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Queen Victorian came to the throne in 1837 and reigned for 64 years until her death in 1901. These six decades were a time of huge change in Britain.
At the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign, very few children even attended school. By the time of her death school was both compulsory and free.
It was not until 1870 that the government passed its Elementary Education Act. This was intended to provide education for the many thousands of children who were not already attending a school. The schools set up under this act were run by a board of locally elected people, and were known as Board Schools. By 1880, there were about 4,000 Board Schools, and school was made compulsory for the first time for children up to 10 years of age. School was not free however, and many poor families struggled to find even the smallest fees charged for their children's education. In 1891, the government finally gave grants to make education free in all elementary schools.
Don't mix up with Board School mentioned above. Board School was a special name for schools existed between 1870 and 1902, which was run by an elected School Board. While a boarding school is a school where pupils study and live during the school year, The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals.
The novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë tells of that Jane was sent to Lowood Institution - a boarding school for girls who have lost one or both parents. The fee was £15 a year. Normally, life was difficult for the boarders. because the discipline was harsh. Once Jane drops her slate, and the schoolmaster makes her stand on a stool for half an hour and forbids anyone to speak to her for the rest of the day.
Public school actually is a private school that charges fees. Wealthy parents could afford to send their sons to one of the large public schools. While their daughters were mostly educated at home. Middle class often went to small private schools in their local towns.
The education at Victoria public schools focused on the classics - Latin and Greek language and literature. Boys needed to study these subjects in order to go to university, or to enter a profession. Life could be tough in these schools - the younger boys were expected to run errands for the older boys, which was called "fagging". Many of these schools were places for unwanted children who stayed there all year round.
The 1870 Elementary Education Act did not make school either free or compulsory. Most Victorian schools charged fees which many poor people simply could not afford. For those who could afford it the cheapest education was often at a dame school, so-called because such schools were often run by elderly ladies.
Workhouse is a place where the sick and destituted could seek shelter and food in return for work. Children in workhouses attended classes in the mornings, and many churches and charities ran free schools for the poorest children The most famous of these charities was the Ragged Schools Union which was established in 1844. The Ragged Schools provided free education for the very poorest, homeless children.As well as giving children a basic education, the Ragged Schools often provided a place to eat and in the winters, shelter from the cold.
Grammar Schools or boarding Schools
Sons from whealthy families were often sent to grammar schools or boarding schools. Many of the boarding schools were expensive public schools that had been founded hundreds of years before Queen Victoria came to the throne.