Leicester Secular Society


History of Education

Many of the problems and anomalies in the current UK educational system can be traced back a long way in history. The notes here are an introduction to the 19th century history of education, as presented particularly on the very useful educational website spartacus.schoolnet.

Mechanics Institutes (1796).

Ragged Schools (1818). The idea of ragged schools was developed by John Pounds, a Portsmouth shoemaker. In 1818 Pounds began teaching poor children without charging fees. Thomas Guthrie helped to promote Pounds' idea of free schooling for working class children. Guthrie started a ragged school in Edinburgh and Sheriff Watson established another in Aberdeen. Lord Shaftesbury formed the Ragged School Union in 1844 and over the next eight years over 200 free schools for poor children were established in Britain. Wealthy individuals such as Angela Burdett-Coutts gave large sums of money to the Ragged Schools Union. This helped to establish 350 ragged schools by the time the 1870 Education Act was passed. Over the next few years ragged schools were gradually absorbed into the new Board Schools.

George Birkbeck (1823).

Henry Brougham. Brougham was actively involved in educational reform. He supported the Ragged Schools Union, Mechanics Institutes and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Brougham's ideas on state-funded education were unpopular and the education bills that he introduced to Parliament in 1820, 1835, 1837, 1838 and 1839 were all defeated.

Brougham's Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1826-1848): wikipedia, aim25.

London University founded 1836:

Education Act (1870)

Board Schools (1870-1902)

Education Act (1902). Abolished the School Board and placed education under the Local Authorities.