How to look for records of... Historical education policy and administration: teacher training

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

1. Why use this guide?

This guide will help you to find historical government administration and policy records on teacher training which are now held by The National Archives. Teacher training records held here include:

  • Local Education Authority files from the early 20th century on training colleges, schemes and courses for teacher training
  • Board of Education files on university training colleges and teacher-training departments from the 1960s and before
  • central government reports on teacher training centres
  • files created by post-war committees, inquiries and advisory groups on teacher training including recruitment, funding and reviews of national teacher training policy

The guide does not cover records of individual teachers or pupils, neither of which are held at The National Archives. Nor does it cover the day to day records of individual training colleges (contact a local record office or school/training college for these) or teacher training certificates (contact the relevant examining body for these).

2. How to use this guide and get a search for records started

A search for documents at The National Archives usually begins in our online catalogue. The following sections of this guide provide links to key record series that you can search within our catalogue, helping you to target your searches more precisely. By clicking on the series links (for example, ED 145) you will arrive on the respective ‘series description’ pages from where you can search the series, using dates/years and keywords such as:

  • ‘training’ plus an area or district – for example, ‘Birmingham AND training’
  • ‘training’ and the name of a type of institution – for example, ‘University AND training’ or ‘Pupil teacher’s centre’
  • a specific institution – for example, Borthwick Training College for Women

Series description pages also provide information on the arrangement of the records and sometimes some of the historical context in which they were created, as well as suggesting related series you could explore.

Use the advanced catalogue search to restrict your search results to the records of a specific government department, including its predecessors (for example, the Department of Education, which created most of the records we hold on teacher training).  Use the department reference, which is always a letter code, to do this (the code for the Department of Education is ED).

Catalogue search results provide short descriptions of our records and a document reference for each one – you will need the document reference to see the record itself. The records covered in this guide are not available to view online so to see them you will have to either visit us in Kew or order copies. Bear in mind that a search in our catalogue will also search for records in other archives around the country – keep your eye on the ‘Held by’ field to establish whether the records are here or elsewhere. Read our catalogue search help for more guidance.

3. Pupil-teacher training, 1846-early 1900s

Before the Education Act 1902, the training of teachers was largely carried out under a pupil-teacher system . Originally, pupil-teacher training and education took place at elementary schools under the supervision of the headmaster.

After the Elementary Education Act 1870 training took place at separate establishments called pupil-teacher centres, with teaching practice at elementary schools.

From 1902 regulations for pupil-teacher training were tightened up and secondary education encouraged wherever possible. From 1907 the bursar system gradually replaced the pupil-teacher system .


  • surviving pupil-teacher centre files in ED 57
  • annual reports of the Committee of the Privy Council on Education (PCCE) in ED 17. Inspection reports within PCCE reports 1848 -1854 contain a statement of annual grants paid to schools on account of pupil teachers, naming pupil-teacher apprentices and the year of their apprenticeship
  • institution files for pupil-teacher centres which became secondary schools in ED 3
  • inspection reports on pupil-teacher centres from 1900 in ED 109

4. Normal schools and training colleges

Originally established by charities (the British Society and the National Society) in the early 19th century, ‘normal schools’ were training schools and colleges. Many came to be modelled on Battersea Normal School, established in 1841. Pupil-teachers aged 18 could apply for the Queen’s/King’s Scholarship Examination (later the Preliminary Examination for the Certificate). Successful scholars had the opportunity of attending training colleges for two or three years. These were residential colleges run by voluntary societies with some government subsidy.

For records about these establishments browse or consult:

  • Privy Council Minutes of 1843 and 1844 authorising building grants for separate training colleges in ED 17/1
  • building grant application papers in ED 103/140
  • endowment files in ED 40
  • ED 78 for information about these colleges (few papers prior to 1932 have survived)
  • exceptionally, the papers of the National Training School of Cookery are in ED 164

5. Local Education Authority (LEA) training

The 1902 Education Act enabled the provision of training colleges to meet the demand for teacher training places. The Act established the training of teachers as a form of higher education, enabling the new Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to make secondary schools available for the training of pupil-teachers.

In 1904 municipal training colleges were recognised and the following year building grants were made available to LEAs to encourage the provision of training colleges.


