From Wightpedia

Prior to 1800, education for poorer children on the Isle of Wight was limited to charity schools and Sunday Schools run by various religious faiths.

Sunday Schools not only gave religious instruction but gave an elementary education to children who had to work during the week. Such schools were developed by both Church of England and nonconformist churches. As the British, National, Board and other elementary schools developed, the Sunday Schools tended to concentrate more and more on their religious instruction.

Families of tradesmen and professionals might send their children to one of the numerous private day school, sometimes to 'Prep' schools where the students were 'prepared' for entry examinations into the civil service, navy, university or similar; often girls would go to schools run by 'refined' ladies. Often boys would be taught by 'Clerks in Holy Orders' who had university education.

Families with more money would have employed tutors/governesses or sent their children to private schools.

In 1808 the Royal Lancastrian Society (later the British and Foreign School Society) was created to promote schools using the Monitorial System of Joseph Lancaster for the ordinary children.

The National Society was set up in 1811 to establish similar schools using the system but based on the teachings of the Church of England in contrast to the non-denominational Christian instruction of the Lancastrian schools. The aim of the National Society was to establish a 'National School' in every parish of England and Wales.

From 1833, the state began to pay annual grants to the societies, with the much larger National Society receiving a proportionally larger share. The grants increased over time, but they were accompanied by inspections and increasing demands from the state.

Following the 1870 Education Act, a number of School Boards were established across the Island with powers to raise funds through the rates system and 'Board Schools' were established.

Although basic education was then open to all, pupils had to pay to attend unless their family were very poor, in which case the School Board would pay. From a report of the Ryde School Board in the Hampshire Advertiser, 16 September 1871, the following bye-law was proposed, seconded and adopted:

"If the parent of any child satisfies the board that the reason of his child's non-attendance at school is that he is unable, from poverty, to pay the school fees of such child, the board in the case of a school provided by the board will remit, and in the case of any other public elementary school will pay, the whole or such part of the fees as, in the opinion of the board, the parent is unable to pay, for a renewable period, to be fixed by the board, not exceeding six calendar months, provided that the amount of fees to be remitted or paid shall not exceed the ordinary payment at the school selected by the parents, and shall in no case exceed the following scale:- For any child under 8 years of age, 3d per week. For any child exceeding 8 years of age, and under 10, 4d per week. For any child exceeding 10 years of age, 6d per week."

The 1880 Education Act made school attendance compulsory for children between the ages of five and ten.

School fees ceased to be chargeable after a change in the law in 1891.

Further legislation in 1893 extended the age of compulsory attendance to eleven, and in 1899 to twelve.

School Boards were abolished by the 1902 Education Act and all their schools came under Local Education Authorities (LEA), so the name 'Board' disappeared and was replaced by 'Elementary'.

The 'British' and 'National' schools could apply to the LEA to be taken-over, thus transferring the financial costs from the school managers to the LEA. With the school buildings having been paid for by the church authorities, the LEA would agree to lease the buildings and undertake repairs and extensions etc. This was the cause of the problem at the Thorley National Schools in 1902; the Northwood National Schools managers were still independent in 1905[1].

The Isle of Wight County Education Committee was establish to cover the island, except for Ryde and Newport where the Boroughs set up their own Education Committees. The County also established Higher and Technical Education Committees which included members from the Ryde and Newport Education Committees. 1921 saw the County Education Committee taking responsibilities for Ryde elementary education[2], the responsibilities of the Newport Education Committee were taken over by the County in 1945[3] - from then on, the County Education Committee had responsibility for education across the whole Island.

1945 also saw the introduction of the 11-plus exams to the island school system, where children were tested by examination at the age of eleven and the results determined whether they would go to a Grammar School (if they passed) or Secondary Modern Schools.

In 1970 the Isle of Wight County Council abolished the 11-plus examinations and introduced a three tier system of schools based on age alone - Primary Schools for those aged between 4+ to 9, Middle Schools for ages 9+ to 13 and High Schools for 13+ to 18.

During the twentieth century, the Island had a national reputation for private Boarding Schools, however over the second half of the 20th century the number of private schools on the Island reduced; sometimes by amalgamation, other schools closed when owners retired.

  1. Isle of Wight County Press, 24 June 1905
  2. Isle of Wight County Press - 12 March 1921
  3. Isle of Wight County Press - 24 March 1945