How to look for records of... Schools

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

This is a guide to searching for records created by and about individual schools. The National Archives holds the administrative and policy files of the government departments concerned with education, but is not the best source of records for information on individual schools. Records documenting the life of an individual school, where they survive, are most likely to be held by the school itself, by local libraries and archives or in the archives of the charity that ran it.

There are no records of individual pupils, or teachers, at The National Archives.

Where and how to get started

Your own school records

These records are not held at The National Archives

If you left school more than seven years ago, your school records, including academic reports, examination results and attendance registers, may have been securely destroyed. There is no legal obligation for schools to hold your records for longer than 25 years from the date of your birth.

If you are trying to trace your school records, try contacting:

  • The school itself (if you left the school in the last seven to ten years)
  • The local county education authority
  • The local county archive or record office

The records of a school

Schools hold their own records but for schools that no longer exist you should contact the local county archive, library or record office, or the archives of the charities who ran the school, to see if the records have been deposited there. The National Archives’ catalogue contains details of collections held at local archives around the UK, along with contact details for each archive. You can try a search of our catalogue with the name of a school and restrict your search results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters. Alternatively, use our Find an archive tool to locate a local archive.

Many schools existed as parish, national, Church of England, or voluntary schools, and their records may be found in the papers of their respective parishes. The records of nonconformist churches may also contain some information about individual schools.

The records of schools held at The National Archives listed below are central government records.

Online records

School registers and log books, 1870-1914

Search by pupil’s name or school name in the school registers and log books 1870-1914 on Findmypast.co.uk (£). They include church, board, elementary and some secondary schools in England and Wales.

The records are from local archives, not The National Archives, and include handwritten registers, log-books (diaries recording the daily occurrences at the school, including absences, illnesses, visitors and holidays) and attendance records.

Teachers’ Registration Council Registers, 1870-1948

Search teachers’ registration records on the Findmypast.co.uk (£) for teachers in England and Wales from 1870 to 1948.

These are not National Archives records. Created by the Teachers Registration Council, the original records were deposited with the Society of Genealogists.

Records available only at The National Archives in Kew

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

Secondary education endowment files, 1850-1945

These are files of correspondence and other papers which include the drafts of schemes, inspection reports and records regarding the sale or transfer of land or stock.

Search our catalogue by name of school or town for secondary education endowment files in ED 27.

Elementary school files, 1854-1984, and secondary school files, 1818-1946

These ‘school files’ are not, in the main, records created by the schools themselves but correspondence about and sometimes from the schools, as well as inspection reports, and typically include information about school premises, trusts and organisation.

Search our catalogue by name of school or town for records of elementary schools (after 1944 the term ‘elementary’ was replaced by ‘primary’ and records of primary schools established before 1966 are included here) and secondary schools in ED 21, ED 35 and ED 161.

Building grant applications (1833-1870)

Search record series ED 103 by name of school or town for building grant applications among the records of the Committee of the Privy Council on Education.

Other resources

Published histories

Many public schools have published histories, which should be available in local libraries or through online booksellers. Some public school archives are listed in our guide to Education history records held in other archives.

Books

Read Education and the State from 1833, Ann Morton (PRO 1997).