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UNIT: 11 What was it like for children living in Victorian Britain? Year:5/6



Knowledge &Understanding of events, people and changes







1)  Pupilsshould be taught to:

a)  placeevents, people and changes into correct periods of time
b) use dates and vocabulary relating to the passing of time,including ancient, modern, BC, AD, century and decade.


2)  Pupilsshould be taught:

a)  aboutcharacteristic features of the periods and societies studied,including the ideas, beliefs, attitudes and experiences of men,women and children in the past
b)  about the social, cultural, religious and ethnicdiversity of the societies studied, in Britain and the widerworld
c)  to identify and describe reasons for, and results of,historical events, situations, and changes in the periodsstudied
d)  to describe and make links between the main events,situations and changes within and across the different periods andsocieties studied.

3) Pupilsshould be taught to recognise that the past is represented andinterpreted in different ways, and to give reasons for this.


4)  Pupilsshould be taught:

a)  how to find out about the events, people and changes studied froman appropriate range of sources of information, including ICT basedsources  [Marks the start of supplementary information for example,documents, printed sources, CDROMS, databases, pictures andphotographs, music, artefacts, historic buildings and visits tomuseums, galleries and sites Marks the end of supplementary information

b)  toask and answer questions, and to select and record informationrelevant to the focus of the enquiry














5)  Pupilsshould be taught to:

a)  recall,select and organise historical information
b)  use dates and historical vocabulary to describe theperiods studied
c)   communicate their knowledge and understanding ofhistory in a variety of ways  [Marks the start of supplementary information for example,drawing, writing, by using ICT Marks the end of supplementary information] .


Breadth ofStudy

6) During thekey stage, pupils should be taught the Knowledge, skills andunderstanding through a local history study, three Britishhistory studies, a European history study and a world historystudy.

Local historystudy

7)  Astudy investigating how an aspect in the local area has changedover a long period of time, or how the locality was affectedby a significant national or local event or developmentor by the work of a significant individual.


8)  Intheir study of British history, pupils should be taughtabout:

a) theRomans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings; Britain and the wider world inTudor times; and either Victorian Britain or Britainsince 1930b) aspects of the histories of England, Ireland,Scotland and Wales, where appropriate, and about the history ofBritain in its European and wider world context, in theseperiods.

Romans,Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in Britain

9)  Anoverview study of how British society was shaped by the movementand settlement of different peoples in the period before the NormanConquest and an in-depth study of how British society was affectedby Roman or Anglo-Saxon or Viking settlement.

Britain and thewider world in Tudor times

10)  Astudy of some significant events and individuals, including Tudormonarchs, who shaped this period and of the everyday lives of men,women and children from different sections of society.

VictorianBritain or Britain since 1930

11)  Teacherscan choose between a study of Victorian Britain or Britainsince 1930.


a)  Astudy of the impact of significant individuals, events and changesin work and transport on the lives of men, women and children fromdifferent sections of society.

Britain since1930

b)  Astudy of the impact of the Second World War or social andtechnological changes that have taken place since 1930, on thelives of men, women and children from different sections ofsociety.

A Europeanhistory study

12)  Astudy of the way of life, beliefs and achievements of the peopleliving in Ancient Greece and the influence of their civilisation onthe world today.

A world historystudy

13)  Astudy of the key features, including the everyday lives of men,women and children, of a past society selected from: AncientEgypt, Ancient Sumer, the Assyrian Empire, the Indus Valley, theMaya, Benin, or the Aztecs.




Some childrenwill not have made so much progress. They will be able to:

Most childrenwill be able to:

Some childrenwill have progress further. They will be able to:

recognisesome similarities and differences between the lives of childrenfrom different areas of Victorian society; ask and answer questionsabout the period by using at least one source of information











place the changes in theperiod within a chronological framework; make appropriate use ofdates and terms; demonstrate knowledge and understanding about theeveryday lives of children in the Victorian period; show how someaspects of the period have been interpreted in different ways;select and combine information from a range of visual, textbook anddocumentary sources; communicate their knowledge and understandingof changes to childrens lives in Victorian times in organised andstructured ways







describereasons for and results of particular events; use their knowledgeand understanding of the Victorian period to make links with othersocieties and periods; select and combine information from a rangeof sources to reach substantiated conclusions









words associatedwith education in Victorian times, eg board schools, monitors,logbooks, slates, inkwell

words associatedwith legislation, eg Acts of Parliament, factory report, law,politician, House of Lords

words associatedwith child labour, eg factories, mines, supervisor, inspector,machinery




a portrait ofQueen Victoria and her family, information on Victorian children atwork, eg contemporary engravings, extracts from contemporaryauthors, factory and mine reports, information on Lord Shaftesburyand Dr Barnardo, eg textbooks, pack from Barnardos onVictorian Britain

information on Victorian schools,eg extracts from stories, school logbooks, inspection reports,information on Victorian leisure, eg games, toys, posters,books, songbooks of children at work in factories and mines,contemporary novels, eg novels by Kingsley, Dickens, a classtime line





Thisactivity could be adapted by providing word banks andsentence/paragraph starters.

