Schools Research



History of Schooling in England

General References and Resources

Specific School Resources


Schooling was different in "the old days" from what you have experienced. And English schools have a different structure than their American and Canadian counterparts. The list below looks at things from a historical perspective. For example:

  • "Kindergarten" is an American institution, begun in Wisconsin in the 1800s. It has since spread to other countries.
  • "Public school" began in most countries in the mid to late 1800s.
  • An English "Infants School" is generally for children under the age of 7. In America, the term primarily means a "Pre-School".
  • The English initially limited schooling to boys. When it was introduced for girls, the subjects taught were domestic skills, at first. In America, schooling was almost universally open to both sexes. In England, such a school would be called "mixed".
  • The English term "Grammar School" generally meant a school that taught literature and classical language. Over time, the usage shifted from being a strictly language school to one that emphasized classical language but taught other subjects as well.
  • The English term "Elementary School" has also shifted definition over time. It is now the equivalent of what an American would expect in a public school. In fact, the term is used in America for most schools teaching grades 1 through 11.
  • The American (and Canadian) term "High School" is seldom used in England now, nor is "Junior High". English students generally stay in school through age 16. "High School" as a term was dropped by most professional educators prior to World War Two because its usage was inconsistent. See below for the English equivalents.
  • A "High School" in England may refer to a school built on a hill.
  • Americans may wonder about the terms "O-level" and "A-level" Oversimplified: an "O-level" is passing an exam at the "Ordinary" level and going off to a life working in a shop or a factory. An "A-level" is an "Advanced" level which gains one entrance into a college or "sixth-form" school for additional education and, presumably, a better job. These levels have been replaced by more comprehensive exams. Read Martyn WATTS report on British School Education Levels (Portable Document File).
  • The American term "Public School" is the English equivalent "State School".
  • The English term "Public School" is really a Secondary School, which is NOT a State School. You pay (a lot of money!) to go to an English Public School (Americans - think "Private School").
  • Colleges and Universities in England worked on a different basis than their American or Canadian equivalents. There may be no 'years" like Freshmen or Senior. It was unusual for a university to keep daily attendance records. Exams may have been oral.

The vast majority of school records available for your perusal are at the Lincolnshire Archives. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, has a few on microfilm. Sometimes the schools themselves have kept their ancient registers, but most have not because of space restrictions, amalgamations of schools, etc. Like most old records, they suffered from rot, fire, perils of war and neglect.

This page can use your help. If you know of school records available to family history researchers, please contact the site co-ordinator. If you are a Lincolnshire local and your school has a web site, encourage them to include a history of the institution. Here is what we have so far:

Some notes on School records in the Archives offices:

  1. Most school records cover the period from about 1870 to the early 1900's.
  2. Schools were not required to deposit records with the Archive offices. The quantity of records varies from school to school. For one school, perhaps nothing. At another, say five books each spanning five years of records, possibly more.
  3. Look for the original admission books, which list the names of all the pupils starting school that year, their father's name and address. Notes are normally added if the pupil left one school for another.
  4. A "school log" is normally the teacher's (or Headmaster's) diary of events that transpired during his/her tenure. Student names appear occasionally, particularly if they are assistant teachers or monitors. Visits by nurses, the clergy, and dignitaries are recorded, as are periods of bad weather, waves of diseases, students out for harvest, etc.
  5. The best starting place to find out if the Archives holds school material relating to a particular village is the 'Schools' card index.

History of Schooling in England

Schooling was not very effective when it first started. Nivard OVINGTON tells us (in 2009) that an article in the Times of 1844 reported that of 62,447 persons taken up by the police, 11,336 males, and 5,682 females could neither read nor write. That's 27% of the population. Only about half the population could read at all. Lincolnshire was an agricultural area, so it was common for children, particularly the older ones, to be pulled out of school at age 10 to 12 to work in the fields. And there were class biases at play. The "Working class" thought education was only for the rich, and the middle and upper classes thought reading was a waste of time or even bad for the lower classes.

