas became suspicious of the motives of their middle-class sponsors and began to attend Owenite Halls of Science and to support the Chartist movement, while the institutes remained more attractive to men in white-collar and commercial occupations (Lawson and Silver 1973:261).

Stephens agrees that 'some institutes were always middle-class establishments and most did not attract many labourers', but he argues that 'membership in many always included high proportions of the artisan and lower middle classes, between whom social distinctions were blurred' (Stephens 1998:71). Indeed, some institutes, notably that in Glasgow, 'were actually controlled by members from these groups, some even by Chartists' (Stephens 1998:72).

By 1850 there were 610 institutes in England and 12 in Wales, with a total membership of over 600,000 (Spens 1938:51). A year later, Horace Mann reported that there were more than a thousand 'literary, scientific and mechanics' institutes', with the largest concentrations in the West Riding (155) and Lancashire (97). Most of their members, particularly outside the manufacturing areas, were tradesmen and clerks, but classes in towns such as Huddersfield and Leeds continued to attract manual workers, and provided training in subjects like mechanical drawing and chemistry. In the 1850s attempts were made to co-ordinate the work of the separate institutes, the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes being the most successful.

Their functions came sooner or later to be carried out by specialist public bodies, notably the public libraries and the technical colleges (many of which were created later in the century out of the mechanics' institutes themselves) (Lawson and Silver 1973:295-6).

Owenism and the co-operative movement

In 1816, during the economic crisis which followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Robert Owen proposed that landed proprietors, wealthy capitalists, established companies, parishes or counties might set up co-operative communities to remedy unemployment. This proposal met with little response, so Owen turned to 'associations of the middle and working classes of farmers, mechanics, and tradesmen, to relieve themselves from the evils of the present system' (quoted in Simon 1974:197).

As a result, in 1821 working printers and their friends formed a 'Co-operative and Economic Society' in London. They began publishing The Economist and ran a small settlement on co-operative lines where the education of children was a priority.

The Society's articles of agreement, drawn up in 1825, stated:

To all the children entering the Community, or born within it, we guarantee the best physical and intellectual education that the present state of human knowledge affords, an advantage for which our peculiar arrangements afford facilities not to be obtained by any exertion of toil, or sacrifice of wealth, in the present state of society. To maintain uninterrupted health during the longest possible life, and to render that life the most happy, diversified by all the innocent pleasures of sense, of active exertion, of knowledge, of sympathy, and mutual benevolence, with every variety and combination of these enjoyments will be the great objects of the general education of the whole Community. The mode of education, combining always practice with theory, the Community will hereafter determine. To individual parents, and those teachers in whom they confide, the teaching of their peculiar religious tenets is assured: with religious instruction the general teachers are forbidden to interfere (Article XII, quoted in Simon 1974:211).
The London scheme, like those in Edinburgh and Orbiston, failed through lack of funds, and co-operators turned to less ambitious plans for smaller producers' co-operatives and trading communities. These spread rapidly and by 1830 there were three hundred local co-operative societies. Inspired by Owen's work, they 'elaborated educational objectives, organized schools, issued publications, and held discussion groups and classes for adults' (Lawson and Silver 1973:260).

Prominent among the societies was that founded in Brighton in 1827. Composed almost entirely of working men, it ran a journal, The Co-operator, which advised supporters to 'form themselves into classes for mutual instruction ... labour must be directed by knowledge, and therefore they will acquire all the useful knowledge they possibly can' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:260). The Society even established its own school, appointing one of its members to act as schoolmaster and librarian (Simon 1974:212).

Co-operators in Salford ran a Sunday school attended by more than a hundred adults and children, both male and female. It taught 'really useful knowledge' on Sundays, and mathematics, drawing, political economy and other subjects to senior scholars three evenings a week. Later, in 1844, co-operators in Rochdale established a practical form of co-operative retailing but also maintained an interest in education, holding meetings for discussion, operating a free library and, from 1850 to 1855 running a school at a charge of 2d (about 1p) a month (Lawson and Silver 1973:293).

In 1829 the British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge was founded, with William Lovett (1800-1877), a self-educated radical, as secretary. At its second congress, in 1831, it urged all societies to found schools, and many did so.

By this time

Owen had become identified with the working-class movement, with socialism and atheism, and the wealthy had long since washed their hands of his schemes (Simon 1974:199).
So in 1839, Owenite Halls of Science began to be established in many towns, particularly in the north, as 'centres of political and secularist discussion, education and recreation' (Lawson and Silver 1973:293) and, in the same year, the Liverpool Rational School Society was founded in response to the failure of the government to create a non-sectarian training college:
Seeing therefore that the State cannot, and that the Church and the priesthood will not, educate the people, nothing now remains for them but either to remain for ever in a state of ignorance and superstition, or to unite to burst their bonds asunder, and to educate themselves (quoted in Simon 1974:241).
While Owenism 'constituted the most deeply rooted popular education movement of the century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:293), other thinkers also influenced the working class. These included Richard Carlile (1790-1843) and William Thompson (1775-1833).

In his pamphlet Address to Men of Science (1821), written while he was serving six years' imprisonment in Dorchester gaol for publishing Paine's Age of Reason, Carlile argued that a completely new type of education was needed. 'All existing systems', he wrote, 'are imperfect and improper'. Half a boy's time in school was spent in religious indoctrination and, while this made no impression, 'constant repetitions stupefy the will and blunt the mind' (quoted in Simon 1974:202).

Instead, education should consist of reading, writing and the use of figures, plus 'the elements of astronomy, of geography, of natural history and of chemistry', so that the children may 'at an early period of life form correct notions of organised and inert matter, instead of torturing their minds with metaphysical and incomprehensible dogmas about religion (quoted in Simon 1974:202). Science was 'the key both to knowledge and freedom, freedom to form one's own morality and reject imposed beliefs' (Simon 1974:203).

For the Irish economist William Thompson, education was central to his scheme for transforming society through co-operation. Education, he argued, should be founded on the whole community and must spread truth. In his book An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth (1824) he set out how this could be done:

First, by discarding at once about nine-tenths of the utterly useless matter now taught, or pretended to be taught, to the richer classes; second, by retaining the one-tenth of useful matter; and third, by substituting highly useful and interesting matter from the lately investigated experimental and practical sciences, entirely adapted to the minds of youth, for the parrot-memory work of grammars and foreign words now practised (quoted in Simon 1974:208).
Thompson's books and lectures had 'a very considerable influence on working-class thought in the formative period of the late 1820s and early 30s' (Simon 1974:204). In addition to the Inquiry quoted above, these included Appeal of one half of the Human Race (1825), a defence of women's rights; Labour Rewarded (1827), which argued the importance of trade unions; and Practical Directions for the Establishment of Communities, in which he gave more detailed advice on setting up co-operative societies than Owen had done, thus 'greatly influencing the character of the early co-operative movement' (Simon 1974:204).


The Chartist movement - the first mass movement driven by the working class - was established in response to the 1832 Representation of the People Act (the 'Reform Act'), which extended the franchise (the right to vote) to a million middle-class property owners, but not to the workers.

From this point dates the first clear-cut political divergence between workers and capitalists, a divergence that widened rapidly between 1833 and 1837 when the Whig government, if somewhat reluctantly, passed a series of measures wholly in the interests of the newly-enfranchised middle classes, utilised the Tory laws of 1819 against the unstamped (popular) press [ie papers which did not pay stamp duty] and rejected working-class demands for a wide extension of the franchise (Simon 1974:163).
In 1837 William Lovett published his Address on Education, 'the first statement on the theory and practice of education to be issued by a working-class organisation in Britain' (Simon 1974:243). He proposed a system which had much in common with that advanced by Comenius two centuries earlier and with the national system of education proposed during the English Revolution. There should be a series of common schools organised in ascending stages, with infant schools for three to six year olds, preparatory schools up to the age of nine, and then high schools. Free colleges would cater for the 'higher branches of learning' and 'normal colleges' would train the teachers (Simon 1974:258).

Lovett emphasised 'the prime importance of educational method' (Simon 1974:262) and was highly critical of existing teaching methods:

this word-teaching, rote-learning, memory-loading system is still dignified with the name of 'education'; and those who are stored with the greatest lumber are frequently esteemed the greatest 'scholars'. Seeing this, need we wonder that many scholars have so little practical or useful knowledge - are superficial in reasoning, defective in judgment, and wanting in their moral duties? or that the greatest block-heads at school often make brighter men than those whose intellects have been injured by much cramming? (quoted in Simon 1974:262)
In 1838, he and Francis Place drew up the People's Charter with six demands: Three petitions based on these demands were submitted to parliament. The first, with over 1.25 million signatures, in June 1839; the second, signed by more than three million people, in May 1842; and the last in April 1848. All were rejected.

Although the Chartist movement disintegrated after this, its legacy remained. In the 1850s MPs accepted that change was inevitable and further Reform Acts were passed in 1867 and 1884. By 1918, five of the Chartists' six demands had been achieved - only the call for annual elections was (and still is) unfulfilled.

Chartism had aways been about more than just parliamentary reform. In Chartism; a New Organization of the People, published in 1841, William Lovett and John Collins (1802-1852) set out 'an enlightened programme for schools and halls of every kind, to be built with government support, but controlled and maintained locally' (Lawson and Silver 1973:293). Lovett attempted, in 1841, to set up a new association for specifically educational purposes but was opposed by other Chartists (Simon 1974:269).

Throughout the decade of Chartist activity (1838-48), its leaders

constantly hammered home the point that all general talk about the need for education, all general schemes for the establishment of schools, evaded the main issue - the overriding necessity to withdraw child labour from the factories so that children might have time for education, as well as the need to reduce the adult working day to allow for recreation and leisure (Simon 1974:272).

Mid-century radicalism

By the middle years of the century these social movements had largely run out of energy, and new movements emerged which 'were less concerned with education from below than with pressures for free, compulsory, state-provided education' (Lawson and Silver 1973:293-4).

One group of reformers was interested in phrenology and utilitarianism. Notable figures in this movement were George Combe (1788-1858), 'Britain's most famous phrenologist and one of the most interesting educationists of the nineteenth century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:294), William Ellis (1800-1881), WB Hodgson (1815-1880) and James Simpson (1781-1853).

Combe and Simpson helped to found secular schools in Scotland - the first in Edinburgh in 1848 - and campaigned for secular schools in Lancashire.

In 1848 Ellis opened his first 'Birkbeck' school in the hall of the London Mechanics' Institute (which had been established by Dr George Birkbeck), and helped former Chartist leader William Lovett to open a school in Holborn. By 1852, two thousand boys and 250 girls were attending schools founded by Ellis or his associates in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow (Lawson and Silver 1973:295).

Ellis's Birkbeck schools offered 'a sound elementary course to upper-working-class/lower-middle-class parents who could afford to pay fairly well for it' (Roach 1986:203). In his junior schools, the infants were taught together; the older boys and girls separately. He also established some upper schools in which the fees were more expensive and the 'children belonged to a higher class' (Roach 1986:204). In addition to the usual elementary subjects, these schools taught geography, history, French, drawing and science.

Most of the Birkbeck schools closed when School Boards began to provide alternatives after 1870, though Gospel Oak School in North London, founded in 1862, survived. It reopened in 1889 as the William Ellis secondary school for two hundred boys.

One of Ellis's protégés was William Rogers who, as rector of St Botolph's, Bishopsgate, from 1863, set up a school in Cowper Street, Finsbury, which catered for a thousand boys. It was non-sectarian and there was no corporal punishment (Roach 1986:205).

Lawson and Silver conclude that in the mid-nineteenth century, self-education 'remained a common road to knowledge' (Lawson and Silver 1973:296). However,

The starting points ... were becoming more diverse in an increasingly articulated educational system, and access to books and ideas less difficult. The inadequacy of the basic education provided by the elementary schools and the harsh realities of industrial, agricultural and urban conditions remained the main obstacles (Lawson and Silver 1973:296).

Mass education

Mass education has meant different things at different times. It was advocated during the Reformation by protestants who believed that all should be able to read the Bible for themselves. The idea of education as a fundamental human right emerged during the English Revolution of the 1640s and was developed in the eighteenth century by Tom Paine and John Thelwall (1764-1834).

Payne put forward a practical scheme for the education of all up to the age of fourteen in his Rights of Man (1791), while Thelwall argued that all children should be educated so that 'if they should have the virtue and the talent' they should be able 'to improve their condition and mount to their intellectual level, though it should be from the lowest to the very highest station of society' (quoted in Simon 1974:137).


This was not ... the spirit in which the utilitarians approached the question. In fact, their proposals derived primarily from the work of the political economists, whose analysis revealed to some extent the clash of class interests and the conditions necessary for the development of capitalism (Simon 1974:138).


Although England's poor had never been educated en masse, there had been parishes where exceptional provision had been made, and a few able boys from poor homes had even been offered university places. But by the start of the nineteenth century - after fifty years of industrial revolution - education was becoming organised, like English society as a whole, on a more rigid class basis. The result was

a new kind of class-determined education. Higher education became a virtual monopoly, excluding the new working class, and the idea of universal education, except within the narrow limits of 'moral rescue', was widely opposed as a matter of principle (Williams 1961:136).
The problems were considerable. The literacy rate was probably less than two thirds for men and less than a half for women (Lawson and Silver 1973:237) and England was already lagging behind some other European countries. In Prussia, attendance at school had been compulsory since 1763 and 'a national public system comprising elementary and secondary schools was essentially in place by the end of the 1830s' (Chitty 1992:2). In France, the Université (the Napoleonic term for the whole system of schools and higher institutions) was established by laws enacted in 1806 and 1808.

Chitty suggests that the reasons for England's backwardness in creating a national education system are both 'complex and hotly contested' (Chitty 1992:3). He notes Marx's view that the essential difference between the English revolution of the 1640s and the French Revolution of 1789 was the existence in England (but not in France) of a 'permanent alliance between the middle class and the largest section of the great landowners' (quoted in Chitty 1992:3). Others, says Chitty, have viewed England's backwardness as the product of 'the deep infusion of liberal individualism in both the landed and middle classes' (Chitty 1992:5):

What separated Britain from the major continental states was not therefore the predominance of landed culture, but the power of the individualist creed, which meant that all sections of the ruling class shared a marked hostility to the state and were deeply suspicious of the idea of state control of education (Chitty 1992:5).
Campaigners for mass education thus found themselves up against vicious hostility to the very idea of educating the poor. When Hannah More and her sister set up Sunday schools in Cheddar, they met 'persistent and virulent opposition' from farmers and church dignitaries. More believed that the ability to read was essential in a Christian society, but her opponents saw her work as 'undermining the natural and necessary ignorance of the poor, and therefore the social order' (Lawson and Silver 1973:235).

The notion of state-provided mass education continued to attract hostility throughout the nineteenth century and was especially hindered by the opposition of the churches and the mutual distrust of Anglicans and nonconformists.

A number of education bills were laid before the Commons - by Samuel Whitbread (1764-1815) in 1807, Henry Brougham in 1820, JA Roebuck (1802-1879) in 1833, James Graham (1792-1861) in 1843, and John Pakington (1799-1880) in 1855 - but they were all defeated. However, the debates surrounding these bills, coupled with the work of campaigners and the growing realisation that something had to be done if Britain was to compete with other countries, ensured that progress towards mass education was made - albeit slowly and grudgingly.

1802 Factory Act

The first sign that the state was beginning to acknowledge some responsibility for the conditions in which the poor - and particularly poor children - lived, was Robert Peel's 1802 Factory Act (22 June): 'An act for the preservation of the health and morals of apprentices and others, employed in cotton and other mills, and cotton and other factories'.

The Act required employers to provide their 'apprentices' - who were mostly young pauper children - with instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic during at least the first four years of their seven-year apprenticeship. Such secular instruction was to be part of the twelve hours of daily occupation beginning not earlier than 6am and ending not later than 9pm. A further Factory Act followed in 1819.

The provisions of these Acts were very limited in scope and had little effect: 'their educational clauses were largely inoperative, since the means of implementing such legislation did not begin to exist until the 1830s' (Lawson and Silver 1973:249). There was certainly no acknowledgement of the state's duty to provide education for all.

1807 Parochial Schools Bill

When Samuel Whitbread attempted to link education with the problems of the Poor Law and factory children in his Parochial Schools Bill of 1807, he 'failed to overcome fears about an educated populace' (Lawson and Silver 1973:249). During the debate on the bill, Tory MP Davies Giddy warned the Commons that:

However specious in theory the project might be of giving education to the labouring classes of the poor, it would, in effect, be found to be prejudicial to their morals and happiness; it would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society had destined them; instead of teaching them subordination, it would render them factious and refractory, as is evident in the manufacturing counties; it would enable them to read seditious pamphlets, vicious books and publications against Christianity; it would render them insolent to their superiors; and, in a few years, the result would be that the legislature would find it necessary to direct the strong arm of power towards them and to furnish the executive magistrates with more vigorous powers than were now in force. Besides, if this Bill were to pass into law, it would go to burthen the country with a most enormous and incalculable expense, and to load the industrious orders of society with still heavier imposts (Hansard House of Commons 13 June 1807 Vol 9 Cols 798-9 with minor corrections).
Giddy's views were shared by many. In the same year, for example, a Justice of the Peace argued that
It is doubtless desirable that the poor should be generally instructed in reading, if it were only for the best of purposes - that they may read the Scriptures. As to writing and arithmetic, it may be apprehended that such a degree of knowledge would produce in them a disrelish for the laborious occupations of life (quoted in Williams 1961:135).
Whitbread's bill sought to resolve the problems of finance and control of schools and these issues now became central to disputes about the wider provision of education.
The Church of England was anxious to preserve what it saw as its guardianship of spiritual, including educational, matters. The nonconformists were anxious to prevent education from coming under the control of the established church. Suspicions became increasingly acute on both sides as attempts were made to promote educational expansion through the state (Lawson and Silver 1973:249).

