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Victorian Schools - Suggested Learning Activities
  • Southbroom National Schools, Devizes 1907, reproduced by kind permission of Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office Write a short history of the school for ex pupils and invite them to an open evening when you could interview them and add their reminiscences to the history. Ask them to bring in any old photographs, certificates etc. and use a digital camera to make copies.
  • Compile a timeline of major events in the history of the school concentrating on the Victorian period. Relate this to developments in education and in the locality [e.g. the building of a factory or housing]. Look for evidence on the building such as plaques and documentary evidence as suggested in the section on sources.

  • If your school dates back to the Victorian era look for evidence of the original buildings and any traces left of Victorian features such a central hall, gallery, separate boys and girls entrances, outside toilets, fireplaces etc. Look for evidence in old photographs or plans of the school.
    Find out when the alterations were made and why, for example new regulations were introduced in the early twentieth century regarding ventilation and provision of inside toilets.Plan of Southbroom National Schools, Devizes 1907, reproduced by kind permission of Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office

  • Make a simple plan of the school to be used by new pupils. Colour code the various parts according to their uses and compile a key.

  • Look for existing plans to try and find out when the different parts of the building were built and what they used to be used for. Make a new plan or plans to reflect the old/new uses or dates of building. Use these to introduce pupils to the whole idea of plan making, planning permission etc. Illustrate with old photographs where available.

  • Use admission registers if available to look at the pupils who attended the school in the Victorian era. Questions to focus on could include; Where did they come from? How did they get to school? [Victorian ordnance survey maps should be available in you local archive or local studies library]
    If you can put the information from a number of years onto a database it may be possible to focus on issues such as the size of families and child mortality.

  • With younger pupils it is useful to focus on what it was like to be at the school in Victorian times compared to the school today. Questions to focus on could include; Would they have had school meals? Did they have school uniform? How was the school heated? What lessons did they have? Introduce the idea of using evidence from the past [log books, photographs, plans] to answer these questions.

  • If possible choose a named pupil and try to find out more about them. Old photographs may have names on the back; some schools crowned May Queens and took photographs for an album. You could look up their baptism in the local church register and see where they went when they left the school in the admissions register.

  • Find a copy of the report of a local Children's Employment Commission. Look for interviews with children who are the same age as your pupils or who started work at a similar age. Each piece is clearly based on the children's replies to a set of questions.
    Ask your students to work out what the questions were and why those particular questions were asked. Can they answer them, if not why do they think this is? Able students may be able to detect the motives behind the commissions from these questions - these tell us quite a bit about the ethics of the Victorian Age.
    The interviews and descriptions of the children give ample material for discussion of issues related to social inclusion and stimulus for drama.
  • If your school is not Victorian use the Images of England website to identify a nearby buildingBolland Hall, Morpeth © Mr David J Wilkinson LRPS, 238915 such as Bolland Hall in Northumberland that has been a school and try to piece together its history using archive sources.
  • Discuss with your students what part this building has played in the community. Try to contact older residents who may remember the building when it was a school. Is there any record on the building to reflect its past importance? You could contact the local civic or historical society and find out if they have a plaque scheme
  • If the building is in a poor condition like Bolland Hall you can find out if it is officially 'At Risk' by checking the Buildings At Risk Register. Contact your local council to find out what plans there are for the building. Ask your students what they would like to see happen to the building.
  • Visit the education section of the English Heritage website for more details of Citizenship projects or to send for a copy of the publication Citizenship; Using the evidence of the Historic Environment.
Source List

A Teacher's Guide to USING SCHOOL BUILDINGS, Sallie Purkis, English Heritage 1993 ISBN1 85074 379 7
THE VICTORIAN SCHOOLROOM, Trevor May, Shire Publications Ltd, 1994 ISBN 0 7478 0243 2

Magazine Articles:
The rise and rise of a village school, Local History Magazine no.89 Jan/Feb 2002

Follow any of the links below for more information on Victorian Schools

Victorian Schools : Sources for studying Victorian Schools

Please note that the inclusion of a listed building on this website does not mean it is open to the public.