Between 1851 and 1891 the census asked if children were scholars (later if they were at school – same thing). After this is must have been assumed that children were at school. The answers are interesting.

First graph shows the actual numbers of scholars in one year (1871) showing how the number at home (orange) decreases as the number of ‘scholars’ i.e. at school (blue), increases and then the number working (green) takes off – as young as 8 in this case.

Because the numbers actually fluctuate considerably (sample sizes are quite low) it is more instructive to look at percentages for each age range. This is done for each of the five available years below.

Between 1851 and 1871, around 40% of children under 14 attended school. This equates to about 70% of children between 6 and 12. Despite this a lot of children still were not attending school.

The 1870 education act required all children from 6 to 12 to attend school. Initially the effect in Seaton Ross was dramatic.

In 1881, the proportion of children aged 6-12 attending school hit 92%, but in 1891 this had fallen off to to 83%. Still impressive!

The most astonishing thing is the sheer number of children initially in a school in an old, thatched, single-storey building. Between 1851 and 1881 there were around a hundred children aged 2-16 in small buildings, being taught by only a couple of teachers with some assistance.

At least from 1858, a purpose-built school was built which was more suitable to accommodate the numbers. This picture is from the end of the 19th century.

sharing Seaton Ross's history