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Noteworthy dates in the history of British education


England has a long and varied history of organised education. The first schools were most likely associated with the church, and the oldest UK school still in operation is The King`s School in Canterbury. In the late 6th century St Augustine travelled from Rome on a papal mission, to convert Kind Æthelberht from what was considered to be the pagan Anglo Saxon religion to Christianity. The King was successfully persuaded adopt Christianity, and St Augustine proceeded to help with the construction of a number of monasteries throughout the region, many of which provided religious education to local people. In the year 597 Canterbury School was opened, teaching latin and religious doctrine.

597 - Canterbury School

Following Henry the VIII`s dissolution of the monasteries in the mid sixteenth century, Canterbury school was formally renamed the King`s school in 1541, and is today regarded as the country`s oldest school. The institution is also the country`s oldest surviving charity, having for centuries provided scholarships and grants to help educate boys in the local area

1440 - Founding of Eton college

Eton is certainly England`s most famous school. Founded in 1440 by Henry VI, it was originally called Kynge`s College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore, and was opened as a sister institution to the older King`s College Cambridge. The largest boarding school in the country, Eton is famous for its list of wealthy and significant alumni, which includes many members of the royal family, and a number of former Prime ministers.

1550`s - Establishment of Free Grammar Schools

Edward VI was the primary architect in the creation of grammar schools in the mid sixteenth century. Prior to their creation only wealthy families could afford to send their children to school, leaving the majority of the population without any formal education. Despite these grammar schools offering free tuition, the majority of parents did not enrol their children, as they considered it more beneficial for them to be sent out to work, or assist with domestic chores.

1780 - Sunday Schools

Sunday schools began in Italy, and initially preceded the Sunday church service. Their primary function was to provide religious instruction to both children and adults, but they increasingly served to educate the children of poor families, who worked on farms and in factories for six days a week. Since their only day off was Sunday these schools aimed to provide a secular educational framework for these children. These schools were extremely successful, and within just 4 years they were educating 250,000 children from all across the country. Just 50 years later, in 1831, that number had grown to an astonishing 1.2 million.

1833 - Parliament allocates funds for education

In 1833 the Factory Act was passed by parliament, which established a regulatory system for workers in factories. A number of new laws were created, which included no children under the age of nine being allowed to work in factories. Those aged between 9 and 13 were limited to working 8 hours a day, while those aged between 13 and 18 were permitted to work 12 hours a day. Children under the age of 13 were also required by law to receive 2 hours of elementary schooling per day. Though these rulings certainly sound lax by today`s standards, this was the first time children were legally required to receive some form of education. Parliament also allocated funding for schools, meaning it was the first time the state took an active role in education.

1844 - The Ragged school Union

Ragged Schools stood alongside Grammar schools in the mid nineteenth century. Primarily serving poorer children from working class families, along with orphans and the destitute. They were colloquially termed `ragged schools` because of the threadbare clothing many of the pupils wore. In 1844 Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, established the Ragged School Union. This allowed schools to pool their resources, and provide clothing for those children who couldn`t afford suitable attire.

1880 - compulsory education introduced

The elementary education act was introduced in 1880, which made it a legal requirement for all children aged between 5 and 10 years of age to attend school. Far from being a toothless piece of legislation, Attendance Officers would call at the homes of children who were not attending classes.

1902 - the Balfour Act

Prior to the Balfour act most schools were managed by the Church of England, while others were governed by school boards. The Balfour Act initiated the creation of Local Education Authorities, which exist to this day. In 1906 these authorities introduced school meals, and in 1907 ensured regular medical inspections took place for all pupils.

1918 - The Fisher Act

The Fisher Act raised the school leaving age to 14, with intentions to soon be increased further. The onset of the first world war prevented the planned formation of the first secondary schools, but it was the passing of the Fisher Act that soon led to free education continuing to the age of 18.

1944 - The Butler Act

More commonly known as the Education act, this made secondary school education free for all children. It also created the eleven plus exam, which was designed to stratify children of different abilities when they entered secondary school.

1965 - The Comprehensive System

Designed to merge grammar and secondary modern schools, Comprehensive schools admitted pupils of all abilities. The government circular abolished most secondary modern and grammar schools, along with ending the 11 plus exam. Most education authorities were required to take on the new comprehensive system, and the government provided no further funding for the creation of new grammar schools.

1988 - The national curriculum

The The National Curriculum was introduced to ensure schools across the country were teaching the same material. It defines with a rigid framework what aspects of each subject are taught, and to what particular level. The national curriculum is divided into blocks of years called `key stages,` with exams at the end of each stage, allowing teachers to assess their pupils` performance.

13 days ago