What was a Victorian classroom like?
There were maps and perhaps pictures on the wall. There would be a globe for geography lessons, and an abacus to help with sums. Children sat in rows and the teacher sat at a desk facing the class. At the start of the Victorian age, most teachers were men, but later many women trained as teachers.
Children wrote on slates with chalk. They wiped the slate clean, by spitting on it and rubbing with their coat sleeve or their finger! Slates could be used over and over. For writing on paper, children used a pen with a metal nib, dipped into an ink well.
What subjects did children learn?
Girls and boys learned together in primary schools, but were separated in secondary schools. Both boys and girls learned reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling and drill (PE).
Boys learned technology: woodwork, maths and technical drawing, to help with work in factories, workshops or the army when they grew up.
Girls had lessons in cooking and sewing, to prepare them for housework and motherhood.
Children were often taught by copying and repeating what the teacher told them. Lessons included teaching in right and wrong, and the Christian religion.
How were children punished?
Discipline in schools was often strict. Children were beaten for even minor wrongdoings, with a cane, on the hand or bottom. A teacher could also punish a child by making them stand in the corner wearing a 'dunce's cap'. Another, very boring, punishment was writing 'lines'. This meant writing out the same sentence (such as 'Schooldays are the happiest days of my life' 100 times or more.
Rich boys and schools for girls
Other schools were awful places, run to make profits for the owners. Boys in these bad schools were half-starved, ill-treated, and taught very little.
Girls sent away to be trained as governesses were not much better off, as you can learn from reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Girls and young boys were taught at home by a male tutor or a female governess. The first good girls' schools were started in Victorian times, such as the North London Collegiate School (1850).