Trade Schools in England

Trade Schools in England

As mentioned in the history of technical education there were a number of separate developments in technical and commercial education provision and the focus for this pen portrait will be on a few examples of trade or similar schools. As the apprenticeships declined in the late 1800s/early 1900s the trade schools attempted to provide an alternative and in some cases provided a pre-apprenticeship programme as an entry to the existing apprenticeships. They provided instruction in the manual skills and trades to young people leaving elementary schools. The majority of the trade schools were in London but the general descriptions will illustrate the overall organisation of these institutions. There were basically three kinds of school in the London area namely:

Trade Schools for Girls, Technical Day Schools for boys and Preparatory Trade Schools for Boys.

Most operated the same entry requirements and timetable profiles. All the Institutes’ had advisory committees with members drawn from the specific trades. Committee members examined the work, advised the Governors where appropriate and helped to place the students in the workplace.

Trade Schools for Girls:

Day Trade School at Borough Polytechnic, London.

The first Trade School for Girls founded in 1904 with 11 students in London teaching dressmaking, waistcoat-making and upholstery. In addition other supporting subjects specific to the student included practical arithmetic, design, geometrical drawing and were taught along with English and physical education. Students were given a thorough introduction to the specific skilled craft whilst continuing their general education in order to develop after two or three years of work placed experience into a competent worker. Approximately twenty-two hours per week involved the trade subject. Admission was usually through an industrial scholarship awarded by the London County Council (LCC) and candidates must have attained at least Standard VI of the elementary day school. Students had to be between 14 and 16 years of age. The scholarships offered free instruction and a maintenance grant of £8 for the first year which rose to £12 for the second year. Non- scholarship candidates must have passed Standard VII of the elementary day school and had to pay 9d (5p) per week or 10s (50p) per term.

Day Trade School at Woolwich Polytechnic, London.

Opened in April 1907 and taught dressmaking and the profile of instruction included:



Hours per week







Geometrical drawing


Design and Art Needlework


Physical education




Emphasis was given throughout the course to the suitability of materials, calculations of cost and quantities, colour coordination and sizing garments to customer requirements. All the teachers were experienced and practising professionals.

The admission policy was the same as the Day Trade School at Borough Polytechnic but a number of free places were available which were granted by the governors.

Day Trade School of Dressmaking at Paddington Institute (LCC).

The primary aim of the Day Trade School was to offer girls leaving elementary school an alternative to an apprenticeship in dressmaking. Approximately two and half days were devoted to trade instruction whilst the rest of the week was aimed at providing a general education with special reference to dressmaking. A typical subject profile was:

English literature and composition.

Vocal expression.

Arithmetic and bookkeeping.




Domestic economy.

Physical education.

The programme was usually two years in duration with a three month probationary period. The age was for 14 to 16 year olds with opportunities for other students to enter subject to a fee of 10s (50p) per term or £1.50 per year. Similar entry criteria were in place as with the Polytechnic mentioned above.

Day Trade School for Girls at the Shoreditch Technical Institute (LCC).

Opened in 1906 with the objective of offering industrial training to girls leaving elementary school and an alternative to apprenticeships. The trade subject focused on designing and making ready-made rather than customised clothing and upholstery. 50% of the week was dedicated to the trade the student had chosen and the other half on general education which included English composition, arithmetic, design, freehand and geometrical drawing, some domestic subjects and physical education. Courses lasted two years and entry was similar to the Paddington Institute. Again supervision conducted by a Consultative Committee of experts.

Preparatory Trade School for Girls at the Cockburn High School, Leeds.

Opened in February 1906 to provide a very practically focused training programme designed to replace the then disappearing apprenticeship programmes. One priority was to engage with employers and link the school and workplace as much as possible. The school was more general in its approach than the London Trade Schools. Approximately 15 hours a week were given to practical work and the remaining to business methods, drafting, drawing, design, hygiene, additional elements of housewifery and general education. The primary objective was to adapt the course to the specific needs of the girls and depending on their occupational aspirations. The Trade School worked closely with the School of Housecraft situated at the Cockburn High School and this relationship provided greater opportunities to the girls. The course was usually a yearlong with a termly fee of 7 shillings. Girls were admitted from the age of 14 but a number of 13 year olds were also admitted who had gained or could receive a labour certificate.

