17 Feb: Britain Goes To School

The 1870 Education Act was the first to deal specifically with the provision of British schools. Speaking in the House of Commons, William Edward Forster MP proposed: “I believe that the country demands from us that we should… cover the country with good schools, and get parents to send their children to those schools.”

But there was opposition: from Christians concerned about the religious nonconformity of these new institutions; ideologues who thought the state simply couldn’t afford to fund them; and families who relied on their children bringing home a wage from work. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Prime Minister William Gladstone was disappointed by the reforms; examine whether the intention was really as philanthropic as it seemed; and reveal why it was only in living memory that Britain’s education policy truly provided the nation’s kids with full-time schooling… 

Thanks to James Plunkett’s book, End State (2021) for inspiring this topic. Check out the audiobook (read by Olly!) here: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/End-State-Audiobook/1398702218

Further Reading:

• ‘LEAVE. FIRST READING: Elementary Education Bill’ (Hansard, 1870): http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1870/feb/17/leave-first-reading

• ‘The 1870 Education Act’ (UK Parliament): https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/livinglearning/school/overview/1870educationact/

• ‘What was life like at a Victorian Reformatory School?’ (BBC Teach):

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