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Ireland, Board of National Education

Ireland, Board of National Education. By the end of the Napoleonic wars, there was an urgent need in Ireland to provide national education for the children of the poor. Large grants to separate denominational bodies, such as the Kildare Place Society, had proved unsuccessful. In September 1831 Thomas Wyse, an Irish MP, introduced a bill to educate catholics and protestants in the same school. Although the bill never became law, at the end of 1831 a Board of Education was established to institute an elementary school system. Members of the board, consisting of moderate catholics and protestants, administered an annual grant to local schools, supervised their work, supplied textbooks, and trained teachers. Although secular instruction was given in common, denominational religious teaching was conducted separately. Whilst the question of religious instruction caused many difficulties, by the 1840s the board had made much headway, providing over 3,500 schools attended by 400,000 children.

Peter Gordon

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