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TitleHertfordshire County Council, Education Department
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During the nineteenth century charity, Sunday, church and independent schools (collectively known as 'voluntary' schools) were provided, among others, by two religious societies. These were the British and the Foreign School Society (established in 1808) which was non-denominational, and the National Society for Promoting Education of the Poor in England and Wales (established in 1811) which enforced Church of England teaching. The records of these schools are held under the collection reference HEd1 and HEd2 but some can be found in parish records (HALS ref: DP).

State intervention in education began with the government's grant of £20,000 in 1833 to the National Society and the British and Foreign School Society for building elementary schools. This continued on the basis of a system of annual grants, but with the limitation that local subscriptions had first still to raise half the estimated cost before the grant was approved, and one of these two Societies had to support the application. In 1835 the money was given in equal proportions to the two Societies.

The passing of the Reform Act in 1867, which increased the electoral franchise, convinced many people of the need for an educated country. In 1869 the Education League was founded, which was opposed to the existing denominational schools. A Board of Education was set up in 1899, with the status of an independent Department of State.


The elementary Education Act 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c75) established School Boards. These were elected for districts by borough councils in urban areas, or by vestries in rural areas, and were supported by a rate levied on each board's area. The Education Department had the power to enforce compulsory attendance, and required log books to be kept. Thus the first local education authorities in England were created and the records of some of the school boards for Hertfordshire are found under HALS ref SB.

In areas where there were no School Boards, School Attendance Committees were established, with similar powers of compulsory school attendance and the appointment of local school managers, by the Education Act 1876 (39 & 40 Vict. c79). A further Act in 1880 (43 & 44 Vict. c23), meant that the managers were appointed annually by the Boards of Guardians of the Poor Law Unions and the Borough Councils. In these latter areas, the schools - which became eligible for government grants - became known as 'voluntary schools'. The effect of the Education Act, 1870 was to make the Education Department an active agency with statutory powers and the duty to provide elementary education for all children instead of being merely a limited subsidiser of voluntary effort.


The Education Act 1902 (2 Ed. VII c42) transferred responsibility to the County Councils and County Borough Councils as the Local Education Authority for both elementary and higher education (including Evening Schools), and abolished School Boards and School Attendance Committees which had never been regarded as permanent. In 1902, there were sixteen of these Committees: Barnet, Berkhamsted, Bishops Stortford, Bishops Stortford Urban District, Buntingford, Cheshunt Urban District, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Hertford Borough, Hertford Union, Hitchin, Royston, St Albans, Ware, Watford and Welwyn. Hemel Hempstead (as a borough with a population of over 10,000) retained its status, powers and duties for elementary education (only) as a separate Local Education Authority under the 1902 Act (Part III). Watford Borough and St Albans City surrendered theirs to the County Council.

Hemel Hempstead ultimately lost its status under the Education Act 1944 (7 & 8 Geo. VI c31). Thus a co-ordinated system of elementary and higher education was at last introduced, though retaining the dual system of 'provided' and 'non-provided' schools and the principle of rate aid being granted towards the maintenance of the latter, thus ensuring their consequent survival, and recognising their integral place in the local system of elementary education. In the 'non-provided' (i.e. voluntary) schools, the School Managers kept control over the religious teaching in their schools - a subject which had always been controversial - in accordance with their Trust Deeds.

In addition there were appointed Local Education Sub-Committees "for School Attendance and other purposes" for nineteen Urban, thirteen Rural Districts, and eight Rural Parishes. (Figures given are for the year 1909). In some cases, in Urban Districts, the persons appointed to the Local Education Sub-Committees were the Managers of the County Council Schools.

The Local Education Sub-Committees "for School Attendance and other purposes" were appointed under the 1902 Act, whereby the Education Committee delegated its powers relating to the attendance of children at school to the Local Education Sub-Committee for the area. School Attendance officers were appointed for each Local Education Sub-Committee, and quarterly returns were submitted to the Central School Attendance Sub-Committee of the Education Committee. In the majority of cases the local 'School Attendance etc. Sub-Committees' changed their title to 'Local Education Sub-Committees' during the period 1909-1912, and continued to use the same Minute Books, except in one or two cases (e.g. Baldock) where the Sub-Committee retained its original title of 'School Attendance etc. Sub-Committee' and was not renamed a Local Education Sub-Committee until 1937. In 1945 they were renamed District Education Committees.

School Managers were appointed, and the Schools were run by Boards of Managers, usually six (but in a few cases nine) in number. Their minutes were open to inspection by the County Council. There was a distinction preserved between 'Provided' (i.e. County Council) schools, and 'Maintained' or 'Non-Provided' Schools (i.e. the previously named 'Voluntary' Schools). The County Council Schools were those provided by the County Council as Local Education Authority under the Education Act 1902, and also those which previously had been provided by the School Boards.


Under Section 12 of the Act, and subsequently also under the later Education Act 1921, the County Council had power to 'group' any number of Schools of either category under one body of Managers; but in the case of the 'Maintained' Schools, only with the consent of the Managers concerned. All 'grouping' orders stated "..... and all other public elementary Schools hereafter to be provided by the County Council", besides the individual school (or schools) mentioned by name. The 'Provided' Schools are listed in Herts County Council Education Papers Issued Vol. I County Paper 103; the 'Maintained' Schools in the same series: C.P. 91 (1902).

Adapted from 'The Records of Education Departments', (Society of Archivists Records Management Group, 1987)
RelatedMaterialA "Return of Elementary Schools in the County" (1903) also lists a few parochial schools, as well as a few run by the Roman Catholic Poor School Committee. Details of charity and endowed schools are given in the "Report of the Charity Commissioners for Hertfordshire: 1815-1839". There is also a circular on female education dated 1813 (HALS ref: 57467), advocating Joseph Lancaster's system (the precursor of the British Schools).
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