Education in Victorian England

Education was not universal during Charlotte Brontë's lifetime. Many people received little or no formal education and were unable to read or write, particularly in the new industrial slums:

  • Long established 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., junior and infant schools), often set up by either the Church of England or Nonconformist churches
  • There were also various kinds of charity school, established for particular kinds of pupils, such as the daughters of poor or deceased clergymen, as in the case of Lowood School
  • Other schools were established as small-scale private charities, such as the village school where Jane teaches, which is funded by Rosamund Oliver
  • Trades unions and other organizations also set up various kinds of educational establishments, aimed at improving the education of adult members of the working classes
  • Some educational provisions were included in the Factory Acts of the 1830s and 1840s

It was not until 1870, seventeen years after Charlotte Brontë's death, that the Education Act was passed and made a significant start on the provision by the government of universal elementary education, a process which was completed by the Act of 1902.

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