(The following came through as a comment, but since it might easily be missed and since it is too important to miss, I am posting it here for you to see. My thanks to everyone who contributed - what a powerful research team we all are! - Jacqueline)
Yes, they did learn shorthand at Ackworth in the 1840s. I found the following in The Phonotypic Journal, after a search in Google books, it is a letter from Joseph Pitman:[page 85]
'...In all these schools the masters or assistants in some cases both are taking lessons with their pupils and have promised to continue the practise of the system in their establishments after we leave. One of them is a large Friends school (similar to the establishment at Ackworth)where we have a class of eighty including ten teachers...'
JOSEPH PITMAN,TA REID,Croydon 15th March 1845
On page 86 it lists: 'Ackworth School - John Newby, class of 30, in the Girls' school.'
Margaret Couch, Hamilton, New Zealand