I'm Miss Ellen Smith, and being the one who assists the Ashton children with their lessons, it's only appropriate that I be the one to begin the discussion on education during the Victorian period.
Prior to the 1870 Education Act, children in Victorian England were educated in many different ways, or not at all, depending upon their sex and their parents' financial situation, social class, religion and values.
The first schools of record, dating back to the 16th century, were Sunday schools. This type of school is often associated with Robert Raikes, a newspaper publisher, who popularized the idea. By the middle of the 19th century, approximately two thirds of all working class children between the ages of 5 and 15 were attending Sunday school.
Here in England, an elementary education isn't free. Schools were and continue to be financed by private individuals, churches, charitable organizations and businesses. One can expect to pay between one and nine pence per child per week. As a result of the Education Act things are beginning to change, and some schools are now able to obtain assistance through government grants.
Unlike the classroom picture here (click for larger image), the Victorian classroom was small, dark and warmed by a single stove or open fire. The walls in most cases were bare, with the exception of an embroidered text or blackboard. Students were taught the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic. Females did not receive the same education as a male student as a female would most certainly marry and raise a family. Classes would usually take place between the hours of 9:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. and resume again at 2:00 P.M. until 4:30 P.M. Children who lived within a short walking distance usually went home for lunch; the others brought their lunch and remained at school. (Picture courtesy of The Art and Museum Service, East Sussex County Council, England--a very special thank you.)
The other schools from which the National State Education System evolved included the British Schools, National Schools, Ragged Schools Dame Schools, Workhouse Schools, Industrial and District Schools and are described briefly in the next section.
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