Suitable for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2

Experience a Victorian lesson taught by strict Mrs Sawyer in her schoolroom. 

What season is best for this activity?

This activity can be done any time of the year. The only part that takes place outside is ‘drill’ and this can be done inside if the weather is bad.

Learning objectives and links to the national curriculum

The history programmes of study in the National Curriculum require that pupils in KS1 are taught about:

  • changes within living memory. to reveal aspects of change in national life
  • lives of significant individuals in the past;
  • significant historical events; people and places in their own vicinity.

This activity also works well for the KS2 requirement that pupils should be taught about an aspect of local history.
The pupils will gain an insight into the life of a Victorian Schoolchild and compare it with today’s schools. The Sawyers were an important part of the history of the park – for example many of the children in Mrs Sawyer’s school would have had fathers who worked in the park for Mr. Sawyer, the Head Keeper in the late 1800s.

Outline of the activity

The session starts in the main classroom with an Introduction by a Holly Lodge Centre volunteer. The pupils are dressed in Victorian costumes for the session. They are told that Mrs. Sawyer will be very strict and they must obey her instantly. (For younger pupils it is important that the ‘play acting’ aspect is stressed.) The are taught that the date today is (date) in 1869 when Queen Victoria was 50 years old. The pupils will gain an insight into the life of a Victorian schoolchild and compare it with today’s schools.

They are then taken to the Victorian Classroom where Mrs Sawyer is waiting. The session includes an outline of the methods of discipline used at that time; everybody using slates to do handwriting practice and working from the blackboard and easel. For older pupils this will include a sum using £sd. All pupils will be asked to recite a times table. They will also learn about the 3R’s and be expected to understand the personal qualities that featured – honesty, punctuality etc. The class will be expected by Mrs Sawyer to sit in silence at all times, unless they are answering a question. Finally, the concept of ‘drill’ will be explained and practiced.

Back in the main classroom the group will discuss the differences in today’s schools – the sort of equipment used, the furniture, the methods of discipline and so on. Meanwhile Mrs Sawyer will change out of Victorian dress and come an meet the group to find out what they thought.

Ideas for pre-visit learning

Before coming to do this activity it would be helpful if the children already knew they would be ‘acting’ as Victorian schoolchildren and that Mrs Sawyer will expect them to behave accordingly. (This will be reinforced by the Holly Lodge Volunteer on the day).
A discussion of what it was like for children in Victorian times would be useful (especially poorer children who would be going to Mrs. Sawyer’s School.)

Ideas for follow-up work back at school

Teachers are given a pack of activities for use back at school if they wish. It includes pictures of Victorian schools, handwriting sheets, Victorian street games and a school timetable showing the difference in subjects taught then and now.