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How well do you know your ‘Three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic?  Children at the National Schools certainly did.  And presumably, when they learned to spell accurately, they could enjoy the joke too!

The National School system was established in 1831 to provide basic education for all children between the ages of 6 to 12 years of age. Official provision was also made for the religious education of the pupils. Fine handwriting was a particular asset in the nineteenth century, before the invention of typewriters and computers. A style known as ‘copperplate’ was valued by employers. Sewing skills were emphasised in the education of girls, as these were important in improving the standard of living in the home and were also useful when looking for a job. Good needlework was valued in a maid, and many people were employed as domestic servants.

Textbooks and reading books were produced for use in National schools throughout Ireland by the ‘Commissioners of National Education’. A celebrated series of improved copybooks was introduced in the 1860s to teach and improve handwriting.  These copybooks were designed and promoted the famous Belfast philanthropist and educationalist, Vere Foster.

Pictured here is an open air lesson at a Belfast Hospital for children suffering with TB, c1920.Pictured here is an open air lesson at a Belfast Hospital for children suffering with TB, c1920. Click the image to enlarge.

Two nineteenth century National schoolhouses, Ballyveridagh from Co Antrim and Ballydown from Co Down, have been reconstructed in the grounds of the Folk Museum.