Alink can be made to work in reading by comparing film versions ofnovels with extracts from the original text. Identify thedifferences in the way that the story is told, eg throughthe loss of the narrator. Examine the distinctive voice ofcontemporary accounts and compare them with modern historicalfiction. Use this investigation to help them adopt an appropriatevoice and style in their own writing.

ICT 6D internetresearch


Health andSafety

None aware of.








  • to identifyQueen Victoria and place the Victorian period in relation to otherperiods of British history
  • to inferinformation from a portrait
  • to consider whatlife was like for children in the past
  • Who were theVictorians and when did they live?
  • Show thechildren a picture of Queen Victoria and her family. Discuss whatthey think they can tell from the picture, eg status of thefamily, lifestyle, when the person was alive.
  • Ask the childrento place the Victorian period on a time line.
  • Discuss with thechildren what life may have been like for Victorias children, andwhether all children would have had similar experiences.
  • Ask the childrento work in groups and share what they already know about the periodand then feed back to the rest of the class what they think lifemight have been like for children.
  • can place theVictorian period on a class time line
  • draw inferencesabout the lives of Queen Victorias family from a portrait
  • suggest whatlife was like for children living in the past


Activity LCP pg6,Timeline Pg 8 spanning 1800-1910. The life of Queen Vistoria

Photo Queen Victoria

Internetresearch (websites attached)

Childrencomplete sheets LCP pgs 11 & 13



  • to collectinformation from a range of sources and draw conclusions about theVictorian period
  • to understandthat ways of life differed greatly across Victorian society
  • to write anarrative using historical detail
  • to understandthat there are many representations of the Victorianperiod

      What waslife like for a poor child in the 1840s?

      Show thechildren an extract from a video about life for the poor in thenineteenth century. Discuss the extract and what sources ofinformation the film-maker might have used and what other sourcesmight be used to find out more.

      Provide arange of sources, eg extracts from contemporary authors(Kingsley, Dickens), reports on factories or mines, engravings.Ask the children to make a list of what they can infer about thelife of poor children from the sources and present it toclass.

      Providesome information on the numbers of working children, their hours ofwork, the types of jobs they did and their lack of education.Discuss why children worked in Victorian times.

  • Askthe children to imagine they are a Victorian child working in afactory and write an extract from a factory report describing thework a child of their age was doing.
  • list a number ofaspects of daily life for poor Victorian children
  • produce a simplenarrative to illustrate what they know about the work done byVictorian children


ActivityLCP pg18

Sourcesto support pgs 20-22

Workingchildren information (attached)



  • to understandthat the work of individuals can change aspects of society
  • to find outabout important figures in Victorian times
  • to present theirfindings in different ways

      Who helpedto improve the lives of Victorian children?

      Ask thechildren what they think needed to be done for Victorianchildren.

      Talk aboutLord Shaftesbury and Dr Barnardo and how they helped children,placing key events on the time line. Ask the children to find outabout the work of these men, and the way that they changed somechildrens lives using a variety of written sources andpictures.

  • Askthe children to present their work using freeze-frames, briefrole-plays, cartoons, extended writing or oral and visualpresentations.
  • answer questionsabout who helped to improve childrens lives and how
  • selectappropriate information and present it, to show what they havefound out about Lord Shaftesbury and Dr Barnardo


Dr Barnardo information(attached with timelines)

