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The Coxhoe School Board

Until the Education Act of 1870 school attendance was voluntary.  In the early 19th century schooling was provided by various religious bodies as well as in dame schools and in adventure schools which were schools provided by industrialists.

From 1833 government grants were paid to the existing religious foundations which mostly belonged to the Church of England and the British and Foreign Schools Society.  However attendance was sporadic often only on Sundays or in the evenings.  Where education had been a philanthropic undertaking efforts were made to extend provision for all.  Factory and Mines Acts controlled the employment of very young children, although in the Durham coalfield it was common for boys of eight years to be employed as trappers in the mines.

The 1867 Reform Act extended the franchise and helped to ease more acts of social welfare through Parliament.
By the 1870 Act introduced by William Foster England was divided into districts which each had regional School Boards designed to provide elementary education for every child within its region.  One such Board was the Coxhoe School Board.

Bearing in mind that before 1840 Coxhoe was a hamlet of less than 150 population, the work of providing education for a future skilled work force was very important.  Although ignorance and poverty were excuses given for non-attendance at school, there is evidence that provision had been made.

However following the Act:-

The Inspector’s Report, dated 13th February 1872,stated that the population was 3,749 of whom 3,375 were of the class requiring elementary education.  On the ratio of 1:5 this meant that accommodation was required for 675.  The population was principally situated at two main centres some mile and a half apart i.e. Coxhoe, where there were 395 children needing accommodation and East Hetton where the number was 280.  There was only one efficient school, which had just been placed on the annual grant list, Coxhoe National School for 180 children (opened in 1871), and the two that were not recognised, Coxhoe Temperance Hall British School for 70 and Coxhoe Primitive Methodist School for 114.  (there was no separate provision for Catholics).  There was no school at East Hetton deserving mention.

When the first notice arrived, the position had not improved. But the final notice shows that an effort was made by the voluntary societies, but there was still a deficiency in both areas.  It was intended that a financial contribution from Garmondsway Moor be made to the Kelloe National School which was to be enlarged to cater for children from this area.  However this was not forthcoming and by 1875 the provision was still:-

Coxhoe National School:- 180 children
Coxhoe  Primitive Methodist School:- 109 children

 making a total of 289 children.

The deficiency was still not met and the Committee approved the site belonging to the East Hetton Coal Company.  Plans for an iron school on this site were accepted in September 1876 and arrangements were completed for building to start in  December.

In March 1877 the managers of the Temperance Hall School in Coxhoe asked if the Board would contribute to the repairs of the school, pointing out that this would obviate the necessity of building a new school in Coxhoe (i.e. area controlled by the Board) but the Board replied that they had no power to do this.

However this school was brought up to standard without this help and appeared on the annual grant list in 1878, but the services of a certificated teacher could not be retained, and it was permanently removed the following year.

Before the building commenced at East Hetton,  a protracted controversy arose concerning the mineral rights of the site, the transaction for which had not been completed.  The dispute continued for over a year, by which time the Coxhoe Colliery had stopped working and the population dropped considerably (the 1881 figure was 2455).  The education provision was considered adequate for the reduced numbers and the Board’s functions were confined to those of a school attendance committee.  A part time attendance and enquiry officer was appointed at £5 per annum and parents of children whose attendance was not satisfactory were interviewed.  Several owners of small adventure schools in the district were also informed that their premises were insanitary and should be improved.

The population slowly drifted back (with the opening of new mines) and in January 1882, following a census of the district, the Board was informed that an Infants School was required at East Hetton.  The Welsh Chapel was taken over, with the Department’s approval, and converted at an expense of £92 borrowed from the Public Works Committee to accommodate 71 children.  The school opened in January 1883 in the charge of a female teacher whose salary was £50 per annum.  The fees paid by the children were 2d per weekIn 1885 the National School (i.e. in Coxhoe) was enlarged to 290, and in the same year, after considerable pressure from the department, the Board once again began to search for a site for the  East Hetton Board School.  This time things moved smoothly, although slowly, the Board making sure that the site was actually purchased before proceeding further.  A member of the Board who was an amateur architect drew up the plans, but they were rejected, the Department insisting on a professional being employed.  This was done and building began in March 1887 for a school of 306 at a total cost of £1,700 borrowed from the public works.  1887 was Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year, and a memorial stone in the west elevation was inscribed commemorating the fact.  A plain stone laid ten years earlier would have better served the purpose.  The school opened in February 1888 under a headmaster at a salary of £75 per annum plus one quarter of the government grant, together with the mistress from the old Infants School which was shut.  Further staff were appointed soon afterwards to deal with the great increase in numbers.  The fees were 2d a week for those children under seven years, 3d for Standards I, II and III, and 4d for those above.  The teaching of scripture was forbidden but each day opened with a hymn and the Lord’s Prayer.


By 1890 the teacher pupil ratio was as high as 1:66, and the cost of education per child was £1.4 per annum.

In 1891 the fee grant was accepted and all fees abolished.  In the same year the Primitive Methodist School in Coxhoe was closed with a resulting deficiency in accommodation which was met by an enlargement of the East Hetton School to 406 at a cost of £500.  The National School at Coxhoe was enlarged three years later to 410.  In the remaining period improvement continued.  Pianos were obtained, sliding partitions installed and water taps for drinking purposes were fixed.

By 1901 the total population was 3,278 and the pupil teacher ratio was 1:49. 

In 1902 provision was:   

Coxhoe National School:- 410
East Hetton Board School:- 406

Considering that provision was aimed in the ratio of 1:5, this was very favourable.

Following the Boer War a new focus was aimed to provide for older children and a new Education Act was passed in 1902, by which time elementary education was firmly established under the Coxhoe School Board in Coxhoe and East Hetton.

*type in bold denotes material from various P.R.O. Education documents.

Schhol Photo 1910

Photograph of children at Coxhoe National School c1910

Census 1851

The extracts from the 1851 Census above and below show teachers residing in Coxhoe and Kelloe. 

At this time education for the working classes was in chapel school rooms or local houses

census record



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