Designs for the medal were drawn up and a letter requesting permission to use the name and portrait of Queen Victoria was sent to the Palace in February 1887. The royal assent was quickly given and the Board registered the design in March 1887. However, by April the influential Sunday School Union had realised that if they continued in their practice of withdrawing children from school for one day a year, for a giant organised picnic, every child attending the picnic would be disqualified from the medal scheme. A considerable debate raged for some months about this issue, but the Board insisted that if they made any exceptions at all, the scheme would be subject to a constant stream of appeals against disqualification. The Board finally decided, in November 1887, by twenty-four votes to four that no exceptions would be made, and for many years this position was maintained against much opposition.
The first medals, dated 1887, were made by Firmin and Sons Ltd. of 153 the Strand, London. They were struck in white metal with an attached metal clasp bearing the year, and engraved on the reverse with the pupils name. Until 1891 the clasp also showed the month in which the school year of the issuing school ended. The medals were issued in a small cardboard box with a label giving the title of the School Board and the name of the pupil. Only a single type of medal was issued at this time. In April of 1888 Firmin and Sons ended the contract and tenders were received and accepted from Messrs. Player Bros. of Birmingham and from Messrs. Elkington and Co. of Regent Street London.
In June 1890 it was decided that children having perfect attendance records of more than three years should be given something more than the ordinary white metal medals. The award scheme was amended to allow for six medals; the first three in white metal with a white metal clasp, the fourth and fifth medals in bronze with a bronzed clasp and a sixth medal in gilded bronze with a gilded clasp. Player Bros. did not seem too happy with these changes and gave notice of termination of contract in July 1890. The new medals were issued from school years ending September 1890 and had a different portrait closely resembling the Jubilee portrait of the coinage. In February of 1892 Elkington also gave notice of termination of contract but then decided to withdraw it the following month. An amendment was made to the award scheme in 1893 to provide for a seventh medal, in 1894 an eighth medal and in 1895 a ninth medal.
In 1897 the Queens diamond jubilee was celebrated and Spink and Son submitted designs to the Board for a new medal with an updated 'Old Head' portrait similar to the coinage portrait. The Board decided to accept the tender of Spink and Son and the medal design was quickly submitted to and approved by the Queen. A quantity of medals had already been struck, using the old design, and so the Board decided to issue, for 1897, medals in both old and new designs. Although the metal of the medals was not changed, it was decided to vary the metal coating of the clasp to make each different medal unique in appearance.
* with additional silk ribbon.
# with additional silk ribbon and 'TEN YEARS' bar.
The prices quoted by Spink were five pence for the white metal medals, two shillings for the bronze medals, two shillings and fourpence for the gilt medals and an extra penny for engraving the name. All the medals issued in 1898 were of the Spink design but it was decided to drop from the reverse the words 'EVERY TIME THE SCHOOL WAS OPENED'. Again, as some medals had already been prepared using the old legend, both reverse types were issued for this year. Also this year the first tenth year medal was issued, it was similar to the nine year medal but had a bar on the ribbon bearing the words 'TEN YEARS'. Pupils awarded this medal were also presented with a framed engraving of Holman Hunt's "Finding the Saviour in the Temple". In June 1898 it was decided that in future children below the age of seven, or below standard I would not be eligible for medals. This did not lead to a reduction in the number of medals issued as in 1899 it was decided to allow up to two days of sick leave if notified by a letter from the parents. In the same year an eleventh medal was added to the scheme, it was of silver with a silver clasp and a white silk ribbon. A number of newspaper reports mention, prior to 1897, the award of medals for eleven years. The design of these medals is unknown, as the award scheme did not allow for the award of silver medals. From 1897 onwards it seems that a few silver medals were awarded to pupils. It must be assumed that their design is in conformance with the design changes of 1897. A single silver medal, dated 1897, is known to exist. As this medal is dated the year Spink were awarded the contract, and two years before the award scheme was amended to allow it, it is almost certainly a specimen struck in connection with the award of the contract. It is highly likely that the silver medals issued from 1899 are the same design as the 1897 specimen medal.