LordShaftesbury Powerpoint Resources


  • to comparemodern and Victorian schooling
  • to communicatethrough drama their understanding of the nature of school life inVictorian times
  • What was it likegoing to school at the end of the nineteenth century?
  • Show thechildren pictures of school life at the end of the nineteenthcentury and discuss how school appears different from today,eg uniforms, architecture and interiors ofclassrooms.
  • Referring to thetime line, talk briefly about the 1870 Education Act, and howschooling was not free until 1891. Use sources to illustrateaspects of school life at this time, eg extracts fromstories, school logbooks, inspection reports.
  • Ask the childrento produce a conversation between two children, one established inschool and the other a new arrival who had been working in afactory, mill or mine for years. Select children to present theirwork to the class.
  • Lead adiscussion on the differences in the views of school and work andwhy the children in the nineteenth century would have interpretedschool life differently.
  • identifydistinctive features of a Victorian school
  • produce adialogue that contains appropriate historical detail
  • suggest thereare different interpretations of school and work


Victorianschools information Attached




  • to consider howattitudes to children and childhood changed over time
  • How diddifferent Victorian children use their spare time?
  • Discuss ways ofspending spare time, and ask the children to list their interestsand those of others in their families. Ask them to consider whichwould have been possible in 1890 and which not, giving reasons.Discuss with the children what leisure interests may have beenavailable.
  • Give thechildren a range of sources on Victorian leisure pursuits,eg artefacts, textbooks, contemporary paintings,pictures. Ask the children to complete a table listing eachleisure pursuit and describing it.
  • Tell thechildren about late-Victorian attitudes, eg that childhoodwas a time for protection from immoral aspects of adult life andfor learning family values and moral principles. Ask thechildren to compare Victorian attitudes with those of today.
  • Ask the childrento use the sources of information to help them produceadvertisements or a poster advertising the benefits of a new toy orpursuit, and highlighting what they have been told about Victorianattitudes.
  • produceadvertisements or posters that reflect Victorian attitudes andvalues
  • suggest whatVictorian children might have done in their spare time
  • select relevantinformation about a toy/leisure pursuit


Books and artefactsrequired from School Loans Service



  • to recallinformation about the life of children in Victorian times
  • to selectappropriate material and present it in a way that shows theirunderstanding of the Victorian period
  • How did lifechange for children living in Victorian Britain?
  • Refer to thetime line to recap the main events, dates and figures to help thechildren recall some of the main changes to the lives of childrenduring the Victorian period.
  • Discuss with thechildren why the changes took place and who benefited from them.Tell the children that a large number of children were stillworking in 1901.
  • Provide thechildren with a range of sources and ask them to summarise whatthey have found out in ways that provide a sense of the Victorianperiod.
  • recallinformation about what children did in Victorian times
  • presentinformation showing knowledge and an appreciation of the Victorianperiod


VictoriansTest accessed at


Website Addresses for InternetResearch


Nettleworthprimary school



Working Children

If you were a child from a poorfamily at the beginning the Victorian times, you worked and worked.








Children were often forced to workas soon as they were old enough. This was not something new to theVictorian period as children had always been been expected to workas soon as they were old enough for hundreds of years.

Why didn't children refuse towork?
Most children had no choice - they needed to work to help supporttheir families.

What kind of jobs did childrendo? The lucky children got apprenticedin a trade, the less lucky ones worked on farms or helped with thespinning. When new types of work appeared with the development ofindustries andfactories, itseemed perfectly natural to use children for work that adultscouldn't do; Crawling underneath machinery or sitting in coal minesto open and close the ventilation doors.

Another job they could do betterthan adults was chimney sweeping.A chimney boy worked for a chimney sweep. His job was to scrambleup inside the chimney, to scrape and brush soot away. He came downcovered in soot, and with bleeding elbows and knees. Some boys gotstuck and died of suffocation.

In 1832 the use of boys forsweeping chimneys was forbidden by law, however, boys continued tobe forced through the narrow winding passages of chimneys in largehouses.

Children would work long hours and sometimes had to carry out somedangerous jobs working in factories.

In textile mills children weremade to clean machines while the machines were kept running, andthere were many accidents.

In match factories children wereemployed to dip matches into a dangerous chemical calledphosphorous. The phosphorous could cause their teeth to rot andsome died from the effect of breathing it into their lungs.

The Factory Act of 1878 bannedemployment of children under ten years of age, but poor familiesneeded the extra money so many children still skippedschool.

Thousands of poor children worked and lived on the streets. Manywere orphans, others were simply neglected. They worked very longhours for very little money. To buy bread, theysoldmatches, firewood, buttons, flowers or bootlaces,polishedshoes, ran errands and swept the crossing placeswhere rich people crossed the busy roads.

Other jobs included working downcoal mines. Coal was the main source of power in Victorian times.It was used for cooking and heating, and for driving machinery,trains and steam ships.Until the 1840s, children as young as fiveworked down mines for up to 12 hours a day.

