Known as the founder of the Sunday Schools movement,
Raikes used his position as editor and proprietor of the Gloucester Journal to
publicize the cause. However, many Sunday schools (and chapel and church
communities) became crucial working class institutions and centres for mutual
aid and association.
There is some debate concerning the origins of Sunday
Schools. As Sutherland (1990: 126) has commented, Robert Raikes (1735-1811) is
traditionally credited as pioneering Sunday Schools in the 1780s; 'in fact
teaching Bible reading and basic skills on a Sunday was an established activity
in a number of eighteenth century Puritan and evangelical congregations'. In
Wales, the circulating schools offered one model of such activity (see the
development of adult schools). That said, Robert Raikes made a notable
contribution to the development of Sunday schooling.
The idea of the Sunday School caught the imagination of a number involved in evangelical churches and groupings. Most notably, Hannah More and her sister Martha founded a number of schools in the Mendip Hills that involved innovation. These lay in the pedagogy they developed; the range of activities they became involved in; and the extent to which publicity concerning their activities encouraged others to develop initiatives. They attempted to make school sessions entertaining and varied. Programmes had to be planned and suited to the level of the students. There needed to be variety and classes had to be as entertaining as possible (she advised using singing when energy and attention was waning). She also argued that it was possible to get the best out of children if their affections 'were engaged by kindness'. Furthermore, she made the case that terror did not pay (Young and Ashton 1956). However, she still believed it was a 'fundamental error to consider children as innocent beings' rather than as beings of 'a corrupt nature and evil dispositions'
The bishops of Chester and Salisbury gave support to
Raikes and in 1875 a London Society for the Establishment of Sunday Schools was
established. In July 1784 John
Wesley recorded in his journal that Sunday Schools were "springing up
everywhere". Two years later it was claimed by Samuel Glasse that there were
over 200,000 children in England attending Sunday schools.
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