Posted: 14th December 2022
As part of the Ferens Art Gallery winter exhibition, Queen Victoria and Hull, Hull and District Local History Research Group have been researching Victorian Hull. This blog is the latest in a series revealing the hidden stories of Victorian Hull.
In 1870 the Education Act was drafted by William Forster, a Liberal politician. This was the first piece of legislation to deal with the education of the masses on a national scale.
The Act allowed voluntary schools to continue unchanged but also established a system to build and manage schools in areas where they were most needed, and raise funds from the local rates and taxes.
These schools were unlike the voluntary schools which were religiously based; the Education Board schools were to be non-denominational.
In 1876 the Royal Commission on Factory Acts recommended that schools attendance should be compulsory to stop child labour. In 1880 a further Education Act was passed to make schools attendance compulsory for ages 5 to 10, although in the 1890s attendance was only at 82%.
Many children worked long hours outside schools hours. In 1901 the number of children doing this was put at 30,000 and truancy was a major problem due to families needing the wages earned by their children.
In the 1893 the compulsory attendance age was raise to 11 and in 1899 it was raised to 12.
To fill the shortfall in schools, new voluntary faith schools were opened up. In 1872 the Church of England opened schools in the churches of St Luke, St Silas, and All Saints. The Roman Catholics opened St. Patrick’s, the Congregationalists started a school in Fish Street, and The Wesleyans formed a school on Beverley Road. By 1900 the faith schools had also enlarged the pupil numbers at St Stephens up to 923, South Myton up to 913, St Paul’s up to 878, St Mark’s up to 836, plus two new Roman Catholic Schools St Gregory’s and St Wilfred’s added another 900, and finally, Trinity House schools 180 more places. But even with all these raises there was still a shortage of schools.
In 1871 the rate added school Board was formed. This had fifteen members elected by rate payers, the main members were J M Lambert vicar of Newland and two businessmen, T B Holmes and Thomas Stratten. They also appointed architect William Botterill from 1874 to 1898, and during some of this time he was in partnership with John Bilson.
By 1874 three new schools were built on Daltry Street, Courtney Street and Lincoln Street, adding a further 2,580 places. Between 1875 and 1878, six new schools opened. Several of the voluntary schools were also closed or sold to the Board. As a result in 1897 the Board had 37 schools with over 31,000 places.
But these schools were not enough as the population was growing at an alarming rate. They needed 800 new places yearly. This caused massive overcrowding and the use of temporary accommodation did little to help.
The other thing that did not help was that the Board was judged by the rate payers for providing the educational minimum at the lowest costs. This cost cutting reflected in the teaching staff. Many were untrained teachers, pupil-teachers and only one certified teacher for 250 pupils.
As a result our educational rate was well below the national average.
By the late 1870s the Board became concerned that the older children needed more useful skilled training to find employment and a place to contribute and pay back to society.
In 1878 a cookery school opened; it was a cart with a stove and utensils and went round schools giving lessons. In 1879 a drill-sergeant was employed and in 1879 the first schools inspector was appointed. They also opened a pupil-teacher training centre in the Young Peoples Institute.
In 1888 the Board opened its first school which was used for truant young boys where they were shown craft skills. A new school for girls was built on Park Avenue where they were shown domestic skills.
In 1885 during a time of high unemployment and wide spread poverty, the School Children Help Society began to supply penny dinners. This was the first local schools meals service.
To educate the older children in the 1890s Malet Lambert altered the regulations and formed three higher grade schools giving a secondary education in mainly practical scientific topics. The central higher grade schools opened on Brunswick Avenue in 1891, on Craven Street in 1893, and on Boulevard in 1895. These schools were equipped with laboratories and workshops fitted out to the highest standards of the day, they were the crown of the Boards System.
Until 1894 the Board’s schools had three departments: boys, girls and infants. But that year it changes to senior boys, senior girls, mixed juniors and infants.
In 1902 the Board opened four new double decker schools, where senior and junior were in one building and infants were in another annex building. The schools were Mersey Street, Estcourt Street, Thoresby Street and Wheeler Street. They all had the same central hall plan and exemplified the best school architecture of the time.
When the Board expired in 1903 it had 41 schools containing 39,180 places, with the 22 voluntary schools which had 12,639 places.
Many of these schools are still in use educating our children. The Education Board changed an old and unfair system which favoured the rich not the poor, designed to sustain the class system. This shows was can be done if the right people are put in the right places and funded by local government. They can change society, and the young of that time, for the good of all. And it applies today as it did then. A well-educated child is the best gift for the future of our society.
Written by Rob Oscroft
You can visit the Queen Victoria and Hull exhibition at Ferens Art Gallery from 20 October 2022 until 19 February 2023.
Image of St George’s School by F S Smith from the Wilberforce House Museum collection.