1820 Henry Brougham's bill

In 1816, as a result of the efforts of the leading Whig reformer Henry Brougham, a Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders in the Metropolis was set up. Its terms of reference were later widened to include the whole country. 'This was Parliament's first real incursion into education' (Lawson and Silver 1973:250). The select committee estimated that 120,000 children in London were receiving no schooling at all.

Four years later Brougham introduced a bill 'for better promoting the means of education for His Majesty's subjects in England and Wales'. He proposed that schools should be aided by local rates and that teachers should be members of, and appointed by, the Church of England.

Brougham's bill was doomed to failure, partly because, despite his attempt to placate it, the Church of England feared that state provision would mean secular control, partly because dissenters resented the powers it gave the Church, and partly because there was little support from the aristocracy. But the major cause of its failure lay elsewhere:

There could be no question of establishing a system of compulsory popular education when the new factory system was insistently demanding child labour. The battle for education was to be fought out on what might appear to be a different issue altogether, the reduction of the working day and the Factory Acts. Without such legislation, schools might be provided, but they would not be filled (Simon 1974:152).
Despite these failures, pressure for the state to intervene was growing. Manchester's public health officer, Dr Kay (who would later become Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth - see below), revealed the appalling living and working conditions of the city's workers in his book The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes in Manchester in 1832. It was 'the first real exposure of the conditions of the factory proletariat' (Simon 1974:166).

Kay adopted the political and economic standpoint of the radicals, but added religion. While the utilitarians had seen the economic indoctrination of the working class as necessary for the defence of property, Kay saw religious indoctrination as 'a necessary insurance for the monopoly of wealth' (Simon 1974:169).

1833 First government grant

In 1833, the first year of the reformed parliament, the independent MP JA Roebuck argued for 'the universal and national education of the whole people' (quoted in Simon 1974:164). He proposed that all children between six and twelve should go to school and his scheme included the setting up of 'infant schools, technical schools and normal schools for the training of teachers, controlled by a Minister of Cabinet rank and administered by local committees' (Simon 1974:164).

Parliament rejected this but accepted instead Lord Althorp's proposal to make a grant of 20,000 a year for new school buildings to the two voluntary bodies - the Church of England's National Society and the nonconformist British and Foreign School Society. A Treasury Minute of 29 August 1833 set out rules regarding the distribution of the grant. (For more on these Societies, see the section on Church schools below.) Although some financial assistance to schools from the local rates had been permitted in a few places in the eighteenth century, this was the first time government money had been provided for school building.

There was disagreement about the grant, even among reformers. William Cobbett, now MP for Oldham, opposed it on the basis that schools were not improving the condition of the country. 'Education was increasing, but men still became more and more immoral; there was then no justification for taxing the people to impose more of it' (Simon 1974:269). Bronterre O'Brien (1805-1864), one of the Chartist leaders, attacked Cobbett for not caring whether the workers were educated, provided they could plough and make hurdles.

The grant was small, even by Victorian standards, but it did represent an acknowledgement by parliament that there were dangers in ignoring the moral well-being of children. In 1834 a report on the Poor Law urged the government 'to promote the religious and moral education of the labouring classes' and to extend literacy so that working people would be able understand their responsibilities as citizens.

1833 Factories Act

In 1833, a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate working conditions. Its members, who included the Scottish educational reformer Leonard Horner (1785-1864), met with hostility from workers who were deeply suspicious of their motives.

Following the Commission's report, the 1833 Factories Act prohibited the employment of children under nine, restricted children under thirteen to working no more than nine hours a day, and made schooling obligatory for two hours a day on six days a week.

It was the first Act to create an inspectorate, but it allocated no funds for the education it required. Horner, who was appointed one of the first factory inspectors, commented:

For this the legislature is alone to blame, by having passed a delusive law, which, while it would seem to provide that the children employed in factories shall be educated, contains no enactment by which that professed end can be secured (quoted in Simon 1974:173).
As a result, the Act was widely evaded and where education was provided at all it was often illiterate factory employees who did the teaching. One inspector noted that some of the teachers were even unable to sign their own names and that it was 'not at all an unusual thing to have certificates presented to us subscribed by the teacher with his or her mark' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:273).

However, some firms did take their new responsibilities seriously. McConnel's of Manchester, for example, the largest employer in the English cotton industry at the time,

had an exemplary school, where the facilities were liberal and the curriculum enlightened, and where six adult operatives acted as a 'visiting committee' (Lawson and Silver 1973:273).
A Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed in 1837 'to consider the best means of providing useful education for the children of the Poorer Classes in large towns throughout England and Wales'. Its report, published in 1838, argued that an effective educational system should result in an eighth of the population attending school, but found that only one child in 41 at school in Leeds, one in 38 in Birmingham, and one in 35 in Manchester was receiving an education 'likely to be useful'. It concluded that
The kind of education given to the children of the working classes is lamentably deficient ... it extends (bad as it is) to but a small proportion of those who ought to receive it (Report from the Select Committee on Education of the Poorer Classes in England and Wales (1838) vii-viii, quoted in Simon 1974:170).
Four years later, in 1842, 'there was not a single public day school for poor children in the 32 square miles comprising Oldham and Ashton and housing a population of 105,000' (Simon 1974:170). A report by the Children's Employment Commission, published in the same year, made clear that the position was little better in other industrial towns.

1839 The Committee of Council

It was against this background that the Committee of the Privy Council on Education - the first government department with specific responsibility for education - was established, by an Order in Council dated 10 April 1839, to oversee the annual grants for schools. Its first Permanent Secretary was Dr (later Sir) James Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877), who served in the post until 1849.

The new body was the outcome of pressures for a body to supervise the proper use of parliamentary grants, and was placed under the Privy Council partly in an attempt to keep education out of parliamentary controversy. Its status under the council gave it a degree of autonomy and authority which was bitterly resented by the Church of England in particular (Lawson and Silver 1973:268-9).
The Committee's first report set out regulations governing the distribution of funds for public education. These were approved by an Order in Council on 3 June 1839 and listed in a Committee Minute of 24 September 1839.

With the establishment of the Committee, the authority of the state increased, partly because the allocation of grants was dependent on the reports of inspectors and partly because the Committee appointed inquiries and commissions.

The receipt by most (though by no means all) voluntary schools of government financial aid brought with it, from 1839, the obligation to submit to government inspection and thus official influence. A public elementary school system was thus created, providing for England and Wales what Scotland had possessed, in theory at least, for more than a century, but also introducing a long period of tension between the Established Church and the state (Stephens 1998:7).
The Church of England forced two important concessions: that the Committee drop its plan to supervise the opening of a teacher training establishment and agree that inspectors of the Church's National Society schools would be appointed only with the approval of the archbishops of Canterbury and York. In 1843 the nonconformist British Society was granted a similar right to approve the appointment of inspectors of its schools (Lawson and Silver 1973:269).

There were suspicions about the Committee on both sides of the religious divide. The Church of England saw it as undermining its authority, a view which intensified in 1846 when the Committee began to set out conditions for the management of National schools. Nonconformists believed that the Committee was supporting the Church of England's aim to educate all the people: the National Society was much the larger of the two societies and its schools received four-fifths of the annual grant, which was distributed in proportion to voluntary contributions (Lawson and Silver 1973:269).

Despite the hostility of the churches, the Committee began expanding its work. From 1843 it made grants for furniture and apparatus as well as for school buildings; it supported the building of denominational training colleges; and in 1846 Kay-Shuttleworth inaugurated the pupil teacher scheme. (For more on this, see the section on Teacher training below).

Five School Sites Acts were passed between 1841 and 1852, designed to facilitate the purchase of land for school buildings and to make 'Parliamentary Grants for the Education of the Poor':

These were followed by the 1855 School Grants Act (14 August) which sought 'to render more secure the Conditions upon which Money is advanced out of the Parliamentary Grant for the Purposes of Education'. It stated that, where parliament had made grants for land, or for the construction, enlargement or repair of school buildings, these were not to be sold, exchanged or mortgaged without the written consent of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. By 1857 the annual grant was well over 500,000.

1843 James Graham's bill

In 1843 Lord Shaftesbury stated in parliament that he deplored the lack of adequate educational facilities in the manufacturing districts. Following his speech, in March 1843 Sir James Graham, Home Secretary in Robert Peel's government, introduced a bill 'for regulating the employment of children and young persons in factories, and for the better education of children in factory districts, in England and Wales'. He told the Commons:

I am informed that the turbulent masses who, in the course of last autumn, threatened the safety of property ... were remarkable for the youth of the parties comprising them. If I had entertained any doubt on the subject ... the events of last autumn would have convinced me that not a moment should be lost in endeavouring to impart the blessings of a sound education to the rising generation in the manufacturing districts (quoted in Simon 1974:175).
His bill provided for the compulsory education of factory and other pauper children. Those aged between 8 and 13 would work no more than 6½ hours per day with 3½ hours of education, while women and young persons would be limited to a twelve-hour working day. Funds raised through the poor rate would be used to provide schools to serve manufacturing districts as a whole. The Church of England would control the schools and appoint the teachers, but separate religious instruction would be provided for the children of dissenters.

Lord John Russell hoped that the plan would 'reconcile the consciences of all denominations' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:274) but Graham's bill fared no better than those of Whitbread, Brougham and Roebuck. It was withdrawn after nonconformists campaigned against it, raising a petition signed by two million people. They believed it

better that popular instruction should still be left to voluntary machinery for some time longer, than that new authority and new fields of ecclesiastical control should be opened to the privileged church (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:274).

Edward Baines and voluntaryism

Some went even further:

Under the leadership of Edward Baines, editor of the Leeds Mercury, the 'voluntaryist' position entered educational politics, as a movement totally opposed to any form of state intervention, and advocating the ending of government grants and regulations (Lawson and Silver 1973:274).
The Congregational Board of Education and the Voluntary School Society broke away from the British Society and refused government grants. By 1853 the Congregational Board was running 431 schools.

In 1843 Baines (1774-1848), 'the backbone of the movement' (Lawson and Silver 1973:275), published an influential booklet on The Social, Educational, and Religious State of the Manufacturing Districts. He argued that Shaftesbury's portrayal of these areas had been 'excessively erroneous and unjust', and that Graham's bill had been 'the greatest outrage on Civil and Religious Liberty attempted in modern times' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:275). Three years later he published Letters to the Right Hon. Lord Russell, in which he claimed that the deficiencies of the voluntary system were being exaggerated. In 1848, agreeing that there were wretched voluntary schools, he argued that

we have as much right to have wretched schools as to have wretched newspapers, wretched preachers, wretched books, wretched institutions, wretched political economists, wretched Members of Parliament, and wretched Ministers. You cannot proscribe all these things without proscribing Liberty (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:275).
Voluntaryist ideas persisted for some time: in 1861 a minority on the Newcastle Commission was still arguing that 'the annual grants now made should be gradually withdrawn' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:275). But voluntary efforts had been unable to provide sufficient good schools and the voluntaryist movement collapsed, with Baines himself confessing a change of heart in 1867.

Lawson and Silver argue that Graham's 1843 bill and the responses to it were

a crucial moment in the history of educational opinion in the nineteenth century, and made a national system of elementary education impossible for over a quarter of a century (Lawson and Silver 1973:275).
Stephens suggests that in the mid-nineteenth century,
complete secularization of the public elementary schools could not have been achieved ... without splitting the ruling class and weakening its influence. Nevertheless, far from supporting elementary education as primarily an agent to render the workers devout, amenable and obedient (for which bible-based indoctrination would have sufficed), central government became increasingly unwilling to pay for religious instruction and anxious that its considerable financial input into public education should show practical returns (Stephens 1998:18).
To achieve this, the system of 'payment by results' was introduced by Robert Lowe (1811-1892) who, in 1859, became Vice-president of the Committee of Council on Education. (He later became Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Home Secretary.) Lowe opposed religious influence in education and under the revised code of 1862 (of which more in the next chapter), government grants were made dependent on regular school attendance and proficiency in the basic subjects: 'they were not awarded for religious instruction' (Stephens 1998:18).

1855 Sir John Pakington's bill

One further attempt was made to introduce mass education in this period. Presenting his education bill in 1855, Sir John Pakington, Tory MP for Droitwich, told the Commons that

by the voluntary principle alone we cannot educate the people of this country as they ought to be educated; you can no more do it than you can carry on a great war or defray all the annual expenses of Government by a voluntary contribution instead of taxation (quoted in Simon 1974:346).
His bill, which would have empowered borough councils to provide schools, came to nothing, but his proposal, in February 1858, for the establishment of a commission of enquiry into elementary education, was accepted by the government and the Newcastle Commission (of which more in the next chapter) began work later that year.

School attendance

Recording school attendance did not become compulsory until the 1870s, so statistics from earlier years are notoriously unreliable, but Williams suggests that in 1816, 875,000 of the country's 1.5m children 'attended a school of some kind for some period' (Williams 1961:136). By 1835 the figure was 1.45m out of 1.75m. Although this was a considerable improvement, it should be noted that the average duration of school attendance was just one year.

By 1851 the average length of school attendance had risen to two years, and in 1861 an estimated 2.5m children out of 2.75m received some form of schooling, 'though still of very mixed quality and with the majority leaving before they were eleven' (Williams 1961:137).

Proportion of children in school 1816 - 1861

Figures from Williams 1961:136-137

Statistical societies - Manchester's was the first in 1833, followed quickly by London, Liverpool, Birmingham - began to investigate the relationship between education and poverty. Various attempts were made to calculate the proportion of eligible children actually receiving education, including Lord Kerry's parliamentary return of 1833; the Central Society of Education endeavoured to collect reliable figures mainly in London and Manchester; and the barrister Horace Mann was appointed to compile a census of education between 1851 and 1854 (Lawson and Silver 1973:276). The National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, set up in 1857, included a section devoted to education, and the Committee of Council published analyses of the financing and operation of schools (Lawson and Silver 1973:277).

The central issue in the investigations tended to be the proportion of children who could be, and were, receiving schooling. The ratio of children attending day schools to the total population was estimated by Brougham in 1818 to be 1:17, by Kerry in 1833 to be 1:11 and by Mann's Census to be 1:8. None of the figures are reliable, but the trend is clear (Lawson and Silver 1973:277).
These overall statistics concealed several problems: they 'failed to demonstrate the magnitude of the educational problem in the most populous areas of the manufacturing north and London in particular' (Lawson and Silver 1973:277); they 'failed to bring out the disparity between the number of children on the books and the number in attendance, the latter figure being consistently inflated in all returns' (Lawson and Silver 1973:277-8); and they 'failed to show the extent of erratic attendance and the real length of school life' (Lawson and Silver 1973:278).


Historians are divided on the relationship between economic growth and the spread of elementary education. Some see a positive connection, stressing that the Industrial Revolution increased the proportion of jobs for which literacy was necessary or useful.

Without literate managers, supervisors and technicians in manufacturing and suitably educated human capital for engineering, transport, commerce and financial services, economic growth could not have been sustained. The advantages for employers of a pool of talent on which to draw, combined with workers' ambitions for advancement, it is argued, stimulated the creation of a larger body of literate workers than was actually required at any particular time and oiled the wheels of expansion. Thus, improvements in general levels of education went hand in hand with industrialization (Stephens 1998:57).
Those who take this view argue that the decline in literacy rates in the early years of the Industrial Revolution 'was not caused by industrialization as such but by a temporary inability of school facilities to cope with population increase and redistribution' (Stephens 1998:57). As the economy grew and the number of school places increased, the decline was reversed and by the 1850s literacy levels were above those of the 1740s. Their improvement from about 1800 'coincided with the full effects of large-scale factory production' (Stephens 1998:57).

On the other hand, argues Stephens, 'there is supportive evidence for a more pessimistic scenario' (Stephens 1998:57). Some of the leaders of the Industrial Revolution, such as James Brindley, Joseph Locke, James Nasmyth and Joseph Whitworth, were skilled craftsmen but virtually uneducated, and 'there is every reason to suppose that the British Industrial Revolution was achieved with a workforce extensively and increasingly illiterate' (Stephens 1998:57). Most jobs in manufacturing, mining and transport did not require literacy, and 'the need for literacy in supervisory and managerial jobs has probably been exaggerated' (Stephens 1998:57).

Stephens concludes that, 'while the contribution to economic growth of the spread of basic literacy in the general population must have been positive, it was not a central causal factor in the British Industrial Revolution' (Stephens 1998:59).

However, elementary education probably contributed indirectly to economic development by helping to create a society more willing to accept change and by breaking down the isolation of communities which had been backward and conservative.

It is likely to have facilitated the spread of information on new techniques and processes, the availability of commodities, market outlets and employment opportunities. Geographical and occupational mobility was thus enhanced and the allocation of human resources optimized. Again, the ordered atmosphere of the schoolroom and the habits and attitudes of mind instilled by schoolteachers may have played a significant part in facilitating the transition from the unsupervised work environment of the independent handicraftsman and cottage industry to the disciplined regularity of time-driven cooperative labour on the shop floor and from the seasonal and occupational variety of farm life to the monotony of machine production (Stephens 1998:59-60).
Whatever its contribution to economic growth, literacy was certainly a key element in the spread of radical ideas. Reading matter - particularly that aimed at the poor - became more widely available in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1816 William Cobbett began publishing a cheap edition of his pamphlet, the Weekly Political Register, and in the 1820s cheaper paper and new machinery allowed the production of more and cheaper books.

In 1831, in defiance of the stamp duty levied on newspapers, the Chartist Henry Hetherington (1792-1849) started to publish his weekly Poor Man's Guardian. He appealed to his readers to 'circulate our papers - circulate the truths which we write, and you shall be free' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:260). Hetherington and those who sold his paper were prosecuted and gaoled.

Like the school-attendance figures, statistics regarding literacy levels in this period have to be treated with some caution, but by the 1840s probably about two thirds of men and half of women were literate (Lawson and Silver 1973:259). These figures had risen little since the beginning of the century and, moreover, there were wide variations across the country. An HMI report on Norfolk in 1840, for example, suggested that 'very few of the adults of either sex, from 20 to 50, could read or write' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:278).

