*** English education : Types of schools -- historical

English School Uniform: Types of Historical Schools

Figure 1.--Preparatory schools began to appear in the mid-19th century to provide a safer environment for younger children destined to enter the public (elite private) schools. Prepararory like public schools still exist and are the pribcipal kinds of private schools in America.

HBC on this page addresses the types of schools in modern England. Until the turn of the 20th century, however, there were a much wider range of schools. Schools were mostly a private matter as the Government did not play a major role in education until the late 19th century. The Church for most of Engkish hustory was the primary institutiion involved uin education, not the government. Amazingly, the English Goverment did not build a state system of secondary schools until after World War II (1939-45). As a result there was a wide range of schools. Some of these schools like grammar schools retained the names of early schools, but were different. Others like the public schools have continued many of their centuries old traditions. Other schools like dame schools, national schools, ragged schools, and others have long disappeared from the national educational landscape. Our knowledge of many of these schools is limited. Hopefully British readers will be able to tell us more.

The Reformation

The developmnt of the English education system and the various different vtypes of schools was significantkly impacted by the nature of the English Reformation. It was never as throiughly Protestant as the Reformation on the Continent. King Henry VIII and Queen Elkizabeth I did not create a throroughly Protestant Church of England (COE). The COE as a result was the most Catholic of all the Protestant European churches. King Henry VIII broke from Rome, but was not all that sympethic to Protestrantg theology. That was oart of the reason that Ann Bolyn was beheaded and Catherine Parr was almost beheaded. Queen Elizabeth referred to the COE as the 'Middle Way'. It is why the non-conformiats like the Pilgrims took off for America. The COE retained many Catholic aspects to the litergy and church structure. And one aspect of Prottestanism that was not pursued was public education. The COE saw no real need to promote mass literacy so the ordinary person could read and study the Bible. This hedsitancy continued into the 19th century. The Church and Parliament until well into the 19th century was donminated by aristoicratic land owners who believed wuth some accuracy that educating the geneakl public would make it more difficult to control the rural work force. This cointrasted with Protestant Germany and America which believed that an educated population was a natiaonal assett.

Historic Schools

We notice many type of schools in England over time. There are so many different types, sdome dating back to the medieval era, that it can be confusing understanding the development of English educatioin. And the whole situation was conplicated by the fact that the schools often kept their original names after becoming a different type of school. Some of these schools are familar to us or easily understood. Some sound a little strange, especially to non-British readers, especially Americans. English grammar schools are secondary not private schools. Public schools are actually elite private boarding schools. The national schools were founded by churches. There are so many because the British began fonding differentb types of school long before the British government assumed responisility for the country's education system, and began founding a free state system. These schools existed over a long time and commonly overlapping with various other schools.

School Purposes

We thought it might be useful to organize the various different types of historic schools into putpose classes. We are still working on this idea. Our ininitial inclination is to organize them in the following categories: charity, correctional military, private, specialized, and state Public in the American lexicon). Perhaps readers might have some thought on the best way to do this. This will make a little easier to undertand the wide tange of different schools.


Gates, Brian. "Faith schools and colleges of education since 1800" in Roy Gardner, Denis Lawton, and Jo Cairns. (Eds.) Faith Schools: Consensus or Conflict? (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005), pp.14-35.

Lawson, John and Harold Silver. A Social History of Education in England (Routledge: 1973).

"Infant Schools in England - A History of Infant Schools, Influences of the Infant Schools on Education in Other Countries, Summary", Educational Encyclopedia.


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Created: 7:46 PM 12/11/2020
Last updated: 7:47 PM 12/11/2020