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History of Schooling
We are grateful to Derek Gillard for the carefully researched information which he has provided and which is available on his website for those wishing for a more in-depth article than our own. Here is Derek's site.
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A Dame School was an early form of a private elementary school often found in areas of poverty. They were usually taught by women and were often located in the home of the teacher.
A dame school as depicted on a magic lantern slide
Dame schools were quite varied and some of them were little more than day care facilities while others provided their pupils with a good foundation in the basics. There was little control over the standard of teaching and some were even run by almost illiterate teachers. The inadequacies of Dame schools in England were illustrated by a study conducted in 1838 by the Statistical Society of London that found nearly half of all pupils surveyed were only taught spelling, with a negligible number being taught mathematics and grammar. Dame schools became less common in Britain after the introduction of compulsory education in 1880, and after this time schools that were found to be below government-specified standards of tuition could be closed.