A rough measure of literacy levels before the later nineteenth century is provided by the proportion of brides and grooms who were able to sign their names in marriage registers. Stephens notes that in England and Wales in 1754 this stood at around 50 per cent (60 per cent of grooms; 40 per cent of brides); by 1840 it had risen to around 58 per cent (67 per cent; 50 per cent), and by 1870 it was 76 per cent (80 per cent; 73 per cent) (Stephens 1998:27).

Libraries were provided by some factories, mechanics' institutes, Sunday schools and day schools until the Public Libraries Act of 1850 allowed authorities to use a halfpenny rate (raised to one penny in 1855) to subsidise provision. Unfortunately, this was 'permissive and limited legislation, passed - as all educational measures were - in the face of keen resistance, and easy to obstruct or delay locally' (Lawson and Silver 1973:279).

The range of popular journals expanded and the tax on newspapers was reduced, enabling the News of the World to appear in 1843 as a Sunday paper costing a penny. When the tax was later abolished the Daily Telegraph began publishing, also at a penny, in 1855 (Lawson and Silver 1973:279).

Schools for the working classes

Since the state was still unwilling to provide mass education, it was left to the working classes to provide their own schools or to rely on others - mostly the churches - to supply some basic education for their children. By 1750 'schools of some kind were within geographical reach of all but comparatively few children' (Stephens 1998:1).

In England and Wales there was a wide range of elementary schools, some private, some connected with parish churches; while in Scotland most towns had charity and private schools alongside the burgh and parish schools.

Most of the Scottish public schools were, in practice, mainly elementary but, unlike the vast majority of elementary schools south of the border, might also provide post-elementary instruction, including mathematics and Latin, and send boys at 15 or younger to the universities (Stephens 1998:1).
The types of school described below were not mutually exclusive: elementary schools were often monitorial schools, for example.

Charity schools

At the end of the eighteenth century, most charity schools trained poor children for a specific status in society and for particular occupations, while the endowed schools sought to provide both basic literacy and a higher education in the classical tradition. However, the demarcation between the education of the poor and the middle classes was not always clear. In Lancashire, for example,

the attendance of middle-class children at a charity school such as the one in Lancaster, and of poorer children at a grammar school such as the one in Bury, made the two kinds of school barely distinguishable. ... Some schools maintained the uneasy balance, most gravitated in one direction or the other (Lawson and Silver 1973:238).
Few charity schools were endowed in Scotland, where bequests for educating poor children in existing schools were preferred.
Exceptions, however, existed in the so-called hospitals founded for orphans, mainly in towns, and in schools set up in remote parts of the highlands by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (virtually an arm of the Church of Scotland) and supported by the government (Stephens 1998:2).
Scottish charity schools varied greatly: they all taught religion; most taught reading, writing and sometimes arithmetic; some 'offered a broader education embracing also modern subjects, book-keeping, navigation, music and drawing'; others, especially in towns, 'became middle-class preserves, teaching the classics and preparing some pupils for the universities' (Stephens 1998:3).

While the charity schools continued to provide education for the poor, often in the form of schools of industry, they were soon to be superseded by the monitorial schools, which could teach more children, more cheaply.

Dame and private-venture schools

The dame and private-venture schools provided 'a large quantity of poor-quality education' (Lawson and Silver 1973:280). Most of the dame schools were run by women for infants. They taught reading and sometimes a little writing. The private-venture schools took pupils up to around the age of ten and 'covered the 3Rs plus sewing and knitting for girls and perhaps grammar, geography and other subjects for older children' (Stephens 1998:1-2).

Both in age range and curriculum,

the distinction between these two types of school was often blurred. They probably multiplied in the eighteenth century and in England and Wales remained an important aspect of working-class culture well into the following century, especially in industrial areas (Stephens 1998:2).
In 1834-5 Manchester Statistical Society found them
in the most deplorable condition. The greater part of them are kept by females, but some by old men, whose only qualification for this employment seems to be their unfitness for every other (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:280).
One Yorkshire teacher, for example, who was hunchbacked and 'very deaf and ignorant', had been appointed by parish authorities to save them the cost of supporting him. His case was 'not untypical' (Lawson and Silver 1973:280).

Dame and private-venture schools began to decline in numbers in the 1830s and 1840s as new types of school were developed in response to the demands of a changing society.

Church schools

England and Wales

Unlike some influential taxpayers and those who benefited from employing children, the Church of England was in favour of mass education - as 'a means of combating the influence on the working classes of nonconformity and the consequences of Catholic emancipation and Irish immigration' (Stephens 1998:13).

In 1811 it set up the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (which, for obvious reasons, became generally known as the National Society), with the aim of providing a school in every parish. Local clergy 'often took on this initiative wholeheartedly' (Gates 2005:16), with or without the benefit of special donations. The curriculum of the schools was basically the 'three Rs' plus religion:

The inclusion of the fourth "R" of religion, alongside the other three (reading, writing and 'rithmetic), was simply assumed as right. It took the form of the Bible, catechism and prayer book services (Gates 2005:16).
Other Christians, along with liberal Anglicans and some Roman Catholics and Jews, preferred a less denominational approach and in 1814 founded the British and Foreign School Society for the Education of the Labouring and Manufacturing Classes of Society of Every Religious Persuasion (the British and Foreign School Society). Its schools drew on the pioneering work of Joseph Lancaster (of whom more below). They taught Scripture and general Christian principles in a non-denominational form.

A third group, who wanted religion kept out of schools altogether, formed another organisation, the Central Society of Education, in 1836. This attracted little interest, however, and it was the rivalry between the other two - the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society - which 'delayed the introduction of a fully comprehensive school system funded by public taxation' (Gates 2005:16).

This rivalry was often vicious. In 1814, for example, the Bishop of London proclaimed that 'Every populous village unprovided with a National School must be regarded as a stronghold abandoned to the enemy' (ie the nonconformists), while a vicar described British schools as 'dreadful machines ... full frought with moral and religious evil to Church and Country' (quoted in Stephens 1998:13-14).

The government was unwilling to intervene or take the lead for fear of appearing to promote one group over the other, so in 1833 it began giving annual grants towards school provision to both the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society. From 1846 similar grants were given to Baptists and Congregationalists (subject to an agreement about the reading of Scripture), from 1847 to Wesleyan Methodists and the Catholic Poor School Committee, and in 1853 to the Manchester Jewish community (subject to an agreement about the reading of at least part of the Bible) (Gates 2005:16).

The Church of England resisted the introduction of a 'conscience clause' which would have allowed children of dissenters to attend its schools without fear of religious offence. And a ruling that only the Authorised Version of the Bible was acceptable delayed the granting of aid to Roman Catholic schools. The 1861 Newcastle Report (of which more in the next chapter) noted the problems these rulings caused in areas where there was only one school, such as villages.

Village schools, which were 'of great importance in the overall pattern of education' (Lawson and Silver 1973:249), often became National Society schools:

Some were supported by the parish or subscriptions, some were established as charity schools, others were decayed endowed schools or indistinguishable from dame schools. The majority of them were Church of England schools and became National schools, often adopting the monitorial system in spite of their small size. It was not uncommon throughout the century for village schools to have average attendances of twenty or thirty, though many were very much larger. Those village schools which were sponsored in this way, and found an adequate financial basis, continued in many cases with only small changes through to the mid-twentieth century (Lawson and Silver 1973:249).

The 1696 Act for Settling of Schools had required every parish in Scotland to have a school, and the 1803 Parochial Schools (Scotland) Act had laid down rules regarding schoolmasters' salaries and conditions of employment.

Inter-church rivalry, however, was as prevalent in Scotland as in England. Fearful of losing its influence over the young, the Established Church campaigned in the 1820s and 1830s for a stronger public-school system under its own control but financed by the government.

The refusal of the government to agree to this arrangement led the church to begin opening its own 'assembly' schools and was a contributory factor in the 'Disruption' of 1843, when evangelicals left the Established Church and formed the Free Church, which then established several hundred of its own schools.

Both the Established Church and the Free Church, as well as the other churches which set up schools in Scotland at this time, regarded schooling, in part at least, as a means of retaining members' loyalty, initiating the young in their traditions and proselytizing the poor (Stephens 1998:13).
In the Scottish parochial schools 'it was always accepted that older pupils should be able to enjoy an extended curriculum and that schoolmasters should be capable of preparing pupils for the universities' (Stephens 1998:17). In 1826 more than half the parochial schools in the highlands and islands were said to be teaching Latin and book-keeping, a third were teaching Greek and English grammar, while around a quarter of the schools included modern languages, mathematics, geography, mensuration, navigation and other subjects in their curriculum.

Thus, though many poorer pupils were taught little more than religion and the 3Rs, 'the opportunity for social advancement through a broader education was there for the children of those who could afford to keep them at school' (Stephens 1998:17).

Sunday schools

Sunday schools have often been regarded as a spin-off of the charity school movement, their creation credited to individuals such as Hannah More, Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810) and Robert Raikes (1736-1811). But Rosemary O'Day argues that 'no single person can be credited with the beginnings of the movement, for it was rooted, somewhat obscurely, in the past' (O'Day 1982:255).

However, Raikes was certainly an important influence. An evangelical churchman and editor of the Gloucester Journal, he founded four small Sunday schools in Gloucestershire in 1781, and in 1783 published an account of his work with street urchins. His example was followed by Methodists, evangelicals and the wider church, and the movement quickly spread nationwide, with some factory owners opening schools at their works. The (predominantly Anglican) Sunday School Society, set up in 1785, spread information and gave spelling books and Bibles - and occasionally grants - to individual schools. By the later 1780s, however, 'the Sunday schools had become a much more frequent recipient of middle-class benefactions' (O'Day 1982:255).

The purpose of the schools was simple: to teach the poor - both children and adults - to read the Bible and, in Hannah More's words, 'to train up the lower classes in habits of industry and piety' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:239). They did not teach writing or arithmetic or any of the 'more dangerous subjects' which were 'less necessary or even harmful' (Williams 1961:136). Hannah More believed writing was an 'unnecessary accomplishment for the poor' (Lawson and Silver 1973:240), a view which was widely held, especially by the Wesleyans. She taught only from 'safe books' - approved catechisms, prayers and tracts. 'The child was never taught to think critically, and was not encouraged to become actively literate' (O'Day 1982:256).

Hannah More and others who founded Sunday schools in the later eighteenth century saw the schools as a way to giving poor children or children from immoral homes what middle-class and wealthy children were obtaining from their home or school life. They did not see the Sunday schools in terms of social control but of religious revival. ... The schools were neither an educational nor a social charity by intent (O'Day 1982:256).
While the Sunday schools of the late eighteenth century 'did not cater exclusively for members of the working classes, let alone the pauper classes', in the nineteenth century, the movement 'exclusively belonged to working-class culture' (O'Day 1982:256). The schools were popular in large industrial cities, especially in the midlands and the north. Manchester's interdenominational Sunday school had 1,800 pupils in 1784 and by 1788 that number had trebled (O'Day 1982:256).

But the schools were also strong in many rural communities, and it has been estimated that, by the 1820s, almost all working-class children had attended Sunday schools at some time, with an average attendance of four years. Under largely working-class teachers, they studied reading, spelling and religion for between four and six hours every Sunday (O'Day 1982:256).

There were widely differing views about the Sunday schools. Despite their very limited aims, they were regarded by some as subversive. In the 'Blagdon Controversy', one of Hannah More's schools became the focus of hostility from a hard-line conservative faction in the church and was eventually forced to close in 1804 (Lawson and Silver 1973:241).

Others, however, valued the work of the Sunday schools. In 1841, an inspector described Norfolk's Sunday schools as 'until recently the chief instrument of instruction, and in many parishes still such' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:280). And the biographer of infant-school founder David Stow (of whom more below), writing in 1868, said the Sunday schools had been 'by far the most efficient instrument for excavating a portion of the heathen population from the general mass of ignorance and depravity' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:280).

It is difficult to assess the Sunday schools' effect on literacy levels. In 1800 the schools had around 200,000 pupils, not all of them working-class. O'Day argues that, while some of these might have learned to read anyway, many more would not have done so had it not been for the revival of the Sunday schools (O'Day 1982:258).

Some Sunday schools began to open on weekday evenings and this led to the next phase of development - the monitorial schools.

Monitorial schools

The monitorial system was effectively the industrialisation of the teaching process. Two rival systems (though in practice there was very little difference between them) were devised by the Quaker Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838) and the Scottish Episcopalian priest Dr Andrew Bell (1753-1832). Between them, they created 'a piece of social machinery that was both simple and economical, an instrument suited to the needs and outlook of the times' (Lawson and Silver 1973:241). Bell called his system 'the steam engine of the moral world' (quoted in Williams 1961:136). (Young and Hancock (1956:830) ascribe this quotation to Henry Brougham).

Lancaster opened his first school for poor children, at Borough Road, Southwark, in 1798. It attracted widespread interest because, as one supporter put it, its organisation made possible 'the education of every poor child in the kingdom at a very trifling expense to the public' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:241). Ten years later Lancaster was in severe financial difficulty and the Royal Lancasterian Society was formed to continue his work. In 1814 this became the British and Foreign School Society.

Bell, meanwhile, had conducted a monitorial experiment in Madras, which he described in his 1797 book An Experiment in Education. The Church of England adopted Bell's system when, in 1811, it set up its National Society in opposition to Lancaster's non-denominational schools.

There were many heated debates about which of the two men had the greater claim to have founded the monitorial (or 'mutual') system, and about the relative merits of their slightly different regimes. Despite the arguments, the system dominated popular education for half a century: British (Lanacasterian) and National (Church of England) schools competed with one another - often with some hostility - all over the country, with the National Society being by far the larger of the two societies (Lawson and Silver 1973:242).

Each school contained a single large schoolroom, so that 'the master could keep the whole school under scrutiny' (Lawson and Silver 1973:242). In Lancasterian schools

the central area was filled with rows of benches for writing drill, and the surrounding space, where the bulk of the time was spent, was occupied by 'drafts' of children standing for instruction by their monitor, usually with the aid of cards hung on the wall (Lawson and Silver 1973:242).
In Bell's schools this arrangement was effectively reversed:
the desks for writing occupied the outer space, facing the wall, and the central area was used by classes of children standing in squares for instruction by their monitors (called 'teachers' and 'assistants' under the National system) (Lawson and Silver 1973:242).
There were usually ten children under a monitor, though in National schools there could be as many as twenty. Reading (from the Bible or other religious texts), writing and arithmetic were taught in boys' schools, plus needlework in girls' schools. The master taught the monitors, who were usually aged about ten or eleven, and they then passed on this teaching to their groups, recommended pupils for promotion, and kept order.

The process was regulated by a system of rewards and punishments. Typical rewards included a penny for the best boy of the week in a class or a halfpence for being promoted; a monitor might earn up to two pence a week, 'merit tickets' or books (Lawson and Silver 1973:242-3). Punishments were given for 'swearing, lying, quarrelling, talking, coming to school dirty or late, playing truant, telling tales, being disobedient or absent from church' (Lawson and Silver 1973:243). Typically, these included being shut in a dark cupboard or suspended in a basket, being handcuffed or washed in public, wearing a fool's cap or expulsion. Corporal punishment, however, was rarely used.

Like their predecessors, monitorial schools aimed to discipline 'the infant poor to good and orderly habits, to train them to early piety' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:243). A typical expression of the purpose of a National school (in this case Kennington, south London, in the 1820s) was

to confer upon the Children of the Poor the Inestimable Benefit of Religious Instruction, combined with such other Acquirements as may be suitable to their Stations in Life, and calculated to render them useful and respectable Members of Society (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:243).
For newly-industrialised England, the monitorial system seemed ideal - it was simple and inexpensive and it provided 'at least a modicum of education, in a way that no other system could have done at the time, and where otherwise none might have existed' (Lawson and Silver 1973:246). It was enthusiastically supported by Bentham and the utilitarians, and was adopted by some schools outside the two societies - even by Charterhouse in 1813.

But the system had two significant weaknesses. First, as Henry Craik noted in 1896, pupils

who were little more than infants, without training, without special instruction, with no qualifying test, were set to waste their own time and that of their still younger companions under the nominal supervision of the teacher (Craik 1896:33 quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:245).
And second, there was a lack of adequately trained teachers. Although both societies offered some training, this amounted to little more than mastering the mechanics of the system. Indeed, teachers who were trained for National Society schools were forbidden to depart from 'the beautiful and efficient simplicity of the system' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:241).

For William Thompson, the 'radical defect in the systems of Bell and Lancaster' was that 'the understanding is by them altogether sacrificed to the memory'. As a result, pupils were trained 'to co-operate with existing institutions in forming passive habits of blind obedience' (quoted in Simon 1974:207-8).

The quality of education did not improve until the monitorial system declined and 'a new approach to the training of teachers was inaugurated at the end of the 1830s' (Lawson and Silver 1973:246).

Bentham's Chrestomathic School

A small group of thinkers led by Jeremy Bentham and Francis Place, impressed by developments in Scotland, Prussia, France and Holland, sought to establish higher grade elementary schools and monitorial secondary schools to meet the needs of the class immediately above the very poor. Bentham's 'Chrestomathic Scheme' for the education of 7 to 14 year olds, devised around 1816, included science and technology as an integral part of the curriculum - 'indeed the central core of the educational process' (Simon 1974:80).

