This topic aims to provide Year 6 pupils with a sound understanding of the key events within the Victorian period and focuses on: Victorian society, Children and Family Life. The topics covered within this unit include: An basic chronology of the Victorian era, Victorian schooling, Children at Work, The Victorian Workhouse, Rich and Poor Victorian Housing and Victorian Holidays and Leisure.
National Curriculum Links, History, Key Stage 2 (DfEE, 1999)
1a, 2a, b, c, d, 3, 4a, b, 5a, b, c, 11a.
National Curriculum Links (DfE, 2014)
This unit seeks to address the following skills stated in the Key Stage Two aims of the History National Curriculum (DfE, 2014:3) (Online).
“They should regularly address and sometimes devise historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance.”
“They should construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information.”
“They should understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources.”
Key Learning Objectives across the unit:
To be able to describe when the Victorian era was.
To be able to describe who was the Monarch during the Victorian period.
To be able to understand how history can be represented in a variety of ways.
To identify areas of further study which they would like to find out more about.
To be able to describe key aspects of a Victorian classroom.
To be able to compare Victorian schooling to twenty first century schooling.
To consider how the lives of children may have changed.
To be able to describe what jobs children had in the Victorian times.
To be able to differentiate between the jobs of boys and girls and consider why these differences occurred.
To be able to draw comparisons between the treatment of children in the nineteenth and twenty first century.
To be able to describe the key features of the Victorian Workhouse.
To recall reasons why people were sent to the Workhouse.
Consider how they may have felt to have lived in the Workhouse.
To be able to compare similarities and differences between the homes and lifestyles of rich and poor Victorians.
To be able describe reasons for these differences in lifestyle.
To be able to describe a typical Victorian seaside holiday.
To be able to recall why seaside holidays became more accessible for the general public.
To be able to make comparisons between holidays in the past and present.
To be able to draw comparisons between life in the Victorian period and life in the Twenty First Century.
To be able to consider how society has changed and how it has also remained the same in some aspects. (Change and Continuity).
Links to Previous Learning
This unit aims to draw upon previous learning the pupils have developed within their past history lessons and across other curriculum subjects. In Key Stage One pupils would have begun to use key historical vocabulary relating to the passing of time. This will be developed in this unit by introducing vocabulary specific to the Victorian era. Pupils would have also been taught that history is represented in a number of ways (newspaper articles, photographs, drawings and literature), however, this will be developed during this unit in that pupils will be encouraged to be consider why history can be represented differently and what impact this may have on their understanding of the past. Finally, in Key Stage One pupils would have also been taught about how lives differed between different time periods. However, this unit teaches pupils about the differences in lifestyles and opportunities of different social classes within the Victorian period. They are also encouraged to consider why there was such variety in the experiences of the rich and poor members of society.
Teacher background information for the unit
Lesson 1- Timeline of Victorian Era
The Victorian period began in 1837 when Queen Victoria was crowned, and ended in 1901when she died. Although these are the official dates of the period, it can be considered to stretch from the Napoleonic Wars to 1914 and the outbreak of World War One. Queen Victoria is still the longest reigning English Monarch. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840. The period experienced an Industrial Revolution which included the modernising of British Railways and the development of gas and electric light. This saw an increase in the number of people seeking work and contributed to significant city growth. However, such an influx of job seekers did mean that employers could pay low wages. The Great Exhibition of 1851 sought to publically display this Industrial development. The period saw a rise in social reform. This included the implementation of Education Acts which meant that by 1876 it was compulsory for all children to attend school until the age of 10. Reform also included the 1842 Mines Act which stopped children under the age of 10 working in mines, and the 1844 Factory Act which stopped 8-13 years olds from working more than 6 and a half hours a day. See below resources for more information.