Dr Barnardo (1845-1905)

When Thomas John Barnardo was bornin Dublin in 1845 no one could have predicted that he would becomeone of the most famous men in Victorian Britain. At the age of 16,after converting to Protestant evangelicalism he decided to becomea medical missionary in China and so set out for London to train asa doctor.


The London in which ThomasBarnardo arrived in 1866 was a city struggling to cope with theeffects of the Industrial Revolution. The population haddramatically increased and much of this increase was concentratedin the East End, where overcrowding, bad housing, unemployment,poverty and disease were rife. A few months after Thomas Barnardocame to London an outbreak of cholera swept through the East Endkilling more than 3,000 people and leaving families destitute.Thousands of children slept on the streets and many others wereforced to beg after being maimed infactories.


In1867, Thomas Barnardo set up a ragged school in the East End, wherepoor children could get a basic education. One evening a boy at theMission, Jim Jarvis, took Thomas Barnardo around the East Endshowing him children sleeping on roofs and in gutters. Theencounter so affected him he decided to devote himself to helpingdestitute children.

In1870, Barnardo opened his first home for boys in Stepney Causeway.He regularly went out at night into the slum district to finddestitute boys. One evening, an 11-year old boy, John Somers(nicknamed 'Carrots') was turned away because the shelter was full.He was found dead two days later from malnutrition and exposure andfrom then on the home bore the sign 'No Destitute Child EverRefused Admission'.

Victorians saw poverty as shamefulas a result of laziness or vice. However Thomas Barnardo acceptedall children and stressed that every child deserved the bestpossible start in life, whatever their background - a philosophythat still inspires the charity today.

Barnardo later opened the Girls'Village Home in Barkingside, a collection of cottages around agreen, which housed 1,500 girls. By the time a child leftBarnardo's they were able to make their own way in the world - thegirls were equipped with domestic skills and the boys learnt acraft or trade.

ThomasBarnardo strongly believed that families were the best place tobring up children and he established the first fostering schemewhen he boarded out children to respectable families in thecountry. He also introduced a scheme to board out babies ofunmarried mothers. The mother went into service nearby and couldsee her child during her time off.

By the time Thomas Barnardo diedin 1905, the charity he founded ran 96 homes caring for more than8,500 children. Residential care emphasised children's physical andmoral welfare rather than their emotional wellbeing. Some homeshoused hundreds of children and staff sometimes were harsh anddistant. Many adults who grew up in the homes look back withaffection and believe the charity was a true family. Othersremember loneliness, bullying and evenabuse.


Dr Barnardo Timeline


1845 Born 4th July,  DameStreet Dublin, Ireland, the fourth of six children born to John andAbigail Barnardo.

1861 Thomas finished school atthe age of sixteen with few academic attainments, Thomas wasapprenticed to a wine merchant, which his father procured for him.Here his innate abilities began to appear, though an increasinglove of reading made the discipline of business life irksome to theyoung man.

1862 Thomas joined an evangelicalsect called the Plymouth Brethren, a religious group. Thomas gaveup reading any books except the Bible. He decides to become amedical missionary.

1866 Thomas went to London tobegin training. An outbreak of cholera shortly after he arrivesintroduces Thomas to the suffering of poor people: 5,548 people diein the epidemic that is caused by the sanitation and drinking waterin the east end of London. He gives up his plan to go toChina.

1867 Thomas set up a raggedschool in what had been a old donkey stable in Limehouse, (but hadnot been used as such for quite some time) where poor childrencould get a basic education. One evening a boy at the Mission, JimJarvis, took Thomas Barnardo around the East End showing himchildren sleeping on roofs and in gutters. The encounter soaffected him he decided to devote himself to helping destitutechildren.

1868 The banker, Robert Barclayagreed to support Thomas 2nd March of this year to able Thomasopens his first home for homeless children in Hope Street, Stepney.which consists of two cottages, one for boy and one for girls. Hestarts his training at the London Hospital in Whitechapel as afull-time medical student aged 23.

1870 He opens his first home forboys in Stepney Causeway, inthe East End of London on a 99 year lease on the property. Oneevening, an 11-year old boy, John Somers (nicknamed 'Carrots') wasturned away because the shelter was full. He was found dead twodays later from malnutrition and exposure and from then on the homebore the sign 'No Destitute Child Ever Refused Admission'. Thomasdecides not to limit the number of children he helps.

