What was school like?

An illustration of a board school classroom with the teacher at the front of the class.

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During World War One school children would have sat at a long, wooden bench with a desk fixed in front.

The seat was a hard narrow plank, often with no back. Benches were usually made for two people, but sometimes up to five children sat at one.

Children of different ages sat together in lessons. Often there were as many as 60 children in one class. If the school was large, boys and girls would be taught separately.

Classroom layout

Interactive classroom

An illustrated classroom

Explore an interactive classroom from 100 years ago.

At the front would be a big wooden blackboard on a stand, on which the teacher wrote using a stick of chalk. The teacher's desk was often raised on a platform and teachers sat on tall chairs so they could watch the children at their desks.

Near to the teacher's desk was an iron stove, with a coal fire during the winter. The fires were often very small, even though the rooms were very big. In winter, children at the back shivered their way through classes.

School dinners

After a law was passed in 1906, schools were allowed to serve a school dinner every day for the children to eat in their classroom.


  • stodgy - heavy, dull, and hard to digest. Food like this, that makes you feel very full, is known as 'stodge'.
  • dripping - juices from a roasting joint that have cooled and set into a meaty fat-and-jelly mix.

Dinners were solid and stodgy. Children might get pea soup and bread baked in dripping, followed by fruit pudding. For the poorest children, it was the only daily meal they had. Some schools in very needy areas also served breakfast: cocoa, porridge and bread and butter. Perhaps they hoped it would get the children to school on time and they might do better at their lessons if they were not hungry.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes to accompany the 'What was school like?' section

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