Domestic Science School for Girls Liverpool:

Opened in 1896 and was a result of work of the Liverpool Training School of Cookery and Technical College of Domestic Science. The focus of the school was to provide grounding in the trades and skills required by elementary school leavers before entering different domestic occupations. Course duration was twenty weeks and instruction was given in cookery. housewifery, hygiene, laundry work and sewing. The school could accommodate 70 pupils and was open from 9.30 to 4.00 each day except Saturday. There were five classes for practical work with a maximum of 15 girls per class. Some subjects were offered on a rotating one week basis and the cycle was repeated four times in a session. Interestingly the school was actually based in a house which was lived in and used. The Principal and four teachers were resident and the girls performed all the regular duties. The girls were also required to plan, purchase and manage for a small house hold. In dressmaking each girl was measured for her own pattern and then made the garment for herself. The practical work was carried out each morning and the afternoon demonstrations were given on the principles of skills involved in the various trades.

A fee of 1 shilling (5p) was charged to girls from the elementary schools; others paid 2 shillings and sixpence (12.5p). Liverpool City Council gave a grant on the understanding that a certain number of girls from elementary schools would be enrolled. The usual age of entry was between 14 and 15 and none were eligible over 18 years of age.

The Domestic Economy School, Dallington, Northamptonshire.

Opened in 1896 by the Northamptonshire County Council the Domestic Economy School at Dallington aimed to provide a thorough training in the skills and trades of domestic services with a special focus on the economic use of materials and time. The accommodation comprised a residential school set in two acres of land with gardens including a flower bed, lawns and vegetable plots, a house and paddock. The girls were expected to carry out all duties expected in such a domestic complex – no servants were employed. The school catered for 30 girls all who had attended elementary schools and entered at 14; all boarding and meals were provided free. Initially the course was to last six months but it was decided that this was not long enough and in 1899 it was extended to eight months. Two school entries were operated every four months and the girls were paired into ‘old’ and ‘new’ girls.

The timetable over the thirty-four weeks was as follows:

Kitchen and scullery work 9 weeks, Laundry 9 weeks, Housework (upstairs) 9 weeks and Housework (downstairs) 7 weeks.

Instruction was also given in bed-making, cooking, dressmaking, ironing, house-cleaning, lighting, mending and sewing. Instruction in basis first aid was also given.

Special Schools for Engineering and Trade Schools for Boys:

Technical Day School, Paddington Technical Institute, London.

Opened in September 1906 to provide a course of scientific and technical training prior to entry into the engineering and building trades. Boys leaving Higher Elementary and Secondary Schools were eligible who wanted employment as foremen and managers. The training was not meant to replace apprenticeship training or workshop experience. Entry was at 14 years of age and required a recommendation from the head teacher of the previous secondary school or by examination for elementary school pupils. Course lasted two years and focussed on the particular industry the boys wished to enter. The curriculum comprised instruction on workshop practice, use of tools and drawing office methods. Curricula also included Applied Mechanics, Business methods, Chemistry, Commercial Correspondence, English Composition, Mathematics and Physics. School opened between 9.30 and 12.30 and 2 to 5 p.m. on five days a week and operated a three term year.

The fee was 15 shillings (75p) per term or £2 and 5 shillings (£2.25p) a year. In addition the County Council offered a number of scholarships for 14 to 16 year olds and provided free tuition and a maintenance grant of £10 and £15 for the first and second years respectively.

Day Technical Classes at the LCC Central School of Arts and Crafts, Regent Street, London.

Established in September 1906 provided preliminary training in silver smithing and allied trades. Number of pupils 20 and the annual fee was £1.50p with ten County Council studentships.

Technical Day School for Boys at the Shoreditch Technical Institute (LCC).