  • LEA files on the supply of teachers in ED 67
  • other LEA schemes for teacher training under the 1902 Act in ED 53
  • files concerning the LEA provision of short courses for teachers at further education colleges, art schools and evening institutes in ED 61 (material prior to 1935 has not survived)
  • the training college building grant files in ED 87
  • general policy files on grant aid for training colleges in ED 86
    files on training colleges maintained by voluntary bodies, colleges established by LEAs under the provisions of the 1902 Act and a few university colleges providing similar courses in ED 78
  • HM Inspectors’ reports on training colleges in ED 115
  • papers on the Ministry of Education scheme for the emergency recruitment and training of teachers to meet post Second World War needs in ED 143

6. University training, 1890 onwards

Universities first became involved in teacher training in 1890 when, as one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Working of the Elementary Education Acts (the Cross Commission), ‘day training colleges’ attached to universities were established.


  • files on university teacher-training departments in ED 81 (no material survives before 1932)
  • university and university college files in ED 119 which include information on the distribution of grants for teacher-training

The Burnham Committee on the Training of Teachers in Elementary Schools (1923-1925) recommended greater cooperation between training colleges and universities. This led to the establishment of Joint Examination Board (JEBs) who devised and conducted the final examination for student teachers in academic subjects.

Browse Joint Examination Board files in:

The recommendations of the McNair Report (1944) on the supply, recruitment and training of teachers and youth leaders included the formation of Area Training Organisations (ATOs) to develop a closer relationship between the universities and teacher-training colleges.


  • the recommendations of the McNair Report in ED 86/94-109
  • post-1944 proposals for the formation of ATOs in ED 119
  • ATO files in ED 159

7. Post-war training and supply of teachers

The Fleming Committee was set up in 1943 to consider how to meet post-war requirements for teachers. It recommended a provisional scheme for the emergency recruitment and training of teachers in emergency training colleges which ran until 1951.


  • papers relating to the work of the committee in ED 136/687-688 and ED 143/1-5
  • policy papers relating to the scheme drawn up by the committee in ED 143
  • representative emergency college files for Alnwick in Northumberland in ED 143/33-34, Borthwick Training College for Women in London in ED 143/35-36

The National Advisory Council on Training and Supply of Teachers (NACTST) was set up in 1948 to review national policy on the training, qualifications and distribution of teachers. Consult:

The minutes, papers and report of the James Committee of Inquiry into Teacher Training 1971-2 are in ED 145.

The Teacher Training Agency was established in 1994 to fund the provision of teacher training, contribute to raising the standards and to provide information and advice on teaching as a career.


  • copies of its annual reports and corporate plans in PB 1
  • board minutes and papers (1994-2000) in PB 2
  • electronic minutes and papers (2001-2002) in PB 3

8. Teacher pay, pensions and conditions

The interest of central government in teachers has largely been confined to supply, but it has also been concerned with qualification, payment, pensions and conduct.


  • Teachers Branch registered files in ED 86 and ED 192
  • Papers regarding teacher misconduct in ED 104 (closed for up to 75 years)
  • Files on teachers’ superannuation in ED 131
  • Burnham Committee papers on salaries in ED 108

9. Teachers’ Registration Council, 1902-1949

The Education Act 1899 made provision for the establishment of a register of teachers, following one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education.

The Teachers’ Registration Council was set up in 1902. The form in which the register was kept led to protests by the National Union of Teachers and it was withdrawn in 1907. The Council was not reconstituted until 1912.

Teacher registration began in 1914, although records include those who started their careers from the 1870s. Registration remained voluntary.


  • minute books, together with copies of its reports for 1902-1906 in ED 44
  • further papers relating to its work in ED 10
  • original registration records for the period up to 1947 are available on the Findmypast website (£)

The Teachers Registration Council was superseded by the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers and registration abandoned in 1948. See section on Post war training and supply of teachers.

10. Further reading

Read Education and the State from 1833 by Ann Morton, Public Record Office Readers’ Guide No 18 (PRO 1997).

Copies of the Commission reports mentioned above can be found via the Parliamentary Papers online website (institutional subscription required).