Liverpool: Schools

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Liverpool: Schools', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 54-55. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]


Elementary education began in Liverpool with the provision of a number of Sunday-schools for the poor, founded as the result of a town's meeting in 1784. (fn. 1) These were rapidly followed by the institution of day-schools, provided either by various denominations or by endowment. The earliest of these schools were the Old Church School in Moorfields (1789), the Unitarian Schools in Mount Pleasant (1790) and Manesty Lane (1792), and the Wesleyan Brunswick School (1790). In 1823 there were thirty-two day-schools 'for the education of the poor' (fn. 2) educating 7,441 children, of which 14 were Church Schools with 2,914 pupils, 2 Roman Catholic with 440 pupils, and 18 Nonconformist with 4,087 pupils. The number of schools largely increased between 1823 and 1870, so that there was no very serious deficiency of school places when, in 1870, education became universal and compulsory. When the school board began its work in Liverpool in 1871 there were already two public elementary schools, founded by the corporation in 1826, and transferred to the administration of the board; and the provision of school places in voluntary schools was above the average for England; but many new places had to be gradually provided by the erection of board schools. The following table shows the state of elementary education in 1871, and the progress made up to 1902:— (fn. 3)

Elementary Schools
Type of School 1871 1902
No. of Schools School Places No. of Schools School Places
Church of England 47 25,773 66 43,180
Roman Catholic 16 12,145 37 32,614
Undenominational and Wesleyan 16 8,084 10 6,519
Board 49 49,765
Total 79 46,002 162 132,078

No detailed account can be given of the work of the board during the thirty years of its work, but two or three features deserve note. In a city which beyond most others is torn asunder by religious strife, the intrusion of this strife was throughout avoided, owing to the wise policy initiated in the early years, largely by Mr. S. G. Rathbone and Mr. Christopher Bushell. The school board was distinguished almost from the beginning by the attention which it gave to the training of teachers. As early as 1875 a Pupil Teachers' College was established in two houses in Shaw Street, the rent of which was provided by Mr. S. G. Rathbone. In 1898 the college entered upon its handsome premises in Clarence Street, and in 1906 it became the Oulton Secondary School. It was largely also through the zeal of members of the school board that the Edge Hill Training College for women teachers was founded in 1884. A further striking feature of the work of the board was its intimate association with the Liverpool Council of Education, founded in 1873, which in the days before any public authority was empowered to undertake such work provided a scholarship ladder from the elementary schools to the secondary schools of the city, by which many poor boys have climbed to the universities and thence to important positions in the world. The Council of Education still exists. It administers a scholarship trust fund of over £20,000, as well as the Waterworth Scholarship fund, the income of which is over £300 per annum. Its scholarships are now merged in the scholarship system instituted by the City Education Committee.

The elementary schools now controlled by the City Education Committee are as follows;— (fn. 4)

No. Depts. Teachers Pupils Average per School Pupils per Teacher (fn. 5)
Head Asst. P.T.
Council Schools 50 134 162 1,361 315 57,011 1,140 37½
Church of England 64 155 154 899 101 37,631 588 36
Roman Catholic 36 102 102 689 193 32,466 902 41
Wesleyan 7 17 16 106 7 4,040 577 33
Undenominational 4 8 7 48 4 1,543 386 28
Totals 161 416 441 3,103 620 132,691 824 372/3

There are also five day industrial schools, to which children from drunken homes are committed on a magistrate's order, and receive food as well as instruction; ten ordinary certified industrial schools, a reformatory ship, the Akbar, five schools for physically and mentally defective children, and one truants' industrial school. The total cost of the elementary system in 1906–7 was £625,623.

During the last few years the Education Committee has been engaged in providing facilities for higher education, in which, thanks to the failure to develop the ancient grammar school, (fn. 6) Liverpool was behind most other English cities. Of the older secondary schools some account has been already given. (fn. 7) Of these schools three—the Liverpool Institute, Blackburne House, and the Liverpool Collegiate School (formerly Liverpool College Middle and Commercial Schools)—have passed under the direct control of the Education Committee. The Pupil Teachers' College in Clarence Street has been turned into the Oulton Secondary School, with 873 pupils; one of the most highly developed of the elementary schools has been turned into a secondary school (Holt Secondary School), and a large secondary school for girls has been built. Eight city scholarships, tenable at the University of Liverpool, are thrown open to the competition of pupils of these and other secondary schools in the city. Outside of the system controlled by the Education Committee, there are, in addition to the schools enumerated in V.C.H. Lancs. ii, 595, four denominational pupil teacher centres, two of which, St. Edmund's College (Church of England) and the Catholic Institute, have been transformed into secondary schools. Note should also be made of the school-ship Conway, moored in the Mersey, which trains boys to be officers in the mercantile marine, and for Dartmouth.

The Technical Instruction Committee conducts classes in the Central Technical School, Byrom Street; it has three branch schools in other parts of the city, and conducts regular evening classes also in ten other institutions. There are also a nautical college, a school for cookery, and a school of domestic economy. The City School of Art is largely attended, and has now incorporated the School of Applied Arts, formerly associated with the University School of Architecture.

The city also contains two training colleges for teachers, the Liverpool Training College, Mount Pleasant, founded in 1856, and conducted by the sisters of the Notre Dame, and the Edge Hill Training College (undenominational) founded in 1884. Both are for women, and both are affiliated to the university. For the training of Roman Catholic priests there is St. Edward's College, in Everton.


  • 1. Picton's Liv. Munic. Rec. ii, 284.
  • 2. Smithers, Liverpool, 264.
  • 3. Information supplied by the Education Office.
  • 4. Rep. for 1907.
  • 5. a Omitting Pupil Teachers.
  • 6. V.C.H. Lancs. ii, 593.
  • 7. Ibid. 595.