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Education in Norfolk

The Elementary Education Act 1870 and school board records

The Elementary Education Act 1870 (Forster's Act)

In order to provide and maintain schools where existing elementary education was insufficient, this Act divided England into districts under the management of locally elected school boards.

In effect, these board schools were the first schools run by local authorities.

The Act allowed school boards to rule that children aged between five and 13 should attend school. It did not make all education free or compulsory but did order, for the first time, that a school be placed in reach of every child.

Board schools did not initially replace existing voluntary and endowed schools and a dual educational system developed.

Non-denominational board schools were supplemented by government grants, rates and fees. Voluntary schools, such as National Society schools, which had religious affiliation to the Church of England, received grants and subscriptions but not rate aid. They sometimes charged a small fee.

Under the Education Act 1902, board schools became council schools. Records of the school boards and individual board schools were therefore inherited by their administrative successors (the borough and county councils) and are found among their archives.

School board records

The main type of school board records are minutes, which give details of the administration of the board, its membership and responsibilities. Therefore, the minutes often contain references to:

  • The building and maintenance of schools
  • Supplies and insurances
  • Inspections of school premises
  • Staff recruitment
  • School attendance
  • By-laws
  • Finances
  • Arrangements for community events such as fêtes or jubilees
  • Wartime preparations

The headmaster or mistress reported to the board and the minutes may contain references to these reports and any requisitions made.

In exceptional cases, the minutes may give details about individual pupils.

Records of the individual schools established by the school boards may include records such as log books and admission registers.

For records of individual board schools, please refer to the card index to school records or to the online catalogue.


  • For minutes of Norfolk school boards, 1871-1903, see C/ED 3/1-247
  • There are a few other records of Norfolk school boards, 1872-1903, including treasurers' accounts 1872-1903 and letter books, 1873-1903 - see C/ED 7/1-6


  • For Norwich School Board minutes, 1871-1903, see N/TC 2/1-34
  • There are a few other records of the Norwich School Board, 1877-1903, including printed bylaws, 1893, and year books, 1877-1903, see N/ED 3/1-5
  • There are also school manager's minutes for individual schools run by the Norwich School Board, see N/TC 44/1-7

Great Yarmouth

  • For Great Yarmouth School Board minutes, 1875-1903, see Y/ED 1-5


  • For Thetford School Board minutes, 1889-1903, see C/ED 3/201
  • For papers concerning the election of Thetford School Board members, including nominations and posters, 1875-1902, see T/SB 1-11

School attendance committee minutes

Each Poor Law Union was charged, under the Elementary Education Act 1876, with supervising the attendance of children at school in districts outside the jurisdiction of a school board.

The information in attendance committee minutes can vary in detail, but they sometimes include names of parents prosecuted for non-attendance of their children at school.

Minutes of a few of these attendance committees came into custody of the Norfolk County Council's Education Department, as superseded authority records:

  • Depwade, 1877-1903, see C/ED 6/1-2
  • Downham, 1889-1903, see C/ED 6/3
  • Erpingham, 1889-1903, see C/ED 6/4

Minutes of other school attendance committees can sometimes be found in the records of the Poor Law Unions:

  • Aylsham minutes, 1877-98, see C/GP 1/526
  • Blofield parochial ledger, 1895-99, see C/GP 2/53
  • Docking minutes, 1877-92, see C/GP 4/90
  • Erpingham ledger, 1881-89, see C/GP 6/195
  • Forehoe parochial ledgers, 1887-91, see C/GP 8/244-246 and 1896-1901, see C/GP 8/247
  • Henstead minutes, 1877-96, see C/GP 11/116
  • Loddon and Clavering minutes, 1878-97, see C/GP 12/161-169 and ledger, 1893-95, see C/GP 12/168
  • St Faith's minutes, 1902-03, see C/GP 15/69
  • Swaffham minutes, 1877-96 and 1896-1903, see C/GP 16/1-2
  • Walsingham minutes, 1883-90, see C/GP 19/125