There was no state system of secondary education in Ireland before the Intermediate Education Act (1878).

Small privately-owned schools existed in many Irish towns.

A few religious orders with European traditions ran fee-paying colleges for middle class boys.

The Irish Christian Brothers catered for poorer boys.

Endowed schools catered mainly for Protestant boys.

There were some schools to train Protestant girls as governesses.

European religious orders of women ran fee-paying boarding-cum-day schools for girls.

The Sisters of Mercy and Presentation Sisters ran day pension schools for girls who could only afford to pay low fees.

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