John Pounds was a legendary British hero who ignited an education revolution during the 19th century. His tireless efforts to feed, clothe and teach poor children from Portsmouth’s slums led to the establishment of Ragged Schools across Britain.
He earned the reputation as a ‘gratuitous teacher of poor children’, inspiring tens of thousands of youngsters in Portsmouth and beyond with reading, arithmetic and life skills like cookery, carpentry and shoemaking.
Early Life and Education
John Pounds was born in Portsmouth on June 1766 and apprenticed to a shipwright at twelve years of age. At fifteen, however, he suffered an horrific fall from a ship’s side which left him crippled for life with broken thigh bones.
He endured a difficult childhood, yet in 1803 he opened a shoemaking shop on St Mary Street which he ran for many years until his passing. As his business prospered, he began taking in children from the local poor.
He never charged his students to learn, giving them all the opportunity for a better life through basic reading, writing and arithmetic lessons as they watched him work. His natural teaching style earned him an impressive reputation that spread quickly.
John Pounds, a shoemaker from Portsmouth, began teaching poor children how to read without charging them money. Through his efforts, more than 40 children learned how to read and write with success.
He also taught them how to fix their own clothes, cook and craft toys. This proved much more successful than traditional public schools at educating children.
He achieved such great success that his name has become synonymous with ragged schooling, an educational movement inspired by Thomas Guthrie’s work. This book, published to mark Pounds’ 250th birthday, gives an intriguing account of Pounds’ life and illuminates his contributions to education history. A must-read for anyone interested in the development of education today.
Achievements and Honors
John pounds’ greatest achievement lay in his work to improve the education of poor children in Portsmouth, England. This included his philanthropic initiatives, creative teaching methods and establishment of The Ragged School – an innovative learning center.
He was also recognized by the city of Portsmouth for his accomplishments at Ragged School, with a formal award bestowed upon him by Lord Lieutenant Sir Richard Chesney during a visit to the center in April 1999.
Other notable accomplishments of John Pounds include his innovative teaching methods and abundance of publications. His life and legacy were documented in many books such as Roland Everett Jayne’s The Story of John Pounds: Founder of Ragged Schools, Recollections of John Pounds and the Dictionary of National Biography.
Pounds dedicated his life to providing education for poor children. He believed that education was the key to breaking the cycle of begging, stealing and picking pockets.
He worked in his shop by day and taught the children to read and write, as well as teaching them how to mend clothing and cook. Furthermore, he took them on nature rambles to Portsdown Hill as a way of passing on his knowledge of the environment.
His life and work revolutionized how people viewed poor children, leading to the establishment of Ragged Schools across Britain. Newspapers dedicated countless columns in his honor; social and educational reformers such as Lord Shaftesbury, Charles Dickens and Angela Coutts invoked his name with reverence.
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