Sunday, 30 January 2011

The state intervenes 1833-1862

Everyone was agreed that any education worth the name had a moral and therefore a religious core. But if religious, which denomination? Anglicans, as members of the established church, argued that any school named in law and supported by government funds should be theirs. Nonconformists and Roman Catholics hotly disputed this. It was for this reason that the two voluntary day school societies were joined by the Catholic Poor School Committee, in 1849. This was the sectarian divide that dominated developments in elementary education up to 1870 and arguably 1902.

Public provision for elementary education began with a grant of £20,000 in 1833 in aid of school buildings. This was channelled inevitably through the two religious societies because these alone could show any degree of efficiency. This was the beginning of a system of ‘giving to them that hath’. Government initiatives and funding were most needed in areas of ‘educational destitution’ where there were no middle-class enthusiasts to start schools. In 1839, therefore, the Whigs attempted to grasp the nettle of the ‘religious problem’ with a scheme that included grants to districts according to need and government training schools for teachers organised on a non-denominational basis.[1] The Tories mobilised against it in both Commons and Lords and the opposition of almost the entire bench of bishops brought most of the scheme down to defeat.

In 1843, the Tories attempted to take the initiative in the education clauses of Graham’s Factory Bill creating Anglican-run factory schools. They faced a comparable storm from Nonconformists and Catholics and likewise retreated.[2] Thereafter there was a stalemate with neither side strong enough to break through to a new system. The amount of grant continued to rise but still the money went only to localities already making an effort. Middle-class enthusiasts broadly agreed that working-class children should be in school, not at work. The problem was which school they should attend and whether government aid could be deployed to ensure that there were schools within the reach of all working-class children.This was finally broken by the Education Act of 1870.[3]

The debacle of 1839, where non-sectarian developments were effectively vetoed by the churches, did result in the creation of the Committee of the Privy Council on Education. Opposition continued from the Church of England resulting in the ‘Concordat’ of 1840 under which the church authorities secured control of the appointment of the inspectors of state-aided schools and the right to frame the instructions for religious education, though not over non-Anglican schools. The most positive result of the Concordat was the appointment as secretary to the new Committee of Education of James Kay-Shuttleworth.[4] Resistance to state elementary education and the sectarian conflict made it impossible to start a national system using the established technique of a Royal Commission followed by a governing statute. A step-by-step approach was adopted: from the small grant of 1833 to the Privy Council Minutes of 1846 that governed the mid-century expansion. However, in the 1830s and 1840s, there were two other roots from which a national system of primary education might have grown: the new Poor Law and the Factory Acts.[5]

Chadwick saw education as a depauperising influence sharing the assumption that universal education would in some unexplained way cure unemployment and render poor relief largely unnecessary. His enthusiasm was shared by several of the Poor Law Assistant Commissioners, who believed that pauperism as well as crime could be eradicated by early training. The architect of poor law education was James Phillips Kay (Kay-Shuttleworth as he called himself after his marriage). Son of a Rochdale cotton manufacturer, trained as a physician in Edinburgh, founder-member of the Manchester Statistical Society and a writer on social questions, he was recruited as Assistant Commissioner for Norfolk and Suffolk in 1835. He found little or no education for pauper children: some were sent to local schools, but always the cheapest and worst and there was no industrial training. Kay began by persuading more enlightened guardians to employ young trainee teachers.[6] He claimed in his autobiography, that this improved the workhouse schools up to a point where the Guardians would be persuaded to take more interest in pauper education and perhaps consent to the creation of school districts.[7] When Kay was appointed Secretary to the new Committee of Council on Education in 1839, he selected an establishment in Norwood for his experiment in pauper education. In three years, he turned it into a model for the district school movement and a nursery of pupil teachers for elementary schools. After 1842, however, Peel‘s government slowed down the plans for district schools as it was not prepared to coerce the Unions and the movement never achieved more than three Metropolitan School Districts and six small rural ones. [8] The failure of the district-school movement was partly compensated by the growth of separate schools in the more enlightened Unions. By 1857, 57 of these were listed. Some smaller workhouses had detached schools on the workhouse site. School standards greatly improved after 1846 with the beginnings of poor law school inspection and the decline in the use of untrained pauper teachers. Poor Law education never aspired to becoming a basis or a model for state elementary education.[9] It was intended for workhouse children but there were, in 1855, some 277,000 children in families on outdoor relief not provided with any education except in refuges or mission or ‘ragged’ schools. It was on too small a scale even to fulfil its own task, a criticism evident once the Local Government Board took responsibility for their operation in 1872.[10] Workhouse schools provided national coverage but the stigma attached to the workhouse meant that they could never provide the nationwide system of elementary education that by the 1860s many regarded as essential.

