Education history 2

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Education history - 2

StLuke's School 1897.jpg

Children at St Luke's School in 1897

Victorian schools were very formal

Education began to change significantly in Jersey in 1870, when the States formed its first education committee - Comité d'Education Elémentaire. Already there had been a programme of school building, not by the States, but by the churches. Between 1812 and 1863 the Church of England built eleven churches, with one each being founded by the Roman Catholic and Wesleyan churches. So the focus of education had switched from the churches themselves, to purpose-built schools in the parishes.

Farming came first

But it was still largely the children of the well-do-do who attended school, and although the church schools accepted children from any backrgound, there was no groundswell of opinion that all children should receive an education provided by and under the control of the States. This was particularly true in the country parishes, where children were part of the family farming unit and their participation in the harvest and other important rural activities was seen as far more important than attendance at school.

The first real moves towards education for all came from the United Kingdom. Jersey was invited to participate in a survey of education for the poor in 1816 and later came under the aegis of the newly appointed School Inspectorate, the schools receiving grants based on performance. But when Parliament passed legislation in 1870 making it obligatory for local authorities to fill the gaps left by the church schools, Jersey was not subject to the Act, and funding for elementary schools in the island ceased.

This led to the establishment of the Comité d'Education Elémentaire, chaired by the Bailiff and consisting of four Jurats, the Dean, two Rectors, three Constables and three Deputies. The States voted to replace the grants previously paid by the British Treasury, and required participating schools to admit children of any or no religious denomination. Payments continued to be based on performance, and though the schools were nominally open to all, the weekly fee of nine pence was beyond the means of many families. The States effectively took over the administration of the existing schools, rather than providing new buildings.

Her Majesty's inspectors of schools continued to visit the island at the expense of the States, and so remained in overall control of education policy. There was no local education department or directorate to oversee the system.

Compulsory education

In 1894 education was made compulsory for all children between the ages of five and 12, although no new schools were built and any child living more than two miles away from an existing school was exempted from the legislation. The Constables had to step in to pay fees from parish funds for those children whose parents could not afford them.

A half-hearted attempt was made by the States to get some badly needed new schools built, by offering to pay half the cost if the parishes initiated the project. Only St Saviour and St Martin took up the offer. The British Government was so concerned at the lack of provision for education in Jersey that they threatened to stop sending HM Inspectors, and in 1899 the States were forced to enact legislation to require the parishes to build new schools in areas where none existed, with the States meeting half the cost.

A school class in the late 19th century

The States also only met about half the running costs, with grants based on efficiency, attendance and the teaching of French. The balance had to be met by levying a parish rate. Each parish had a Conseil Scholaire chaired by the Constable and including the Rector and five ratepayers. They managed the parish schools, appointed and dismissed teachers, and employed attendance officers to check up on truancy and ensure that all children between five and 13 got a thorough grounding in reading, writing and arithmetic. Parents were find if their children did not attend school, although an allowance was made for the children of farmers to work on the farms for a maximum of six weeks a year.

The new law led to the building of nine schools as the 20th century dawned, and in 1912 further legislation which had taken three years to obtain Privy Council assent. brought the whole primary school system under the control of the States, administered through a new Comité d'Instruction Primaire, with exactly the same membership as the earlier Comité. On 1 February 1913 the States took over the 14 parish schools and church schools and others reaching acceptable standards were invited to join the new States Education system, or face losing any grants.

Only the Comité d'Instruction Primaire had the power ao appoint and dismiss teachers, The churches were vehemently opposed to losing control over their own schools, which could not function without States funding, and both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church petitioned the Privy Council to try to overturn the proposals. Enlarged Conseils Scholaires with representatives of the church schools were appointed in each parish, but they had very limited responsibilities and powers, the complete control of the elementary education system having been centralised. To placate the churches, the final decision on appointment of teachers was left with the parents of children at each school, but religion was permitted to play no part in these decisions.

Brighton Road School in 1912
A group of Jersey schoolboys in the 1880s
A group of Jersey schoolgirls in the 1880s
A photograph by Albert Smith of an unnamed girls school

38 schools in system

A total of 38 schools came within the new system:

Parish schools

  • La Motte Street
  • Brighton Road
  • First Tower
  • St Lawrence
  • Beaumont
  • La Moye
  • Les Landes
  • St Mary
  • St John
  • St Martin
  • St Saviour
  • St Clement
  • Grouville
  • Trinity

Church of England

  • Halkett Place
  • St Mark's
  • St James
  • St Paul's
  • St Matthew's
  • St Peter
  • St Ouen
  • St Luke
  • Gorey Hilgrove
  • Gorey Station
  • St Brelade

Roman Catholic

  • Vauxhall
  • Val Plaisant (Girls and Boys)
  • Saint Mary South
  • Coin Varin
  • St Aubin
  • Grantez (St Ouen)
  • St Martin Quéruée
  • St Joseph and Grouville Arsenal
  • Hautes Croix


  • St Ouen (Wesleyan)
  • Teighmore (Dr Barnado's)
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