The Menlo Roundtable

State and Charity Run Schools in Victorian England

We sometimes disregard public education’s revolutionary impact on progress, but its value underscores nearly all societal advances.

Vast reforms in the United Kingdom, centralized in the mid to late 19th century, transformed the British education system into an accessible option for students from all walks of life. Government-funded primary schools enjoyed bipartisan support during the Victorian era. Two main acts served to get the ball rolling: the Elementary Education Acts of 1870 and 1876. The National Education League campaigned for these acts in 1869, and the reforms did not limit their impact to the schoolhouse gates. Placing children aged five to twelve into schoolhouses gifted disadvantaged youth an opportunity to learn and granted those young laborers a much-needed reprieve from the grueling factories which defined the Industrial Revolution. Although Victorian educational reforms fell short in completely compensating for wealth inequalities in schools, the reforms initiated in the late 19th century ameliorated more than just schooling deficiencies by safely leading children from dangerous factory jobs to classroom environments, promising greater social mobility, and sparking global movements to implement free, compulsory education.