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What was life like for Victorian school children?

The interior of a Victorian classroom at Port Sunlight in Merseyside, taken in April 1897.

The interior of a Victorian classroom at Port Sunlight in Merseyside, taken in April 1897.
The interior of a Victorian classroom at Port Sunlight in Merseyside, taken in April 1897. © Reproduced by permission of Historic England Archive. Ref: BL14041/034

Teaching idea

Ask pupils to look at the photograph of the Victorian classroom. As a class create a list of similarities and differences between this classroom and your own. If you have access to a digital camera it may be helpful to take a photograph of your classroom without the pupils in it, to make it easier for them to compare.

Pupils could then be asked to look at their lists and decide whether they would have liked to go to a Victorian school. This work could be linked to a design project based on classroom layout. Use the photograph to prompt thought/discussion about how a classroom should look. Pupils could then decide what features they thought were most important and design a new classroom. There is a PowerPoint activity (above) to support this Teaching Idea.

Learning aims and outcomes

  • Suggest what life was like for children living in the past
  • Identify distinctive features of a Victorian school
  • Present information showing knowledge and an appreciation of the Victorian period
  • Make comparisons between lifestyles today and in the past

Prior knowledge

  • An understanding that the Victorian period was a long time ago

Extended learning and useful links

  • Having introduced the topic of the Victorian classroom, the class and you could use role play to recreate a day in a Victorian classroom
  • Using your Victorian role play as an opportunity to include scientific work on rocks and soils as part of an 'object lesson'
  • Children in Victorian Britain

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