Socio-economic factors and the schooling of working-class children aged seven and under in seven areas of North London, 1800-1851
In the 1850s publicly-aided schools for infants co-existed with private working-class schools, some of which also catered for very young children. During the first half of the nineteenth century parents of infant-aged children could decide whether or not to send their child to school; if they opted for schooling they might then have had to make decisions about the type of school to use. This investigation set out to establish whether working-class parents' decisions regarding the schooling of their very young children were influenced by a range of socio-economic factors, and whether parents with certain life-styles were more favourably disposed towards the public infant schools than towards the much maligned private working-class schools. This investigation examined the school attendance of infants in relation to a range of socio-economic factors, which included parental occupation, whether or not the mother was at work, the employment and schooling patterns of older children in the family, the parents' religion and country of birth, the size of the family and the ages of the children concerned. The autonomy and independence of members of the working-class was acknowledged throughout the study by emphasising the parents' role in determining the pattern of their children's education. Seven small areas of North London were chosen for in-depth analysis. The areas differed in terms of their social make-up and the availability of schooling facilities. The 1851 census enumerators' returns were used in order to recreate a picture of school attendance in the survey area, and school attendance was analysed in relation to the socio-economic profiles of the families. The study concludes with a summary of the findings and a comparison between the school attendance patterns in the seven areas.