Tudor Education

Education changed greatly during the Tudor era.

In early Tudor times, there were many Monastery schools, but following Henry VIII’s break from the Catholic church many of these schools were closed.

When some reopened or were newly formed, they were only available to fee-paying families and were extremely expensive.

During the reign of Edward VI, non-fee-paying schools were set up.

Wealthy

Boys as young as four may be taught the basics of reading and writing at a ‘Petty School’, however it was at the age of seven that formal education started.

Some wealthy and nobility families still chose to hire a tutor to teach their sons at home, however many went to school.

At seven, many boys were sent to Grammar Schools to be educated. These were harsh places with brutal punishment, long days and hard work.

Schools ran six days each week with few holidays during the year. In the summer months, the school day started at 6am and in winter at 7am, and the day always ended at 5pm.

Boys were taught with a Hornbook (a sheet of paper showing the alphabet and the Lord’s Prayer, mounted on a wooden tablet and protected by a thin transparent layer of horn) and a quill pen.

The education consisted of both reading and writing Latin, Greek, religion and mathematics.

If boys did not behave, made mistakes or did not learn quickly enough, then harsh punishments would be made by the birch (a type of cane or stick) with as many as fifty lashes from the birch being given.

If the boy was from a royal or extremely wealthy household, they would have a ‘Whipping Boy’ (another child employed to take the punishment for them), so as badly behaved as they were, they did not themselves suffer any punishment.

At around the age of fourteen, some boys attended University although there was only two in England at that time, Oxford and Cambridge.

Many girls from wealthy families were still educated along the same lines as the sons, although they were taught by tutors in the home, and not sent to school. They were taught to read and write Latin, speak many languages, play musical instruments and dance, ride and hunt, along with the usual sewing and embroidery.

Poor

Some middle class and poorer children still attended ‘Petty schools’, but as the school day was much shorter than Grammar schools, the children were still able to work.

Some could only attend Sunday schools for a very basic education, and many did not receive an education at all.

Any education outside the home was for sons of the family, with the majority of daughters not even being able to read or write.

Many boys became apprentices to their fathers at around the age of seven, learning their trade. If the father did not have a trade, the son was often moved to another household and became a servant.

Any education that daughters received, was given by the mother and consisted of duties to manage a successful household including cooking, cleaning, farming and sewing.

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