Thomas employs a photographer tomake a photographic record of every child admitted. The photographswere kept in albums and case-history sheets.

1872 Thomas had begun to earn asmall income from his writing and from preaching. His evangelicalefforts also started to be on a large scale. In the summer of thisyear he set up a huge tent outside the Edinburgh Castle publichouse, a notorious local gin palace and reportedly some 200 peoplea night would profess conversion. Attendances at the tent affectedthe numbers using the public house and it was put for sale.

Thomas buys the Edinburgh Castle, a large building in Limehouse. Heturns it into a coffee house and mission church accommodating morethan 3,000 people at one time  He receives important supportfrom rich evangelicals.

1873 Thomas marries SyrieElmslie, they are offered some land on a rent-free lease for 15years as a wedding present at Barkingside, Mossford Lodge. This iswhere he set up the home and took on forty girls. In October ofthis year sixty girls now reside in the converted coach house nextto the Lodge. 

They have seven children, three ofwhom die young. His daughter, Marjorie, has Down's Syndrome andinfluences Thomas to set up homes for children with physical andlearning disabilities.

1874 Thomas opens the first in anetwork of "Ever Open Doors" the first all night refuge at HopePlace and adopts the slogan No destitute child ever refusedadmission. Sets up a photographic studio,  Children werephotographed when they first arrived and again several months laterafter they had recovered from their experiences of living on thestreets. These 'before' and 'after' cards were then sold in packsof twenty for 5 shillings or singly for 6d. each. This enabledBarnardo to publicize his work and raise money for his charitablework. also starts his own magazine, The Childrens Treasury.

1875 First Committee ofmanagement set up, Thomas became the director of the Homes. TheOrganisation becomes known as Dr. Barnardo's Homes. The Night andDay Magazine starts.

1876 Thomas qualifies as adoctor. He sets up a council of trustees to look after thecharity's money and to make policy. The charity becomes morefamous, and receives more and more money. In the same year, Thomasand Syrie open the Girls' Village Home inEssex  plans are drawn up for 30 morecottages  Based on French and German models of care, theVillage was very different from the large scale institutions of thetime.

1877 Thomas was involved in abitter personal dispute with fellow evangelists in Stepney. Thisled to a trial, mounted by the Charity Organisation Society, whereBarnardo was accused of financial malpractice, cruelty to children,lack of moral and religious training and of keeping childrenagainst their will. After four months and the testimony of 112witnesses, Thomas was acquitted of all charges. As a result of thecase, he became a public personality and his supporter basebroadened considerably. 

The arbitrators, pronouncing theirverdict, stated: "This use of artistic fiction to represent actualfacts is, in our opinion, not only morally wrong as thus employed,but might, in the absence of a very strict control grow into asystem of deception dangerous to the cause on behalf of which it ispractised. Nor has evidence been wanting in this inquiry, that inone or two cases it has been applied to an extent thatwe....strongly reprobate." Thomas stops selling the before andafter photographs.

1878 Thomas had established overfifty orphanages in London. The ever open door was now causingconcern for Thomas, he would have to find a way to relieve thesituation. He thought they would have better prospectsoverseas.

1879 Girls' Village Home in Essex allof the thirty cottages proposed in 1876 have been completed. Thevillage had its own school, a laundry and church, and a populationof over 1,000 children, that eventually house more than 1,500girls.

1881 The Childrens Treasurymagazine was loosing money, Thomas stops the publication on whichhe depended to a large extent for his income.

1882 Thomas sends the first 51boys to Canada as part of an 'emigration programme'. The programmeis to settle children in colonies overseas. The programme is not asuccess. He believed that the child would benefit from a freshstart, away from the overcrowded slums of the East End also it costabout 12 a year to look after a child in Britain. To send onechild overseas was a one-off payment of 15

1883 The summer of this yearPeterborough millionaire George A Cox offered Thomas Barnardo hischoice of various homes he owned in Peterborough to establish ahome for the destitute children of England. Having selectedHazelbrae he began preparing the home ready for the children. Todaya Heritage plaque recognising the home stands on the grounds of theformer Hazelbrae Home.

1886 The first officiallyrecorded legacy of 50.00 (today 3,475.00) was received 1stOctober of this year.

1887 Thomas begins a scheme of'boarding out', sending 330 boys, to 'good country homes' - wellaway from the slums and pollution that he believed was so injuriousto physical and moral well-being. 