After a preparatory stage learning the three Rs, science forms the major part of each of the five stages of instruction advocated; study begins with the descriptive and classificatory sciences (mineralogy, botany, zoology), proceeds through the various branches of mechanics, chemistry and physics (concentrating especially on electricity) and ends with the application of these sciences in the 'school of technology' (mining, surveying, architecture, husbandry, etc.). History, geography, and languages are taught from the second stage onwards; at the fourth stage 'the art of preserving as well as restoring health, including the arts and sciences thereto belonging' forms the body of teaching. Mathematics, on account of its difficulty, is postponed to the end of the course (Simon 1974:80).
Bentham justified the teaching of these subjects by reference to their utility in ordinary life. (Chrestomathic comes from two Greek words meaning useful and learning.) Knowledge, he argued, must serve the social function of preparing children to earn their living. Furthermore, the educational process must be systematic: 'The body of knowledge which the child is expected to master, set out in the encyclopaedic table, is systematised and, of course, imposed by the educator' (Simon 1974:81).

He was also concerned about school management, and defined forty-three principles which would 'provide the conditions necessary to ensure that learning took place with maximum efficiency' (Simon 1974:81). Many of these were derived from the ideas of Andrew Bell; others are of interest because they presaged what was to become common practice. 'Symptomatic of the capitalist epoch is the great emphasis put on individual competition as the main incentive for work' (Simon 1974:81).

Bentham's plan to open a Chrestomathic school in Leicester Square was opposed by local shopkeepers, but there was more widespread hostility to his insistence on the exclusion of religion. Clerical influence ensured that those who at first encouraged the project later abandoned it (Simon 1974:82) and the Chrestomathic school never came into being.

Robert Owen's infant schools

Having spent his childhood in a Welsh village, Robert Owen (pictured) moved to Manchester and joined the Literary and Philosophical Society where he learned the language and ideals of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

By the 1790s he was one of the town's leading cotton spinners, and then in 1800 he moved to Scotland to become director of the New Lanark cotton mills, which he made 'one of the showplaces of Europe' (Lawson and Silver 1973: 246).

Like the philosophic radicals, Owen was

chiefly concerned to find the solution to the problem of pauperism. But his approach was, by comparison with that of Bentham and Mill, not merely rational within the limits of the iron laws of political economy, but broadly humanist (Simon 1974:193-4).
His two books, A New View of Society (1813) and Report to the County of Lanark (1821), represent one of the earliest statements of socialist principles to be published in Britain and clearly illustrate Owen's humanity and compassion:
Shall the well-being of millions of the poor, half-naked, half-famished, untaught and untrained, hourly increasing to a most alarming extent in these islands, not call forth one petition, one delegate, or one rational effective legislative measure? (Owen 1813:108).
Adult working hours were still entirely unregulated and children as young as five were worked to the point of exhaustion in factories and mines, sometimes at night. In his article On the Employment of Children in Manufactures, published in 1818, Owen wrote:
We are unacquainted with any nation, ancient or modern, that has suffered its hundreds of thousands of children of seven to twelve years of age to work incessantly for 15 hours per day, in an overheated unhealthy atmosphere, allowing them only 40 minutes out of that time for dinner and change of air, which they breathe often in damp cellars or in garretts, in confined streets or dirty lanes (quoted in Simon 1974:171-2).
He argued that to talk about the diffusion of knowledge or universal education under these conditions was 'little more than self-deception if a little less than hypocrisy' (Simon 1974:172).

Fundamental to Owen's educational approach was his conviction that a man's character was formed by the circumstances in which he lived. This idea was not, of course, new:

It was this theory that Joseph Priestley had developed, that Godwin held, that James Mill explained in detail in his famous article. In this sense, Owen gives expression to the materialist view stemming originally from Hobbes and Locke, developed by Hartley and the French sensationalists Helvetius and Condillac, and perfected in the late eighteenth century primarily by the French philosophes (Simon 1974:195).
What was new in Owen's contribution to education was the humanism with which he applied the theory:
He was not concerned to use education to inculcate particular beliefs or theories, nor with happiness conceived of in an abstract way, but sought rather to educate children as human beings capable of applying their reason to nature and society and of enjoying all aspects of life. In the New Lanark schools these ideas were translated into practice (Simon 1974:195).
Owen regarded the monitorial system as an important development and gave Bell and Lancaster financial support, but he was critical of the lack of well-trained teachers in their schools. In 1816 he told the Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders in the Metropolis: 'it is impossible, in my opinion, for one master to do justice to children, when they attempt to educate a great number without proper assistance' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:246).

He decided to show that it was possible to do better and, as part of his scheme to improve the lives of his workers and their families, he opened his first infant school around 1813. Children were admitted at the age of two or three and cared for while their parents were at work in the local cotton mills. The instruction of children under six was to consist of 'whatever might be supposed useful that they could understand, and much attention was devoted to singing, dancing, and playing' (Hadow 1931:3).

Infant schools were thus at first partly 'minding schools' for young children in industrial areas; but they also sought to promote the children's physical well-being and to offer opportunities for their moral and social training and to provide some elementary instruction in the three Rs, so that the children could make more rapid progress when they entered the monitorial school.

Owen's schools catered for children up to the age of ten (the age at which many started work in the mills). By 1816, three hundred were attending his schools during the day, with another four hundred taking part in evening studies and activities. Ten or eleven teachers were employed in the day schools; two or three in the evenings.

Owen's schools were significantly different from the monitorial schools in terms of their ethos, curriculum and organisation:

The children were governed 'not by severity, but by kindness'. There were no rewards or punishments. What the children had to learn was 'conveyed to them in as pleasant and agreeable a manner as can be devised'. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing and arithmetic, sewing, natural history, geography, history, religious knowledge, singing and dancing. The infants spent half the time in small groups doing simple lessons, and half the time, under supervision, 'they are allowed to amuse themselves at perfect freedom, in a large paved area in front of the Institution' (Lawson and Silver 1973:247).
Owen regarded his work at New Lanark as incomplete and imperfect, but his infant schools were to become 'one of the outstanding educational phenomena of the nineteenth century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:246). They were important because they convinced others that it was possible to overcome the problems of industrialisation and change. 'The memory of New Lanark and its infant school was strong in popular movements right through the century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:247).

A group led by the radical Whig politician Henry Brougham and the historian and philosopher James Mill (both Scots) established an infant school on Owen's lines in London in 1818, and imported a teacher from New Lanark.

In 1824, Owen's nonconformist partners insisted on changes with which he was clearly unhappy because a year later he left for America, hoping to establish there the ideal co-operative community. The project failed and he returned to England in 1828 to find that his social and educational ideals were already being taken up by others. Workers had begun to set up co-operative communities in which education was seen as fundamental. The Chartists and other radical movements adopted these ideas in the 1830s and later.

Owen's work also led to the birth of several societies for the creation of infant schools. The Infant School Society, founded in 1824 by Samuel Wilderspin (1792-1866), spread nationwide. Wilderspin's system of infant education left its mark for many years on the curriculum and buildings of elementary schools. This may not have been entirely a good thing, since he had 'a mistaken zeal for the initiation of children at too early an age to formal instruction' (Hadow 1931:3). A Glasgow Infant School Society was founded by David Stow (1793-1864) in 1827.

In 1836 Charles Mayo (1792-1846) and his daughter founded the Home and Colonial Institution (later known as the Home and Colonial Society) to establish infant schools and to train teachers for them. These schools reflected the influence of continental educators, particularly the Swiss educational reformer Pestalozzi (1746-1827), and the 'object lesson' became a major feature of nineteenth-century English schooling. The temptation, however, was to regard the infant school as a 'moral training centre and preparatory department' for the monitorial school (Lawson and Silver 1973:248). Mayo, for example, suggested that an object such as a leaf or a flower would

form an interesting groundwork for a lesson. Alive to impressions made through their senses, the little ones will by such means be roused to attention, and when the intelligence is awake and stirring, the teacher should gradually lead them to the moral lesson or the holy doctrine, connected in Scripture with the object he has shewn them (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:248).
The religious and moral purposes of the infant school were 'intensified in the 1840s' (Lawson and Silver 1973:282). In 1845 an inspector described the work of the British Society's infant schools as being 'wholly drawn from, based in, or illumined by the words of Holy Writ' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:282). And in 1846 the Home and Colonial Infant School Society defined the 'primary object of early education' as being
to cultivate religious principles and moral sentiments; to awaken the tender mind to a sense of its evil dispositions and habitual failings, before it is become callous by its daily intercourse with vice (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:282).
Many infant schools used a variety of apparatus and books, and their curriculum 'combined formalized scripture lessons with reading, writing and arithmetic (often taught by monitors), and varying degrees of physical exercise and play' (Lawson and Silver 1973:282). Nonetheless, the focus was still on religious instruction and by the age of seven an infant was expected not only to have a range of intellectual accomplishments, but to be 'be able to regulate his own conduct by the precepts of morality and religion' (Currie 1862:174-5 quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:282).

The ideas of Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), the German educationalist, came to England in the mid-1850s. They

were immediately the source of experiments, but they were only taken up by the Home and Colonial Society and the British Society in the 1860s and 1870s; from then on they formed the basis for the reinterpretation of infant and junior teaching that was central to the new education movement at the end of the century (Lawson and Silver 1973:283).
Stephens argues that the infant school movement was
less significant for its immediate impact on the education of the poor than for its initial pioneering of progressive pedagogical methods associated with Wilderspin, Stow, Pestalozzi and Froebel. These influenced advanced teaching methods in later periods but in practice the schools themselves failed to replace the dame schools in working-class favour and most gradually succumbed to traditional rote-learning and moral and religious instruction, losing any distinctive reason to exist (Stephens 1998:10).

Elementary schools

The question of how to organise children above the age of six in elementary schools was first addressed by David Stow, who began his work around 1824. In addition to founding Glasgow's Infant School Society, he opened the Glasgow Normal School for training teachers and became a significant figure in the development of educational theory and practice. He believed that in primary education the living voice was more important than the printed page, so he laid great stress on oral class teaching (Hadow 1931:6).

He conceived a graded system of elementary education, with an initiatory department for children of two or three to six years of age, and a juvenile department for children between the ages of six and 14, itself divided into junior and senior divisions. He described this scheme in his 1836 book Training System of Education for the Moral and Intellectual Elevation of Youth, especially in large Towns and Manufacturing Villages (Hadow 1931:6).

There were several practical objections to his system: it was costly, the school life of most children was short, and teachers could not be obtained in sufficient numbers. As a result, few schools were established using Stow's system, and the usual arrangement was an infant department for children up to the age of six, and a senior department for 6-12 year olds. In each case the master or mistress was assisted by monitors (Hadow 1931:7).

Small 'all-age' schools for children between 6 and 12 often developed into schools with three or more classes, in which one teacher took a section for an oral lesson, while assistant teachers took other sections for written work in arithmetic and for exercises in reading, dictation and composition. This system became common after about 1856 (Hadow 1931:7).

Kay-Shuttleworth recognised the shortcomings of the monitorial system and made an important contribution to the general development of primary education by introducing a modified form of the pupil-teacher system (see the section on Teacher training below), so preparing the way for a large supply of adult teachers (Hadow 1931:7).

Impressed by the practical work he had seen in Swiss schools, Kay-Shuttleworth also attempted to introduce more practical instruction into England's elementary schools. In the Regulations for the education of pupil teachers and stipendiary monitors, which he submitted to the Privy Council in December 1846, it was provided that pupil teachers at the end of their fourth year should be examined by the Inspector 'in the first steps in mensuration with practical illustrations, and in the elements of land surveying and levelling'; while the women pupil-teachers in every year of their course were expected 'to show increased skill as seamstresses, and teachers of sewing, knitting, etc' (quoted in Hadow 1926:9).

However, Kay-Shuttleworth's efforts had little effect on the great mass of elementary schools, in which vocational training took second place to academic studies. There were several reasons for this:

Matthew Arnold, writing about 1858, considered that the humane studies in the upper classes of the best elementary schools were by far the most interesting part of the curriculum (Hadow 1926:10).

Vocational education

'Schools of industry' were set up to provide the poor with manual training and elementary instruction. Such a school opened at Kendal in the Lake District in 1799. The Records of the Society for Bettering the Conditions of the Poor (III. 300-312) show that

the children were taught reading and writing, geography and religion. Thirty of the older girls were employed in knitting, sewing, spinning and housework, and 36 younger girls were employed in knitting only. The older boys were taught shoemaking, and the younger boys prepared machinery for carding wool. The older girls assisted in preparing breakfast, which was provided in the school at a small weekly charge. They were also taught laundry work. The staff consisted of one schoolmaster, two teachers of spinning and knitting, and one teacher for shoemaking (Hadow 1926:3-4).
The government established a 'Normal School of Design' in London in 1837 and, from 1841 onwards, made annual grants for the maintenance of some provincial schools of design. In 1846 it also began making grants to day schools of industry towards the provision of gardens, trade workshops, kitchens and wash-houses, and for gratuities to the masters who taught boys gardening and crafts and to the mistresses who gave 'satisfactory instruction in domestic economy' (Hadow 1926:9).

However, because the Industrial Revolution had given Britain a head start in world trade, the government saw no reason why the state should be involved in the training of industrial recruits, so modernisation of the old apprenticeship system was left to voluntary agencies.

It was only when the Great Exhibition of 1851 drew public attention to the lack of facilities for technical education in England, compared with those provided in various continental countries, that the government felt compelled to become more involved.

In 1852 a Department of Practical Art was created under the Board of Trade. In 1856 this was moved into the Education Department as the Department of Science and Art, and in 1859 it began setting examinations - for both teachers and students - in branches of science related to industrial occupations (Spens 1938:51).

Meanwhile, the 1854 Literary and Scientific Institutions Act (11 August) facilitated the establishment of institutions for the promotion of literature, science and the arts.

The education of girls

Schooling for girls 'broadened in these decades, but with the same defects' (Lawson and Silver 1973:286). Needlework was 'ubiquitous' (and a condition of grants after 1862), and often replaced arithmetic.

The Annual Report on the State of the Charity Schools of the Kennington District for 1832 found that the girls spent four afternoons a week doing needlework provided by 'several respectable families in the neighbourhood'. In 1831 profits had been used to provide 'Forty of the deserving Girls with Cloaks, Frocks, Bonnets, and Tippets, in which they appear at Church on Sundays' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:287).

Some of the endowed schools made provision for girls, and the mechanics' institutes and social movements, notably the Owenites, often provided adult education for women. But it was the Sunday schools which probably made 'the greatest contribution to improving literacy among girls in the early and middle nineteenth century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:287).

Stephens notes that in 1851 a smaller proportion of girls than boys aged 5-14 attended school in every English county. In agricultural areas girls tended to stay longer at school than boys, but in areas with high levels of female industrial employment - notably in the textile factories - girls' attendance at school was more irregular than that of boys and they left at an earlier age (Stephens 1998:38).

Literacy rates reflected the different experience of schooling of boys and girls. In some places boys enjoyed higher standards of instruction than girls. Also, the fact that many girls left school earlier than boys meant that 'they did not reach the stage when writing instruction began, and anyway the curriculum for girls was less directed towards writing and often paid more attention to sewing' (Stephens 1998:38). In the early 1850s almost ninety per cent of all children in England and Scotland were learning to read; but, while just over sixty per cent of boys were learning to write, the figures for girls were 56 per cent in England and 52 per cent in Scotland (Stephens 1998:38-9).

The State of Education in Wales

In October 1846, in response to a motion in the House of Commons, the Committee of the Privy Council on Education appointed three Commissioners to inquire into The State of Education in Wales. The motion asked Her Majesty

to direct an inquiry to be made into the state of education in the Principality of Wales, especially into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring knowledge of the English language (page i).
The Commissioners' reports, published in 1848, are an invaluable resource for both educational and social historians. They paint an appalling picture of what life was like for the poor in mid-19th century Wales (and no doubt in the rest of the UK). Many families lived in hovels hardly fit for animals, sometimes with heaps of human excrement outside the front door. The children were often poorly fed and dressed in rags. And if they were lucky enough to receive any education at all, it was usually little more than learning by rote the church catechism and other religious claptrap. Indeed, it seems to me it that much of it was mental cruelty verging on child abuse. (But then I write as an atheist: you are, of course, perfectly entitled to take a different view.)

The very poor

Three types of school - workhouse schools, ragged schools and industrial and reformatory schools - attempted to educate the very poorest children.

Workhouse schools

The religious revivalists of the late eighteenth century had a more positive view of the value of all children than many of those who ran the workhouses. Even the evangelists, however, did not call for full-time education for the working-class child. The general view was that academic education for the poor was a bad thing; what was needed was industrial and 'useful' training. Social mobility was therefore impeded rather than increased (O'Day 1982:259).

This view continued to be prevalent for much of the nineteenth century. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act (14 August) - 'designed to be a harsh deterrent' (Lawson and Silver 1973:283) - proposed that all relief should be given in workhouses, and that pauper children should receive education on a daily basis. However, many poor-law guardians were hostile to the idea of educating pauper children so the Act was limited in its effect. Further legislation in 1845, which permitted the establishment of district schools where children from workhouses in different parishes could be educated, was equally unsuccessful - only six of these district schools had been opened by 1859.

From 1846 the government granted 30,000 a year towards the salaries of workhouse teachers in an attempt to improve their wretched conditions:

In 1847, an inspection of forty-one workhouses in the northern counties found that the teachers in twenty-five of them were themselves paupers, most of them 'grossly incompetent, cannot write, or spell, or ask a question in a proper manner' (Lawson and Silver 1973:283).
Campaigners realised that education was virtually impossible for children living in the workhouse environment. In 1861 Louisa Twining wrote:
the utter helplessness and incapacity of workhouse children has become almost proverbial ... Their acquaintance with life is bounded by the four blank walls of their school and dormitory, and their dreary yard called a playground (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:283).
Despite the many concerns, the practice of keeping children in workhouses with adults continued until the end of the nineteenth century.

