The first commission to report on girls' education in Ireland was the Endowed Schools Commission (1854-8). It showed that, with the exception of two or three convent national schools, the majority of endowed girls' schools in Ireland were Protestant charity institutions.
The best of these were the Quaker School at Mountmellick, Pleasant's Asylum in Dublin, Rochelle Governesses' Seminary in Cork, and the Irish Clergy Daughters' School in Dublin. Significantly the majority of these were preparing girls to be teachers or governesses. They were therefore moving in the same direction as the reform movement in girls' secondary and higher education in England.
The commission helped in this reform movement as it stressed that the opportunities for young girls to educate themselves as schoolmistresses were quite insufficient, the results being 'painfully apparent in the low state of instruction in many schools for girls.' It was the need to provide some kind of fixed standards and better teacher training facilities for these pupils that marked the first stage in the development of English influence on girls' secondary education in Ireland.
There were numerous ladies' seminaries or small privately-run schools especially in Dublin and Belfast. Dublin had over 50 of these by 1860 and great importance was attached to the accomplishments of Music, Singing, Dancing, and Drawing which were always charged as extras. In almost every case masters of the first eminence attended in these schools. This was very similar to the situation in England.