History of Education in England

The history of education in England can be documented to the Anglo-Saxons' settlement of England. During the Middle Ages, schools were established to teach Latin grammar to the sons of the aristocracy, as part of preparation also for the entry of some into the clergy and religious orders. The church preserved literacy and learning during this period, and education was closely tied to the religious vocation, in order to read the Bible and related documents. Apprenticeship was the main way for youths to enter practical occupations. Two universities were established in affiliation with the church: the University of Oxford, followed by the University of Cambridge, both related closely to training for clergy. A reformed system of "free grammar schools" was established in the reign of Edward VI.

The Protestant Reformation had a major influence on education and literacy in England, as it encouraged the reading of the Bible in the vernacular of the people. (Formerly, the Bible was printed only in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church.) Counties in the east of England, which had frequent interaction with the Low Countries, where the Reformation movement had flourished, developed a higher rate of literacy in the early years of the Reformation than did other areas of England.

In the 19th century the Church of England sponsored most formal education until the government established free, compulsory education towards the end of that century. University College London was established as the first secular college in England, open to students of all religions (or none,) followed by King's College London; the two institutions formed the University of London. Durham University was also established in the early nineteenth century. Towards the end of the century, the "redbrick" universities, new public universities, were founded.

The 1944 Education Act established the Tripartite System of grammar schools and secondary modern schools. The school leaving age was raised to 16 in 1972.