A brief history of schooling in England:

  • Prior to 1808, there were few schools. Most of those that existed were run by the church, for the church, stressing religious education.
  • The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) began a campaign in the early 1700's to establish Charity Schools.
  • The Factory Act of 1802 required that children employed by the owners of the newly arising factories were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic during the first four years of their apprenticeship.
  • British Schools founded in 1808 by Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker.
  • National Schools founded in 1811 by Andrew Bell, an Anglican clergyman. The National Schools were voluntary schools paid for by the National Society for the Promotion of Religious Education (which is still in existence as The National Society)
  • In the 1830s the public starts to demand more secular "general education".
  • Many of the Church of England schools became part of the state system, either as voluntary aided or voluntary controlled schools. There was also the British and Foreign School Society which set up schools (British Schools) which were supposedly non-denominational, but which were in fact non-conformist schools.
  • Most schools at this time used the Monitorial System, there was no direct instruction from the teacher. Older children, often teens, were Monitors who did the actual lessons and testing. There were no "grades" or "levels" - all ages performed the same work.
  • In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. It attempted to ensure daily instruction to pauper children. It proposed the establishment of district schools away from the workhouse premises, bringing together children from workhouses in different parishes. By 1859, only 6 such schools had been founded.
  • In 1846 the Pupil Teacher System was introduced. Pupil teachers were appointed for a five year period at the age of 13. If they completed their term successfully they could go on to college to qualify as certified teachers.
  • In 1847 an inspection of 41 workhouses in the northern counties found their internal schools being taught by teachers who were themselves paupers. Most of them were barely literate, lacking basic reading skills and unable to write at all.
  • Circa 1850, a list of "Certified Teachers" was recorded. This list is available at the Public Record Office.
  • In 1861, a Royal Commission on the Present State of Popular Education in England reported that many elementary subjects were badly taught; that attendance in the rural schools was extremely irregular, many children not attending at all; most boys left school at the age of ten or eleven; and there were insufficient places for all children in the country.
  • In 1869, the Endowed Schools Act led to a reorganization of the schools governing bodies, revision of charities providing schooling, and included the extension of education to girls.
  • In 1870, the Elementary Education Act was a milestone. It divided the country into about 2,500 secular school districts; established School Boards elected by local ratepayers; allowed School Boards to build and maintain schools out of the rates (local taxes); let School Boards make their own by-laws which would allow them to charge fees or, if they wanted, to let children in free; allowed women to vote for and serve on the School Boards.
  • In 1871, The Code of Regulations created an infant stage for the 5-7 age range, so seven became the age of transfer from the infant school or department to the Elementary School.
  • In 1876, the school-leaving age was fixed at 10 years.
  • In 1880, Mundela's Education Act made attendance compulsory.
  • In 1891, the school-leaving age was raised to 11 years.
  • In 1899, the school-leaving age was raised to 12 years.
  • The 1902 Education Act abolished School Boards, replacing them with Local Education Authorities.
  • In 1918, the school-leaving age was raised to 14 years and Elementary education was made free in law.
  • In 1944, Butler's Education Act raised school leaving age to 15.
  • About 1970, school-leaving age raised to 16.
  • From Simon Meeds: In most of England and Wales, "Comprehensive" schools and "Sixth-form" colleges provide education for students up to 16 and 18 years old. In large parts of Lincolnshire a system of selective education still exists (based on the "11-plus" aptitude test). The selective schools are called "grammar schools".

John Bland also tells us:

The activities of King Henry VIII should not be overlooked in the evolution of Schools. In many towns up and down the land there will be a boy's Grammar School which can trace it's foundations back to Henry VIII. A King's School would most likely be one of Henry's. Many, up to Victorian times would be quite small - a room annexed to the local Church being a typical example. This Church connection still exists today with many School's being "Church aided".

In some parts of the County, Grammar Schools have resisted the attempts to turn them into Secondary Modern or Comprehensive School's, which are post-War inventions. Spalding Grammar School for boys, being one, along with the High School for Girls, which still requires the passing on the 11 plus examination to gain entry.

The Grammar School did take Girls before the Great War.

Up until around 1800, most Grammar School's provided a classical education in Greek and Latin, and they had to be presided over by a Clergyman. This was provided free to local children, and the term "Free School" was used. Subsequently, parents had difficulties in seeing the benefits of their offspring learning dead languages, and other subjects started to be taught such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

General References and Resources

  • A good book on British schools and education is: Schools, Politics and Society, Elementary Education in Wales, 1870 - 1902, by Robert Smith, 1999, ISBN 0-7083-1535-6.
  • The Public Record Office has a number of leaflets explaining the kinds of records available, where to search, etc. The basic ones are documented at the GENUKI home page.
  • Check our list of Teachers, Headmasters, Headmistresses. Use your Back button to return here.

Specific School Resources

Just because a school isn't listed here doesn't mean that it has no history or merit. Look under the individual parish profile for more detail on specific schools (such as those in Alford).