taking our culture forward

2022 marked the 150th anniversary of the 1872 Isle of Man Act for Public Elementary Education. The anniversary was celebrated by talks and papers, as well as by the Department of Education, Sport and Culture.

The 1872 Act was a landmark in the history of education on the Isle of Man as it made education accessible to all by:

  1. re-introducing compulsory education (for 7-13 years olds) - something that had been enacted first in 1704
  2. transferring control of education from the Church to the State through the establishment of an appointed Isle of Man Board of Education and the election of 21 local School Committees
  3. mandating the raising of a local rate to contribute to the finance of the scheme, alongside Central Government (IOM) Revenue, school fees and donations  
  4. paving the way for the abolition of school fees for all (1892), improving the quantity and quality of teachers, and the gradual extension of an independent system of education. 

The passage of the Act

On December 1st, 1869, Governor Loch announced that he would shortly lay an Education Bill before the Tynwald Court whose objective would be: "the removal of some of the causes of crime …..  Crime is frequently the result, in the first instance of ignorance, and ignorance is too often the result of an insufficient provision being made for the education of a large bulk of the population….". 

Governor Loch’s hope was that this Isle of Man Bill would ‘be the first’ Bill to introduce a mass system of education (ahead of England and Wales, and Scotland): "It would confer infinite credit upon the Legislature of this Island if the Isle of Man was the first in which a large, broad, and comprehensive system of education were to be introduced."

The Bill faced resistance to and lively debate around a number of clauses - compulsory attendance, religion, the appointment and election of school committees, the imposition of a local rate for education.  Discussion of the Bill was adjourned several times and clauses revised over a 2-year period February 1870 to February 1872.

While the Act had parallels in the Elementary Education Act of England and Wales 1870 and the Education (Scotland) Act 1872, it was not a copy of them. As a result of resistance to initial drafts of the Bill and much debate in the press, Loch was unable to realise his ambition of passing a Manx Act before the England and Wales Act. However, in contrast to the England and Wales Act, education became compulsory for all children aged 7-13. In England and Wales, compulsory education for children aged 5-10 was enacted only in 1880. The Scotland Act mandated compulsory education for children 5-13 years in 1872. 

The Bill was given Royal Assent on April 22nd, 1872, promulgated by Tynwald Court at St Johns Chapel on May 9th, 1872, and presented to the public at the open-air annual Tynwald ceremony on July 5th, 1872.

This page was written by Professor Angela W Little.



Click the image to play the video

  • A talk on the 1872 Act by Professor Angela Little

  • A talk on the 1872 Act by Professor Angela Little