The Education Act of 1870.

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The Education Act of 1870


During the 1830’s two thirds of England’s population could not even read or write. The majority had access to only unskilled work. There was a growing demand for people to be trained and able to specialise in various aspects advancing technology. The government seemed to be reluctant to intervene as Mr Davies Giddy claimed, in the House of Commons:

“…Giving education to the labouring classes of the poor, it would, in effect, be found to be injurious to their moods and happiness; it would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society had destined them.”

In spite of the apprehension of the Dissenters and the unwillingness of sections of the governing classes, the state was being forced, slowly, but surely to take more than a passive interest in the education structure of the country.

The need to be able to read and write was the key factor to allow people to adapt to the changing world, and for the path of democracy to be barred no longer. In the early nineteenth-century upper and middle class children could be educated because their parents could provide the assets, whilst the lower class children earned their living in appalling conditions. There were schools such as dame’s schools for lower class children, who had conscientious parents. Here, in exchange for a modest weekly sum, the rudiments of the three R’s were taught. However, they did not take advantage, as the general opinion was that the poor classes did not require an education.

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Changes began to commence in the issue concerning education as firstly the population was increasing. In 1801, England and Wales consisted of about ten million; then by 1901 it had increased to over thirty two million, with children accounting for thirty to forty percent. From 1851, the majority of people lived in over crowded houses. Poverty increased in the towns owing to the immigration of the dispossessed workers from the country in search of employment, and the poor law system was strained by allowances and doles. The educational implications of this were far reaching, because the homes of the ...

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