The Growth of Education for the Poor in Wolverhampton
Industrial Revolution what we now know as Wolverhampton
was just a series of villages and the poor children
worked on the land. Gradually, as the factories began to
spring up, the children were sent to work there.
In 1812 the
editor of the Wolverhampton Chronicle drew the attention
of parents and Guardians to the "utility of the pin
factory in Brickkiln Street as a place of employment for
children aged between 8 and 10 years." It did not, it
seems occur to him that the children might spend their
time in school: indeed the majority of children at this
time received little, if any, formal education in
school. The Select Committee on the education of the
poor in 1818 revealed that most Black Country children
were sent out to work by the age of 10, having had an
average of 2 years in school. The report states that in
Wolverhampton 26% of children eligible for full time
education (those under the age of 13 years) were in fact
receiving it, whilst 45% of children attended Sunday
schools. The provision of schools for the poor in the
19th Century was minimal. The report of the school
inspectors in 1847 has the following to say about
Scholars too numerous for one master and
mistress (mistress untrained)
Wolverhampton St. Paul’s
Very well managed. The echo in the room is very
schools mentioned above were attached to the respective
churches, indeed all three major denominations had their
projects. In May, 1832 a national Church of England
school opened in Wolverhampton and to the surprise of
many, the numbers admitted had to be increased to
450-550, leaving even then, a. long waiting list. Two
years later the nonconformists set up a school in
Wolverhampton with provision for 500 pupils and the
Roman Catholics also had their school for 100 pupils.
From the 1908 Wolverhampton Red
children unable to afford the penny or two pence charged
at the Church schools the so-called “ragged school”
offered education otherwise denied the children at the
very bottom of the social scale. This school began as
evening classes in 1848 and the children were taught by
generous volunteers whose names were never recorded.
Thus, the poorer classes could obtain with difficulty
and some expense, a basic skill in reading and writing.
Most, unfortunately did not bother and in 1861 of every
five couples marrying in Wolverhampton, two men and
three women would sign the register with a cross.
In 1860 the
Mines Inspection Act forbade employment of children
under 12 unless they could provide a certificate saying
they had had some education, and in 1867 the Factory Act
decided that 15 hours of education per week was
necessary for all children under the age of 13. Also in
1867 an Act was passed in parliament giving the vote to
every male householder in the town. This invoked
immediate pressure for a national government-supported
system of education.
The Trade Union
Congress of 1869 held in Birmingham re-enforced this
view, concluding “Nothing short of a system of national
non sectarian and compulsory education will satisfy the
requirements of the people of the United Kingdom.” That
same year a national education league was formed under
radical liberals such as Joseph Chamberlain with the aim
of providing rate-aided, non-sectarian schooling with
free and compulsory education.
remained the problem of the existing church-schools. By
1870 the two factions were locked in battle. The
compromise decided upon was that the new School Boards
should build and control only the additional schools
necessary to make good the inadequacies of the church
schools. The Wolverhampton Board met for the first time
in 1870 and it consisted of eleven men, who in political
terms represented six liberals and five conservatives,
and in religious terms, six churchmen, four non
conformists and one Roman Catholic.
decided there were already places for 15,000 of the
16,500 child population as recorded in the 1871 census.
The additional 1,500 places would be provided
immediately, by building schools on Dudley Road and Red
Cross Street, in Wolverhampton. School attendances
started to grow. In 1876 the average attendance was 57%
of children between the ages of 5 and 13 years. By 1899
this figure had risen to 80%.
school attendance was adopted in 1872 and the role of
School Attendance Officer was created. The Wolverhampton
Chronicle reports in March 1880 that were parents being
required to "explain to the Byelaws Committee their
reasons for the non-attendance and irregular attendance
of their children." The health of the children also
started to become of interest. The Wolverhampton
Chronicle of September 1880 catalogues the Medical
Officer of Health for Heath Town's report to the
Sanitary Committee of the local School Board. He stated
that "it really was lamentable to see such a great
sacrifice of life from preventable causes," and he
called upon parents to use "the proper mode of feeding"
for their children.
education system in Wolverhampton as throughout the
country generally, began to improve. By 1880 education
was still having to be paid for by the individual
children, the monitor system of teaching introduced
originally by the church schools was still much in
evidence, but the numbers of children being educated had
greatly increased and despite the tentative nature of
progress, nevertheless that progress had begun.