National Schools in the 19th Century

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Kildare Place Society

If you were a child in the early nineteenth century you were not able to go to a national school paid for by the government because they did not exist until the 1830's. Large numbers of children still went to school in the 1800's but in most cases they had to pay to attend.

It has been estimated that in 1824 there were 11,000 schools in Ireland with a total of about 500,000 children attending them. Most were hedge schools or paying schools of some sort. The Kildare Place Society which received large grants from the government, as well as some charitable donations, is estimated to have had about 140,000 children in its 1,621 schools in 1831. Even more children went to pay type schools such as hedge schools at this time.

Kildare Place Society - Main Offices.
Courtesy of

The Kildare Place Society, also known as The Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in Ireland, had offices and a model school in Kildare Place in Dublin which you see in the picture above. The society trained teachers and gave grants towards Kildare Place Schools and towards teachers' salaries in the time before they were national schools in Ireland. It also produced school textbooks.

The image below shows schools aided by the Kildare Place Society on the Erris Peninsula, County Mayo.

..........................................................Erris Peninsula Mayo 1820

It is estimated that by the 1830's about 300,000-400,000 children were attending schools paid for by their parents. Many of these were originally hedge schools but they had now moved into small buildings as they were no longer illegal.

National Schools in the 19th Century

In 1831 primary education came to Ireland. This meant that children no longer had to attend fee paying schools or charity schools. Instead they could attend a local primary school. A National Board of Education was set up and a national system of primary schools began in Ireland. The government gave a grant which paid for almost all of the building costs of new national schools as well as the salaries of the teachers. Any area that wanted a school had to apply for a grant to build it.

Show me what schools were like!

What were the first national schools like? Read on to see examples of the design of old school buildings.