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The church has a long tradition of providing education in England. The earliest known schools date from the late sixth century and were attached to cathedrals and monasteries to train priests and monks. They also included song schools to train boys for the choirs.
Religious organisations were some of the first to provide education for children of the poor, as were wealthy merchants who endowed grammar schools. Many were founded in the reign of King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I.
Among the religious foundations, the first non fee-charging Jewish school was established in 1732. Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker who was concerned that the poorer classes were missing out on education, established The Royal Lancastrian Society in 1808 (which changed its name to the British and Foreign School Society in 1814) to provide schools for the poor. The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales was founded in 1811; its aim was to have a school in every parish in England and Wales.
The Catholic Church established the Catholic Poor School Committee in the 1840s to provide education for the Catholic poor while the first Wesleyan schools were founded in the 1830s. Other churches, where there was local enthusiasm, sought to provide schools for their own children.
Before the Education Act 1944, voluntary schools were those associated with a foundation, usually a religious group. The Act introduced two categories of maintained voluntary school:
At the time, most Roman Catholic schools opted to be VA, while more than half of Church of England schools became VC.
Today, most VA and VC schools and some trust schools (foundation schools with a foundation) are faith schools. Faith schools is the common term used for schools designated with a religious character.
All Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim schools are VA (except one which is a Catholic foundation school) while Church of England and Methodists have a mix of VC and VA.
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Guide to the law for school governors
Access to the login page of the Edubase system, which contains details of all educational establishments in England and Wales.