Taunton Report (1868)

1868 Taunton Report (Vol. I) (text)

Appendices I-VIII (pdf)

Taunton Report (1868)
Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission
Volume I

London: HM Stationery Office

Background notes

Historical context

The Schools Inquiry Commission was the last of three Commissions appointed by the government between 1858 and 1864 to examine education in England and Wales and to make recommendations. Each dealt with the education of a particular social class:

The Schools Inquiry Commission was chaired by Lord Taunton (1798-1869) (pictured, from the painting by Charles Baugniet), a prominent Whig/Liberal politician of the mid-nineteenth century. It is therefore sometimes referred to as the Taunton Commission and its report as the Taunton Report.

The Commission published twenty volumes (of which Volume I is presented here):

I Report of the Commissioners with Appendix of Tables etc
II Miscellaneous (correspondence, analysis of evidence etc)
III Answers to the Commissioners' Questions
IV Evidence (1865)
V Evidence (1866)

Volumes VI-IX Assistant Commissioners' General Reports:

VI Scottish Burgh Schools and Foreign Countries
VII England - Southern Counties
VIII England - Midland Counties and Northumberland
IX England - Northern Counties

Volumes X-XX Special Reports on Grammar Schools:

X London
XI South-Eastern Counties
XII South Midland Counties
XIII Eastern Counties
XIV South-Western Counties
XV West Midland Counties
XVI North Midland Counties
XVII North-Western Counties
XVIII Yorkshire
XIX Northern Counties
XX Monmouthshire and Wales

A map of England was also published in a separate folio volume.

The Report's recommendations

The Commission's recommendations are listed in Chapter VII (pages 571-661).

The Commissioners recommended the establishment of a national system of secondary education based on the existing endowed schools. Their report clearly illustrated the accepted class divisions in English society at the time. It envisaged three grades of secondary education in separate schools:

  • first-grade schools with a leaving age of 18 or 19 would provide a 'liberal education' - including Latin and Greek - to prepare upper and upper-middle class boys for the universities and the older professions;
  • second-grade schools with a leaving age of 16 or 17 would teach two modern languages besides Latin to prepare middle class boys for the army, the newer professions and departments of the Civil Service; and
  • third-grade schools with a leaving age of 14 or 15 would teach the elements of French and Latin to lower middle class boys, who would be expected to become 'small tenant farmers, small tradesmen, and superior artisans'. (The Commissioners treated these schools as secondary schools because the Elementary School Code of 1860 had fixed the leaving age for elementary schools at 12).
Movement up a grade might be possible for a few, and if links could be established between third grade secondary schools and elementary schools, some sons of labourers might be able to go on to secondary education.

The Commissioners argued that no curriculum could be complete without natural science, and they recommended that a start should be made with the outlines of physical geography, which 'requires no apparatus but good maps' (page 35).

The Commissioners were also profoundly concerned about the provision of education for girls - there were only thirteen girls' secondary schools in the whole of England - and they dealt with the matter in Chapter VI (pages 546-570). They were not impressed by what they found: 'It cannot be denied that the picture brought before us of the state of Middle Class Female Education is, on the whole, unfavourable' (page 548).

Want of thoroughness and foundation; want of system; slovenliness and showy superficiality; inattention to rudiments; undue time given to accomplishments, and those not taught intelligently or in any scientific manner; want of organisation - these may sufficiently indicate the character of the complaints we have received, in their most general aspect (pages 548-9).

The report online

Volume I is presented here in two parts: the Preliminary pages and the Report itself are presented in a single web page; the Appendices in a pdf file.

In the Report itself, I have corrected a handful of typing errors and simplified some of the punctuation. I have not, however, attempted to remove the many unnecessary commas. Anything I have added by way of explanation is shown [in square brackets].

Where sums of money are mentioned I have replaced the archaic l with . In some cases, guineas are referred to: a guinea was worth 21s (1.05).

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 14 September 2018.