"Sunday school" is the generic name for many different types of religious education pursued on Sundays by various denominations.
It had its origins when Hannah Ball, a native of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, founded a school within the town in 1769. However the founding of Sunday schools is more commonly associated with the work of Robert Raikes, editor of the Gloucester Journal, who saw the need to prevent children in the slums descending into crime. The first Sunday school in London opened at Surrey Chapel under Rowland Hill. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were attended weekly by 1,250,000 children, approximately 25 percent of the population. Their work in the industrial cities was increasingly supplemented by ragged schools (charitable provision for the industrial poor), and eventually by publicly funded education under the late nineteenth century school boards. Sunday schools continued alongside such increasing educational provision, and new forms also developed such as the Socialist Sunday Schools movement which began in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century.
Some Roman Catholic churches operate Sunday schools, though Catholics commonly refer to Sunday school as "Catechism class". Sunday schools, contrary to the name, are virtually never recognized educational institutions; rather than offering formal grades or transcripts, Sunday schools simply attempt to offer meaningful instruction concerning Christian doctrine and keep little or no record of performance for any given week. Attendance is often tracked as a means of encouraging children to appear regularly, and awards are frequently given for reaching attendance milestones.
Sunday school often takes the form of a one hour or longer Bible study which can occur before, during, or after a church service. While many Sunday schools are focused on providing instruction for children (especially those occurring during service times), adult Sunday school classes are also popular and widespread (see RCIA.) In some traditions, Sunday school is too strongly associated with children and alternate terms such as "Adult Electives" are used instead of "Adult Sunday school". Some churches only run Sunday school for children concurrently with the adult worship service. In this case there is typically no adult Sunday school.
Sunday school teachers are usually lay people who are selected for their job by a church board or committee, normally because of their advanced experience with the Bible—few teachers receive any formal training in education, though many Sunday school teachers have a background in education as a result of their occupations. Some churches, however, do make Sunday school teachers and catechists attend several courses on religion to ensure that they have a mature enough understanding of the faith to educate others. Some Baptist Churches (particularly Southern Baptist Churches) do allow volunteers to teach even without formal educational backgrounds. A profession of faith and a desire to teach is all that is required in such a case.
Hebrew schools also usually operate on Sundays.
Also, in America, some Islamic education is taught on either Saturday or Sunday.
In 1986 a new kind of Sunday school started out of a ministry of Bill Wilson in the inner city of Brooklyn, New York, called Sidewalk Sunday School. With little delivery trucks that can be converted to stages, project areas and parks are being served Sunday school programs.
Metro Ministries is now in many major cities in the U.S. and has branches in eight other countries.