Schooling in the Victorian era hugely differs from that in the Twenty First Century. Children were expected to sit in rows and face the teacher, learning through rote. They wrote their work using chalk and a piece of slate, or ink. In comparison to now, at the beginning of the Victorian era the majority of school teachers were men. However, more women did train as trainers as the years progressed. Each class would have had world maps on the walls and globes to support their geography work and the children used an abacus in Maths. Primary Schools taught boys and girls together, however, Secondary schools taught them separately. They learnt: reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic and drills (PE). Schools prepared girls for motherhood and family life, educating them in cookery, washing and sewing. In comparison, boys were prepared for factory work, undertaking technology lessons including woodwork and technical drawing. Schools aimed to instil good moral values, following the rules of Christianity. To reinforce ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, children were punished with the cane if they did not follow school rules. Children from rich families were taught privately at home. See below resources for more information.
SCHOOLING, CHILDREN, SCHOOL MASTER, ARITHMETIC, SLATE AND CHALK, INK WELL, ROTE, DRILLS, CANE, DUNCE HAT, RELIGION, SEGREGATION, PUNISHMENT.
Lesson 3- Children at Work
During the Victorian times it was normal for children to work as many of them needed to provide an additional wage for their family. These jobs included: Chimney sweep, Servant, Farm hand, Miner, Factory Worker and Crossing boys. The choice of job varied depending on gender.
Coal Miner- The main source of power in the Victorian times was steam. To create steam heat must come from burnt coal and this is what children used to mine. The working conditions were terrible for children. The mines were dark and damp and because of the dusty conditions the children often suffered from respiratory and eye sight problems. This was the result of working in those conditions for between 12 and 18 hours a day.
Servant- Children worked as servants in the houses of rich Victorian families. They cooked, cleaned and attended to the needs of their employer. This often resulted in the children having to live in the family’s home, away from their own family.
Chimney Sweep- Some chimney sweeps were as young as 3 years old. An important condition of a chimney sweep was that you had to be small enough to climb up the chimney. This resulted in a lot of child workers. Climbing the chimneys was painful work, with the children cutting and bruising their: hands, knees and elbows on the sharp stone. Being a chimney sweep was a dangerous profession because there was a high risk of falling down the chimney, getting trapped and breathing in the soot resulted in severe lung conditions. Their employers often had little sympathy as well. See resources below for more information.
The unemployed and those who were unable to support themselves were sent to the Workhouse. The workhouse offered employment, food and shelter. Men, women and children were separated within the workhouse, meaning that families were only allowed to see each other for 30 minutes on a Sunday. The workhouse also housed the sick, orphaned and disabled as it was a preferable situation to living on the streets. Although children were educated within the workhouse, they were not taught how to read and write; the two main skills desired by employers. There was significant stigma surrounding the Workhouse as many felt it made them appear poor and helpless. Whilst in the Workhouse, the inmates were expected to work for their keep, often undertaking gruelling and hard labour. See resources below for more information.
WORKHOUSE, SEPARATION, LABOUR, DETERRENT, IDLENESS, EDUCATION, PICKING OAKUM, WORKING CONDITIONS, OLIVER TWIST.
Lesson 5- Rich and Poor Homes
Poor families who lived in cities often lived in slums, and those who lived in rural areas would have lived in small cottages, sharing them with many people. There was rarely enough money for food let alone toys for the children. Such poor living circumstances resulted in many children having to work to support their families. In such houses there was no running water or toilets so houses would have to share a water pump (which were often polluted) as well as a toilet. In contrast, the rich lived in town houses with many bedrooms and often living quarters for their servants. See resources below for more information.
Due to the development and expansion of the railways, it was easier for families to go on holiday because they could reach their destination more quickly. The seaside was a popular destination because it offered a welcome break from the busy and polluted cities. When visiting the seaside, families played on the beach, swam in the sea, watched Punch and Judy shows, rode donkeys and ate ice cream, very similar to now. Women got changed in bathing machines which were rolled down to the shore line to maintain their modesty in front of the men on the beach. See resources below for more information.
This lesson is a court case which debates the statement: Life was better in the Victorian times than the Twenty First Century. This will draw upon information learnt in previous lessons.
DfE (2014) The National Curriculum, History Programmes of Study, Key Stages 1 and 2. [Online] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239035/PRIMARY_national_curriculum_-_History.pdf [Accessed 15/03/2014]
DfEE (1999) The National Curriculum, Handbook for Primary Teachers in England. London: Department for Education and Employment.