Certified Schools

Certified Schools were independently run homes which were licensed to receive children those who would otherwise be living in workhouse accommodation. The system was introduced by the Poor Law (Certified Schools) Act of 1862, largely brought about by the efforts of the Honourable Mrs Emmeline Way, founder of the children's home and training school at Brockham, in Surrey. The Act allowed the Boards of Guardians, who operated the Poor Law system, to pay for pauper children to be boarded out in such establishments. In most cases, the homes also took children other than those from workhouses. Certified Schools included a wide variety of homes, ranging from small local establishments run by single individuals, up to very large institutions run by national organisations such as Barnardo's or Waifs and Strays' Society.

Yorkshire Deaf & Dumb Institution, Doncaster — one of the first Certified Schools in 1863. © Peter Higginbotham

Boards of Guardians often found it very convenient to board out children in Certified Schools. This could happen if they had insufficient accommodation of their own, or only a small number of children to deal with, or as a way of dealing with children who had special medical, educational or religious requirements. Many Certified Schools were set up by the Roman Catholic community to take Catholic children out of workhouses so that they would not be in danger of losing their faith. Certified Schools usually provided training in practical skills to equip children for later employment. For girls, this was usually directed to preparing them for domestic service.

Certified Schools were licensed by the central Poor Law authority (originally the Poor Law Board, then then Local Government Board and, after the First World War, the Ministry of Health). It should be noted that the holding of Certified School status does not necessarily reflect when the establishment opened or closed down. An existing home could apply for certification at any time, or resign its certificate if it decided to given up taking Poor Law children. If a School moved to new premises, underwent a change of management, or changed the type of children it was taking, then the old certificate would be withdrawn and a new one issued.

Because of their large number, the catalogue of Certified Schools is split into a number of sections, listed below: