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Charles Dickens presents a topical chat show about child labour in Victorian times. We meet three children working in difficult and dangerous trades, including a mudlark (scavenger), a watercress seller and a 'pure' (dogs' mess) finder. Many Victorian children lived in desperate poverty, and worked to avoid starvation and the threat of the workhouse. We hear from a cotton mill owner about the benefits of employing young children in this dangerous work. Charles Dickens then interviews Lord Shaftesbury, champion of children's rights in parliament. He talks about his Ten Hour Act, which was at first rejected by parliament and aimed to restrict child working to ten hours a day. We learn about the Ragged Schools movement, which gave poor children education for the first time. Classes were held in homes and halls during the day and in the evening to fit in with the children's work. Charles Dickens speaks to ragged school pupils who explain how difficult it is to go to school after a long day's work.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
29 March 2012

Classroom Ideas

As they watch the clip, ask pupils to make a checklist of the reasons given that children should work, and the reasons they should go to school. Who do they agree with most, Lord Shaftesbury or the factory owner? Why does Shaftesbury suggest the '10 Hours Act' would not work? How easy do they think it would be to learn in a Ragged School after working 10 hours? They could research which subjects were studied in a Victorian school, and compare them to the subjects they study today. Which do they think are more important today - working or education? They could explore the life of Lord Shaftesbury and see how much impact he had on children's lives in Victorian times.

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