Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - ANCESTORS AT WORK -

Knowl­edge (SPCK) and other char­i­ties founded schools for poor adults, and boys and girls; sev­eral were in Scot­land. ‘Sun­day schools’, run by churches, be­came wide­spread in the late 18th cen­tury. The par­ish priest taught chil­dren to read the Bi­ble so they might be­come good cit­i­zens.

Teach­ers be­came needed in many dif­fer­ent types of school. By late Ge­or­gian times, most English el­e­men­tary schools were pro­vided by the Na­tional So­ci­ety for Pro­mot­ing Re­li­gious Ed­u­ca­tion (1811), funded by the Angli­can Church. The Lan­cas­t­e­rian So­ci­ety (1808), later the Bri­tish & For­eign School So­ci­ety (BFSS), ran schools for Methodists’ and Dis­senters’ chil­dren. The first spe­cial­ist in­fant schools ap­peared at places like New La­nark and Spi­tal­fields in the early 19th cen­tury.

Women-Run Schools

‘Dame’ schools for young chil­dren were es­sen­tially child-mind­ing ser­vices for fac­tory hands. Usu­ally run by women, dame schools were noisy, crowded places, of­ten sited in cel­lars or gar­rets. The ‘dame’ taught up to 40 chil­dren per class, and pupils gleaned lit­tle ed­u­ca­tion there. School­mas­ters and mis­tresses also ran ‘com­mon day’ schools – small pri­vate schools for older chil­dren. How­ever, the qual­ity of the teach­ing was still very poor. Chil­dren paid 6d to 9d per week to learn read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic. A typ­i­cal school­day ran from 9am un­til 12pm, then from 2pm un­til 5pm. In the 1840s Lord Shaftes­bury and oth­ers sup­ported ‘ragged’ schools, which gave in­dus­trial train­ing to des­ti­tute chil­dren ( ragged­school­mu­

Cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was the norm in all schools un­til mod­ern times. Teach­ers chas­tised er­rant chil­dren with a birch rod, cane or strap. Note too that the pro­fes­sion was deemed a last re­sort for those un­able to per­form man­ual labour – some teach­ers were even il­lit­er­ate.

Teacher-train­ing ar­rived in the 1840s. The BFSS funded teacher­train­ing col­leges like Stock­well and Saf­fron Walden, while Na­tional So­ci­ety col­leges in­cluded St Mark’s Col­lege, Chelsea, and St John’s, Bat­tersea. Af­ter 1847 the Gov­ern­ment funded ‘pupil-teacher’ ap­pren­tice­ships for 13-year-old boys and girls. Chil­dren were in­den­tured for five years to a school­teacher, and re­ceived an hour-and-a-half’s tu­ition be­fore school be­gan. Older pupil-teach­ers taught classes while su­per­vised by a se­nior teacher, so they en­dured a very long day. Pupil-teach­ers who passed a fi­nal exam when their ap­pren­tice­ship ended be­came ‘cer­tifi­cated’ teach­ers. The best ex­am­i­nants won a schol­ar­ship to train­ing­col­lege. Pupil-teach­ers who did

‘Teach­ing was deemed a last re­sort for those un­able to per­form man­ual labour’

not take the exam worked as ‘un­cer­tifi­cated’ or ‘as­sis­tant’ teach­ers in el­e­men­tary schools.

For gen­teel but im­pov­er­ished women, teach­ing was con­sid­ered more la­dy­like than fac­tory work. Pri­vate gov­ernesses like nov­el­ist Anne Brontë lived in (or reg­u­larly vis­ited) the homes of well-to-do par­ents, while pri­vate masters and tu­tors pre­pared older boys for pub­lic school. Older mid­dle­and up­per-class chil­dren at­tended pri­vate schools: ‘prep’ schools for boys, and schools that taught ‘ac­com­plish­ments’ to girls.

Those board­ing schools were run on a shoe­string, and re­quired teach­ers to per­form du­ties out­side school hours. Emily Brontë re­signed her post at a Hal­i­fax school of 40 pupils af­ter a few months in the 1830s, and El­iz­a­beth Gaskell’s Life of Char­lotte Brontë (1857) re­ports her sis­ter Char­lotte’s com­plaint that Emily’s du­ties in­volved “hard labour from six in the morn­ing to eleven at night”.

A Mat­ter Of Money

Teach­ers’ salaries were de­ter­mined by their school’s sources of in­come – en­dow­ments, plus pupils’ fees. Staff at the top pub­lic schools com­manded the best salaries, along with higher so­cial sta­tus. For ex­am­ple, at Rugby School in 1864 the head­mas­ter’s to­tal re­mu­ner­a­tion (in­clud­ing board­ers’ fees) was “£2,957 0s 8d, in ad­di­tion to a hand­some res­i­dence, good gar­den, and four acres of pas­ture”.

For com­par­i­son, in 1872 Ed­ward Jones, head­mas­ter of the Hiber­nian Schools, Liver­pool, told a se­lect com­mit­tee that he earned £200 per an­num. He em­ployed two as­sis­tant mis­tresses on £30 per an­num each, a girls’ schoolmistress (£70) and an in­fant schoolmistress (£50), and Ed­ward said that gen­er­ally teach­ers were poorly paid: “Coal­heavers in Liver­pool get more than the school­mas­ters in the ru­ral dis­tricts.” Un­like in­dus­trial work­ers, how­ever, teach­ers got Satur­days off, and five weeks’ an­nual hol­i­day.

Forster’s El­e­men­tary Ed­u­ca­tion Act (1870) marked the be­gin­ning of state fund­ing for schools with the cre­ation of lo­cal school boards. The pro­fes­sion was now dom­i­nated by women. Ac­cord­ing to the 1871 cen­sus, in Eng­land and Wales there were 38,774 schoolmistresses, plus 55,246 fe­male teach­ers, pro­fes­sors, lec­tur­ers and gov­ernesses. By com­par­i­son, there were 19,378 school­mas­ters, plus 13,349 male teach­ers and pro­fes­sors.

Re­newed con­cerns about the qual­ity of teach­ers led to the found­ing of the Teach­ers Registration Coun­cil in 1899, which es­tab­lished a vol­un­tary pro­fes­sional regis­ter. The regis­ter, which ended in 1948, is held by the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists’ li­brary (­brary).

Rev Thomas Guthrie ad­dresses a class in a ragged school in Ed­in­burgh in the 1850s

An in­for­mal les­son in a fish­er­man’s cob­bled yard in East Anglia, c1887

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