I didn't mind too much, on the whole, though being suddenly appointed teacher of the infant class one day when another teacher didn't turn up was a bit alarming. Especially as I was only ten years old at the time.
Sunday School, by my time, was purely a vehicle for religious instruction and observance, as it largely seems to have been in 1769 when the first Sunday School was started by Hannah Ball in the English town of High Wycombe.
But that changed rather when the newspaper publisher Robert Raikes got involved in organising Sunday classes for children. In the course of his charitable work he'd seen a lot of poor children incarcerated as criminals, and he believed strongly that education was the best route out of the very great poverty that made crime so difficult to avoid.
He supported his Sunday School financially himself to begin with (Sunday was the only day when the children weren't at work) and used his own newspaper for publicity purposes. He started the first school in 1780, and by 1831, despite lots of sneering from the already well-educated and opposition from people who were worried about Sabbath-breaking and other forms of undesirable worship, the Sunday Schools were bringing literacy to a quarter of the children in England.
Think of that: a quarter of all the children in England, educated by volunteers.
Soon after that, in 1833, the British Parliament began the process of taking on the burden of providing education for children.
It was a sign that Robert Raikes' heroic campaign had been won.
Word To Use Today: school. This word comes from the Old English scōl, from the Greek skholē, leisure spent in the pursuit of knowledge.