Ragged schools

Around 1818 John Pounds (1766-1839), a Portsmouth cobbler, collected together a group of ragged children and tried to give them some care and training. His initiative was later taken up by others, notably Lord Shaftesbury, who helped to form the Ragged School Union in 1844. Horace Mann said the ragged schools aimed 'to convert incipient criminals to Christianity' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:285), but in practice they were

a blend of Christian mission and the need to provide a simple level of care for the most deprived children, if education was to be possible at all. Some of the schools lodged the children, most fed them. They sought out vagrant children and used whatever makeshift accommodation they could find. They helped the children to work as shoeblacks and some of them to emigrate (Lawson and Silver 1973:285).
Scottish ragged schools, and a few in England and Wales, were nondenominational day schools. They taught the 3Rs but their emphasis was on industrial training for potential delinquents. Most English ragged schools, however, concentrated on the 3Rs and 'strongly evangelical religious instruction'. In these, 'humanitarian care for the destitute overshadowed anti-delinquent motives' (Stephens 1998:10). More than thirty provincial and Welsh schools developed along these lines.

From the 1850s those ragged schools which provided craft training received government grants and were absorbed into the penal system as 'certified' industrial schools. After 1870, some ragged schools were taken over by school boards, and the Union concentrated on ragged Sunday schools up to the 1890s.

Industrial and reformatory schools

During this period, industrial schools became schools to which children under fourteen could be committed as vagrants. They provided a basic education, plus some craft training for boys and domestic skills for girls.

Reformatory schools, for offenders under sixteen who had served a minimum of fourteen days in prison, were given official recognition by the 1854 Youthful Offenders Act (10 August). 'Not until the 1890s was the reformatory school made a complete substitute for a prison sentence' (Lawson and Silver 1973:285).


Scotland also suffered the problem of vagrancy.

Edinburgh's workhouses, which had been open since the 1740s, housed boys and girls separately from adults and were 'comparatively well run with low mortality rates by the standards of the time' (O'Day 1982:252). The Charity Workhouse of Edinburgh (1743), supported by the Scottish Society for the Preservation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK), emphasised religious, vernacular and technical training. The Canongate and West Kirk workhouses, opened in 1761, each had a teacher: Canongate taught vocational subjects and catechism; West Kirk additionally offered the three Rs and church music.

The city's orphan hospital, which had opened in 1733, gave religious instruction and industrial training plus some reading, writing, arithmetic and church music. By 1784 it had 130 orphans.

The SSPCK's three working schools in Edinburgh, founded in 1758, taught mainly spinning, stocking knitting, the three Rs and church music:

These three charity working schools formed one part of an agreement with the Edinburgh town council whereby the town council supported four English schools with a schoolmaster and curriculum approved by the presbytery. The high fees asked by English schools in the city were blamed for the low literacy levels among the poor of Edinburgh (O'Day 1982:252).
The 1854 Reformatory and Industrial Schools (Scotland) Act (7 August) empowered sheriffs or magistrates to send vagrant children under the age of fourteen to reformatory or industrial schools.

Teacher training

The spread of National Society and British and Foreign Society schools was initially greeted with some optimism, but from the 1830s, with the monitorial system dominating popular education, there was increasing criticism of the schools, and particularly of the poor quality of the teachers. In the 1840s inspectors' reports were often full of complaints about the monitors who were 'almost as ignorant as the classes whom they instruct' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:286), and in the 1850s one HMI was reported to have said 'he knew schools in which he could estimate a pupil's length of stay by the stupidity impressed upon his countenance' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:285).

A new approach to teacher training was needed. David Stow had opened a training college in Glasgow in 1824, and in 1839 Kay-Shuttleworth proposed the opening of a 'normal' or training college under the supervision of the Committee of Council. When this proposal was defeated, he opened a college privately in Battersea and handed it on to the National Society in 1843.

In 1846 Kay-Shuttleworth proposed a new pupil teacher system which aimed

to raise the character and position of the schoolmaster ... the establishment and support of a larger number of Normal schools; to feed those Normal schools with candidates having much higher attainments and greater skill and energy than those which have hitherto entered them; to render the school popular among the poor, as a means of introducing their children to more honourable and profitable employments, and by its increased efficiency to create in the minds of the working class a juster estimate of the value of education for their children (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:286).
The 1846 regulations (outlined in the Committee of Council Minutes of 25 August and 21 December 1846) provided a national framework within which elementary-school children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen would be trained and paid as pupil teachers, and would then be eligible to compete for 'Queen's scholarships' (see the Council Minutes of 20 August 1853 and 2 June 1856), tenable at the training colleges. 'This was to be the basis of the training of elementary-school teachers until the twentieth century' (Lawson and Silver 1973:287).

By the early 1850s there were forty colleges in England and Wales, thirty-four of them belonging to the Church of England. The two thousand students were mostly from working-class homes and had often worked in clerical or manual occupations. Most of them had been educated at National or British schools and had done some Sunday-school teaching. The average age of students at Battersea in 1845 was twenty-two (Lawson and Silver 1973:287-8).

The Newcastle Commission, appointed in 1858, found that almost ninety per cent of pupil teachers successfully completed their apprenticeship, and that three-quarters of them competed for Queen's scholarships, which most of them obtained. The colleges were sometimes criticised for the heavy workload they imposed on their students (Lawson and Silver 1973:288).

The education of the middle and upper classes

The grammar schools

As we saw in the previous chapter, by the middle of the eighteenth century the endowed grammar schools were in decline. They faced falling pupil numbers as parents, unhappy with the schools' outdated curriculum, began sending their sons to private academies which offered a wider range of subjects. The grammar schools were also often inefficient, as Nicholas Carlisle discovered when he conducted a survey of them for his 1818 book The Endowed Grammar Schools: many repeatedly failed to reply to his questions (Lawson and Silver 1973:250). Furthermore, in many of the schools 'the level of work was still elementary' (Lawson and Silver 1973:251), with children being admitted as young as six or seven.

Furthermore, some of the schools were accused of maladministration. The Select Committee on the Education of the Lower Orders in the Metropolis, set up in 1816 to examine schools for the working class, also investigated the conduct of various grammar schools, including Eton, Winchester and Westminster. The Committee found flagrant abuses in the administration of many of the schools: 'endowments were often misapplied, some masters took salaries without performing any teaching at all, such teaching as there was, was often of the lowest standard' (Simon 1974:95).

As a result of the Committee's findings, a Commission of Inquiry into Charities was established in 1818. Commissioners toured the country for the next two decades, 'amassing an immense amount of information which, all in all, strongly substantiated the original findings' (Simon 1974:95).

Many governing bodies, they reported, were failing to fulfil their duties.

At Great Blencowe in Cumberland, an investigation in 1821 found that the trustees had not met for thirty years and no accounts had been kept since 1797. 'The management of the property had been left to the schoolmaster - a not uncommon arrangement' (Roach 1986:42).

At Berkhamstead two clergymen - father and son -

exploited between them a revenue of 3,000 a year belonging to the school; neither had done any teaching for years, indeed the son lived in Hampshire, but there was no governing body to remedy the matter (Simon 1974:95).
At PockIington, two thirds of the school's income of over 1,000 had been paid to the master who had not attended the school for a year and, because his assistant was deaf, the children had been sent to other schools (Simon 1974:96).

Leicester's ancient grammar school, once attended by three hundred pupils, was found to have one boarder and three or four day boys (Simon 1974:96).

Some legal action was taken as a result of these investigations, and some financial abuses were corrected. The overall effect on educational standards, however, was limited. (Lawson and Silver 1973:253).
With regard to the curriculum, most of the grammar schools were failing to respond to the changes taking place in society as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and those that did try to do so often found themselves restricted by their statutes. Faced with growing public criticism and finding it increasingly difficult to attract pupils for classical subjects, some of the old local foundations therefore began to cater for a different clientele by broadening the curriculum, usually by charging fees for the non-classical subjects.

Oundle Grammar School, for example, which had no pupils at all in 1791, was revived when the headmaster offered forty-five boys (including twenty-one boarders) a mixed curriculum of classical subjects, geography, surveying, merchants' accounting and drawing (O'Day 1982:201).

Manchester Grammar School continued to prepare some boys for university, but also offered a commercial curriculum. Most of its pupils were

drawn from the artisan and shopkeeping classes, with a smattering of boys from professional, merchant and rural middle-class homes. As a reflection of this intake, a high proportion of Manchester pupils went into industry and commerce (O'Day 1982:201-2).
At Rugby, pupil numbers rose from 66 in 1778 to 245 in 1794, when the school offered a modified classical curriculum:
The traditional diet of Latin and Greek was served, with side dishes of Biblical, Roman and English history, the study of Milton, modern geography and mathematics. As additional fare, writing, arithmetic and French were offered (O'Day 1982:203).
A handful of schools were successful in getting their statutes changed to allow for the expansion of the curriculum. The 1774 Macclesfield Grammar School Act, for example, included a clause empowering the governors to appoint masters paid out of the school's revenues to teach
not only in Grammar and Classical Learning, but also writing, arithmetic, geography, navigation, mathematics, the modern languages, and other branches of literature and education (quoted in Simon 1974:103).
Other schools followed this example, including Bolton (1784), Haydon Bridge (1785) and Wigan (1812).

However, an attempt to modernise the curriculum at Leeds Grammar School was frustrated. In 1805 the governors sought to use part of the school's endowment for teaching modern subjects, including French and German. In the Court of Chancery they argued that

the Town of Leeds and its neighbourhood had of late years increased very much in trade and population ... and, therefore, the learning of French and other modern living languages was become a matter of great utility to the Merchants of Leeds (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:252).
But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Eldon, accepted Dr Johnson's definition of a grammar school as one 'for teaching grammatically the learned languages' and declared the purpose of the original charity to be the 'free teaching thereof' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:252). He ruled that it was illegal for the governors of the school to spend endowment funds on teaching modern and commercial subjects and the school was forced to continue with its classical curriculum.

The Eldon judgement 'greatly strengthened the resistance of masters of schools to any attempt by the middle class to introduce curricular changes and discouraged further efforts to transform the grammar schools' (Simon 1974:107).

A few more schools were allowed to amend the terms of their endowments. The Birmingham Grammar School Act of 1831, for example, empowered the governors to use what had become 'a vastly increased endowment' to build a new school, next to the grammar school, to teach modern languages, the arts and sciences.

Here, as the Quarterly Journal was quick to point out, was concrete recognition of the principle that endowments originally settled to provide a grammar school could be turned to new ends (Simon 1974:108).
Concerns about the traditional curriculum were reflected in the publications of the Central Society of Education. In Education Reform, published in 1837, Thomas Wyse (1791-1862) gave a vivid picture of the state of secondary education at the time:
In no country is the strife between the new and the old educations more vehement - the education which deals with mind as spirit and that which deals with it as matter. In no country are there greater anomalies - greater differences not merely in the means, but in the ends of education ... it runs through the entire system (quoted in Spens 1938:18-19).
He went on:
If we find in the country and town schools little preparation for occupations, still less for the future agriculturalist or mechanic, we find in the Grammar Schools much greater defects. The middle class in all its sections, except the more learned professions, finds no instruction which can suit its special middle class wants. They are fed with the dry husks of ancient learning when they should be taking sound and substantial food from the great treasury of modern discovery. The applications of chemical and mechanical science to everyday wants - such a study of history as will show the progress of civilisation - and such a knowledge of public economy in the large sense of the term as will guard them against the delusions of political fanatics and knaves, and lead to a due understanding of their position in society, are all subjects worth as much labour and enquiry to that great body, as a little Latin learnt in a very imperfect manner, with some scraps of Greek to boot - the usual stunted course of most of our Grammar Schools (quoted in Spens 1938:19).
Faced with this sort of criticism, more schools began broadening their curriculum by charging fees for non-classical subjects. Thus in 1838 the head master of Newcastle upon Tyne Free Grammar School reported that the school was teaching, in addition to Classics,
French, Writing, English Grammar and Composition, History and Chronology, Geography and the use of the globes, practical and mental Arithmetic, Euclid, Algebra, Trigonometry, Analytical Geometry and Mechanics, etc. (quoted in Hadow 1923:5).
French was taught without extra charge; the fees for instruction in the other subjects were 1 a quarter.

Schools which followed this pattern invariably admitted fewer 'free' or poor scholars. From information about pupils in Carlisle's The Endowed Grammar Schools (1818), and the Digest of Grammar Schools (1842), which summarised the Charity Commissioners' reports, it is clear that by charging fees the schools were excluding the very children for whom they had been established. 'The earlier broad social basis of the schools was rapidly being eroded' (Lawson and Silver 1973:253) and the grammar schools were becoming 'more completely middle-class preserves' (Lawson and Silver 1973:252).

In broadening their curriculum, but tending to introduce fees for subjects other than the classical languages, the schools were consolidating their status, achieving a certain stability and competing more favourably with the private academies. At the same time they were becoming more remote from the children of the poor (Lawson and Silver 1973:253).
Roach suggests that 'very few of the grammar schools, apart from a few of the richest foundations, survived on the strength of the endowment alone' (Roach 1986:7). The reports of the Charity Commission repeatedly indicate that schools were successful when the master succeeded in attracting boarders and fee-paying day pupils. 'In other words all grammar schools were private schools as well, and those which flourished did so because they had been able to develop the private side' (Roach 1986:8).

The 1840 Grammar Schools Act (7 August) 'allowed for the modification of the purely classical curriculum in individual schools' by permitting them to introduce modern subjects. However, it laid down that such steps could only be taken on the death of the master, so few schools benefited. Most 'remained peacefully in their former state of stagnation' (Simon 1974:319).

One school that took advantage of the Act was the grammar school at Basingstoke in Hampshire, which had been 'in a decayed state' (Roach 1986:88) for some years. When the master died in 1849, a public meeting resolved that grammar school boys should be prepared not only for the learned professions, but also for trade and commerce.

as regards the town of Basingstoke it would be highly beneficial to the inhabitants if the system of educn and instruction of the Youth and Boys at the Free Grammar School of the Town called the Holy Ghost Grammar School was not confined to the dead languages but extended to the other branches of literature and science in order to a more substantial fulfilment of the intentions of the Founders and the requirements of the present age (quoted in Roach 1986:88-9).
Similar initiatives were taken by the town councils at Wotton-under-Edge (1854) and Warrington (1858), by the mayor and others at Bury St Edmunds (1855), and by parents at Bury in Lancashire. 'By the 1860s the concept of local control had influential advocates. Local boards of education were recommended by both the Newcastle and Taunton Commissions' (Roach 1986:89).

In his 1854 report on education, based on the 1851 Census of Great Britain, Horace Mann dealt largely with popular education, but also provided statistics of 'collegiate and grammar schools' and of private schools.

He listed 566 'collegiate and grammar schools' supported by endowments, educating 32,221 boys and 3,391 girls. The sources of income were given for 304 of these schools with 17,725 scholars. The total income was 128,693, of which 87,631 came from permanent endowment and 28,000 from payments by scholars. Of the same group of schools 71.5 per cent taught ancient languages, 44.6 per cent modern languages and 67.6 per cent mathematics, almost all of them teaching the basic subjects and geography (Roach 1986:92).

Private schools and academies

By the middle of the eighteenth century there were many privately-run academies. Notable examples in London included those at Hackney, Kensington, Little Tower Street, Soho and Islington.

Hackney Academy 'possessed large premises, including a cricket field, and offered students excursions to study natural history and the opportunity to appear in theatrical performances as well as an elite group of companions' (O'Day 1982:208-9).

James Elphinston's academy at Kensington (1764) had extensive grounds, a good library and a garden with an allotment for each pupil. A wide range of subjects was taught.

Little Tower Street Academy grew out of John Bland's tuition in commercial and vocational subjects:

a classical curriculum was added to please a wealthier clientele, which included one of the sons of the Duke of Montrose, but the commercial/vocational subjects remained to attract boys from humbler circumstances (O'Day 1982:209).
The Soho Academy catered for commercial and business interests but also attracted artists and actors, including Joseph Turner (1775-1851).

Islington Academy advertised that:

Youth are generally boarded, tenderly treated, and expeditiously instructed in the languages, writing, arithmetic, merchants' accounts, and mathematics, with dancing, drawing, music, fencing and every other accomplishment requisite to form gentleman, scholar and the man of business upon the most reasonable terms which may be known by applying as above: under one general price, the whole expenses may be included for board, education and necessaries, or otherwise a fixed price for board and education only ... (quoted in O'Day 1982:209)
Some academies, including the Randall Academy in York, the Naval Academy in Chelsea, and the Military Academy of Little Chelsea, prepared boys for the military. Others, such as the City Commercial School and the Newcastle upon Tyne Mathematical School, specialised in commercial subjects (O'Day 1982:209).

Dissenting academies expanded rapidly in the second half of the eighteenth century. They provided a wide range of professional training and 'a good general practical education for youths entering the world of business' (O'Day 1982:214).

Warrington Academy, for example, established in 1757 with the support of leading manufacturers in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, provided a modern education for laymen as well as training for dissenting ministers. Joseph Priestley lectured there in the 1760s on the theory of language, oratory and literary criticism. He initiated a course on the history, laws and constitution of England, and encouraged his students to debate issues freely. 'This was the first regular introduction of history as an academic discipline in a higher educational institution' (Simon 1974:29). Priestley 'further revolutionised the curriculum by introducing the study of chemistry, anatomy, history, geography, languages and belles Lettres' (O'Day 1982:215).

Practical and financial difficulties forced Warrington to close in 1786, but it was replaced by Manchester Academy, established in the same year, which was intended to complement the Manchester College of Arts and Science (1783) by providing full-time education for students, while the College provided part-time education for those in employment.

In the College, says Brian Simon,

we have a new specialised institution which, though shortlived, is full of significance for the future; a forerunner of the Owens College of seventy years later, which eventually evolved into Manchester University (Simon 1974:58).
By the early nineteenth century, middle-class parents dissatisfied with the grammar schools had a range of options for the education of their sons. Roach argues that the private schools of the period fall into four separate but overlapping sectors. He lists these as: A good example of an early nineteenth-century private school was that in Percy Street, Newcastle, opened in 1802 by the brothers Edward and John Bruce, who were self-educated. In 1803 they published an introduction to geography and astronomy which became a very successful textbook. John Bruce was a good teacher of mathematics. Among his pupils was Robert Stephenson, who later wrote that 'it is to his tuition and methods of modelling the mind that I attribute much of my success as an engineer' (quoted in Roach 1986:122).

