Monitorial system

The first attempt at providing training for women teachers was the monitorial system of education introduced into Ireland by the Kildare Place Society which was founded in 1811 by a group of prominent Dublin business men, including Samuel Bewley of the Quaker family. The society wanted to provide elementary education for the poor in Ireland and because of the Quaker connections between Joseph Lancaster and Samuel Bewley, decided to adopt the Lancasterian monitorial system.

It aimed to be 'neutral' in religious matters, with the Bible being read without note or comment. At first this new Society was very successful with 1,621 schools for boys and girls connected with it, a Model School for training teachers, a school inspection system, large annual grants from the British government and the support of Catholics. When it became clear that some of the funds of the Society were being used to support proselytising groups it lost the government grant and, ultimately, Catholic support.

Although this institution lasted for only twenty years, it exerted long-term influence on the Irish education system because of its schools inspection and monitorial system which lasted in Irish national schools right up to the twentieth century.

Paid monitors, the lowest grade teachers, were examined every year by the inspector. At the end of their Fourth Book of lessons it was decreed that:

Girls will not be examined in Algebra, or in the fourth and fifth sections of the Fifth Book; nor in Geometry, Mensuration, or the Lessons on Reasoning; but they will be examined in Mental Arithmetic, and required to exhibit such acquaintance with the Elements of Book-keeping as would enable them to keep with neatness and correctness simple Domestic Accounts ... In Needlework, Girl Monitors ... must not only know, but be able to teach others also, how to cut out and make up plain articles of female wearing apparel.
Quoted in J.M. Goldstrom, The social content of Primary School Readers 1808 - 1870, Oxford, 1972, p. 89.

By 1831, when Catherine McAuley had fully established her school in Dublin at Baggot Street, she visited the Kildare Place Society and decided on a modified version of its Lancasterian monitorial system for her first poor schools in Dublin as the only way of teaching large numbers of pupils.


  1. The Kildare Place Society was founded in the year ___ to provide elementary ____ for the ____ in _____.
  2. Why did the Kildare Place Society adopt the Lancasterian monitorial system of education?
  3. Why did the Kildare Place Society lose government and Catholic support?
  4. Which aspects of the Kildare Place Society's practice lasted into the twentieth century?
  5. Catherine McAuley decided on a modified _____ of the ________ monitorial system for her school in Dublin at ______ Street.


  1. Research the history of the Kildare Place Society.
  2. Research the contribution to education in Ireland of Catherine McAuley.
  3. Refer to Joseph Lancaster in Documents at the end of this section for a letter he wrote about his plans for the education of the poor in Ireland in 1805.


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