The Elementary Education Act of 1870 was the first of a number of acts of parliament passed between 1870 and 1893 to create compulsory education in England and Wales for children aged between five and 13. It was known as The Forster Act after its sponsor William Forster.
The areas that caused controversy were the provision of religious education and the public subsidy. Some people wanted specific schools that would promote denominational education, while the established church feared its power to run schools would be lost. Some were fearful of the idea of mass education, others felt that state subsidy for education was threatening. The act retained the requirement for parents to pay fees when they could afford to, and for the state to pay for those who could not. Religious instruction was retained but didn’t favour any one Christian group over another.