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The School Boards
1876-1901 Universal Education Established
1902-1905 The Coercion of Wales Act
Secondary Education For All

SchoolgirlsThe School Boards

Board School: a school established by a School Board following the Education Act of 1870, usually in areas where there was inadequate provision by British or National schools.
British School: a school originally established by The British & Foreign Society to teach non-sectarian education (often by Nonconformist donations).

National School: a school originally established by the National Society to teach an Anglican education.

Church School: another name for National schools

Non-Provided School: term used by the 1902 Education Act to refer to Church schools (not funded by the rates)

By 1870 the British Society (i.e. Nonconformist) had some 300 schools in Wales, but the National Society (i.e. Anglican) had over 1,000. The Liberal government now tried to create a comprehensive network of elementary schools in Wales, and also attempted to get round the unwillingness of Anglicans and Nonconformists to compromise over religion (which Peel had failed to do in 1843). This was the Education Act of 1870, which provided for a full education for lower-class children up to the age of 13.

Government grants would continue to British and National schools, but where provision was inadequate, a School Board was to be set up to build a Board school which would be funded by the rates.

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Maestir School1876-1901 Universal Education Established

In 1876 the principle was established that all children should receive an elementary education, and parents were to be liable for the attendance of their children. The Education Act, 1876 also recommended setting up school attendance committees to enforce more regular attendance. The Education Act, 1880, made school attendance to the age of ten compulsory. Children could leave school at ten, but could also be required to stay on if their attendance had not been satisfactory.

The appearance of county councils in 1889 heralded the next development in education in Wales. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889 established county joint education committees, the majority of whose members were to be councillors. (The act was a private measure by Stuart Rendel, Liberal M.P. for Montgomeryshire 1880-1894 and a close personal friend of Gladstone.) The joint committees were to draw up plans for county schools (later grammar schools) to be financed from a combination of the rates, a treasury grant, fees from pupils and the reorganisation of old endowments. This was the first time that public money was spent on specifically Welsh intermediate education and it provided education supported by the rates earlier than in England. Many of the old, endowed schools, chose to be part of the new system but others - including Brecon - remained outside. In matters relating to examinations and inspections they were answerable to the Central Welsh Board, established in 1896.

SchoolboysOn 1 September 1891 elementary education became free of charge. In 1893 the school leaving age was raised to eleven, and in 1899 it was raised again to twelve. Under Balfour's Education Act, 1902, School Boards were abolished and Local Education Authorities were established. The Education Committees of county councils were made responsible for elementary and intermediate schools (the act called Church schools "Non Provided schools" and called Board schools "Provided schools"). But the measure was intended in part by the Conservative government to safeguard the future of the Church schools, which had received no funding from the rates (unlike the Board schools since 1870). The Nonconformists had hoped that the Church schools would gradually disappear for lack of funds, but now they would receive funding from the rates too - and since Church schools were often the only ones available in an area it meant that Nonconformist children would have to continue to attend Anglican schools.

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1902-1905 The Coercion of Wales Act

The local authorities demanded absolute control over the Non Provided (Church) schools and an end to religious tests for teachers. By 1904, only Breconshire and Radnorshire out of all the counties of Wales were prepared to implement the 1902 Act, and give rate aid to Non Provided schools. But after the local council elections in May they fell into line with all the other councils in Wales and refused to implement it.

The government responded with the Education (Local Authority Default) Act, 1905, also known as the "Coercion of Wales Act". The Conservative government under Balfour fell in December 1905 and Campbell-Bannerman's Liberals came to power. The new government withdrew the "Coercion Act".

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Secondary Education For All

In 1918 the school leaving age was raised to 14. By R.A. Butler's Education Act of 1944 every effort was made to ensure that every child should attend a secondary school without having to pay fees. Following the act the school leaving age was raised again, to 15. The Eleven Plus examination was retained: those who passed went to grammar schools, and secondary "modern" schools were built to educate those who failed. (Before the 1944 Act, those who failed the Eleven Plus had had to stay on at junior school.)

In 1969 the school leaving age was raised (for the last time?) to 16.

The Labour government of 1974-79 abolished the distinction between grammar and secondary modern schools and by the end of the 1970s the Eleven Plus was almost gone in Wales.

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