Prior to the nineteenth century the majority of people earned their living in
the agricultural sector. Few, if any, had need of anything more than basic literacy.
An expansion of the economy, brought about by the industrial revolution, introduced
new opportunities for employment. Political developments encouraged the circulation
of newspapers and created more clerical job opportunities. Growth of the railway
brought a need for travellers to read and understand travel timetables. Agricultural
controls transformed farming from a rural employment to a business. Almost every
aspect of life was changing and challenging people to achieve a higher standard
The Government had already tried to introduce non-denominational education for
the poor under the auspices of the Kildare Place Society. This society provided
money for those wishing to start a school and was to be open to the poor of
all denominations. However, this proved to be less successful than the Government
had envisaged. Religious leaders very rapidly became suspicious of the Bible
reading that was sanctioned in each school.
In the 1830's the Government introduced a nation-wide system of education, intended
to address the inequalities in learning. A Commission of Education was established,
under the direction of Chief Secretary, EG Stanley, to provide money grants
for building of school buildings, salaries of teachers and books for the pupils.
In an attempt to allay the fears of religious leaders the Commission especially
sought applications that had the approval of all local clergy. The following
is a sample of the application form:
To be answered by applicants for Aid towards the
fitting up of Schools,
the paying of Teachers, and the obtaining School-requisites.
1. What is the name of the School, and when was it established?
2. In what Townland, Parish, and County, is it situated?
3. What is the name of the nearest Post-Town?
4. State particularly, whether the School is in connection with, or derives
aid from any other Society - and if so, the name of the Society, the amount
of the Aid received, and the nature of its connection?
5. Upon what days of the week, and during how many and what hours of the day,
is the School kept, or intended to be kept, open?
6. How many Scholars are there usually in attendance?
7. What are the dimensions of the School-room and the number of its windows
- from what funds was it erected, and what is the number of Scholars it can
8. What are the sources from whence the annual income of the School is derived,
and what is the amount of such income - do the Scholars pay, when and what?
9. State the names of the present Master and Mistress, with the amount of their
respective salaries, and whether they have been educated in any and what Model
School or Schools, and what testimonials they can produce of fitness for their
10. Is the School under the direction of an individual or individuals or a Committee?
State the names and address of the individual or individuals - if a Committee
state the names and addresses of the Treasurer, Secretary or Correspondent?
11. State the names of all books used in the School, specifying the editions
- also by whom, or from whence, and at what time or times they have been supplied?
12. In what state of repair is the School-house?
13. What number of desks and seats are there in the School-room, and how many
Children do they accommodate?
14. What number of Schools are there in the Parish or neighbourhood, at what
distance from the School-house for which aid is sought, and under whose patronage
15. Are there any Persons, resident in Dublin, acquainted with the circumstances
of this School? If so state their name and address.
NB. If Repairs or additional Furniture be indispensably required, send up Estimates
separately in detail for each. You are requested to take a copy of the foregoing
regulations for your future guidance.
Specify, particularly, the nature and extent of the Aid required on behalf of
which this Application is made,
WE, the undersigned, agree to the conditions embodied in
the foregoing Regulations, and believe the within queries are fully
and truly answered.
PROTESTANTS ________________ROMAN CATHOLICS
By desire of the Commissioners,
THOMAS F KELLY
The Commission would contribute up to two thirds of the cost of salaries and
building work, with the community to raise the other third of the coast. A text
urging religious toleration was to be hung in a prominent position within the
Christians should endeavour, as the Apostle, Paul, commands them, to "live
peaceably with all men;" (Romans ch. 12 v 18) even with those of a different
Our Saviour, Christ, commanded his Disciples to "love one another:"
He taught them to love even their enemies, to bless those that curse them, and
to pray for those who persecute them. He himself prayed for his murderers.
Many men hold erroneous Doctrines; but we ought not to hate or persecute them.
We ought to seek for the truth, and to hold fast what we are convinced is the
truth; but not to treat harshly those who are in error. Jesus Christ did not
intend his Religion to be forced on men by violent means. He would not allow
his Disciples to fight for him.
If any persons treat us unkindly, we must not do the same to them; for Christ
and his Apostles have taught us not to return evil for evil. If we would obey
Christ, we must do to others, not as they do to us, but as we should wish them
to do to us.
Quarrelling with our neighbours, and abusing them, is not the way to convince
them that we are in the right, and they in the wrong. It is more likely to convince
them that we do not have a Christian spirit.
We ought to show ourselves followers of Christ, who, "when he was reviled,
reviled not again". (1Peter ch. 2 v 23)
Religion was taught in some schools within designated hours but the main subjects
were the three R's of reading, writing and arithmetic. Children were expected
to contribute a small fee for their schooling the cost of heating the room.
Penmanship was most important for young men wishing to become clerks. Children
began practising their letters in sandtrays before progressing to slates. Eventually
they graduated to the use of pencils and ink pens. At this time they used copy
books known as Vere Foster books, named after a wealthy man who had given substantial
amounts of money to the education system.
