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Educational Opportunities for Girls Essay Sample

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Do you agree with the view that the education act of 1870 was a significant step forward in the educational opportunities for girls?

To a limited extent, I agree with the view that the education act of 1870 was a significant step forward in the educational opportunities for girls because they were given a compulsory education, whereas prior to the act, many girls did not attend school at all, formally or informally. All sources agree with this as they express that girls were now forced to attend school, although all sources imply that working class girls may be excused on certain days(wash days) I also agree that the education act was a significant step forward because the act meant that local authorities now had to build schools for girls aged 5-13. However, from my own knowledge, I know that these schools were over-populated and were too strict. Also, these schools only taught subjects like needle work and cookery, these schools were said to ‘train rather than educate’. I think that the education act of 1870 was a significant step forward in the educational opportunities for girls because the girls were now able to attend school whereas before the act, they had not.

Some girls from the upper class may have been given an education by a governess or by a member of their family, but children from middle and working class families could not afford an education or would be helping their mothers at home. Also the pauper children may have to work in the work houses. This is shown in source 17 on line 46 where it says ‘when young, they were kept at home to help raise younger siblings’ it also explicitly suggests that children were then sent into the domestic services as their parents could not live without the wage. Also, local authorities had to build schools for girls aged 5-13; this means that the government was taking education for girls seriously, as they built the schools ready for the girls to be educated. However, in source 18 (our only primary source) it implicitly suggests that if there were poor children that could not afford an education then the school board may have provided a school, that would be free of charge, but they did not have to build such a school.

There are a few similarities between the sources. A similarity between source 16 and 18 is that they both state that children of a lower class could be excused from compulsory education if they had a good reason. This is shown in source 16 on lines 41 and 42 where it says ‘girls would be frequently missing from school on washdays’ in source 18 it agrees with source 16 as it says ‘unless there is some reasonable excuse for attendance’ This means that working class girls may be excused from school if they have a reason. Another similarity is that source 17 implies that that the state was going to ‘fill the gaps in the provision supplied by the voluntary sector’ This is similar to source 18 were it says on line 50 ‘where there is an insufficient number of schools, a school board should be formed to set them up’ form this evidence, I know that the school boards tried hard to ‘fill in the gaps’ and create better, compulsory education for all children. From my own knowledge I know that the school boards comprised mainly of women as they were available to take part in such boards.

However, I disagree to some extent with the view that the education act of 1870 was a significant step forward in the educational opportunities for girls because from my own knowledge I know that Victorian England was greatly segregated into class systems. Working class girls did not benefit from the education act due to needing to help their mother’s at home or to go to work in the work houses. Most pauper families could not afford to lose a wage and therefore did not make their children attend school. Upper class girls were also unaffected by the educational act of 1870 due to not needing a public education as they could have been taught at home by a governess with other girls of the same class. However, middle class girls were the only class that were affected by the act and therefore had a better opportunity at an education. This is supported by source 17 as it explicitly suggests that the poorer families lost out when it came to educating young girls due to the fees. Therefore I do not believe that the education act of 1870 was a significant step forward for educational opportunities for girls because it only benefited middle class girls, when the population was largely made up of working class girls.

Source 18 is a primary source, this means that the source was written at the time the act was made (1870), it shows that children aged 5-13 may not attend school if there was a justifiable reason not to. There are a few differences between the sources. One difference is that source 17 suggests that the underlying importance of the education act was to fill in the gaps in the provision that was supplied by the voluntary sector, whereas source 16 implicitly suggests that the most important component of the education act was that it needed to be improved due to the limited curriculum.

Also, another difference is that sources 16 and 17 imply that children would often be missing from school on wash days; however in source 18 it suggests that the school board would make by-laws requiring the parents of the children aged 5-13 to attend school. This means that the education act made schooling compulsory and actions would be taken to ensure children attend school. To conclude, I agree with the view that the Education act of 1870 was a significant step forward in the educational opportunities for girls to a limited extent. I think that the act was relatively ineffective for girls if they weren’t middle class. I also think that other laws should have been passed that would positively affect the lives of working class girls. However, the act was a significant step forward for middle class girls as their parent’s did not need the extra wage and they could attend school on a regular basis and have a better education than before the act was passed.

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