Eighteenth Century

In the early years of the Industrial Revolution entrepreneurs began to resist the restrictions of the apprenticeship system, and a legal ruling established that the Statute of Apprentices did not apply to trades that were not in existence when it was passed in 1563, thus excluding many new 18th century industries.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge founded many charity schools for poor students in the 7 to 11 age group. These schools were the basis for the development of modern concepts of primary and secondary education. The Society also was an early provider of teacher education.

Sunday School Movement
Robert Raikes initiated the Sunday School Movement, having inherited a publishing business from his father and become proprietor of the Gloucester Journal in 1757. The movement started with a school for boys in the slums. Raikes had been involved with those incarcerated at the county Poor Law (part of the jail at that time); he believed that "vice" would be better prevented than cured, with schooling as the best intervention. The best available time was Sunday, as the boys were often working in the factories the other six days. The best available teachers were lay people. The textbook was the Bible. The original curriculum started with teaching children to read and then having them learn the catechism, reasoning that a student who could read and understand the bible could do the same with any other book.

Raikes used his newspaper to publicize the schools and bore most of the cost in the early years. The movement began in July 1780 in the home of a Mrs. Meredith. Only boys attended, and she heard the lessons of the older boys who coached the younger. Later, girls also attended. Within two years, several schools opened in and around Gloucester. Raikes published an account on November 3, 1783 of Sunday School in his paper, and later word of the work spread through the Gentleman's Magazine, and in 1784, a letter to the Arminian Magazine.

The original schedule for the schools, as written by Raikes was "The children were to come after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve; they were then to go home and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church. After Church, they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till after five, and then dismissed, with an injunction to go home without making a noise."

There were disputes about the movement in the early years. The schools were derisively called "Raikes' Ragged School". Critics thought the schools would weaken home-based religious education, that it might be a desecration of the Sabbath (generally to be used as a day of rest), and that Christians should not be employed on the Sabbath. "Sabbatarian disputes" in the 1790s led many Sunday schools to cease their teaching of writing. Most schools at this time focused on grammar instruction, which at that time was centered on the instruction of Latin and Greek, as these were classical languages associated with ancient civilizations and Biblical writings. Many schools taught Latin and Greek to the exclusion of all other subjects.