The factory school was not new in 1833.[11] Voluntary provision can be traced back to the 1780s and was pioneered by enlightened manufacturers such as Henry Ashton at Turton Mill, the Peel family and Robert Owen. The factory master was traditionally responsible for the education of his apprentices. Many progressive millowners were alienated by the education clauses: W.R. Greg, an enthusiastic organiser of factory schools, became a leading opponent of the Act.[12] After 1833, much of the enthusiasm for the voluntary provision of factory schooling was lost.[13] The Factory Act 1833 made millowners responsible for the education of children workers who were not their apprentices but lived with their own parents. 80% of all pupils attending factory schools were concentrated in Lancashire, Cheshire, the West Riding and Monmouthshire, where literacy levels were low and there is little to suggest any marked improvement in factory districts in the aftermath of the legislation. Inspectors were authorised to enforce attendance but the Act did not require employers to provide education themselves, only to obtain a certificate of school attendance for the previous week. Millowners unable or unwilling to provide their own schools tried to obey the law by sending their children to the local day schools. These arrangements were often unsuccessful. Factory education became embroiled in the sectarian debate over Graham’s Factory Bill of 1843 and the act eventually passed in 1844 was shorn of its education clauses.[14] The Newcastle Commission was damning in its indictment of the inadequacies of factory education. Factory education might have improved, at least in small mills, if the millowners had co-operated in setting up shared schools. The failures of factory education, especially its involvement in sectarian disputes, certainly delayed the spread of elementary education. Disgusted Nonconformists turned to the voluntarist movement and Anglicans seemed to prefer the perpetuation of ignorance to giving up their own control of education. Faced with such attitudes, the government contribution to the development of education in the mid-century had to be made largely be stealth.

Government intervention in education was made more difficult as a result of sectarian conflict. Grants provided the first form of intervention but during the 1840s and 1850s other forms of central control over education were instituted largely through the work of Kay-Shuttleworth whose period as secretary of the Committee of Council for Education lasted between 1839 and 1849. He believed that the key to better standards was better-paid and trained teachers. He set out to change the monitorial system into a sound preliminary to a professional training and to attract teachers of the right class and calibre by raising salaries. [15] By the Minutes of 1846 selected pupils would be apprenticed at the age of 13 to their teachers and would receive a grant of £10 increased annually to £20 when they were 18. [16] They were taught by the master for 90 minutes a day and had to pass the annual Inspector’s examination.[17] They were to assist the master in teaching and he would train them in class management and routine duties and would be paid according to their level of success in the examinations. This system was not new. Kay-Shuttleworth had used it at Norwood. Although the first pupil-teachers came from pauper schools, he intended that the bulk of them should form a social link between the children of labourers in elementary schools and the school managers, who were clergy or gentry. They would therefore be mostly from the upper-working and lower-middle-classes. The top section of this ladder of recruitment and training was formed by the teacher training colleges. In 1839, there were four training colleges with model schools in the United Kingdom that took students through very inadequate courses of six weeks to three or four months. Beginning with the Battersea Training College in 1840[18], by 1858 there were thirty-four colleges partly financed by the Education Department through Queen’s Scholarships.[19]

education 2

The Minutes of 1846 may have led to the trained elementary teacher but did it really improve the standard of teaching?[20] To some degree any response to this question is subjective. Much school teaching was mechanical, overloaded with ‘facts’ for memorisation. The Teacher Training Colleges did provide a little teaching material, method and possible much-needed self-confidence. They were, however, severely criticised by the Newcastle Commission for their long hours, vast syllabuses, and addiction to textbooks and the superficial nature of many of their courses. The main cause of poor teaching in elementary schools was generally considered to be the low wages of teachers. The Minutes attempted to solve the problem by state grants but the basic variations and inequities were left untouched. Salaries varied from area to area and school to school depending on endowments, contributions and school fees. By 1855, the average annual pay of a certificated schoolteacher was assessed at £90. Higher pay would have removed elementary teachers too far from the class of their pupils and weakened the sympathy and understanding supposed to be felt between them. The reality was often different. Elementary teachers were educated above their station and in the 1850s began to demand promotion of the Inspectorate, to leave the schools for better jobs or to go into the church