Opened in January 1902 with the objective of training boys to enter furniture or other wood-working trades e.g. cabinet-making, carpenters, draughtsmen, pattern-makers, wood-carvers and turners. In addition to the specialist subject general education was continued with subjects that included Arithmetic and Mensuration, Drawing Freehand and Model, English Composition, Geography, Geometry and Geometrical Drawing, History, Modelling in Clay. Classes were also held in experimental science (theory and practical), workshop practice, technology of materials and use of tools and extensive bench work. Special emphasis was given to acquiring knowledge of the artistic principles of design and the scientific and technological principles of the disciplines. The instruction was as follows:

Subject 1st Year 2nd Year 3rd Year
English 4.5 3.0 1.5
Art Drawing and Modelling 6.0 4.5 3.0
Mathematics 6.0 4.5 3.0
Science and Technical Subjects 6.0 4.5 4.5
Workshop and Drawing Office 7.5 15.0* 19.5

Key: * Six hours metal work

Entry levels were set at Standard VII of elementary schools for boys of 14 years of age and 25 scholarships were available for younger boys. Scholarships awarded on examination results and were available for two or three years. Course duration was for two or three years. The fee was £1. 10 shillings (£1.50p).

Technical day School for Boys at the Borough Polytechnic Institute.

The Technical Day School for Boys located at the Borough polytechnic was opened in 1897 and re-organised in 1906 to provide trade training. Instruction in a wide range of trades was offered including a number of branches in engineering, various metal trades, bakery, book-binding, chemical technologies, confectionery and tailoring. Entry was at 12 years of age with V1 th. Standard of an elementary school and the entrants needed to exhibit a commitment to a specific trade. Course duration was 3 years with an opportunity for a one year extension.

The curriculum included: English subjects, practical mathematics, freehand and model drawing, mechanical and engineering drawing, mechanics, physics and chemistry, wood and metal working, one foreign language (French or German) and physical education. A typical profile of hours spent over the three years is given below:


1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Mathematics (incl. mensuration and geometry) 5 4 4.5
English incl. Special lectures and visits to museums and works. 6 3 3
Science (Chemistry and Physics) 4 4.5 6
Drawing (Freehand, Engineering and Model) 4 5 5
Art 2 1.5
Foreign Language (French or German) 3 3
Workshop Instruction 5 5 7.5
Physical Education 1.5 1.5 1
Totals: 27.5 27.5 30.0

The first year was common for all the students and in the second year they were organised depending on the boy’s chosen trade but no specialisation was allowed until the third year, the second year being a more general introduction particularly in the workshop to the trade. The optional fourth year was aimed at students who possessed a greater aptitude and wanted an extended period of more specialised training and showed special aptitude.

The LCC awarded 25 scholarships tenable for three years to thirteen year olds which allowed free tuition and maintenance. There were also Free Tuition Scholarships and scholarships provided from other sources giving free training along with £8 for the second year and £11 for the third year.

The fee for the other students was £1 per tern or £3 for a year. Again an Advisory Committee monitored the school’s progress and formed a link with local industries helping the boys to gain employment when completing the course.

The Stanley Technical Trade School:

Opened in March 1907 in South Norwood, London by W. F. Stanley who founded a successful optical and scientific instrument company. Stanley financed the setting up of the school and initially played a major role in defining its purpose. The main objective was to teach the elements of mechanics, science and applied art and manual skills and dexterity using workshop practice before entering apprenticeship programmes. The school was overseen by a board of governors with a membership of the Major of the Borough and people interested in technical education. School was open for boys between 12 and 13 with a four monthly entry for 50 with a maximum of 400 boys. Entry criteria included a proven commitment and experience in mechanical and artistic ability and a preference was given in some cases to sons of mechanics. Subjects taught included a wide range of instruction and techniques associated with wood and metal e.g. casting, electro-deposition, fitting, soldering, turning with extra tuition on carving, design, drawing, engraving, modelling, painting and printing. Half the week was devoted to practical work and the remaining half to general education. The instructors were experienced mechanics e.g. engineers, joiners and the general instruction given by qualified teachers.

The fee was 1 shilling (5p) a week for the first year then free for the second and third years. At the opening of the school Stanley suggested one way of covering the costs of the practical instruction was to make boxes of bricks, models of trucks and cranes and other toys to compete with those that were at the time being imported from Germany. He also suggested that the manufacture could be by recycling material from his own factory.

