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Early Education in Goldington

The church from the south-east about 1910 [Z1130-51-2]
The church from the south-east about 1910 [Z1130/51/4]

Volume 81 published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (2002) is a series of episcopal visitations undertaken in the first twenty years of the 18th century, edited by former County Archivist Patricia Bell. At each visitation a list of questions was sent out in advance, one of which enquired about the provision of schools in each parish. In each of the surveys - 1706, 1709, 1717 and 1720 the vicar noted that there was no school in the parish.

In 1818 a Select Committee was established to enquire into educational provision for the poor. This was no doubt prompted, in part, by the recent foundation of two societies promoting education and specifically the building of schools. The Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor was established in 1808 promoting schools run along the lines pioneered by Joseph Lancaster, who had himself copied those of Dr.Andrew Bell, in which older children taught their younger fellows. The Society was renamed the British and Foreign School Society in 1814,. It was supported by a number of prominent nonconformists, Lancaster himself was a Quaker, and sought to teach a non-sectarian curriculum. In answer to this perceived nonconformist takeover of local education the National Society was formed in 1811 to encourage the teaching of poor children along Anglican lines, including the catechism. The Select Committee sent a questionnaire to all parishes in the country asking for: particulars relating to endowments for the education of children; other educational institutions; observations of parish needs etc. The vicar noted that there was a Sunday school for ten boys and ten girls, supported by voluntary subscriptions. “The Dissenters” (nonconformists) had another Sunday school of a similar size. He wrote: “The poor are without sufficient means of education, and owing to the children being employed in lace-making, would not be able to avail themselves of instruction, except on Sundays”.

In those days a Sunday school was just that, a school which met on a Sunday, usually in the church or nonconformist chapel or other similar building, teaching more than the religious topics with which they are associated today.

In the country generally the number of schools built continued to grow over the next fifteen years so that by 1833 the government agreed to supplement the work of the two societies, and local benefactors, by making £20,000 per annum available in grants to help build schools. It also prompted another questionnaire to be sent to each parish in England asking for details of local educational provision. It was reported that there was now a daily school, educating thirty boys. The Sunday school now contained 35 children of both sexes and both schools were supported by voluntary contributions.

The next national enquiry was in 1846/7 when the Church of England made an enquiry as to all its church schools. This was against the background of a new Whig government which championed secular education and the increasing importance of nonconformists, particularly Wesleyan Methodist, and Roman Catholics in providing schools. At this date the daily school was stated to contain 43 boys and 20 girls, the Sunday school 88 boys and 85 boys. “The educational wants are considered to be abundantly supplied”.

The first Education Act was passed in 1870 (more correctly it was known as the Elementary Education Act). It was a milestone in the provision of education in Britain demonstrating central government's unequivocal support for education of all classes across the country. It also sought to secularise education by allowing the creation of School Boards. These were groups of representatives, elected by the local ratepayers and the Board had the powers to raise funds to form a local rate to support local education, build and run schools, pay the fees of the poorest children, make local school attendance compulsory between the ages of 5 and 13 and could even support local church schools, though in practice they replaced them, turning them into Board run schools (known as Board Schools). 

Goldington School Board was created on 9th February 1872. It took over the running of Goldington Green School, built in 1866 “at a cost of £1,400 raised by subscription, for 174 children” as Kelly’s Directory informs us.