The buildings were sometimes little more than miserable huts; some were even held
in abandoned barns. Usually the school had only one room in which a single teacher
educated pupils of all ages. Registers were kept to record attendance and the
payment of fees. They also recorded the reasons why students left the school;
many because they were employed at home, others to attend a denominational school,
and still others due to emigration.
An inspection of 1837 showed that education was suffering because of the standard
of teaching. As a result a teacher training college was set up in Dublin to teach
basic skills, with additional subjects of science, industry and farming. At the
end of the course a teacher received a certificate. A qualified teacher could
earn anything from £10-£30 per year. Teachers could single out pupils
to be monitors within the class, hearing the younger children read and keeping
order. These monitors were given the opportunity to sit an examination to become
teachers, ensuring a continuity of teaching. The Board issued a series of strict
guidelines by which teachers were to operate:
PRACTICAL RULES FOR THE TEACHERS OF NATIONAL SCHOOLS
1. The Teachers of National Schools are required - To keep at least one copy
of the GENERAL LESSON suspended conspicuously in the School-room, and to inculcate
the principles contained in it on the minds of their pupils.
2. To exclude from the School, except at the hours set apart for Religious Instruction,
all Catechisms and Books inculcating peculiar religious opinions.
3. To avoid fairs, markets, and meetings - but above all, POLITICAL meetings
of every kind; to abstain from controversy; and to do nothing either in or out
of School which might have a tendency to confine it to any one denomination
4. To keep the Register, Report Book, and Class Rolls accurately, neatly, and
according to the precise form prescribed by the Board; and to enter or mark
in the two latter, before noon each day, the number of Children in actual attendance.
5. To classify the Children according to the National Schools Books; to study
those Books themselves; and to teach according to the improved method, as pointed
out in their several prefaces.
6. To observe themselves, and to impress upon the minds of their Pupils, the
very great rule of regularity and order - A TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERY THING,
AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PROPER TIME AND PLACE.
7. To promote, both by precept and example, CLEANLINESS, NEATNESS, and DECENCY.
To effect this the Teachers should set and example of cleanliness and neatness
in their own person, and in the state and general appearance of their Schools.
They should also satisfy themselves, by personal inspection every morning, that
the Children have had their hands and faces washed, their hair combed, and clothes
cleaned, and, when necessary, emended. The School apartments, too, should be
swept and dusted every evening, and whitewashed at least once a year.
8. To pay the strictest attention to the morals and general conduct of their
Pupils and to omit no opportunity of inculcating the principles of TRUTH and
HONESTY: the duties of respect to superiors and obedience to all persons placed
in authority over them.
9. To evince a regard for the improvement and general welfare of their Pupils,
to treat them with kindness, combined with firmness, and to aim at governing
them by their affections and reason, rather than by harshness and severity.
10. To cultivate kindly and affectionate feelings among their Pupils; to discountenance
quarrelling, cruelty to animals, and every approach to vice.
11. To record in the Report Book of the School the weekly receipts of School
fees, and the amount of all grants made by the Board, as well as the purposes
for which they were made, whether in any way of Premiums, Salaries to Teachers,
payments to Monitors, or Workmisstresses, also School requisites, whether Free
Stock or purchased at half-price.
12. To take strict care of the Free Stock of Books granted by the Board; and to
endeavour to keep the School constantly supplied with National School Books and
requisites for sale to the Children, at the reduced prices charged by the Commissioners;
also to preserve the invoices for the information of the Inspectors; and whenever
requisites (whether free stock or purchased) arrive without an invoice, to apply
to the manager to whom it is transmitted when the parcel is sent from this office.
It was hoped that by the time pupils left the national school they would have
attained a standard of education that would open up a range of different occupation
PUPILS ENROLLED IN ONE QUARTER OR MORE IN THE FIFTH CLASS WILL BE EXPECTED
1. To know the commercial rules of Arithmetic, and Mensuration of Superficies.
2. To know how to keep cash, personal, real and farm accounts, and how to write
out bills, shop accounts etc.
3. To analyse and parse correctly complex sentences.
4. To know the Geography of the British Empire, and the simpler portions of
the Geography Generalized.
5. To write correctly from dictation any ordinary sentences selected for them.
6. To draw on a slate any of the simple plane geometrical forms.
7. To write out from memory, with correct spelling and syntax, the substance
of any fable or short story chosen from the Second or Third Book.
8. To know the forms of epistolary correspondence, and how to address, subscribe,
and direct letters etc.
9. To analyse the words of their ordinary lessons, pointing out their roots,
prefixes, and suffixes, and to explain their meaning with clearness and precision.
10. To answer with intelligence and judgement on the subject-matter of the lessons
already learnt by them.
11. To write a good hand with ease and freedom.
12. To read with entire case, fluency, and judgement, both poetry and prose.