History KS2/KS3: What was life like at a Victorian Industrial School?

In Victorian times, young orphans, beggars and vagrants would be sent to Industrial school to learn a trade, and to prevent them falling into a life of crime.

James did not enjoy life at the industrial school and he admits that he and a friend tried to burn it down in August 1877.

James explains how he and his accomplice, his friend George Fleming, were caught and convicted of "reckless fire raising".

As a result they were sent to an even stricter institution, a reformatory school, for 3 years.

Teacher Notes

The class could discuss answers to the following questions: Why do you think the child might have been sent to an Industrial School? In what ways do you think it would be better than sending them to an adult prison? Do you think the sentence given in this case was fair? Do you think life was easy in the industrial school?

They could also research and make a list of the differences between an industrial school and a reformatory school and the reasons why Victorian children might have become involved in crime. Are there places in the world today where children become involved in a life of crime? Why is this? What happens to these children?

Curriculum Notes

Suitable for teaching History and Social Studies at KS2, KS3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National Levels 2 and 3 in Scotland.

More from Victorian Villains:

Life at a Victorian Reformatory School
How the Victorians introduced photograph police records
Life in prison for young Victorian offenders