School in the Victorian Era

Clara's Desk (1852-1854) Note Clara's bell to call the students to school, and the small copy slate on the windowsill used by children to do there arithmetic problems.

School during the Victorian Era was much different then today. First off many children from poorer families couldn't go because there parents needed the extra help around the house. For the students who could go, teachers taught in small school rooms, sometimes instructing over a hundred children. The classrooms had no air conditioning during the the summers and were only heated by a small furnace during the winter. Imagine being in a small room with 100 children, small windows and living in a time when personal hygiene was not at the top of every ones list. Teachers would often have pupils who would serve as monitors to make sure all children were on there best behavior. If a student miss behaved they ran the risk of having to sit in a corner with the dunce cap or being canned. Canning was very common and any child that acted up would be whipped with birch rods. Boys were whipped across there backsides and girls on there hand, arms or bare legs. All canings were recorded in a canning book so the teacher could keep track of misbehaved students. Lessons were basic and included the three R's reading, writing and arithmetic. The teacher would usually put a series of problems on the board and students would use a small chalk board to work them out. sometimes students worked on there cursive writing with ink pens and paper, however paper was expensive so most work was done on a slate. Drill and recess allowed the children sometime to unwind. During drill (the nineteenth century equivalency to PE) students did aerobics and lifted weights to the sound of a student or teacher playing the piano. Recess allowed students free time to play hopscotch, football, blind man's bluff, jacks or other school yard games. Students were sure to stay close to the school house and be on there best behavior to avoid canning. The only restroom students had to use were located outside of the house. Can you imagine having to go on a cold, winter, snowy day out in the cold?

  1. Borrow, Maggie “Victorian Schools,” Woodlands Junior School, accessed November 11, 2011,
  2. "Victorian School," Nettlesworth Primary School, accessed November 11, 2011,