Another noteworthy school was Queenwood College in Hampshire, run by the Quaker George Edmondson. In addition to the usual classical and modern subjects, the school taught 'Book-keeping, Surveying, Geometry, Algebra, Mechanical Drawing, the elements of Chemistry, Botany, Geology and Mineralogy' (quoted in Roach 1986:131). Edmondson also taught older students chemistry, civil engineering and agriculture, so the school was effectively both 'an ordinary private school and a technical college for young men' (Roach 1986:131).

In January 1819 the Leicester Journal carried advertisements for three private schools.

In the Reverend Nicholson's 'old-established seminary', young gentlemen were 'expeditiously instructed in every branch of classical, polite and useful literature, as may best suit their future destination, whether the Church, Army, Navy, Commerce, or the more retired scenes of private life' (quoted in Simon 1974:112) at a cost of 30 to 35 guineas per annum, or as parlour boarders, 50 guineas.

The Classical and Commercial Academy at Billesdon, run by a dissenting minister, claimed to be

patronised by gentlemen of high respectability ... Instruction is communicated on an improved system, which has been tried for years with success, which expedites the student's progress, and which embraces every kind of education usually in request. While suitable exertions are made to promote the improvement of the pupils in French, and in classical literature, those parts of learning more necessary to trade and in commercial pursuits, receive a large share of attention. Many young gentlemen have left the seminary highly accomplished in English grammar, a qualification of peculiar importance in every respectable station in life ... The situation is retired, pleasant and healthy. Terms, 21 guineas per annum (quoted in Simon 1974:113).
And the Classical, Commercial and Mathematical Academy in Leicester advertised a 'regular course of lectures on the leading branches of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, illustrated by extensive apparatus, delivered to the pupils gratis' (quoted in Simon 1974:113).

Faced with this sort of competition, says Brian Simon, 'it is not surprising that the endowed grammar school at Leicester finally expired in the 1830s' (Simon 1974:113).

A private school which embodied much that Jeremy Bentham held dear was Hazelwood School in Birmingham, founded in 1819 by the brothers Matthew and Rowland Hill. The Hill brothers, believing in the value of self-education and self-government, gave the boys control over many aspects of the school, including the monitoring of discipline. In 1822, with a third brother, Arthur, the Hills published Public Education in which they set out their views on education.

Individual emulation was the main incentive; pupils were placed in sets according to their proficiency in different subjects, might study optional subjects, were actively involved in learning; there was a concrete approach to teaching, a wide curriculum, precise organisation and controlled movements about the school; an earnest approach to moral development. Above all, in contrast to the typical endowed school, here was a vitality and purposefulness which paralleled - and so prepared for - the active, bustling life of the middle-class manufacturer (Simon 1974:109).
Looking back on his time as head of Hazelwood, Rowland Hill wrote that
It was the height of my ambition to establish a school for the upper and middle classes wherein the science and practice of education might be improved to such a degree as to show that it is now in its infancy (quoted in Simon 1974:109-10).
Hazelwood, suggests Simon, was 'the utilitarian conception of education in operation in one of the main centres of industry' (Simon 1974:110). The school had a library, printing press, extensive playgrounds and a swimming bath.
Great stress was laid on practical methods. In arithmetic boys were to work from concrete objects like marbles before they depended on words and figures. Trigonometry was to be learnt through practical surveying. In learning languages boys should learn examples before rules or general principles (Roach 1986:124-5).
Schools like Hazelwood provided for the more affluent among the middle classes and 'played an important part in the early education of men who were to take the leadership in science and industry as well as in public life' (Simon 1974:111).

Another type of school which flourished in the early nineteenth century was the private boarding school. The Society of Friends (the Quakers) had opened one at Ackworth in 1777 'for the education of children of parents not in affluence'. It had gained a high reputation among the Friends: the liberal statesman John Bright (1811-1889) was educated there in the 1820s, and the school's historian records that

sterling men and women emanated from the Ackworth scholars of the twenties and thirties. They were successful in business, several founding firms of world-wide repute (quoted in Simon 1974:112).
The Quakers opened three more boarding schools between 1808 and 1815. These schools
showed a noticeable tendency to break away from the trammels of the traditional curriculum. Special attention was devoted to the study of English and particularly to oral reading and composition, and the pupils were frequently required to write descriptions of excursions, lectures and other incidents of school life. Considerable attention was also given to natural history, elementary natural science, geography and manual work of various kinds (Spens 1938:20).
Other religious groups, including the Presbyterians, Methodists, the Moravian community and Roman Catholics, also established boarding schools.

A report on 'superior private and boarding schools' in a northern industrial city, produced by the Manchester Statistical Society in 1834, revealed that there were thirty-six boys' and seventy-eight girls' schools with a total of 2,934 pupils; just under 7 per cent of the total number of children attending school in Manchester. Most of these schools had been established since 1820 and a high proportion of the teachers were dissenters. The average boys' school provided teaching in 'reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, geography, history, mathematics and languages, up to the age of about fifteen' (Simon 1974:113).

Such schools, successors of institutions which had developed in the eighteenth century, evolved 'a new approach to the content of education to meet the needs of the class they served' (Simon 1974:114). Some no doubt provided a good education, but they 'varied greatly in quality' (Simon 1974:112).

The private school was, of necessity, an ephemeral institution, depending for its very existence on individual initiative: for its owner-schoolmaster it was essentially a means of livelihood and not all schoolmasters were scrupulous as to the means employed in securing a profit. Further, lack of capital meant that schools were often small and ill-equipped. The Quarterly Journal sharply criticised the quality of assistant teachers in private boarding schools, many of whom were utterly incompetent and whose moral character was open to question. Undoubtedly many such schools gave a very limited education, while some were unbelievably bad (Simon 1974:114).
A new type of private school - the day proprietary school - began to appear in the 1820s.
The method used was that of establishing a joint stock company; one such school, for instance, was financed by 25 shares bearing interest at 5 per cent. This implied the banding together of like-minded people, and circles connected with the Church of England as well as the nonconformist middle class were now active in the matter (Simon 1974:115).
Among the most important schools of this type were the Liverpool Institute (1825), King's College School (1829), University College School (1830), Blackheath Proprietary School (1831), the City of London School (1837) and Liverpool College (1840) (Spens 1938:24).
Two features of the Liverpool Institute schools deserve special comment. Firstly their supporters were very proud of their position about religious teaching. They had, claimed George Holt in 1857, 'given a perfect example upon a large scale of the successful education of 1,000 to 1,500 young people of both sexes upon non-sectarian principles'. Secondly, they were very early to take advantage of the new University Local Examinations which began in 1857-58 (Roach 1986:201).
University College School served as a model for others, particularly for schools inspired by the radical middle class.
Here there was no religious teaching whatsoever, nor any flogging. Benthamite principles were also applied in the organisation of teaching, there being no rigid 'form' system but 'setting' for different subjects. Further, no subjects were compulsory, a free choice was open to the children most of whom, however, studied Latin, many German, and practically all French. English was especially emphasised and applied mathematics, chemistry, physics, botany, physical geography and social science were also taught (Simon 1974:116).
The proprietary schools 'marked not only a sharp break with the traditional educational institutions of the country, but also represented, in the minds of many, a threat to their continued existence' (Simon 1974:117). However, many of them survived for only a decade or two: the development of the railways and the changing political and social scene in the mid-1840s led the middle class to turn to the boarding schools. 'During the period 1830-40, however, the day proprietary schools fully embodied their educational aspirations' (Simon 1974:117).

The private schools varied greatly in the quality of education they offered and in their treatment of their pupils. Some were probably as bad as the fictional Dotheboys Hall portrayed in Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9). William Shaw's Bowes Academy, for example, with up to three hundred boys, suffered an outbreak of ophthalmia in 1823 and Shaw had to pay damages to parents whose sons lost their sight (Roach 1986:150).

The public schools

Lawson and Silver argue that 'the demarcation line between public and grammar school in this period is uncertain' (Lawson and Silver 1973:254):

The great schools like Eton and Winchester remained an identifiable group, patronized by the aristocracy and the gentry, with Rugby and Shrewsbury acquiring something of their eminence by the early 1800s. Between these schools and the classical grammar schools the differences were ones of status and social composition. Differences of curriculum or teaching methods were insignificant (Lawson and Silver 1973:254).
Shrewsbury had been in decline for a century and a half, and when Samuel Butler (1774-1839) became head in 1798, it had just eighteen boys. Butler reversed the school's fortunes and by 1817 there were 130 boys, 'about a third of them free scholars on the foundation' (Lawson and Silver 1973:253).

Charterhouse's fortunes also fluctuated wildly: it averaged about 80 boys before the 1780s, reached 480 in the 1820s, fell to 90 in 1833 and was back up to 173 in 1844; while numbers at Westminster had fallen over a long period and stood at 67 in 1841 (Lawson and Silver 1973:254).

Mill Hill School, founded by nonconformists in 1807, had a broader curriculum than the other public schools, comprising mathematics, including algebra, Euclid and trigonometry; French, taught by a Frenchman; lectures on natural and experimental philosophy; drawing, taught by 'an artist of respectability'; and history, English reading, elocution and ancient and modern geography (Spens 1938:20).

The public schools suffered periods of disorder, sometimes in response to flogging and cruelty, sometimes as a result of the influence of revolutionary France, but mostly related to their autocratic structures. There was a student rebellion at Eton in 1768 and five serious rebellions at Winchester between 1770 and 1818. In 1771, when boys at Harrow attacked the governors, destroying the carriage of one of them, it took three weeks to restore order. There were other rebellions at Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, Merchant Taylors' and Shrewsbury, while Rugby had a 'near-rebellion' in 1833 (Lawson and Silver 1973:254-5).

Concerns about the public schools began to be expressed. Like the grammar schools, they were accused of abuses (such as the diversion of endowments away from poor scholars), and of being degrading, inefficient and irrelevant. Criticism focused on 'the classical curriculum, and the immorality and brutalizing effect of the schools' (Lawson and Silver 1973:255).

As early as 1810, Sydney Smith (1771-1845), a former pupil of Winchester, argued that every boy was 'alternately tyrant and slave' and that the older boys were given 'an absurd and pernicious opinion of their own importance'. The schools were too big, supervision was lax and most pupils were given little incentive to improve themselves. 'Boys, therefore, are left to their own crude conceptions, and ill-formed propensities; and this neglect is called a spirited and manly education' (quoted in Roach 1986:235).

The public schools, however, were unwilling to adapt and modernise. In 1856 James Pillans (1778-1864), Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University and a former private tutor at Eton, gave an account of the schools as they were in the 1820s:

In the great schools of England - Eton, Westminster, Winchester and Harrow, where the majority of English youth who receive a liberal and high professional education are brought up - the course of instruction has for ages been confined so exclusively to Greek and Latin that most of the pupils quit them not only ignorant of, but with a considerable disrelish and contempt for, every branch of literature and scientific equipment, except the dead languages. It may be said that there are in the immediate neighbourhood of the College, teachers of Mathematics, Writing, French and other accomplishments to whom parents have the option of sending their sons. But as these masters are extra-scholastic - mere appendages, not an integral part of the establishment - and as neither they nor the branches of knowledge they proffer to teach are recognised in the scheme of school business, it requires but little acquaintance with the nature of boys to be aware, that the disrespect in which teachers so situated are uniformly held extends, in young minds, to the subjects taught and is apt to create a rooted dislike to a kind of instruction which they look upon as a work of supererogation. And this, we venture to say, is all but the universal feeling at Eton (Pillans 1856:271 quoted in Spens 1938:18).
By the 1830s such criticism had become widespread. The Quarterly Journal and the Westminster Review renewed their attacks on the public schools, particularly Eton. One article commented:
Before an Eton boy is ready for the University, he may have acquired, at a place of education where there is much less effective restraint than at the University, a confirmed taste for gluttony and drunkenness, an aptitude for brutal sports, and a passion for female society of the most degrading kind ... (quoted in Simon 1974:101).
And in 1833 the writer and politician Lytton Bulwer (1803-1873) complained that
Religion is not taught - Morals are not taught - Philosophy is not taught - the light of the purer and less material sciences never breaks upon the gaze. The intellect of the men so formed is to guide our world, and that intellect is uncultured! (quoted in Roach 1986:235).
But changes began to be made, notably by Samuel Butler at Shrewsbury (1798-1836), and Thomas Arnold at Rugby (1828-1841).

At Shrewsbury, Butler attached much importance to private reading; he also introduced promotion by merit and periodical school examinations for the fifth and sixth forms, whose studies included English, geography, algebra, Euclid and English history (Spens 1938:22).

Arnold's aim at Rugby was 'the re-establishment of social purpose, the education of Christian gentlemen' (Williams 1961:137). On his appointment, he said his object would be 'if possible, to form Christian men, for Christian boys I can scarcely hope to make' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:301).

It is this view that accounts for his stress on the sixth-form prefects, through whom he promoted the ideal of the Christian gentleman, and for the severity with which he treated offences such as lying. Without sound religious principles and a sense of gentlemanly conduct he considered intellectual attainment valueless (Lawson and Silver 1973:301).
In the sixth form, the classics were still the foundation of the curriculum, but French and mathematics (including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry), English, German, ancient history and modern European history were also taught (Williams 1961:137).

Roach argues that Arnold

was much more of a reformer in political theory than in the practical affairs of school. Essentially what he did at Rugby was to take the traditional system, to broaden it and to refine it. He did not in essence change it (Roach 1986:246).
Nonetheless, the work of Arnold and other heads (Arnold's was featured in Thomas Hughes' 1857 novel Tom Brown's Schooldays) restored the prestige of the large boarding schools among the middle class, who welcomed the social and moral training which they offered. The demand for more boarding schools of the public school type coincided with the rapid increase in the wealth of the middle classes and the construction of the railways.

As a result, a considerable number of new boarding schools were established, the most famous of which were Cheltenham College (1841), Marlborough College (1843), Rossall School (1844), Radley College (1847), Wellington College (1853), Epsom College (1855), Bradfield College, (1859), Haileybury (1862), Clifton College (1862), Malvern School (1863) and Bath College (1867). These institutions, described in the Report of the Public Schools Commission (1864) as proprietary schools, were 'designed to make boarding schools accessible to those sections of the middle class who found difficulty in paying the fees of the older and more expensive Public Schools' (Spens 1938:24).

To the same end, in 1848 Canon Nathaniel Woodard (1811-1891) founded the Woodard Society to provide Anglican boarding schools of different grades for the various sections of the middle class. Lancing, opened in 1848, was for the gentry and had 'two separate class divisions, paying different fees and using separate halls' (Lawson and Silver 1973:302); ten years later Ardingly opened as a school for the lower middle class. By 1890 there were eleven Woodard schools - 'a remarkable achievement for a man who had begun with no social and academic advantages, and had in 1847 launched his first day school in the dining room of his parsonage house at New Shoreham in Sussex' (Roach 1986:167).

Woodard, however, was not an innovator:

My view is not to introduce new elements either into our religious or educational departments, but rather to try our strength on the present system, which has stood the test for many generations (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:302)
The 'great' public schools had 'defined themselves more strictly in social terms by separating off the sons of tradesmen and the lower orders' (Lawson and Silver 1973:300), but the new public schools were a response to increasing demand and 'the fillip given to boarding education by the railways' (Lawson and Silver 1973:300). Furthermore, they were not restricted by the statutes of founders and in most cases had no endowments, so they were able to respond to popular needs and offer an education which was partly liberal but also vocational (Spens 1938:24).

Marlborough opened in 1843 with two hundred boys; five years later it was second only to Eton in numbers. Wellington, created as a memorial to the duke, who died in 1852, was intended mainly for the orphans of army officers but it soon became a traditional public school. Some of the new schools (such as Cheltenham and later Malvern) 'explicitly defined their function as places of education for the sons of gentlemen' (Lawson and Silver 1973:301). Many of the newer schools quickly established academic reputations equal or even superior to those of the older schools.

Cheltenham College had, from its opening in 1841, a Modern (or Military and Civil) Department intended primarily to prepare boys for the entrance examinations for Woolwich and Sandhurst, for appointments in government offices, for engineering, or for commercial life. The main study was mathematics, there was some Latin but no Greek, natural science was introduced, and greater stress was laid on modern languages (Spens 1938:25). The curriculum, even for the lower forms, was surprisingly broad, and included mathematics, Latin, English, history, geography, French, German, Hindustani, physical science, drawing, fortification and surveying.

A recognition of the importance of English and aesthetic subjects, especially music and art, was a feature of the curriculum at Uppingham School, which Edward Thring (1821-1887) transformed from a small grammar school into a public school 'of some eminence' (Lawson and Silver 1973:301). Thring was an old Etonian but had a low opinion of the great public schools, referring in his diary (19 November 1869) to their 'inefficiency and lying efforts and lying glory' (quoted in Roach 1986:250).

Under his leadership at Uppingham (1853-1887) classics, English composition and grammar, Scripture, history and geography were taught in the morning; in the afternoon the boys studied music and one or two optional subjects such as French, German, chemistry, carpentry, turning and drawing. Thring was one of the first heads to give music a prominent place in the curriculum. He made attendance at singing classes and music lessons compulsory and subject to the same discipline as any regular school subject. He also attached great importance to systematic physical exercises and to hobbies; the Uppingham gymnasium, opened in 1859, was the first of its kind in any English public school, as were also the workshops, laboratories, school garden, and aviary (Spens 1938:23).

