In 1870 a new education act swept aside all the old educational institutions and replaced them with a standardised system based on local school boards. Each major administrative area had to set up a board to build and run schools. It was also decreed that attendance would be mandatory, non attendance being punishable by law. The schools were to be run on a grant, from central government, to be calculated on actual daily attendance figures and not on the size of the school roll. It was not long before the various school boards realised that it was very much in their interests to encourage the regular attendance of pupils. Some school boards decided to reward regular attendance with picture cards and/or medals. Liverpool started the award of medals as early as 1877 London not following until 1887. Although starting later than some others, the London scheme rapidly became the most complex and varied.


The School Board for London set out its scheme in March 1886 when it was decided to award a medal to every pupil attending school every time the school was opened during a complete school year. No exceptions were made, even one half days unavoidable absence due to illness was enough to disqualify a child from receiving a medal. A 100 per cent attendance record would not automatically mean the award of a medal, the headmaster also had to certify that the pupil's conduct had been good. Even the headmaster's word was not to be accepted without a certification of accuracy by the school managers. Although these conditions were very severe, a large, and ever growing, number of children got their medals.