Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 11, 2017
Webpage updated: October 25, 2021




The earliest known reference to the possibility of education in Old Plymouth was in 1507, when a reference was uncovered by Mr R N Worth, the local antiquarian, to a school-master at what may have been a Chantry School attached to either Plympton Priory or the Anglican Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle.  It is possible, but unlikely, that this School evolved after the Reformation into the Corporation Grammar School, which was founded in 1561.

Two other Plymouth institutions that had schools attached to them were the Hospital of the Orphans' Aid, founded in 1615, and the Hospital of the Poor's Portion, founded in 1630.  In 1674 two charities combined to found the Hele and Lanyon School.

A large group of subscribers founded the Grey Coat School in 1713 while in 1764 the Dame Hannah Rogers' School was started.  The Batter Street Benevolent Institution was founded in 1785 by the Reverends Christopher and Herbert Mends from the Batter Street Presbyterian Chapel.  It only educated girls and operated purely by means of voluntary subscriptions, as it received no endowments or Government grants.  By the end of the century two more schools had opened, the Household of Faith and the Quaker School of Industry.

What was to become one of England's largest schools, and certainly the most well-known in Plymouth, the Plymouth Public Free Schools, were founded in 1809 although it was 1812 before it got its own premises in Cobourg  Street.  The privately owned Plymouth Subscription Classical and  Mathematical School was started in 1822.  It became known as the New Grammar School until it was amalgamated in 1866 into "old" grammar School, the Corporation Grammar School.

Although the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church was founded in 1811, it was not until after the School Sites Act of 1836 that the first National, or as sometimes, Parochial, School was founded in Plymouth.  Charles National Schools were that first ones, in 1838.  It was  followed, after the School Sites Act 1841, by Saint Andrew's Chapel National Schools in 1842; Holy Trinity National Schools in 1844; Christ Church National Schools (1849); Saint Peter's National School (1850); Saint Andrew's National Schools and Sutton-on-Plym National School for Boys (both 1861); Saint James the Less National Schools (1864); and finally the Sutton-on-Plym National School for Girls and Infants, in 1869.

During that same period were founded the Ragged Schools (1848); Moorfield School for Girls (circa 1850); the Saint Dunstan's Abbey School for Girls (1850); the Saint Boniface Roman Catholic College for Boys (1851); the Mannamead School (1854); the Gunnerside School for Girls (1860); the Saint Boniface Roman Catholic School for Girls and Infants (1862); the Plymouth School of Navigation (1862); the George Street Day School (1865), which was attached to the George Street Baptist Chapel; the Hoe Grammar School (1867); the Jacob Nathan Hebrew School (1867); and the completion of the Notre Dame Roman Catholic School for Girls in 1868.

The biggest step in Education in Old Plymouth came on August 9th 1870, when "An Act to provide for public elementary education in England and Wales" was given the Royal Assent and gave birth to education for all via the Plymouth School Board.

Plymouth High School for Girls was founded in 1874 by the Devon and Cornwall Girls' School Company.

By the Elementary Education Act 1880, from January 1st 1881, attendance at an elementary school became compulsory until the pupil reached their tenth birthday.

Mr H J Waring the Mayor of Plymouth, assisted by Mr T Bulteel, laid the foundation stone of what then known as the Victoria Memorial Science, Art and Technical School on September 30th 1889.

On September 1st 1891 elementary education became free of charge (Elementary Education Act 1891). 

What then became known as the Plymouth Municipal Science, Art and Technical School was completed in September 1892 and officially opened at a civic ceremony on October 7th that year.

The school-leaving age was raised to the eleventh birthday by the Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act 1893 and to the twelfth birthday by the Elementary Education (School Attendance) (Amendment) Act 1899.

Responsibility for the administration of the education laws locally was transferred from the Schools Boards to the Local Education Authorities in accordance with the Education Act 1902.  Plymouth Borough Council, as the Local Education Authority, adopted the Act on April 1st 1903, when the Town's schools were transferred in to its care.

On Thursday December 18th 1902 the Royal Assent was given to the Education Act 1902.  This transferred the management of the education system from the Plymouth School Board to the local education authority, which was actually a Committee of the Borough of Plymouth Council.  At the request of the Board of Education the Plymouth School Board remained in post until April 30th 1903.  The Board held its last meeting on Thursday March 27th 1903.

Thus the Plymouth Local Education Authority (PLEA) came into existence on Friday May 1st 1903.

On and as from November 9th 1914 the Borough of Devonport and the Urban District of East Stonehouse were amalgamated with the Borough of Plymouth to form a sort-of Greater Plymouth.  The Plymouth Local Education Authority now become responsible for education, displacing the Devonport Local Education Authority and the Devon County Local Education Authority.  As a result the Devonport Municipal Science, Art and Technical School and Plymouth Municipal Science, Art and Technical School combined.

The Education Act 1918 raised the school-leaving age to the fourteenth birthday.

On Saturday May 1st 1926 the Plymouth and Devonport Municipal Science, Art and Technical School became the Plymouth and Devonport Technical College.

In 1947 the Education Act 1944 raised the school leaving age to the fifteenth birthday and created Primary schools for the 5 to 11 years olds and Secondary Modern, Grammar and Technical Schools for thereafter.  In 1962 the Plymouth Technical College became the Plymouth College of Technology.  As from September 1st 1972 the age was the sixteenth birthday, but subject to rules that governed the final date of attending school after that birthday.

On January 1st 1970 the Plymouth College of Technology became the Plymouth Polytechnic.

The Plymouth Polytechnic became part of the Polytechnic South West in 1989.

Polytechnic South West became the University of Plymouth in 1992.



IMPORTANT NOTE:  This is NOT the current legal situation in 2021.