Facts About Victorian Schools

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Until 1891, education was not free in Britain. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria that brought changes by giving access to poor children on free education. Children born from rich families were taught by a governess and sons were later sent for further education to boarding schools like Eton or Harrow. Daughters from rich families continue their lessons at home.

The Victorians were the first to question the practice of sending children to work and thought of the idea that children need to go to school. In 1880, it became compulsory for children to go to school until they were  ten years old. School leaving age was raised to twelve in 1889 and in 1891, school fees were dissolved and became free .

Fact 1:

Victorian schools have a gloomy atmosphere with high windows so children could not have a view outside. Boys and girl were taught separately and have their own entrances and playgrounds. Schools are overcrowded where a classroom can have as much as 100 students.The walls of the classroom were bare and floors were tiered where children seating on the back were higher up than those at the front. Victorian schools have iron-framed desks that are bolted to the floor.

Fact 2:

Lessons in Victorian schools were taught strictly where children copy what’s written on the board and learn by repeating.  Typical lessons have the three R’s- Reading, WRiting and Dictation and ARithmetic. Children will also have lessons on geography, history and singing once a week. The physical education class equivalent on Victorian schools is called a “drill” where students perform exercises beside their desk .Object lessons were used for younger students by showing an object and students calling out their names. They studied the multiplication table and also learn addition using the abacus. Victorian schools were very particular on handwriting by devoting much of the time practice copywriting.


For larger Victorian schools, they have a daily assembly where the whole school will pray, read the Bible and sing hymns while saller schools do the activities inside the classroom .


Fact 3:

Victorian teachers were mostly unmarried women who were very strict and scary and must be called “Miss” at all times. Most Victorian teachers were females because of the low pay. Men can earn much more if they work elsewhere and married women has to tend to her family leaving the teaching post to the single women.

Victorian teachers did not have college education and only learned the teaching method along the way. Headmasters select “monitors”, the brightest students in the class, to teach fellow students after they were taught .


The typical female teacher wore a black full length dress and a white cotton blouse underneath paired with flat boots. Male teachers wore suit with a white shirt with deep rounded collar and paired with a tie. School mistresses are often recognized by wearing her hair up in a bun .


Fact 4:

Victorian children wear uniforms to school. Girls wore blouse, tunic dress and a pinafore. The white blouse has a wide collar that reach down to the front while the white pinafore is worn over the top of the tunic and buttoned at the back. The pinafore keeps the tunic clean ink smudges .


Victorian schoolboys wore jackets and bulky trousers paired with ankle boots and must wear long socks if trousers are short. They have to wear a waistcoat underneath their jacket. Some can wear a cap or a hat but has to remove it when indoors .


Fact 5:

School days during the Victorian times start at 9 AM until 12PM. Children has to go home for lunch and come back to school again for afternoon classes which starts at 2PM until 5PM.

Fact 6:

The vital equipment for a teacher in a Victorian school are the blackboard and for students a slate, which is a small blackboard where they learn to write using a slate pen.  Children need to bring their own rag to clean the slates. When children are much older, they wrote on books with ruled lines using a dip pen and ink.


Fact 7:

A Victorian teacher uses a cane to discipline schoolchildren by giving it on the hand, on the bottom or at the back of the legs. A student can be punished by being rude, talking back, submitting poor work or anything that frustrates a teacher. Detentions were also given as punishment.


Children who were slow to learn were made to wear the dunce’s hat, a pointed hat with a letter D on it, and were made to stand in the corner for an hour. Due to lack of understanding about learning difficulties, teachers often see it as children being naughty.  Even left handed students were punished and were forced to use their right hand instead .


Fact 8:

Drill exercises in Victorian schools is a series of formal exercises such as marching on the spot, arm swinging, trunk bending, skipping to name a few. These exercises were intended to aid children in following directions, coordination and health improvement and help groom children for future work and military service .


Fact 9:

Victorian school life may have been dull and rigid but playtime was quite the opposite. Victorian school children entertain themselves by playing hoops, tops, skipping ropes and marbles. They also play tag, British bulldog, hopscotch and football using an inflated pig’s bladder.


Fact 10:

School children in Victorian schools wrote on slates using a chalk. They wiped the slate clean by spitting on it and wiping it with their coat sleeves or finger

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