The present system of compulsory education for all children is the result of a whole series of parliamentary acts.
The most significant were:
Before the late 19th century, schooling was not compulsory, rarely free and varied enormously in quality and quantity.
A few children might attend a grammar school. Other children would attend a school funded by a charity, almost always a religious organisation.
Children might also be educated by the local clergyman, while others were taught at a dame school by an educated woman in the town or village.
Charity schools were often but not always free and many schools, such as the dame schools or day schools, charged a fee.
Very few records, if any, survive of such informal schooling in Norfolk.
Central government began to make treasury grants to charities which provided voluntary schools from 1833.
After 1839 these grants depended on the school passing a government inspection.
Charities which received grants included the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (the National Society) and the British Foreign School Society.
The government later extended its involvement from giving financial support to directly providing the education services itself.
In the following chapters, details are given of school records. Please note that any records which contain sensitive or personal information are not usually open to immediate access to the general public.
Where this is the case, it will normally be indicated on the catalogue entry.