How to look for records of... Schools

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

This is a brief guide to researching schools. The National Archives holds the administrative and policy files of the government departments concerned with education, but is not the best source of information about individual schools. Where these survive, they are most likely to be held by local archives.

What records can I see online?

School registers and log books (1870-1914)

Search by school name school registers and log books on findmypast (£). They include church, board, elementary and some secondary schools in England and Wales.

The log-books are diaries recording the daily occurrences at the school, including absences, illnesses, visitors and holidays.

Inspection reports (19th century)

Search the Parliamentary Papers (institutional subscription required) for précis of inspection reports from 1840 to 1899.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Secondary education endowment files (1850-1945)

Search Discovery, 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)

Search our catalogue by name of school or town for records of elementary and secondary schools in ED 21, ED 35 and ED 161.

Building grant applications (1833-1870)

Search our catalogue by name of school or town for building grant applications in ED 103.

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 (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Records held locally

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue by name of town or school and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?


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

Did you know?

Local libraries and archives are the best place to begin researching individual schools. Search Find an archive to locate relevant archives.

Many public schools have published histories, which should be available in local libraries or through online booksellers. Some public school archives are listed in Education history records held in the UK. School inspections began in 1839 and eventually came to cover issues such as quality of the building, efficiency, teacher training and provisions for the disabled.

Under the Local Government Act 1929 educational provision for poor law children became the responsibility of the local authorities. Existing poor law schools were formally converted into public elementary schools.

After 1944 the term ‘elementary’ was replaced by ‘primary’. Records relating to many individual primary schools established before 1966 are in ED 161.