First moves to reform girls' secondary education in Ireland, 1859-1882

Largely influenced by English educational ideas, a small number of Protestant institutions were founded in Ireland. These were Mrs Byers' School, Belfast (1859); the Queen's Institute, Dublin (1861); Alexandra College, Dublin (1866); Alexandra School, Dublin (1873); Miss McKillip's Ladies' Collegiate School, Derry (1877) and the High School, Cork (1880).

Mrs Byers
Mrs Byers
Courtesy Victoria
College, Belfast
Miss McKillip
Miss McKillip
Courtesy Foyle &
Londonderry College

The basic aim behind this new approach to girls' secondary education was to provide an education for girls similar to that available for boys. Mathematics and Latin were included, the accomplishments were downgraded and great stress was laid on examinations.

These institutions were ideally placed to take advantage of the Intermediate Examination system when it was introduced in 1878. Already several public meetings on the need for improving girls' secondary education had taken place in Ulster during the 1870s, the first and most important being organised by Isabella Tod in Belfast in 1872. A year later she took part in the first deputation to the Lord Lieutenant on the defective state of girls' secondary education in Ireland and the need for some state endowment.


  1. What was the basic aim of Protestant girls' schools such as Mrs Byers' School?
  2. Why were these institutions ideally placed to take advantage of the Intermediate Examination system in 1878?


  1. Research a Protestant girls' secondary school.
  2. Research the role of Isabella Tod in the reform of girls' secondary education.
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