Brunel's Teacher Training Background

Published: Monday 23 November 2015
Maria Grey College Practice School in the late 19th century

The Archives staff were delighted to read that Brunel’s Department of Education was recently graded ‘outstanding’ for its provision of both primary and secondary teacher training in its Ofsted inspection, currently the only university to receive this grading. After all, Brunel University London is a direct descendant of some of the earliest and most progressive teacher training colleges in England: Borough Road College, Maria Grey College and Shoreditch College.

Borough Road College goes back to Southwark in 1798, when Joseph Lancaster first set up his free school for poor children. Unable to pay for an assistant, Lancaster devised a system whereby older pupils called monitors taught the younger ones. Gradually the monitorial system was replaced by proper teacher training. In 1817 new and more spacious premises comprising schools and teacher training institution were opened in Borough Road.


Front Cover of the first female register of students at BRC.  A transcript of the full register is available here.

Maria Grey College opened in May 1878 in Bishopsgate, London, as a training college for secondary teachers. Maria Grey was the creator of the National Union for improving the Education of Women of All Classes, known as the Women’s Education Union, a pressure group formed to state a case for women’s right to professional recognition as teachers, as well as a founder member of the Teachers’ Training & Registration Society. Like Borough Road College, Maria Grey College had a school attached to it, the Brondesbury and Kilburn High School, in which its trainees could undertake teacher practice. It also had a nursery, and many of its teachers were published experts in the field of Montessori and Froebelian teaching methods. The college moved to Twickenham in 1946.


Pupils at the Maria Grey College practice school in the late 19th century


Children from Somers Town Nursery School painting. Taken during the teaching practice of MGC pupil Miss D.E. May in 1934-36

Shoreditch Training College grew out of an innovative early 20th C scheme to provide good quality teachers to the Manual Training Centres which had been added to many London schools by the end of the 19th C. In 1902 the pupil-teacher centre was centred in two rooms of the Orange Street School, Southwark but in 1907 it was transferred to the Shoreditch Technical Institute in Pitfield Street. In 1919 it was recognised as a Training College, becoming a member of the University of London Training Colleges Delegacy in 1930. Post WW2 there was urgent demand for teachers and the Pitfield Street site proved inadequate to cope with the required numbers. In 1951 Shoreditch College moved Englefield Green in Surrey.


Shoreditch College student undertaking teacher practice in the 1950s

In 1976 Borough Road College merged with Maria Grey College and Chiswick Polytechnic to become West London Institute of Higher Education. This college became Brunel University College in 1995 before finally becoming the Osterley campus of Brunel University in 1997. Shoreditch College merged with Brunel University in 1980.

Brunel University London and its predecessor colleges have a proud and long-standing pedigree in teacher training. Anyone interested in researching this area in Brunel University London Archives can contact us at

The Discover 50 Trail also includes objects from each of these predecessor colleges.

Page last updated: Wednesday 02 December 2015