1888 Thomas opens two refuges forthe children of prostitutes. Most people at the time sawprostitution as a sin, but Thomas understood it as part of a lagersystem of economic and social exploitation of women. Thomas isquestioned by H division police regarding him fitting the profileof Jack TheRipper but there is no evidence against Thomas. But twofacts, one of him being a Doctor and the second he is seen late atnight in his private carriage, but if he did need a alibi the onehe had was sound. He writes a letter to TheTimes

1889 Thomas begins anotherscheme, boarding out the babies of unmarried mothers. While themothers live and work in one family, their babies are looked afterby a fostering family nearby.

1891 Thomas partly responsiblefor a change in the law, which put the welfare of the child abovethe rights of the parent.

1894 The Children's ChurchBarkingside is completed

1900 Thomas insisted that allChildren applicants for emigration must reside for two to threemonths in one of his homes before departure.

1903 The charity opens Watts Naval training school inNorfolk. to hold 320 places

1905 Dr. Thomas John Barnardo dies of angina aged 60 at his home, St Leonards Lodge,Surbiton.. At the time of his death, the charity runs 96 homes andlooks after more than 7,998 children in his residential homes, morethan 4,000 were boarded out, and 18,000 had been sent to Canada andAustralia. The organisation was 249,000 in dept.

Tributes poured in from across theglobe and the world's press united in praising a man who had inforty years transformed the lives of nearly 60,000 boys and girls.The Times wrote: 'It is impossible to take a general view of DrBarnardo's lifework without being astonished alike by itsmagnitude and by its diversity, and by the enormous amount ofotherwise hopeless misery against which he has contendedsinglehanded with success.'

Earlyragged schools

Shaftesbury was one of thefounders of the Ragged Schools Union and was its president for 40years. The ragged school movement grew out of a recognition thatcharity, denominational and dames schools were not providing forsignificant numbers of children in inner-city areas. Working in thepoorest districts, teachers (who were often local working people)initially utilized such buildings as could be afforded - stables,lofts, railway arches. There would be an emphasis on reading,writing and arithmetic - and on bible study (the 4 Rs!). This mixexpanded into industrial and commercial subjects in many schools.It is estimated that around 300,000 children went through theLondon Ragged Schools alone between the early 1840s and 1881(Silver 1983: 20).

As theschools developed, many gained better premises and broadened theirclientele (age wise), opened club rooms and hostel and shelteraccommodation, and added savings clubs and holiday schemes to theirprogrammes of classes. A good indication of the widening of thework is given by S. E. Haywards illustration The Ragged SchoolTree (an illustration in Montague 1904). Along the branches wefind coffee and reading rooms, Bands of Hope, Penny Banks, refuges,mens clubs and sewing and knitting classes. This stood in starkcontrast to the narrow focus on the 4 Rs that remained, forexample, in the voluntary National Schools.

Someof the ragged schools developed into Evening and Youths Institutes- such as that established by Hogg, Pelham and others in Long Acre,London in 1870. (Pelham was very active in developing boy's clubwork.) Other Institutes developed from scratch. Early Instituteslike the one established in Dover in 1858, utilized a mix ofopportunities for reading, recreation and education.



Lord Shaftesbury

Shaftesbury Avenue was named inmemory of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885). The Avenueopened in 1886, and while using the route of existing streets, itentailed the demolition, to the east of here, of some of theappalling slums that Shaftesbury sought to eliminate.


Whilst known as Lord Ashley, hebecame involved in factory reform and was responsible for takingthree factory acts through Parliament (1847; 1850 and 1859); andthe Coal Mines Act (1842) which stopped the employment undergroundof women and children under 13. He also piloted the Lunacy Act(1845); helped Florence Nightingale with her army welfare andnursing work, and was centrally involved in the YMCA. He wasconcerned with improving housing conditions for poorpeople.


Lord Shaftesbury Powerpoint onPrimary resources

Who went to school during theVictorian times?
In earlyVictorian England,most children never went to school at all and grew up unable toread or write. Instead they were sent out to work to earn money for their families. Only the upper andmiddle class children went to school.

Children from rich families were taught at home by a governessuntil they were 10 years old. Once a boy turned ten, he went awayto Public schools like Eton or Harrow. There were very few schoolsavailable for girls, however, until near the end of the Victoriantime.  Wealthy girls were mostly educated at home.

Where did poor children go toschool?
Poor children went to free charity schools or 'Dame' schools (socalled because they were run by women) for young children. Theyalso went to Sunday Schoolswhich were run by churches. There they learnt bible stories andwere taught to read a little.

