School boards in England and Wales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A board school in Kempston, Bedfordshire
Country Board School in Devon near South Molton. Opened 1876 for just 16 pupils. Closed 1922. Now a private dwelling (semi-detached) and Grade 2 listed

School boards were public bodies in England and Wales between 1870 and 1902, which established and administered elementary schools.

School boards were created in boroughs and parishes under the Elementary Education Act 1870 following campaigning by George Dixon, Joseph Chamberlain and the National Education League for elementary education free from Anglican doctrine. Education was still not free of fees. Members were directly elected, not appointed by borough councils or parishes. Each board could:

  • raise funds from a rate
  • build and run non-denominational schools where existing voluntary provision was inadequate
  • subsidise church schools where appropriate
  • pay the fees of the poorest children
  • if they deemed it necessary, create a by-law making attendance compulsory between ages 5–13 - until the Elementary Education Act 1880 when it became compulsory for all.
  • were not to impose any religious education, other than simple Bible reading

Unusually for the time, women were eligible to win election to school boards. When the first elections were held, in 1870, seven women were elected across the country: Anne Ashworth and Caroline Shum in Bath, Catherine Ricketts in Brighton, Lydia Becker in Manchester, Marian Huth in Huddersfield, Eleanor Smith in Oxford, and Jennetta Temple in Exeter.[1]

School boards were abolished by the Education Act 1902, which replaced them with local education authorities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patricia Hollis, Ladies Elect: Women in English Local Government 1865-1914, p.132


  • Educational Documents, England and Wales 1816 to the present day, J Stuart MacLure, 1965, 1979, ISBN 0-416-72810-3 370.942
  • Education in Britain 1750–1914, W B Stephens, 1998, ISBN 0-333-60512-8