RepositoryChurch of England Record Centre
Alt Ref NoNS
Extent1038 linear feet
TitleNational Society (Church of England) for Promoting Religious Education
DescriptionThe bulk of the archive is comprised of the two series of school files - NS/7/1 relating to schools in England and NS/7/2 relating to schools in Wales. Some of the files relate to proposed schools which were never actually built, others to schools that ceased to be Church of England schools on their transfer to the LEA, others to schools now closed, and the rest to schools still in existence as Church of England or Church in Wales schools today. The bulk of the material on these files relates to applications for National Society Building Grants and the supporting papers to applications can include annual reports, plans and builders specifications. In addition, a condition of a grant was a sight of the school trust deeds; the majority of the files usually contain some information on these documents.

The archive also includes various minute book series including that of its governing body (General/Standing Committee/Council) and a set of annual reports from 1811 onwards.

In addition, the archive contains an extensive collection of the Society's own publications. These mainly date from the latter half of the Nineteenth Century onwards and books published by the Society's Depository and also in conjunction with the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK).

There are also some modern administrative series of files.
AppraisalKept permanently.
AccrualsSome further accruals expected through the Centre's Records Managment system
FindingAidsThere is a card index to teachers compiled from several 19th-century NS sources available in the Reading Room.
CreatorNameNational Society (Church of England) for Promoting Religious Education
AdminHistoryThe National Society was founded on the 16 November 1811 and incorporated by Charter in 1817 as the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales. By a 1934 Charter its title was amended so that it became known as The National Society for Promoting Religious Education in accordance with the Principles of the Church of England. Under a 1972 Charter, it assumed its current title. As it was the first "National Society" to be founded it is allowed to use that phrase as its official short title.

At its founding meeting its educational purpose was stated to be as follows: "That the National Religion should be made the foundation of National Education, and should be the first and chief thing taught to the poor, according to the excellent Liturgy and Catechism provided by our Church." It was the main agency through which the Church of England worked towards the education of the poorer classes in the years before the passing of the 1870 Education Act - and it continued to be the Church's chief voice in eduction until well into the twentieth century. It acted for the church over the negotiations concerning the 1870, 1902, 1918 and 1944 Education Acts.

The Society was involved in many aspects of education from the publication of books and the provision of equipment to the training of teachers. It was also involved with the founding of the majority of Church of England Church in Wales schools (then known as National Schools.) The Society's aim was to found a church school in every parish in England and Wales and it did this by raising funds centrally and then offering grants to prospective founders on conditions that enabled the Society to influence and foster development of the scheme on chosen lines. These grants were to stimulate local effort by providing a porportion of the amount required to build, enlarge a school or fit up a schoolroom.

The Society was also involved in the training of teachers for these schools. It ran training courses at its Central School in London and also founded St Marks Chelsea, Whitelands College and Trinity College Carmarthen. It also took over the running of St Johns Battersea. (All of these are still in existence in some form today - Whitelands as part of Roehampton University, Trinity College in its own right, and the others as the College of St Mark and St John Plymouth where they moved in the 1970s.) In addition, the Society also gave support to the various colleges founded by dioceses.

The Society was also involved with providing affordable books as it was concerned that schools should have reasonable access to cheap adequate books. These were initially published by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK). In addition it also gave grants to schools towards purchasing books and equipment and it had set up a Depository in Westminster in the 1840s to supply these items.

By the 1920s, its work had increased to such an extent that its title bore little relation to it current work. In 1929, the Hadow Commission, which had been appointed to "enquire into the position of religious education in this country and its relations to the development of national education, in all grades of education" reported. One of its main recommendations was the establishment of a Central Council of Religious Education. It also recommended that the Society be asked to enlarge the scope of its operation and to reform its constitution and charter so as to enable it to become this Central Council.

In November 1930, the Church Assembly approved the formation of a Committee which would look at the drawing up of a Scheme to form the Council. In November, 1931, a Scheme was forwarded to the National Society. The Society would amend its Charter so as to allow it to extend it work to all classes and its title was changed as above. A referendum of the Society's members approved the Scheme, which was subsequently passed by the Church Assembly and on 14 April 1934 the King granted the supplemental charter.

However, as time passed the Society became concerned that it was not discharging its responsibilities satisfactorily and asked the Archbishops to appoint a Commission to review the situation. This Commission reported in 1947 and this led to a re-organisation and Society no longer being the Central Council. However, it remained closely linked with the new body created whilst retaining its autonomy. A further Charter in 1972 was approved so also to enable the Society to meet its current needs. It now exists to support church schools and colleges and all places of education and those involved in in christian work and religious education in parishes. It encourages all who share the Society's vision for education with a christian purpose.

The Society was managed firstly by a General Committee (1811-1870), and then by a Standing Committee (1871-1997) and by a Council from 1997 onwards.

In 1935, the Church of England Sunday School Institute amalgamated with the Society. It also took over the funds of the Society of Patrons when that body ceased to exist in 1896.

In 2015 the name The National Society (Church of England and Church in Wales) for the Promotion of Education was adopted.

See also some information on the NS records here:
CustodialHistoryThe Society records have remained in its own custody, although they are now housed at Lambeth Palace Library
RelatedMaterialNS/SP Society of Patrons
NS/SSI Church of England Sunday School Institute
NS/SR School Records held at local Record Offices.
BE Board of Education
PublnNote'Enterprise in Education: the story of the work of the Established Church in the Education of the People prior to 1870' by Henry James Burgess (NS/SPCK 1958)
'A Short History of the National Society 1811-1961' by H J Burgess and P A Welsby (NS 1961)
'Distinctive and Inclusive : The National Society and Church of England Schools 1811-2011' by Lois Loudon (NS 2012) [Lambeth Palace Library H5018.C4L6]
'Fight the good fight: the battle for the survival of St James National School, Muswell Hill' by J Owen (2015?) [Lambeth Palace Library PF449.M8]

Show related Persons records.

Related name records
DS/UK/5089National Society for Promoting Religious Education; 1811-1811-
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