Why go toschool?
The Victorians soon realised that it was important for people to beable to read and write and education became more important. TheChurch of England became active in the field and erected'NationalSchools' which taught children reading, writing,arithmetic and religion.

In 1833, the government awarded grants of money toschools. Not everyone who ran the schools were able to readthemselves so the standard of education was not very good.

In 1844, Parliament passed a law requiring childrenworking in factories be given six-half-days schooling every week.'RaggedSchools' were set up to provide free basiceducation for orphans and very poor children.

In 1870, Parliament passed the Forster's EducationAct, requiring all parts of Britain to provide schools to childrenaged 5 to 12.  However, not all these school were free so manycould not afford the 'school's pence' each week. As it was notmandatory to attend school many children still didn't go toschool.  They worked and earned money for the familyinstead. 

When did attending school becomemandatory?
It wasn't until 1880 that schoolingbecame mandatory. All children had to attend a school until theywere 10 years old. In 1889, the schoolleaving age was raised to twelve, and in 1891, the school's pence fee was abolished andschools became free.

What were the schoolslike?
There could be as many as 70 or 80 pupils in one class, especiallyin cities. The teachers were very strict. Children were oftentaught by reading and copying things down, or chanting things tillthey were perfect.

What did the schoolsteach?
Typical lessons at school included the three Rs - Reading,WRiting and Dictation, and ARithmetic.  Inaddition to the three Rs which were taught most of the day, once aweek the children learned geography, history and singing. The girlslearned how to sew.

Schools did not teach music or PEin the way that schools do now. Children sometimes did 'drill' inthe classroom. Drill was a series of exercises that were done bythe side of a desk.

Did Victorian children use acalculator?
For maths lessons, children used frames with coloured wooden beads,much like an abacus.  Children learned how to multiply anddivide using this apparatus. 

What was a Victorian school daylike?
The day usually began with prayers and religiousinstruction. Morning lessons ran from 9a.m. to 12p.m. Children went home for a meal, then returned for afternoon classesfrom 2p.m. to 5p.m.

Why did Victorian children writeon slates?
Paper was expensive. Children usually therefore wrote on slateswith slate pencils. After a lesson was completed, and the teacherchecked their work, the students cleared their slates for the nextlesson. 

Did Victorian children use apen?
Older children also learned to write on paper. An 'ink monitor'distributed ink to the children, who used pens made out of thinwooden sticks with steel needles.  The pen had to be dippedevery few words or it would run dry.






Allchildren go to school

Manychildren in early Victorian England never went to school at all andmore than half of them grew up unable even to read or write.Although some did go to Sunday schools which were run by churches.Children from rich families were luckier than poor children.Nannies looked after them, and they had toys and books. A governesswould  teach the children at home. Then, when the boys wereold enough, they were sent away to a public school such as Eton orRugby. The daughters were kept at home and taught singing, pianoplaying and sewing. Slowly, things changed for poorer children too.By the end of the Victorian age all children under 12 had to go toschool. Now everybody could learn how to read and write, and how tocount properly.

Therewere several kinds of school for poorer children. The youngestmight go to a "Dame" school,run by a local woman in a room of herhouse. The older ones went to a day school. Other schools wereorganised by churches and charities. Among these were the "ragged"schools which were for orphans and very poor children.

Schoolroom Theschool could be quite a grim building. The rooms were warmed by asingle stove or open fire. The walls of a Victorian schoolroom werequite bare, except perhaps for an embroidered text. Curtains wereused to divide the schoolhouse into classrooms. The shouts ofseveral classes competed as they were taught side by side. Therewas little fresh air  because the windows were built high inthe walls, to stop pupils looking outside and being distracted fromtheir work. Many schools were built in the Victorian era, between1837 and 1901. In the country you would see barns being convertedinto schoolrooms. Increasing numbers of children began to attend,and they became more and more crowded. But because school managersdidnt like to spend money on repairs, buildings were allowed torot and broken equipment was not replaced.


Childrenwere often scared of their teachers because they were very strict.Children as young as thirteen helped the teacher to control theclass. These pupil teachers scribbled notes for their lessons inbooks .They received certificates which helped them qualify asteachers when they were older. In schools before 1850 you might seea single teacher instructing a class of over 100 children with helpof pupils called monitors. The head teacher quickly taught thesemonitors, some of them as young as nine, who then tried to teachtheir schoolmates. Salaries were low, and there were more womenteaching  than men. The pale, lined faces of older teacherstold a story. Some taught only because they were too ill to doother jobs. The poor conditions in schools simply made their healtheven worse. Sometimes, teachers were attacked by angry parents.They shouted that their children should be at work earning money,not wasting time at school. Teachers in rough areas had to learn tobox!