Thring was also important for his sympathetic attitude towards children:

The pupil learning Latin and Greek was for him often 'the unintelligent dealing with the unintelligible'. He was dedicated to the study of English, opened the first public-school gymnasium and made music commonplace at the school. He believed every child could do something well. 'If a stupid lad excelled in the carpenter's shop,' said a former pupil, 'or a fool in form made good hits to leg, or took his hurdles easily, or a duffer at Greek prose bowed his violin well, we had the feeling that the Headmaster looked on him as a good fellow' (Lawson and Silver 1973:302).
In the 1850s, the public schools faced renewed pressure to modernise their curricula as a result of the introduction of new examinations. These included the London Matriculation Examination, the examinations for the Indian Civil Service (first held in 1855), the Oxford Local Examinations (from 1857), the Cambridge Local Examinations (from 1858), and the Examinations of the College of Preceptors, which was established in 1846 for the promotion of middle-class education and for the training and certification of teachers (Spens 1938:36).

A number of writers urged further reform.

In a series of articles written between 1854 and 1859 (and issued in book form in 1859) the philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) attacked the existing curriculum. He argued that natural science should form the basis of formal education and strongly advocated systematic physical training (Spens 1938:39).

A volume of Essays on a Liberal Education, published in 1867 under the editorship of Frederic Farrar (1831-1903), then assistant master at Harrow, also reflected the widespread dissatisfaction with the conventional curriculum. Among the contributors, Professor Henry Sidgwick and Canon JM Wilson (science master at Rugby) stressed the importance of science (Spens 1938:40).

And in his Essays, published in the 1860s and 70s, the biologist TH (Henry) Huxley (1825-1895) advocated a curriculum consisting of natural science, the theory of morals and of political and social life, history and geography, English literature and translations of the greatest foreign writers, English composition, drawing, and either music or painting (Spens 1938:40).

Some of the criticism appears to have had an effect. By the 1870s the public schools, which had long been attacked for their poor moral and religious standards, were being praised as 'the training grounds for a more moral and more serious generation of future leaders of the nation and Empire' (Roach 1986:261).

This change was due partly to the work of Thomas Arnold, who forged 'a link between religion, education and character training which had not existed before' (Roach 1986:261), and partly to the schools' stress on character training through games, which was 'very important to the development of the public school ethos' (Roach 1986:267). Organised games became part of the curriculum in the 1850s, particularly at Marlborough and Harrow, and quickly attained something of a cult status.

One aspect of this was the belief that games promoted the desirable moral qualities - co-operation and team spirit, the ability to win gracefully and to lose without complaint, the power to endure fatigue and physical pain.

The army, the Empire and public service were the great fields of action for the moral values proclaimed by the public schools and tested on their playing-fields (Roach 1986:268).

Meanwhile, private education for boys at home declined during the nineteenth century, though at the end of it 18 per cent of Cambridge students were still recorded as having had their previous education by 'private tuition or home' (Lawson and Silver 1973:300).

Preparatory schools

In the mid-nineteenth century - between around 1830 and 1865 - a number of 'quasi-preparatory schools' were established to prepare boys for education at the great public schools, which they usually entered at about the age of thirteen. These included Charles Mayo's school at Cheam.

But the private preparatory school - the upper-class equivalent of the elementary school - really developed towards the end of the century. Cheam, for example, became explicitly a preparatory school under RS Tabor (1819-1909) who was head from 1855 to 1890 (Roach 1986:148).

Blyth argues that the term 'preparatory', though never legally established, has been 'invested by tradition with a very precise and important meaning which is still current and influential' (Blyth 1965:30):

it implies in name what 'junior elementary' often implied in fact, that the education of younger children is mainly to be conceived in terms of preparation for the later stages of education rather than as a stage in its own right (Blyth 1965:30).

The education of girls

For centuries, a girl's education - if she was lucky enough to have one at all - had consisted of religious instruction, reading, writing and grammar, and the occasional homecraft such as spinning. In the eighteenth century French, Italian, music and drawing were sometimes added in the few boarding schools open to girls, but the regime in these schools was often austere and in many cases the curriculum amounted to little more than 'coaching for success in the game of matrimony' (Lawson and Silver 1973:256).

A few schools did attempt to do more. The Abbey House School in Reading had about sixty boarders in the 1790s. Its curriculum included 'the three Rs, English, French and Latin languages and literature, history and geography and, for some, Greek and Italian' (O'Day 1982:189). At the end of the century it moved to Chelsea where its pupils included Lady Caroline Lamb, Mary Sherwood and Jane Austen.

Among the pupils at Crofton Old Hall near Wakefield was Richmal Mangnall (1769-1820) who went on to become its headmistress around 1808. In 1798 she published (anonymously at first) Historical and Miscellaneous Questions for the use of young people. This went through many editions and became a 'great stand-by of the Victorian schoolroom' (Roach 1986:156).

Among the first girls' schools to teach science were those of Mrs Margaret Bryan, who gave lectures on astronomy and mathematics at Blackheath (1795-1806) and Hyde Park Corner (1815). In the same period, the wife of JB Florian Jolly kept a girls' boarding school in Leytonstone, where the curriculum, modelled on that of her husband's boys' academy at Bath, included arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, astronomy, geography and general science (O'Day 1982:189).

But 'such examples are rare indeed' (O'Day 1982:189). Furthermore, it seems clear that 'more schooling for girls did not mean more and wider vocational opportunities for women in society' (O'Day 1982:189). Women were still restricted to a 'private, domestic vocation', and the case for a more academic education for girls was based on the argument that 'well-educated women would mean well-brought up children and contented husbands' (O'Day 1982:189).

Little had changed by the early years of the nineteenth century, as Sydney Smith noted:

The system of female education as it now stands aims only at embellishing a few years of life which are, in themselves, so full of grace and happiness that they hardly want it, and then leaves the rest a miserable prey to idle insignificance (quoted in Hadow 1923:22).
Many middle- and upper-class girls were instructed by ill-trained private governesses or at the private schools for girls which were now numerous and of very variable quality. Their education was 'scanty, superficial and incoherent' (Hadow 1923:22).
There were no accepted standards to which girls might work. The teachers were untrained and, even more than in the case of men, many of them had drifted into the work with little enthusiasm because there was nothing else they could do. Since middle-class girls looked forward to no career other than that of marriage there was none of the stimulus provided in boys' schools by the pressures of the job-market and the need to earn a living (Roach 1986:151).
'No doubt many girls' schools of the early Victorian period were inefficient', says Roach, but 'their pupils did learn something'. The curriculum in most of the schools included 'the English subjects, arithmetic, French, geography, history, needlework and accomplishments such as music and drawing' (Roach 1986:152). Some schools also taught science and mathematics, classics and modern languages.

A school established in Edinburgh in the 1830s offered 'English and geography, writing and accounts and the languages', 'the ornamental branches - which include music, singing and drawing', and courses in chemistry, natural philosophy, botany and geology. 'This was clearly quite an ambitious plan' (Roach 1986:153).

In 1844 the Liverpool Mechanics' Institution opened a school for the daughters of tradesmen, clerks and shopkeepers. Two years later it had 291 girls in the senior school and 52 infants. In its early days it taught 'the English subjects, including geography and history, arithmetic, writing, drawing and needlework. A few girls also learned French' (Roach 1986:153).

The great weakness of many girls' schools in the early nineteenth century was that there was no systematic training for mistresses. 'They could not teach what they had not learned' (Roach 1986:158).

The girls' schools came under severe criticism, most of it justified, but there were exceptions to the general rule of mediocrity where good work was being done. ... By mid-century, however, there were many able women and some men who were determined on radical changes to increase the opportunities open to their sisters (Roach 1986:158).
Attempts to improve the education of girls and women began in 1843 with the foundation of the Governesses' Benevolent Institution, which aimed to provide a system of examinations and certificates for governesses.

This led to the foundation of Queen's College in Harley Street in 1848, where the leaders of the movement, such as the Revd FD Maurice (1805-1972), adopted the traditional boys' curriculum and endeavoured to hand it on to the women they taught. In a volume of introductory lectures delivered at Queen's College and published in 1849, the list of subjects is given as English, French, German, Latin, Italian, History, Geography, Natural Philosophy, Methods of Teaching, Theology, Vocal Music, Harmony, Fine Arts, and Mathematics. Each subject was taught by a specialist, who explained its purpose and principles (Hadow 1923:24).

Another significant development was the establishment in 1849 of the first higher education college for women in the UK. The Ladies' College in London's Bedford Square was founded by social reformer and anti-slavery campaigner Elizabeth Jesser Reid (1789-1866). After her death it became known as Bedford College and in 1900 it became part of the University of London (Hadow 1923:24).

Two notable pioneers in the campaign for girls' education were Dorothea Beale (1831-1906) and Frances Buss (1827-1894), both of whom studied at Queen's College.

Miss Beale was appointed as mistress in the Clergy Daughters' School at Casterton in 1857, where she was expected to teach Scripture, mathematics, geography, English literature and composition, French, German, Latin, and Italian (Hadow 1923:23). A year later she moved to Cheltenham Ladies' College (which had opened in 1853), where she reorganised the school.

Miss Buss founded North London Collegiate School in 1850 and (like Miss Beale) gave evidence to the Schools Inquiry Commission. She told the Commissioners: 'I am sure girls can learn anything they are taught in an interesting manner and for which they have a motive to work' (quoted in Hadow 1923:24-5).

In her autobiography, the Irish feminist Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) (pictured) described one of the fashionable girls' schools in Brighton in about 1850, where the fees were 500 a year. The girls worked all day: during an hour's walk in the open air they recited French, German and Italian verbs, and for the remainder of the day they were reading or reciting one of these languages or practising accomplishments. Music, dancing and 'calisthenics' (strengthening and beautifying exercises) were highly valued subjects; writing and arithmetic were not. The main aim was social display (Hadow 1923:23).

Roach notes that many of the better girls' schools were run by religious groups. By 1850 there were more than twenty orders of Roman Catholic nuns teaching in parish schools for the poor and in schools for the middle class (Roach 1986:153). In the schools run by the Quakers, including Ackworth, boys and girls were taught in parallel (Roach 1986:153); and in 1848 Jane Procter - 'an early advocate of greater independence for women' (Roach 1986:156) - and her sisters opened a boarding school for the daughters of Quaker families in Darlington, moving to Polam in 1854.

Roach argues that, while the education of boys 'changed through a slow continuous evolution', that of girls was revolutionised in the 1860s and 1870s. The revolutionaries included Barbara Bodichon, Emily Davies, Dorothea Beale and Frances Buss, 'whose careful and modest public demeanour must not disguise the fact that they were promoting a major change in the relationship between the sexes' (Roach 1986:151).

Secondary education in Scotland

Stephens points out that, while we now commonly use the term 'secondary' to mean schooling for children from the age of around ten or eleven, before the mid-nineteenth century

the concept of elementary and secondary schooling as sequential stages of education was undeveloped. In England and Wales it was usual to distinguish rather between 'middle-class' schooling (for the better-off) and 'elementary' schooling (for the working classes) (Stephens 1998:40).
In Scotland, however, 'the tradition was for common schools not distinguished by level of instruction' (Stephens 1998:40).
Popular rhetoric in Scotland supported the ideal of a national system embracing education from the elementary level onwards. It was commonly held that all social classes should mix in the schools, that there should be no distinction in the kind of schooling enjoyed by rich and poor and that it should be possible for talented boys (though not girls) of all classes to proceed to university. Only in the largest towns did burgh schools provide a mainly secondary education: otherwise both parochial and burgh schools might teach at both primary and post-primary levels and send boys to university, while a good deal of university tuition overlapped what was taught to senior school pupils (Stephens 1998:40).
This traditional pattern worked well in a rural society with a common culture based on religion, where social differences were relatively small, and where scattered populations with poor communications made a common local school acceptable.

Industrialisation and urbanisation, however, created greater social differentiation between artisans and labourers who had limited educational ambitions, and the growing middle class who wanted secondary and higher education for their children 'separate from the schooling of the bulk of the working classes' (Stephens 1998:41).

As a result, in eighteenth-century Scotland, as in England, while the grammar or burgh schools continued to offer a traditional curriculum, academies began providing commercial, technical and other modern subjects. Most of these were in the cities and, though many were run privately, some were established by the burgh councils.

Few boarding schools were opened in Scotland, partly because the Scottish aristocracy sent their sons to English public schools and partly because the bulk of the Scottish middle class, including professionals preferred local day schools.

Reform thus often took the form of the amalgamation of burgh schools and academies into loosely structured federal institutions (often called academies or high schools) under lightly exercised municipal control (Stephens 1998:41).
These schools, catering mainly for the middle class but also admitting some working-class pupils, provided a wide range of courses including classical, modern and commercial studies. 'Lack of a standard curriculum and extensive parental choice contrasted strongly with English secondary schools' (Stephens 1998:41).

In Glasgow and Edinburgh competition between the private academies and schools and the public high schools led to the development of a social hierarchy based on levels of fees, while in smaller towns public academies served the whole of the middle class. The cities also saw the establishment of elementary schools serving the working-class. However,

The democratic ideal ... survived, particularly in the rural parochial schools, and throughout the nineteenth century the drive for distinctly secondary (and thus middle-class-dominated) schools competed with loyalty to the traditional concept of the common school (Stephens 1998:41).

Special educational needs

Note: The information in this section is taken from chapter 2 (pages 8-9) of the 1978 Warnock Report Special Educational Needs, which itself was largely based on DG Pritchard's Education and the Handicapped 1760-1960 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963).

Provision for the blind

The first school for the blind in Great Britain was the School of Instruction for the Indigent Blind, established by Henry Dannett in Liverpool in 1791. It offered training in music and manual crafts for children and adults of both sexes. There was no education as such: child labour was the rule and pupils were taught to earn a living.

The Liverpool foundation was quickly followed by other private ventures: the Asylum for the Industrious Blind at Edinburgh (1793), the Asylum for the Blind at Bristol (1793), the School for the Indigent Blind in London (1800) and the Asylum and School for the Indigent Blind at Norwich (1805). As at Liverpool, these institutions were solely concerned with providing vocational training for future employment and relied on the profits from their workshops.

Schools whose courses included a genuinely educational element began to be established in the 1830s. The Yorkshire School for the Blind (1835) taught arithmetic, reading and writing as part of vocational training; while at the school established by the London Society for Teaching the Blind to Read (1838) a general education was seen as the foundation for subsequent training in manual skills. The Society later opened branches in Exeter and Nottingham.

The General Institution for the Blind in Birmingham (1847) combined industrial training with a broad curriculum in general subjects; and after at first concentrating on training, Henshaw's Blind Asylum in Manchester (1838) eventually developed a thriving school with educational objectives.

The first senior school for the blind was the College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen founded at Worcester in 1866.

Despite these developments, by 1870 there were still only a dozen or so institutions for the blind: most of these were training centres and only a small proportion of the blind benefited from them.

Provision for the deaf

Thomas Braidwood's Academy for the Deaf and Dumb, opened in Edinburgh in the early 1760s, was the first school for the deaf in Great Britain. It taught a handful of selected paying pupils to speak and read.

In 1783 the Academy moved to London, where in 1792 the first English school for the deaf opened with six children under the direction of Braidwood's nephew. This Asylum for the Support and Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor flourished: in 1809 it moved to larger buildings and later opened a branch at Margate.

In 1814 an Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb opened in Edgbaston with Thomas Braidwood's grandson (also Thomas) as the teacher.

More schools for the deaf followed: in Liverpool, Manchester, Exeter and Doncaster in the 1820s; at Aberystwyth in 1847; and in Edinburgh (Donaldson's Hospital) in 1851.

These early institutions for the deaf - like those for the blind - were protective places: there was little or no contact with the outside world. The education they provided was limited, and despite the training they offered, many of their inmates subsequently failed to find employment and ended up begging.

  • For more on the history of the education of the deaf, see the website of the British Deaf History Society.

    Provision for the physically handicapped

    The first separate educational provision for physically handicapped children was the Cripples Home and Industrial School for Girls, founded at Marylebone in 1851. A Home for Crippled Boys followed at Kensington in 1865.

    Like the schools for the blind and deaf, the priority of these institutions was to teach a trade: any education provided was rudimentary. The children came mainly from poor homes and contributed to their own support by making goods for sale. Little further was done for the physically handicapped until 1890.

    Provision for the mentally defective

    Before the middle of the 19th century so-called mentally defective children who required custodial care were placed in workhouses and infirmaries. The first specific provision made for them was the Asylum for Idiots established at Highgate in 1847. Like the institutions for the blind and deaf, the Asylum took adults as well as children.

    By 1870 there were five asylums, only three of which claimed to provide education. Admission was generally by election or payment. In the same year, the newly created Metropolitan Asylum Board established all-age asylums at Caterham, Leavesden and Hampstead. The children were later separated from the adults, and those who were considered to be educable followed a programme of simple manual work and formal teaching. The staff were untrained and classes were very large.

    In Scotland, the first establishment for the education of 'imbeciles' was set up at Baldovan in Dundee in 1852 and later became Strathmartine Hospital. An institution for 'defectives' was founded later in Edinburgh: it transferred to a site in Larbert in 1863 and later became the Royal Scottish National Hospital. The Lunacy (Scotland) Act of 1862 recognised the needs of the mentally handicapped and authorised the granting of licences to charitable institutions established for the care and training of imbecile children.

    Higher education

    Oxford and Cambridge

    Student numbers at Oxford and Cambridge reached a low point in the second half of the eighteenth century as the two universities became almost moribund. Wesley described them as places of 'pride and peevishness, sloth and indolence, gluttony, sensuality, and a proverbial uselessness'; Newman said they had had a 'century of inactivity'; and Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon attacked their curriculum and practices (Lawson and Silver 1973:256).

