Compulsory school attendance was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1880 under the Education Act. Before this, education was predominantly only available to those families that could afford it. Male family members attended private schools and females were schooled by governesses in their homes.
However, across the country, church and volunteer-staffed schools were available for poorer families. By 1870 there were around 350 of these charitable schools, also known as ‘ragged schools’, across the UK. Although free to attend, poor families couldn’t afford to lose the potential income children could earn working, and so many poor children were still denied education.