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A zoom through the History of Education!
It’s been the talk of the academic year how much things have changed with education and the curriculum this year. A new grading system, more difficult content in course specifications, and the school-leaving age being raised. To help us reflect on the changes we so often see, let’s go back in time to what’s recorded as the start of formal education for children in England.
We can start by looking at a time even before this. Before it was all compulsory, you could actually find a few types of schools in England: grammar schools, charity schools and perhaps less commonly, schools such as “dame schools”.
At charity schools, from c.17th – 18th century you could expect to find poorer children taking classes on Christianity; the teachers led classes for free as a part of their duty as missionaries. Many of the teachers at charity schools received formal training, so you could say this is around the time that the term teacher took on a more professional sense.
Dame schools, earning their title from the women who often ran them, took in students for a small fee and held classes on arithmetic, reading and writing. They were small, private schools run by working class women (and occasionally men) in their own homes. References to such schools can be found from the 16th century onward.
Grammar schools have been around since medieval times, most historians think, and some of these still exist today, like the King’s School, Canterbury (founded in 597), and the King’s School, Rochester (founded in 604). Grammar school students studied what we call the Classics: i.e. Latin and Ancient Greek, the languages of the scriptures. The curriculum expanded steadily, and by Queen Victoria’s rule in the mid-1800s, the grammar school curriculum looked quite similar to what it looks like now. As all things do, the curriculum became more formalised in 1988, at the passing of the Education Reform Act by Kenneth Baker, when we saw the very first National Curriculum.
Much like independent schools now, medieval grammar schools took fees, so were attended by children from wealthier families up until 1944 when the Education Act was passed, making secondary education free. This coincided with the introduction of 11+ exams, which was intended to help schools select students according to academic ability and not wealth. Tests were no new thing by 1944 though, as educators had (not-so-long) before started trying to figure out effective ways to cut out the work of marking essays (so not much has changed here!). From around 1905, Alfred Binet, a French psychologist came up with an intelligence test, while in 1914 a professor from The University of Kansas developed a multiple choice type of test. How ironic that tests were developed to make things easier!
I think most of us can agree that tests aren’t easy, and come to think of it, neither are essays. There are ways to make it less painful though, like online exam practice websites, studying with friends or a good old fashioned tutor. Find out more about how our History tutors could help you today!
We offer varied History tuition rates to suit all budgets, with prices depending on the tutors' qualifications and their total number of hours of private tuition or classroom teaching experience.