Elementary school (England and Wales)

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This article is about a type of school which operated in England and Wales between 1870 and 1944. For other types of school with that name, see Elementary school.

Elementary schools (sometimes Higher elementary schools) were the first schools in England which were funded by taxation. They operated between 1870 and 1944 and provided an education for children between the ages of 5 and 14. In some areas older children were educated in separate 'Higher Elementary Schools'. Many of these schools converted to Primary schools after 1944.


Until elementary schools were established by the Elementary Education Act 1870, the only options available to parents were for children to pay for tuition at private schools, or to be accepted for free charitable schools such as Ragged schools, which did not charge for attendance.

Initially offering an education to local children up to the 10, this was raised in stages to 14 by 1944 when the Education Act 1944 replaced them.[1]

Elementary schools were set up to enable children to receive manual training and elementary instruction. They provided a restricted curriculum with the emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic (the three Rs). The schools operated on a 'monitorial' system, whereby one teacher supervised a large class with the assistance of a team of monitors, who were quite often older pupils. Elementary school teachers were paid by results. Their pupils were expected to achieve precise standards in reading, writing and arithmetic such as reading a short paragraph in a newspaper, writing from dictation, and working out sums and fractions.[1]

Before 1944 around 80 per cent of the school population attended elementary schools through to the age of 14. The remainder transferred either to secondary school or junior technical school at age 11. The school system was changed with the introduction of the Education Act 1944. Education was restructured into three progressive stages which were known as primary education, secondary education and further education.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gillard D. "Towards a State System of Education". In: Education in England, 2011 http://www.educationengland.org.uk, accessed 20 November 2013.
  2. ^ Peter Anthony Newsam, 'Elementary school', Microsoft Encarta 2004 edition (CD-Rom), 1993-2003.