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National Schools Society

National Schools Society. Because of the success of Joseph Lancaster in establishing non-sectarian schools, leading to the founding of the British and Foreign School Society, the bishops of the Church of England were anxious to promote a rival body. In October 1811 the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church was formed. Dr Andrew Bell was engaged to organize monitorial schools, teaching both secular and religious subjects. From its inception, the society published a number of textbooks which were ‘suitable’ for its schools. A central branch for training teachers was established in Holborn, but later five other colleges were erected, including St Mark's and Whitelands, Chelsea, and St John's, Battersea. Starting with 52 schools attended by 8,620 pupils in 1811, the society rapidly expanded its activities; by the following year there were 230 schools with 40,484 pupils. In 1833 government grants were first given towards building the schools and in 1853 towards their maintenance. By 1888 the society's schools were educating 2,300,000 children.

After the 1902 Education Act, some local education authorities objected to contributing towards schools which were outside their control. The National Schools Society fought this issue in the law courts and obtained equal treatment for their schools.

Peter Gordon

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