    Stephens, however, argues that the traditional picture of eighteenth-century Oxford and Cambridge as 'communities of largely frivolous upper-class students and well-paid idle teachers, dilatorily following a narrow classical curriculum' is an exaggeration (Stephens 1998:50-1). There was 'some conscientious teaching and learning, a thriving cultural life outside the official curriculum and some attention was given to science and particularly mathematics' (Stephens 1998:51).


    the English universities were backwaters in national life, characterized by dull and mechanical teaching, an absence of intellectual zeal and Anglican domination (Stephens 1998:51).
    Towards the end of the century some of the colleges began to take research and lecturing - including in science - more seriously, but these were the exceptions.
    Oxford and Cambridge at the end of the eighteenth century remained much the same - socially exclusive, concerned (like the public schools) with the formalities of learning, and resistant to reform. The Scottish universities had their own deficiencies, but remained real centres of learning in such fields as medicine and moral and natural philosophy (Lawson and Silver 1973: 257).
    The vast majority of students at Oxford and Cambridge were the sons of the gentry, clergy and professional groups, and few students went into business or the new professions: 'the alumni records indicate that they were attracted by careers in the law, academia, Church and government, not business' (O'Day 1982:269).

    The proportion and status of poor scholars at both universities had changed little. Allthough 'closed' scholarships were offered to some less well-off students, such scholarships were often tied to particular schools, counties or families, and were held by sons of churchmen or the gentility (O'Day 1982:268).

    The difficulties facing the middle and lower classes in attending the universities (in terms of cost) and the deficiencies of the curriculum for those desiring a more modern education guaranteed the decline of the ancient universities as centres of scientific and modern scholarship. They also ceased to be socially heterogeneous (O'Day 1982:268-9).
    As the nineteenth century began, the state of the two ancient universities became 'an important public issue' (Lawson and Silver 1973: 257). Between 1808 and 1810, the widely-read Edinburgh Review published a series of articles by Sydney Smith and two associates, who
    advanced arguments supported by an intimate knowledge of the universities and developed them with a thoroughness and civilised wit seldom equalled in the history of journalism (Simon 1974:87).
    Ten years later James Mill delivered a forthright attack on what he regarded as the survivals of mediaevalism, and Bentham criticised not only the classical learning but also the mathematics taught at Cambridge which, he said, was 'applied to useless purposes' (quoted in Simon 1974:90).

    Student behaviour continued to be a matter of concern. The 1825 Universities Act authorised the Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge to appoint Constables to help maintain 'peace and good order' in the university precincts.

    In Oxford, prostitution was apparently a problem. Section III of the Act declared that:

    every common Prostitute and Night-walker, found wandering in any Public Walk, Street, or Highway, within the Precincts of the said University of Oxford, and not giving a satisfactory Account of herself, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly Person ... and shall and may be apprehended and dealt with accordingly.
    Meanwhile, the life of the smaller Oxford colleges remained one of 'much triviality, some scholarship, a modicum of gossip and more than a modicum of dispute'. For the fellows, the routine of chapel and dinners was interrupted only by 'the long leisurely evening, patterned with cards, conversation and port' (Green 1957:11, 36-7, quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:256).

    The universities were torn between 'the conservative fear of institutional change' and the desire of reformers to see them 'actively participate in the processes of change' (Lawson and Silver 1973:257). There were some attempts at modernisation - not all of them successful - early in the century. Oxford began to reform its degree examinations, created a school of mathematics and physics, and introduced the division of degrees into classes. In the 1820s, facilities for chemical research at Oxford and the teaching of geology at Cambridge were improved (Lawson and Silver 1973:257). The examination system for university entrance, firmly established by the 1830s, had the effect of raising academic standards but further restricting university entrance to those from a narrow social class.

    Brian Simon suggests that the struggle between the reformers and traditionalists in the universities is epitomised by two men - Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), 'the leader of liberal thought at Oxford' and John Henry Newman (1801-1890), later Cardinal Newman. In the mid-1820s, they had both been fellows of Oriel, 'the only Oxford college at which all the fellows were elected on merit alone' (Simon 1974:281).

    These two were

    destined to take different directions. Faced with the industrial changes and political upheavals of his age, Arnold sought a synthesis between established beliefs and modern knowledge and social developments; and, in so doing, developed a broad, liberal outlook both in religion and politics. Newman, on the other hand, regarded liberalism as the most dangerous of compromises, and set himself the task of holding back 'the tide of social dissolution' in intellectual and social life (Simon 1974:282).
    In 1834-5, liberals and conservatives clashed over the proposal to abolish religious tests for entrance to the university. The liberals were defeated in Convocation, Oxford's governing body.

    For fifteen years or so, 'tractarianism' - Newman's tracts, books, and sermons in St Mary's Church - dominated Oxford's intellectual life. 'Many of the most brilliant were closely involved; few were free from its challenge' (Simon 1974:283). However, despite the appeal and influence of the 'Oxford Movement', it 'failed to stem the tide of liberalism' (Simon 1974:283).

    Meanwhile, Arnold, who was appointed Professor of Modern History at Oxford in 1841, drew large audiences to his lectures which brought 'a new breath of vigour and enthusiasm into an atmosphere heavy with the dust of theological disputes' (Mallet 1927:270 quoted in Simon 1974:284-5).

    Another important figure of the period was Mark Pattison (1813-1884). At Lincoln College, Oxford, in the 1840s, he was 'the model of the new tutor and the new don' (Lawson and Silver 1973:297): the academic reputation of the college was

    mainly the fruit of Pattison's work as tutor, but ... the College was itself changing; elections to fellowships had at last brought a nucleus of real learning and conscientious teaching capacity to the common room (Green 1957:127 quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:297).
    Pattison became Rector of Lincoln College in 1861.

    By the middle of the century, then, a few changes had been made in some of the colleges. The curriculum, however, generally continued much as before. Moral philosophy was emphasised at Oxford and mathematics at Cambridge: both were 'taught and examined with great formality' (Lawson and Silver 1973:297). Classical studies remained pre-eminent, with modern subjects, including science, being 'largely extracurricular accomplishments' (Lawson and Silver 1973:297).

    Several attempts at reform were unsuccessful, but in 1850 campaigners were finally rewarded when the Lancashire MP and Unitarian James Heywood proposed the appointment of a Royal Commission to enquire into the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin 'with a view to assist in the adaptation of those important institutions to the requirements of modern times'. William Gladstone, then Tory MP for Oxford University, denounced the proposal, but the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, announced the government's decision to go ahead with the Commission 'to receive evidence voluntarily given'. 'The longstanding demand of the Radicals had at last been met' (Simon 1974:290).

    The authorities at both Oxford and Cambridge refused to cooperate with the commissioners, regarding them as 'notoriously liberal in politics' (quoted in Simon 1974:291) and even attempted to petition the Queen in Council to cancel the commission. Despite this opposition, a large amount of information and comment was gathered and published in the Commission's reports in 1852.

    The commissioners accepted as the main criticism of both universities the inefficiency of the teaching; they made recommendations for adequate professorial and lecturing arrangements, proposing in particular the creation of new chairs in the scientific disciplines. They made proposals for the improvement of the administration of the universities, and of their examination systems. They put forward no clear conclusions on the question of the religious tests still in force at the two universities (Lawson and Silver 1973:298).
    Two Acts of Parliament followed: the 1854 Oxford University Act (7 August) and the 1856 Cambridge University Act (29 July). Both were significant advances, but 'neither went as far as the universities' critics had hoped' (Lawson and Silver 1973:298).

    Students (other than those studying divinity) who were not members of the Church of England were allowed to take bachelors' but not masters' degrees. This 'half-way measure of religious toleration' kept university government 'firmly in the hands of members of the established church' (Lawson and Silver 1973:298). Colleges could continue to bar dissenters from fellowships, though it soon became clear that 'the colleges were losing far more by the tests than the Church of England gained' (Winstanley 1947:39 quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:298).

    The Acts had shown the trend of opinion. The organs of university government had been made more representative, although a proper balance of relationships between college and university (involving questions of finance and power) was the subject of controversy for the next quarter of a century. The way to curriculum reform had been opened. The principle of competition had been introduced into the scholarship system, and closed scholarships were now to be reformed. Fellowships were open to competition. The half measure of religious reform could not fail to provoke demands for more (Lawson and Silver 1973:298).
    Brian Simon argues that the appointment of the University Commissions 'marked the end of an epoch, and opened a decisive period of change in English education' (Simon 1974:298):
    In tackling first the centre of clerical power and control of education, the government opened the way for the transformation of the educational system as a whole. Whatever the limitations of the reforms achieved after 1854, from this time the universities increasingly reflected a cautious middle-class rationalism, and began to turn their attention from the narrow concerns of prelates and clerics to the great world outside - the world of diplomacy and politics and, though to a lesser extent, of commerce and Empire (Simon 1974:298).
    However, the universities now began to attract more students from the rapidly developing proprietary boarding schools such as Cheltenham, Haileybury, Malvern and Rossall, and the percentage of students from the 'great' public schools also increased: between 1864 and 1867 almost a quarter of Oxbridge students came from just four of them - Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Rugby (Lawson and Silver 1973:298). The result was that the universities became
    more exclusive in terms of class than they had ever been ... in opening up the universities in ways conducive to attracting the middle class, the Executive Commissioners effectively closed them to the poor (Simon 1974:298-9).
    So despite the changes, Oxford and Cambridge remained largely devoted to the education of the gentleman, principally for service to church and state.

    In his Inaugural Address to the University of St Andrews in 1867, John Stuart Mill argued that

    youths come to the Scottish Universities ignorant, and are there taught. The majority of those who come to the English Universities come still more ignorant, and ignorant they go away (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:297).
    Major reform was still some years away.

    University of London

    The need for higher education to be more responsive to the needs of the new professions was now widely recognised: Woolwich Academy was established in 1741 for the training of engineers, military schools at High Wycombe and Great Marlow opened in 1799 and 1802, and the Naval College at Portsmouth was established in 1809. The dissenting academies gave a university-level education which included science and mathematics, and medical schools began to be established in the large provincial cities in the 1820s (Simon 1974:118-9).

    'The stage was now set for a more decisive advance - into the university field itself' (Simon 1974:119). Planning for England's third university began in the 1820s. The University of London, said Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), one of its founders, would provide an education in the arts and sciences for 'the youth of our middling rich people, between the age of 15 or 16 and 20' (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:257).

    The new university faced considerable opposition. Oxford and Cambridge attempted to prevent its establishment, as did the medical schools of London hospitals, who feared losing their monopoly. The Church of England intervened to prevent the new institution being incorporated as a university, so in 1828 it opened not as a university but as University College.

    It translated into practice a conception of university education which, while it owed nothing to the example of the ancient universities of England, constituted a direct challenge to their monopoly of learning and higher education (Simon 1974:119).
    Its first Council included leading philosophic radicals, dissenters, Roman Catholics and Jews. Bentham himself was too old to take an active role, but utilitarians 'played the leading part in drawing up the design and forming the character of the new institution' (Simon 1974:120).

    The founders ignored Oxford and Cambridge as model universities and turned instead to institutions outside England which embodied their aims. These included Edinburgh University, with its schools of medicine, philosophy and political economy, Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia, established in 1819, and some of the German universities. The first warden, Leonard Horner, was an Edinburgh graduate, as were eight of the original professors: no Oxford graduates were appointed, though there were six from Cambridge (Simon 1974:120-1).

    At first, students were taken from the age of fourteen but in 1831 the age of entry was raised to fifteen.

    A regular four-year course was planned, with some optional studies. The core of the curriculum was made up of the classical languages, mathematics, logic and philosophy, chemistry, physics and applied mathematics, law, political economy, moral and political philosophy. Optional courses included English, foreign languages, history and science (Simon 1974:123).

    The college pioneered new teaching methods: its chemical laboratory was one of the first - possibly the first - to be open to students for practical work (Simon 1974:124).

    University College was nondenominational. As such, it was supported by many dissenters and reformers but viewed with hostility and suspicion by others. Thomas Arnold famously described it as the

    Godless institution on Gower Street ... Anti-christian, inasmuch as it meddles with moral subjects - having lectures in History - and yet does not require its Professors to be Christians (quoted in Lawson and Silver 1973:258).
    In 1831 the Church of England opened King's College in competition. King's required its principal, professors and students to be Christians.

    In 1836 the University of London was incorporated solely as an examining body for students of the two colleges, a role that was later extended to other colleges (Lawson and Silver 1973:258).

    Colleges of various kinds around the country and in the empire began affiliating to the new university - there were more than eighty such affiliations by mid-century. Their students sat centrally-set examinations, which from 1858 individual external students could also take.

    Owens College, Manchester

    Perhaps the most notable affiliation was that of Owens College, which would later become Manchester University.

    Founded from a private benefaction in the 1850s, Owens College had no religious tests and was designed to serve the needs of the community around it. It had faculties in traditional university disciplines, but quickly gained a reputation for its scientific work. Its strong local connections included the city's grammar school, which established exhibitions (scholarships) to the college.

    Owens College and London external degrees, both coming in the same decade, were outstanding developments in higher education in the nineteenth century (Lawson and Silver 1973:299).

    The Scottish universities

    Scotland's network of schools had developed since John Knox first advocated universal education in the 1500s, and its universities were 'in the streets of busy towns, closely linked with civic life, and charging low fees' (Simon 1974:30). So, while rich endowments allowed Oxford and Cambridge to ignore the changes in society, the poorer Scottish universities depended on their reputations and were forced to pay attention to current needs.

    The stagnation of Oxford and Cambridge, says Stephens, contrasted strongly with the flourishing state of the 'essentially liberal and secular Scottish universities' (Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen) where student numbers almost trebled during the eighteenth century (Stephens 1998:51).

    The vigour of Scottish intellectual life was 'inspired by the belief (which Bacon had first propagated) that the advancement of knowledge depends on its application, that learning must be put to social use' (Simon 1974:31).

    Scotland's chief new contribution to knowledge was made by those who, stimulated by radical industrial and social changes, turned to historical investigations which laid the basis for a new science of society. It was Adam Smith's lectures on Natural Theology, Ethics, Jurisprudence and Political Economy at Glasgow, where he became Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1752, which provided the kernel of The Wealth of Nations (1776); a close analysis of the origin and functioning of industrial civilisation and the role of labour, in the process of which the case was put for state provision of education (Simon 1974:31).
    In the second half of the eighteenth century, industrialisation led to a large increase in the population of Ayr, Renfrew and Lanark. Glasgow University expanded as a result and the social origins of its students 'reflected the changing class structure of the locality' (O'Day 1982:276). The proportion of students from an industrial or commercial background rose from a quarter in the middle of the century to half by its end. In the same period, the proportion of those from noble or landed backgrounds fell from a third to just 6.7 per cent (O'Day 1982:276).

    However, the majority of Scottish working-class students did not go on to careers in commerce and industry: most of them entered the Presbyterian ministry.

    Training for the ministry was extremely cheap: in the mid eighteenth century it was possible to obtain a university education for about 5 a year (as against 100 or 50 at Oxford or Cambridge) and no fees were charged for divinity students. The outlay needed had risen only to 20 by 1820. Only 12 per cent of matriculands entered business careers: even this is significant when we compare it with the 3 per cent of Cambridge alumni entering business late in the nineteenth century but it indicates, nevertheless, that great numbers of Glasgow students from business families were determinedly moving away from their background (O'Day 1982:276).
    Student numbers at all the Scottish universities rose from a thousand in 1700 to 2,700 in 1800 (O'Day 1982:277). The relative poverty of many of the students meant that the universities could not charge realistic fees. As a result, university teachers were often poorly paid and some 'neglected their regular classes and concentrated on fee-paying classes in an effort to make ends meet' (O'Day 1982:278).

    Glasgow and Edinburgh universities responded to complaints about poor salaries and outdated curricula by offering extra courses at an additional charge, but this solution was more difficult for St Andrews and Aberdeen: they were situated in areas with fewer people and less wealth, and after 1760 'academies offered more satisfactory curricula' (O'Day 1982:278).


    it is evident that the curriculum offered at Aberdeen was significantly more modern and utilitarian than that offered the undergraduate at other Scottish universities (as part of the set syllabus) or either English university (O'Day 1982:279).
    Despite their antiquated official curriculum and regulations hindering change, their poorly paid professors and the admission of many very young students, 'Scottish universities in the eighteenth century were the keystone of the Scottish Enlightenment' (Stephens 1998:51). The urban intellectual movement of the 1750s to the 1780s resulted in 'remarkable levels of attainment in philosophy, history, literature, economics, social theory and, especially, in medicine' (Stephens 1998:51). In 1789, Thomas Jefferson declared that in science 'no place in the world can pretend to competition with Edinburgh' (quoted in Stephens 1998:64).

    Unlike Oxford and Cambridge, the Scottish universities were national institutions partly funded by the state, their students were more socially mixed, there were no religious barriers to admission, and they benefited from 'a professoriate committed to promoting good teaching' (Stephens 1998:51).

    Their interests linked them to the professions and to the intellectual life of the Scottish nation and of Europe generally. They were influential, too, in the intellectual and economic development of Britain as a whole and served as models and sources of staffing for the English and Welsh Dissenting and other private academies (Stephens 1998:51).
    However, by the early nineteenth century the Industrial Revolution had 'brought greater fusion of English and Scottish economic and intellectual life and enlarged British opportunities for Scots' (Stephens 1998:52), while political and religious divisions affected Scottish universities and professions. As a result, 'the Scottish Enlightenment faded, and by 1830 was over' (Stephens 1998:52).

    The professions

    Developments in the universities coincided with - or led to - changes in education for the professions.

    In 1800 Edinburgh University had 660 students studying medicine; the medical school at University College, London, was its first department to open in 1828; and by the 1830s, a third of enrolments at Glasgow were in the medical faculty (O'Day 1982:274).

    A royal commission made recommendations regarding the law in 1854; chairs in architecture were created at King's College, London, in 1840 and at University College a year later; chairs in civil engineering were established at the two colleges in 1838 and 1841; and Cambridge acquired its first chair in mechanical and applied science in 1875 (Lawson and Silver 1973:299-300).

    The general story of professional education in the middle and late nineteenth century is one of attempts by the professions to establish or reform their own institutions and codes of apprenticeship and conduct, and of slow movements in the universities to provide related academic courses (Lawson and Silver 1973:300).


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