The growth of grants to elementary schools increased dramatically from the original £20,000 of 1833 to £724,000 by 1860. From 1856, the Committee of Council on Education had a Vice-President to represent it in parliament. Yet the 1850s were considered a period of comparative educational stagnation. This was partly because all reformers (except the voluntarists) were not convinced that a national school system could not be completed without support from the rates. In addition, continuing sectarian bitterness defeated all attempts to secure rate support: bills in 1850, 1852, 1853 and 1862 all failed as did the recommendation of the Newcastle Commission in 1861. The continuation of central grants ensured the survival and increase of the Inspectorate; from 2 in 1840, they had become 23 with 2 Assistant Inspectors in 1852, 36 with 25 Assistants in 1861 and 62 with 14 Assistants in 1864. Grants and inspectors came together with the introduction of the payment by results principle in the reconstruction of the government grant in the Revised Code of 1862-1863.[21] The bulk of a school’s grant, roughly half its income, was to be dependent upon satisfactory performance by each child over seven in examinations conducted by HMIs. It was unwelcome to those who thought that government should be doing more but was praised by those who though expenditure was mushrooming out of control and who doubted that the grants were giving value for money. Grant aid to education fell almost by a quarter and the levels of 1861 were not reached again until 1869. In effect, payment by results was a piece-rate system, putting teachers in the position of factory operatives.

Kay-Shuttleworth had, through the central government department, established an inspectorate and a system of training teachers. Under his successor Ralph Lingen (1849-1869) the work of the Education Department, as it became in 1856, steadily expanded but on more formal and bureaucratised lines.[22] The age of creative innovation was over and the department’s primary goal was to manage the system as efficiently and economically as possible. Lingen saw his job as being to

...stem the growth of a system of subsidies and to control the expansionist tendencies of inspectorate and educational public.[23]

A Royal Commission on Elementary Education, chaired by the Duke of Newcastle was appointed in 1858 and reported in 1861. [24] In general, it considered that the system of state aid had worked well, but argued that the objectives had been set too high for the majority of children who attended the schools. It was desirable that results should be tested to ensure that schools were providing value for money, a recommendation used by Robert Lowe, the minister who spoke for the education department in the House of Commons, to establish the Revised Code in 1862 linking annual grants to pupil results.[25] It also recommended involving local as well as central government in the provision of schools, allowing local government agencies to offer rate support to supplement government grants and suggested that this rate support should be dependent on the school’s results, in effect a series of incentive payments.

Until the late 1850s, much of the schooling of the working-classes was still informal or semi-formal. Efforts to bring government resources to bear had so far been hampered by the ‘religious problem’ and it took another twenty years to cut through this knot. Elementary education in the 1860s entered a period of some regression. The Newcastle Commission set low intellectual targets for the education of the poor and this can be compared with the hardening of Poor Law attitudes in the 1870s.[26] A national system of elementary education had to await the legislation of 1870 and 1880.


[1] On this issue see, Newbould, I.D.C., ‘The Whigs, the Church, and Education, 1839’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 26, (1987), pp. 332-346.

[2] Ibid, Ward, J.T. and Treble, James H., ‘Religion and education in 1843: reaction to the ‘Factory Education Bill’’.

[3] Paz, D.G., The Politics of Working-class Education 1830-1850, (Manchester University Press), 1980 is the best analysis of state intervention.

[4] Ibid, Selleck, R.J.W., James Kay-Shuttleworth: Journey of an Outsider, is now the standard biography of this seminal figure.

[5] Ibid, Paz, D.G., The Politics of Working-class Education 1830-1850, pp. 44-69.

[6] On the early development of workhouse schools see, Kay-Shuttleworth, James, Four Periods of Public Education as reviewed in 1832-1839--1846-1862 in papers, (Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts), 1862, pp. 287-292.

[7] Bloomfield, B.C., (ed.), The autobiography of Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, (Institute of Education, University of London), 1964.

[8] Hill, Florence Davenport, Children of the state: the training of juvenile paupers, (Macmillan and Co.), 1868, pp. 63-78 considers critically the development of District Schools.

[9] Richson, Charles, Pauper education: its provisions and defects; with certain objections to its extension, considered in a letter to the Right Hon. Sir Geo. Grey, Bart., M.P., (Rivington), 1850 and Browne, Walter, ‘Facts and Fallacies of Pauper Education’, Fraser’s magazine for town and country, Vol, 18, (Longmans, Green), 1878, pp. 197-207 considers the problems posed by pauper education while Chance, William, Children under the poor law: their education, training and after-care, together with a criticism of the report of the departmental committee on metropolitan poor law schools, 2 Vols, (S. Sonnenschein & Co.), 1897 provides later, more positive analysis.