Other similar schools were established in other parts of the country e.g. Gloucestershire.

The school later became a Junior Technical School (JTS) – see the biography on this website.

The day Prepararatory Trade School for boys at the Cockburn High School, Leeds.

Opened in 1906 for boys wishing to become engineers. Again the training was meant to compensate for the disappearance of the then traditional apprenticeship. Entry was by labour certificate and for boys aged 13 or 14. The course lasted one year and strict regulations were in force to make certain the boys were still committed to the course and their intended occupation in engineering. Workshop practice, drawing, office work and practical mechanics occupied fifteen hours and another five hours for applied and workshop calculations and mathematics. Tutors and instructors were qualified and experienced practitors of engineering. The fee was 7 shillings (35p) a term. Equipment, books and stationery were provided free but other items e.g. for homework i.e. drawing apparatus etc were bought be parents. One pleasing aspect of the school was the involvement and support from local employers and that the boys easily found employment in the Leeds area.

The Holbeck Day Preparatory School Trade School, Leeds.

Opened in February 1906 and offering a two year course for boys wishing to enter the engineering trades. Aim was to develop manual dexterity skills and continue his general education.

The profile of instruction for the first year was:


Hours per week

Practical mathematics




Technical drawing


Metal work


Wood work




Physical education/Drill




In addition visits to local companies and works were organised.

The second year followed a similar pattern by at a more advanced level and students who showed a particular aptitude were encouraged to specialise even more in their chosen engineering discipline.

Entry was at thirteen after leaving elementary school and parents had to give an undertaking not to withdraw their child. A fee for the term was set at 7 shilling (35p) and £1. 1 shilling (£1.10p) a year. The school provided all books, instruments and equipment free of charge.

The Pre-Apprenticeship Day School at the Bootle Technical School.

Provided training for sons of artisans, tradesmen and others wishing to enter industrial occupations and led to entry to apprenticeships at 16. The course consisted of training in the elements of science applied to the local industries e.g. mechanical engineering and building trades and general education. The course lasted two years and successful students then entered apprenticeships at 16. The curriculum consisted of mechanical and geometrical drawing, applied mathematics and workshop arithmetic, elementary chemistry, mechanics and physics and practical and experimental lessons. English was also taught with an emphasis on good and clear expression. Ten hours per week were spent on workshop practice aimed at acquiring skills in metal work. Entry began at 13 and the boys had to have gained the VI th. Standard in a public elementary school. The weekly fee was 1 shilling (5p).

The Day Craft School at the Brimscombe Polytechnic, Near Stroud, Somerset.

Opened in September 1906 and arising from a proposal in 1901 to use the workshops at the Brimscombe Polytechnic to provide manual instruction to pupils from the local elementary schools. This proposal proved a success and the provision was extended to offering day craft classes for boys in order to train boys to enter the local industries that were predominately wood-working making such items as walking sticks handles, umbrellas. The skills required included carpentry, joinery, cabinet-making, wood-carving, inlaying and marquetry and wood staining. Drawing formed a significant part of the practical work and half the time was devoted to manual instruction and the other half to general education. The curriculum was matched to the needs of the local industries and the pupils. Other aspects taught included commercial geography, accounts, mensuration, and properties of materials, simple experimental science, essay writing and physical education. Entry was set for 12 year olds and the course lasted two years. The Board of Education (BoE) recognised the day craft school as a public elementary school. It proved a great success with local industry and highlighted the advantages of co-operation between managers, teachers, parents and employers. Its success established another school in Stroud.


Sadler. M. E. ‘Continuation Schools in England and Elsewhere’. Manchester. 1907.

Millis. C. T. ‘Technical Education Its Development and Aims’. Edward Arnold. London. 1925.

Millis. C.T. ‘Education for Trades and Industries’. Edward Arnold. London. 1932.


One Response to “Trade Schools in England”

  1. Julie Plano

    I am trying to find information about a Manchester Day Trade School for Girls in 1943. My mum attended this school, it may have been called Brook House on Oxford Place, Rusholme. We believe it was part of the MMU campus and may have been part of the Elizabeth Gaskill campus. I am hoping you can help.
    Many thanks Julie


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