children go to school until they are sixteen in this country,
and there is a free school place for every child in the country,
but it was not always like that. When Queen Victoria came
to the throne in 1837 many children were not lucky enough
to go to school. Schools charged fees and their families could
not afford it. One in three London children did not go to
school. Some because they were looking after younger brothers
or sisters. Others were working themselves, if they went to
school their parents would be without their wages.
Rich children were educated at home by tutors or were sent
to private schools. Some churches provided schooling for
a few poor children at reduced rates as did the Ragged Schools
that were set up especially for very poor and beggar children.
There is a Ragged
School museum in London where you can see a classroom
as it would have looked in Victorian times. They were called
ragged schools because the children were so poor they wore
In 1870 the government decided all children between the
ages of 6 and 9 years had to go to school, but it was not
until 20 years later that schooling became free, and nearly
30 years before the school leaving age was raised to 12
All children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and
had to practice drill which was a form of exercise. Girls
were taught subjects like needlework too and boys learnt
things like woodwork. Children were taught rhymes and chants
to help them remember things as they did not have exercise
books. They sat in rows facing the blackboard and wrote
on slates, which were wiped clean at the end of the day.
Paper and pencils were expensive in Victorian times. Older
pupils used pens dipped in ink wells and copied proverbs
and sayings Into exercise books known as ‘copybooks’
as they had to practise their handwriting.
Discipline was considered a very important virtue by the
Victorians and teachers were very strict. Punishments would
today be seen as cruel and included being hit with a cane
or a strap of leather.
Towards the end of Victoria’s reign education was
much better and there were even Technical Colleges for older
children to train as clerks, engineers and other skills
that Britain needed for the new century ahead.
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