By Ken Clayton
On the face of it, this implies that all teachers, including those at Petty Schools should have a licence. However, the evidence suggests that this rule was, in practice, applied only to grammar school teachers.
So by the middle of the seventeenth century the influence of the church had declined from total control of a majority of schools to, in most cases, nothing more than the bishops being able to decide who could and could not teach, at least in grammar schools.
This meant that the church no longer had any control over education and, indeed, it seems that there was no control of any sort by any organisation for a few years. One consequence of this was a rise in the number of private schools run by individuals who would never have been given a licence to teach by a bishop. Bromsgrove in Worcestershire was one place in which this happened with William Suthwell being installed in 1650 without the blessing of a bishop (Icely, 1953, p17).
Six years later, after the restoration of the Monarchy, the Act of Uniformity of 1662 not only re-introduced the issuing of licences by bishops, it also reversed the instructions to County Commissioners by introducing a requirement that schoolmasters accept publicly the new Book of Common Prayer.Those who refused were denounced as dissenters and usually removed from their posts. Helen Jewell maintains that around 150 Dons and schoolmasters were ejected as dissenters (1998, p37) while Edmund Calamy, writing in 1713, reckoned that 39 schoolmasters were ejected as a result of their refusal to comply with the Act. In the preface to his book he admitted that it had been difficult to compile a list of those ejected and referred to earlier reports of around 2,000 clergymen, Dons and schoolmasters having been ejected (Calamy, 1713, p iv).
The preface to Calamy’s book provides an interesting insight to attitudes to dissenters, even forty years after the event. ‘To write of Nonconformists and Dissenters, is in the Esteem of some Men, to write of Schismatics and Rebels; To commend them is little better than to write in praise of Nero’ he wrote, adding that ‘They have born all the obloquy of the stage, the tavern, the press, or the pulpit could well vent against them’ (1713, p iii). However, Calamy cannot be regarded as an entirely dispassionate observer, given that his father and grandfather were both clergymen who were ejected from their livings and Calamy himself was keen to restore the reputations of the ejected individuals (Wykes, 2004). That said, there is no doubt that schoolmasters who would not conform were usually removed from their posts.
So by 1662 the church had re-established a degree of control over schools following the upheavals of the Commonwealth period but it was still a long way from the grip that it had over schools prior to the Reformation.
Calamy, Edmund (1713) An Account of the Ministers, Lecturers, Masters and Fellows of Colleges and Schoolmasters who were Ejected or Silenced after the Restoration in 1660 London.
Durston, C. (2001) Cromwell’s Major-Generals: Godly Government During the English Revolution Manchester, Manchester University Press
Jewell, Helen M. (1998) Education in Early Modern England, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.