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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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The idea of ragged schools was developed by John Pounds, a Portsmouth shoemaker. In 1818 Pounds began teaching poor children without charging fees. Thomas Guthrie helped to promote Pounds' idea of free schooling for working class children. Guthrie started a ragged school in Edinburgh and Sheriff Watson established another in Aberdeen. Ragged schools spread rapidly and there were 350 ragged schools by the time the 1870 Education Act was passed.
Lord Shaftesbury was the chairman of Ragged schools for 39 years.
Charles Dickens' visit to the Field Lane Ragged School in 1843 inspired him to write A Christmas Carol. Appalled by what he saw at Field Lane (now Farringdon Road), he initially intended to write a pamphlet on the plight of poor children, but realised a story would have more impact.
The schools were gradually absorbed into the Board School system.