History of Schools

We looked at the differences between schools in 1819 and schools now. To help understand what it would feel like in an early school, the children visited Wilderspin National School Museum in Barton. It was quite an experience! Some pupils were terrified by Mrs Jones who spent the day in character as a scary Victorian teacher!

Macey wrote: “First of all, they used slate boards for writing on but we now use books. Secondly, if they thought you were stupid, then they made you stand in a corner with a black pointed hat with the letter D on it (D stood for dunce). In this school, boys and girls were separated at play time. Of course, at Grainthorpe the school started with just boys.”

Another difference Macey noted was the clothes the children wore – there wasn’t a uniform but all the girls wore white “baggy dresses” and the boys wore “silky suits”.

Charlie was struck by the classroom layout: “You had to sit in straight rows, one next to the other, sitting up straight all day, every day. The teachers were extremely strict! The students were punished for smiling or even answering a question wrong.”

Annabelle thought school life had changed enormously over 200 years. “Victorian children used ink and quills, now we use pencils and paper. Unfortunately, children were also punished differently, they got hit by a bamboo stick called the cane, only boys got hit by this. However, infants were hit with a slipper (only the headmaster would hit naughty boys). Another difference between school life then and now is that the teachers were extremely strict; if you had a little fiddle the teacher would whack you with a ruler.

Sadly there is another punishment the teachers would do to children if they were left-handed. Teachers would pull out a finger brace and put it on the child’s left hand. Victorian teachers believed that if a child wrote with their left hand, it was the demon hand.”

The children spent the day thanking their lucky stars they went to school now!

Alex Brennan answers the question: How has school changed in the last 200 years?

School was extremely different 200 years ago. On 1st October, we went to Wilderspin, an old Victorian School and discovered what life was like for a Victorian child. Firstly, for discipline the teachers had a wooden cane, a ruler or a slipper depending on the age of the children, the cane was the worst. The oldest children got hit with a cane, the younger children got hit with a ruler, and the little children got hit with the slipper (I wouldn’t have liked to have been a child in those days!).

These days, if children misbehave they lose Golden Time, get detention at high school, your parents could get called into school or you could get excluded but a teacher would never hit you. The teachers 200 years ago were stricter – I know that from my experience and Wilderspin. If you didn’t understand something you would get yelled at. Back then, the teachers were allowed to call anybody stupid and hit children whenever they wanted to.

In the olden days, the children wore aprons and waistcoats that were covered in dust and dirt and they smelt VILE! The people had no electricity back then to wash and dry their clothes. (I don’t know how I would be able to live without electric).

They even had to go home for dinner back then because there were no hot dinners. Some of the pupils lived miles away from the school and they only had one and a half hours to get home, eat and get back.

The desks were wooden and had a little space to put your reading book in or whatever you wanted but it had to be acceptable or you would get smacked. You didn’t actually have pens and pencils like we do in the present day, they used chalk or a feather and you would dip it in ink. The playgrounds were as small as a garden patio and there were around ten children playing; boys and girls were separate. I wonder what they did when it was playtime in those days?

You would have to sit on hard, wooden, dusty benches not plastic chairs like we do now. In the olden days if your strongest hand was your left it would be called the devil’s hand and you would be forced to put this thing on your hand (a brace) that would force you to write with your right hand. If your fingers couldn’t fit in the hole you would sit on it! If you weren’t sitting on your chair right you would have to put on the dunce’s hat that looked like a gnome’s hat. You would go and stand in the corner and the rest of the class would point at you and say “nah, nah, nah” in front of the whole class.