The Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa

The End of Ragged Schools

The 1870 Elementary Education Act introduced a system of School Boards to supplement the existing voluntary provision for children aged for 5 to 13 years. A Board could be set up in any area where the existing number of school places was calculated to be insufficient. Board Schools were funded by local rates and could also charge weekly attendance fees, although children from poor families could be admitted without payment. Religious education in Board Schools was required to be non-denominational and parents could withdraw their children from it. Boards could make their own byelaws, such as making school attendance free in their area.

From 1880, school attendance was made compulsory for all those aged 5 to 13, and in 1891 all public elementary schools became free.

A significant effect of the 1870 and later Acts was steadily to reduce the need for ragged schools. This was implicitly acknowledged by the Society when, in around 1872, its name was changed to The National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children and 'Chichester' Training Ship. The last ragged school being run by the Society, in Little Coram Street, was finally closed in 1891 after 45 years of operation. A few ragged schools continued in operation into the twentieth century, with the last thought to have closed in around 1910.