[10] See, for example, Local Government Board, Annual Report, Vol. 1, (HMS0), 1872, pp. 224-235.

[11] See, for example, Sanderson, Michael, ‘Education and the Factory in Industrial Lancashire, 1780-1840’, Economic History Review, new sereies, Vol. 20, (2), (1967), pp. 266-279. Robson, A.H., The Education of Children Engaged in Industry, 1833-1876, (K. Paul, Trench, Trubner), 1931.

[12] See Rose, Mary B., The Gregs of Quarry Bank Mill: The Rise and Decline of a Family Firm, 1750-1914, (Cambridge University Press), 1986, pp. 56-58.

[13] Robson, A.H., The Education of Children Engaged in Industry, 1833-1876, (K. Paul, Trench, Trubner), 1931.

[14] Ibid, Paz, D.G., The Politics of Working-class Education 1830-1850, pp. 114-125 considers the 1843 Bill.

[15] Ross, A.M., ‘Kay-Shuttleworth and the training of teachers for pauper schools’, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 15, (1967), pp. 275-283.

[16] These were the minutes of the Committee of Council on Education minutes of August and December 1846. See, Kay-Shuttleworth, James, Public Education: as affected by the Minutes of the Committee of Privy Council from 1846 to 1852; with suggestions as to future policy, (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans), 1853, pp. 54-112.

[17] Dunford, J.E., Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools in England and Wales, 1860-1870, Leeds, 1980.

[18] For Kay-Shuttleworth’s take on the Battersea Training College, see, ibid, Kay-Shuttleworth, James, Four Periods of Public Education as reviewed in 1832-1839--1846-1862 in papers, pp. 294-431.

[19] Dent, H.C., The training of teachers in England and Wales, 1800-1975, (Routledge), 1977.

[20] Ibid, Kay-Shuttleworth, James, Four Periods of Public Education as reviewed in 1832-1839--1846-1862 in papers, pp. 437-551 provides an explanation of the Minutes of 1846.

[21] Mason, Donald, ‘Peelite opinion and the genesis of payment by results: the true story of the Newcastle Commission’, History of Education, Vol. 17, (1988), 269-281 and Marcham, A.J., ‘The revised Code of Education, 1862: reinterpretations and misinterpretations’, History of Education, Vol. 10, (1981), pp. 81-99.

[22] Bishop, A. S., ‘Ralph Lingen, Secretary to the Education Department, 1849-76’, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 16, (1968), pp. 138-163.

[23] Cit, Johnson, Richard, ‘Administrators in education before 1870: patronage, social position and role’, in Sutherland, Gillian, (ed.), Studies in the growth of Nineteenth-century Government, (Routledge), 1972, p. 135.

[24] Anon. Report of the commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of popular education in England; Reports of assistant commissioners etc.; Correspondence etc. Parliamentary papers, [2794-I] H.C. (1861), Vol. XXI, pt. 1, 1; Parliamentary papers, [2794-II-VI] H.C. (1861), Vol. XXI, pt. I-VI; Parliamentary papers, H.C. 231 (1861), Vol. XLVIII, 295; Parliamentary papers, H.C. 354 (1861), Vol. XLVIII, 307; Parliamentary papers, H.C. 410 (1861), Vol. XLVIII, 341; Parliamentary papers, H.C. 325 (1861) and Vol. XLVIII, 305.

[25] ‘Payment by results’ proved highly divisive issue; see for example, ‘Popular Education—The New Code’, London Quaterly Review, Vol. CCXXI, (1862), pp. 38-59, Menet, John, The Revised Code: A Letter to a Friend, suggested by the pamphlets of the Rev. C.J. Vaughan, D.D., Vicar of Doncaster, and the Rev. J. Fraser, Rector of Upton, (Rivingtons), 1862 and Kay-Shuttleworth, James, Memorandum on Popular Education, (Ridgway), 1868. See also, Rapple, Brendan A., ‘A Victorian experiment in economic efficiency in education’, Economics of Education Review, Vol. 11, (4), (1992), pp. 301-316 and Fletcher, Ladden, ‘A Further Comment on Recent Interpretations of the Revised Code, 1862’, History of Education, Vol. 10, (1), pp. 21-31.

[26] Several areas of social administration went through periods of administrative regression in the third quarter of the nineteenth century: education in the 1860s and the poor law and public health in the 1870s.

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