Education in Victorian Britain

Educational provision

Eton CollegeEducation was not universal at this time and many, particularly in the new industrial slums, were unable to read or write:

  • ancient schools such as Eton and Winchester had existed for hundreds of years, but were only accessible to the wealthy and powerful, and this period saw the establishment of many more of these public schools
  • there were also old grammar schools, usually in towns and cities, which offered education to some poorer students, but places were limited and they were accessible only to boys
  • there were elementary schools (i.e. infants and primary schools), often set up by either the Church of England or Nonconformist sects
  • trade unions and other organizations also set up various kinds of educational establishments, aimed at improving the education of adult members of the working classes: Dickens approved of these institutions, and often spoke to their members, in growing cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester
  • some educational provisions were included in the Factory Acts of the 1830s and 1840s
  • in 1870, the year of Dickens' death, the great Education Act was passed, and made a significant start on the provision by the government of universal elementary education.
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