International British
Online School

International British Online School

Providing an outstanding, traditional education online from the heart of London

History of British Education


History of British Education

The History of a traditional British Education

At iBOS, we pride ourselves on the fact that we teach our students the British curriculum, therefore equipping them with the skills and knowledge to attend well-renowned universities.
Please see below as we go through the timeline of key events within education.

567: St Augustine founded the Kings School, Canterbury and later in 604 King’s School, Rochester. He established two types of school: Grammar schools for teaching Latin and cathedral schools for church choirs.

Latin was the language of law, diplomacy, and trade.

Education at this time as also limited to male nobles and gentry.

1150: “Free” Grammar schools appeared, that were exempt from church control and were allowed the freedom to teach other subjects.

1392: Winchester College was established, following the decimation of priesthood as a result of the Black Death. Winchester became the feeder school for New College, Oxford.

Universities were new, independent learning institutions, free from church control.

1440: Eton College was founded, endowed by King Edward VI. They followed in Winchester’s footsteps by being an institution free from church, linked to universities, all its pupils were boarders, it had a prefectorial system of control, as well being wealthy.

1509: Henry VII came to the throne and dissolved the monasteries resulting in the foundation of Grammar Schools as joint Church/State establishments. Therefore, throughout and beyond his reign the number of grammar schools increased from 400 to 2000.

Grammar schools were still predominantly male. Girls education was limited to Bible reading and housework.

1802: As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the population doubled, and many people moved to industrial cities and child labour was prominent. Therefore, laws were passed requiring apprentices and children to receive some basic maths and English lessons.

1811: The National Society was established aiming to set up a National school in every English and Welsh parish.

From 1816-1885 access to elementary education rose from 58% to 83%.

1840: Grammar Schools Act was passed, beginning the active state intervention in the history of education. It also made it lawful that grammar schools could teach more subjects, not just classical languages.

1868: Taunton Report. This influenced educational policy for nearly 100 years. It divided families into grades: gentry, middle, and working class. This determined different standards of education, as well as the age children were in school.

1868: Public Schools Act, this led to the reconstitution of Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester independent schools; due to a prior decline in standards.

1870: The Forster Act. The government mandated and made law the provision of elementary education for boys and girls aged 5-13 and attendance was compulsory.

1902: The Balfour Education Act.  This established the Local Education Authorities, giving them the ability to raise local taxes to fund schools (except Church schools). It also led to the creation of 1000 new county secondary schools (including 349 girl’s schools).

1944: The Butler Act. In the spirit post war and the subsequent desire for social reform, state education became free for all children. It also created separate primary (5-11) and secondary (11-15).

The School Health Service was also established, requiring the provision of school meals.

1951: National exams were introduced, GCSEs (they were called “O” levels) and “A” Levels.

1988: The Baker Act introduced a compulsory curriculum consisting of 14 subjects, the state now had control of the curriculum instead of teachers.

1992: The Education Schools Act established Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education), this ensured compliance of school standards.

2001: New AS levels are introduced.

2011: The Academies Act becomes law,

2015: The Education and Adoption Bill is published.

2015:  A new AS and A Level system was introduced, included the decoupling of AS levels resulting in AS results no longer counting towards an A-Level. Assessment is mainly conducted by an exam.

2015: GCSEs are reformed, the British government decided that students needed more differentiation therefore instead of a traditional grading system A*-E, a new grading system of 9-1 will be used. Courses will now require two years of studying and assessed mainly by an exam instead of coursework.

2020: The COVID-19 pandemic forces conventional schools throughout the world to accept online learning as the sole medium for educating students, whilst keeping them and their teachers safe at home.


Gillard D (2011) Education in England: a brief history
David Turner (2015) The Old Boys: the decline and rise of the public school
Leach AF (1915) The Schools of Medieval England