Until the beginning of the 19th century, education was neither compulsory, nor state- funded or controlled; however, in medieval Coventry there were educational opportunities for the poor, as well as the wealthy who could afford to pay the fees. The monks at St. Mary's priory ran a school for children of the poor from an early date; as well as a public grammar school in School House Lane from 1303 that had been endowed to them, for which fees would probably have been charged. It is believed that the Charterhouse, or Carthusian monastery, also kept a school for needy scholars, and that priests attached to various parish churches taught children in their spare time.
As a result of the Reformation, many free educational opportunities for the poor disappeared, but following a brief period two new schools were established: the Free Grammar school (King Henry VIII School), and Bablake Hospital and School. The Free Grammar school was founded in 1545 by John Hales in the church formerly used by the Whitefriars, but following dispute of its ownership, the school moved to the former Hospital of St. John the Baptist ("the Old Grammar School") in 1558 where it remained until 1885. The educational institution of Bablake School possibly originates from 1344 when the Bablake lands were granted by Queen Isabella. The school buildings were founded in 1560 when parts of the old guild buildings at Bablake were converted into a hospital and school, and then heavily endowed in 1563 by Thomas Wheatley. The school taught sons of freemen of the city only.
As time passed, several smaller schools were founded in the city through charitable gifts and bequests, including the Blue Coat school for girls in 1714; and from 1790, Sunday schools were established to help provide further learning opportunities. Then, a "British" school for boys and a "National" school for boys and girls were built in 1811 and 1813 respectively, funded partly by voluntary subscription and partly by fees. In 1833, the Government took an active interest and gave its first education grant, which encouraged several more small schools to follow in quick succession.
An Act in 1870 led to the setting up of the Coventry School Board in 1871, which immediately built further schools in the city. In 1880, elementary education was made compulsory, and became free in 1891. The School Board was abolished under the Education Act of 1902, and the Local Education Authority for Coventry took its place. In the meantime, the Free Grammar school, renamed King Henry VIII School had moved in 1885 to its present address on Warwick Road,and Bablake School moved to Coundon in 1890.The building of a succession of further primary and secondary schools followed at various times during the 20th century.