How education system was transformed in the 19th century

THE 19th century saw significant changes in Scottish education and ushered in a way of classroom teaching that still exists in some form today.

Parish schools, which had existed since the Reformation, were replaced as the state began to fund education.

From the 1840s, the government was funding schools by direct sponsorship.

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In 1872, Scotland introduced state-sponsored schools run by local boards. Although setting up a system of education for the whole of Scotland, the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872 left its overall administration to the Scotch (later Scottish) Education Department in London.

The Act is said to have been a watershed moment in Scottish education, making elementary education compulsory for the first time for children aged five to 13. The new curriculum promoted the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic.

While there were existing teacher training colleges such as Edinburgh University’s Moray House, the Act meant there was now a need for more trained teachers.

By 1901-2 teacher training colleges had achieved greater autonomy from the government and were able to organise their own syllabuses and examinations, although the approval of the Scotch Education Department was still required.

Control of education remained in London until some powers began to be devolved in the 1920s. However, it was not until 1939 that the department’s headquarters moved north of the Border.

The Ordinary Grade, or O-Grade, and Higher Grade qualifications were introduced in 1962, with the latter becoming the basic entry qualification for universities. The O-Grade was eventually replaced by the Standard Grade.

Following devolution in 1999, the new Scottish Executive assumed control of education.

Last year saw the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence, the controversial system under which three-to-18-year-olds are taught in Scottish schools.