EDUCATION IN DARWEN

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In the seventeenth century there was little opportunity to gain an education  in Darwen, and what was available was linked to the church.  At that time, Darwen Chapel now known as St James, provided some education including reading, writing and arithmetic together with religious instruction.  The non-Conformists who opened Lower Chapel also provided similar opportunities, but for those who wanted an education they had to pay for the privilege whether Church of England or Non-Conformist.  There were opportunities for those who could afford it to send children to Blackburn Grammar School, but this was only open to boys.

This pattern of education continued throughout the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries.  Eventually, the churches began developing Sunday Schools which in turn led to the creation of Day Schools.  The first Sunday School to open in Darwen was the Wesleyan School on Water Street, opened in 1789.  The major period for the development of Schools  in Darwen took place during the 19th Century.  Some of these day schools were National Schools which promoted education  closely linked to the Church of England whilst others were state supported but non-denominational, known as British Schools.  Some education for older students was generated with the establishment of the Mechanics Institute in 1839, and many schools offered evening classes for young adults.

Education was not compulsory until the 1870s and even then school life lasted only until around the age of ten years old.  By 1901 the age at which a child could leave school and go to work was raised to 12, and many would be working part time in their final year.  Pupils had to obtain a Labour Certificate, issued by the Council before they could start work, but all this told the reader was that the pupil had attended school for a given number of times and was not less than a given age.  It was no guarantee of a level of education reached by that stage.

The first Higher Grade School in Darwen was the Borough School on William Street, but the demand for places was so great that this generated the creation of a much larger Higher Grade School in Union Street  in 1894 and this later became known as the Technical School.  When it first opened this was the Darwen Grammar School, and alongside academic studies it gave instruction in subjects such as Power Loom Operation.  This is where James Hargreaves Morton developed his skills as an artist.

The practice of half  time working in their final year was stopped after the end of the Great War and the school leaving age was raised to 14, and this continued until 1944 when the Butler Act raised the school leaving age to 15.  A further raising of the school leaving age to 16 came into force in 1973 and this is still in place today.

Many schools are now run by private organisations within the constraints of National Education Requirements, known as Academies and operating outside the control of Local Authorities.  These establishments are still inspected by OFSTED to ensure the quality of education being provided, and must follow the National Curriculum.