After1870, all children from five to thirteen had to attend school bylaw. In winter in the countryside, many children faced a teethchattering walk to school of several miles. A large number didntturn up. Lessons lasted from 9am to 5pm, with a two hour lunchbreak. Because classes were so large, pupils all had to do the samething at the same time. The teacher barked a command, and  the children all opened their books. At the secondcommand they began copying sentences from the blackboard. Whenpupils found their work boring, teachers found their pupilsdifficult to control.

Victorianlessons concentrated on the three Rs-Reading, wRiting andaRithmetic. Children learnt by reciting things like parrots, untilthey were word perfect. It was not an exciting form of learning!Science was taught by object lesson. Snails, models of trees,sunflowers , stuffed dogs, crystals, wheat or pictures of elephantsand camels were placed on each pupils desk as the subject for thelesson. The object lesson was supposed to make children observe,then talk about what they had seen. Unfortunately, many teachersfound it easier to chalk up lists describing the object, for theclass to copy. Geography meant yet more copying and reciting -listing the countries on a globe, or chanting the names of railway stations between London and Holyhead. If you look at atimetable from late in the 1800s and you will see a greater numberof subjects, including needlework, cookery and woodwork. But theteacher still taught them by chalking and talking.

Slatesand copybooks
Childrenlearned to write on slates, they scratched letters on them withsharpened pieces of slate. Paper was expensive, but slates could beused again and again. Children were supposed to bring sponges toclean them. Most just spat on the slates, and rubbed them cleanwith their sleeves. Older children learned to use pen and ink bywriting in copybooks. Each morning the ink monitor filled uplittle, clay ink wells and handed them round from a tray. Pens werefitted with scratchy, leaking nibs, and children were punished forspilling ink which blotted their copybooks. Teaches also gavedictation, reading out strange poems which the children had tospell out correctly.

Slatesshowing pictures and names of different objects hang from the wallsof the infants class. The children chant the name of each object inturn. When they can use these words in sentences they will move onto a reader. This would p probably be the Bible. For readinglessons, the pupils lined up with their toes touching a semi-circlechalked on the floor. They took it in turns to read aloud from thebible. The words didnt sound like everyday words, childrenstumbled over the long sentences. Quicker readers fidgeted as theywaited for their turn to read. School inspectors slowly realisedthat the bibles language was too difficult. Bibles were graduallyreplaced by books of moral stories, with titles like Harriet andthe Matches. A reader had to last for a whole year. If the classread it too quickly, they had to go back to the beginning and readit all over again!

Thepupils used an abacus to help them with their maths. Calculationswere made using imperial weights and measures instead of oursimpler metric system. Children had to pass inspections in maths,reading and writing before they could move up to the next class orstandard. Teachers were also tested by the dreaded inspector, tomake sure that they deserved government funds.

Teachershanded out regular canings. Look inside the punishment book thatevery school kept, and you will see many reasons for thesebeatings: rude conduct, leaving the playground without permission,sulkiness, answering back, missing Sunday prayers, throwing inkpellets and being late. Boys were caned across their bottoms, andgirls across their hands or bare legs. Some teachers broke caneswith their fury, and kept birch rods in jars of water to make themmore supple. Victims had to chose which cane they wished to bebeaten with!

Punishmentdid not end with caning. Students had to stand on a stool at theback of the class, wearing an arm band with DUNCE written on it.The teacher then took a tall, cone-shaped hat decorated with alarge D, and placed it on the boys head. Today we know that somechildren learn more slowly than others. Victorian teachers believedthat all children could learn at the same speed, and if some fellbehind then they should be punished for not trying hardenough.

When itstime for PE or drill, a pupil teacher starts playing anout-of-tune piano . The children jog, stretch and lift weights in time to the awful music. It is like a Victorian aerobicsclass! Even when the teacher rings a heavy , brass bell to announcethe end of school, the pupils march out to the playground inperfect time

Outsidethe classroom is a small yard crowded with shrieking schoolmates.Games of blind mans buff, snakes and ladders, hide-and-seek andhopscotch are in full swing. Some boys would beg a pigs bladderfrom the butcher, which they would blow up to use as a football.Others drilled hob nails through cotton reels to make spinningtops.