A guide to archives of education in Derbyshire (edited 18 October 2022).
Before the Victorian period, there was limited access to formal education for most children because schooling was available mainly through fee-paying private, public and grammar schools. In 1811 the Church of England founded the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church and encouraged the creation of schools throughout the country. The following year, the British and Foreign Bible Society supported non-denominational education through “British” Schools, sometimes also known as Lancastrian Schools. Legislative developments (including the Factory Acts promoting the establishment of education for children at work and the 1834 Poor Law (Amendment) Act requiring three hours of education per day for children in the workhouse) were limited until the Education Act of 1870.
This Act established School Boards to build and administer schools where existing education provision was inadequate. Acts of 1876 and 1880 made education compulsory for children up to aged 10 and in 1901 elementary education became free of charge.
The Boards were abolished by the 1902 Education Act and established County and County Borough Councils as Local Education Authorities (LEAs). The LEA system remains in place today though it does not cover schools that have become academies. After 1902, the next significant change came in 1944 when the Butler Act widened the availability of secondary education, laying the groundwork for comprehensive, non-selective secondary schools.
School Board records tend to include the minutes of the Board meetings and financial records. A full list of archive collections for School Boards can be found here.
Although many schools have transferred or deposited records (including non-denominational and some Roman Catholic schools) unlike for parishes and public-recording bodies, there is no statutory or other obligation on schools to transfer their archives to the record office. Dates of the records vary from school to school but most begin from the late 19th century. We hold virtually no archive collections for fee-paying schools, and it is best to contact the schools directly as many of them have their own arrangements. The main series of school records available:
- Log books are the Headteacher’s record of daily activities and can include information relating to staff appointments and sickness, pupil attendance figures, curriculum information and comments on school buildings. Occasionally they may refer to some pupils by name and almost always include useful information about the local area. In the 19th and early 20th century, the report of the HM Inspector was usually copied into the log book.
- Admission registers usually give dates of pupil’s entry and departure, often including reason for leaving, age and date of birth, name and address of parent/guardian. Most Derbyshire pre-1914 admission registers and log books can be found on Find My Past (subscription required).
- Minutes of the meetings of managers/governors/trustees, mainly relating to administration
Other records that might be found in a school archive collection include photographs, newscuttings, school magazines/newsletters, event programmes, a small number of schools rules and teaching schemes, some school scrapbooks and occasionally Inspection Reports.
Pupil cards are only held for a very small number of schools: Netherthorpe School at Staveley, Tapton House School, Chesterfield, William Rhodes Secondary School for Boys, Chesterfield, Violet Markham School, Chesterfield, Chesterfield Grammar School, St Mary’s Roman Catholic Secondary School, Chesterfield and Herbert Strutt School, Belper.
Finding the records
Lists of the archive collections for schools and colleges and universities can be found on our online catalogue. To find records for specific school, college, school board (or all those in a particular town), search the catalogue entering the word ‘school’ (or ‘school board’ or ‘college’, etc.) and the school/place name in the Archive Collection Creator field:
Other records relating to schools
- Parish archives for references to private and charitable educational foundations
- D335 for school plans submitted to central government for building grants in the 19th century and D2200 for plans created by the County Architect’s Department
- County Council’s School Organisation files (mostly for closed schools) are held under references D2080 and D5288, with other records from the county council’s Education department under reference DCC/ED, including a small number of Registers of Teaching and Caretaking Staff arranged by school are available between 1904 and 1946, along with some Pupil Teacher records 1904-1908
- OFSTED Inspection reports are held in Local Studies
- House of Commons report of 1841/2 on educational provision is also available in Local Studies (class: 370.94251, file).
A note about access
Under the Data Protection Act, records containing personal information less than 100 years old are not generally available for public consultation. Access to these records may be permitted if evidence is provided that the individual to whom the information relates is no longer living. In many cases, we may not be able to provide access to the full record in the search room, as other people mentioned in the records may still be alive. In these cases, our staff can undertake a search of the records on your behalf and provide relevant extracts from the record.
Records not held by the record office
- pupil records or personal files for individual pupils (excluding the pupil cards for schools mentioned above)
- examinations results and certificates – see the UK Government website for further advice about obtaining replacement certificates
- current school records.
- Marion Johnson (1970) Derbyshire Village Schools in the 19th century
- A. Clarke (1983) Finding out about Victorian Schools
- P. Horn (1978) Education in Rural England, 1800-1914
Appendix: Features of Victorian school education
- Class monitors: older school children who acted as teaching assistants
- Pupil-teacher system: introduced in 1846, 13-year old children were appointed as pupil teachers within schools. At the end of this time, they could progress to college to formally qualify
- ‘Payment by results’: from 1862 grant aid was linked to regular pupil attendance and performance in exams
- Standards: from 1862, pupils in elementary schools were divided into six standards according to age, ability and successful completion of annual exams.