Questions for a Victorian Headmaster

When we visit schools we get asked lots of interesting questions by pupils, and I often ask for lists of written questions. Here are a selection of them and the answers that were given. I hope this might help if you get asked similar questions! In each case I've tried to keep the question phrased much as it was asked, and to make it more interesting the answers are hidden, so you can see if you know the answer yourself. Put the mouse under the question to reveal the answer (may not work with some browsers).

How many teachers were there in a school?

This seems a simple question to answer, but it is more complex than it first appears. The number of teachers would depend on the size of the school. A village school might have just one teacher and a headteacher, while a dame school would just have one. A large town or city would have bigger schools and more teachers. Teachers would take larger classes though, and class sizes of 40 or 50 were normal. Support staff like Teaching Assistants, secretaries didn't exist in Victorian times, but there were assistants called pupil teachers or monitors, who were usually older children who had already gone through the six standards.

Why can't you talk to boys?

This question was posed a lot of times. It seems that modern children are bemused by the idea of seggregating sexes at school. Obviously some schools in towns and cities were single sex or had single sex classes, but in rural areas, although the schools took boys and girls, they sat separately and played separately. I doubt that many Victorian children gave it a second thought.

Who got caned first?

This question came about as a consequence of talking about separating girls and boys, so it led to the thought of whether a girl or a boy would be punished first. There was no hard and fast rule to this, and the order was probably dictated by who offended first. It was more usual for girls to be punished by lady teachers, while boys would be punished by any teachers, but again, almost certainly, there was no strict rule.

What did they eat?

I think the question here is what the children ate at school. The answer, in most cases, was nothing. Schools did not have canteens, and most children would return home for a midday meal. In consequence the dinner break was much longer than in modern schools. As to the wider question of what they ate, the food would have been plainer than today, with far less choice. Very little snack food.

How did Victorians wash their clothes?

This one could take a lot of time to answer fully, so I am going to give a short answer. Clearly the Victorians did not have washing machines so the only way to get the laundry done was to do it by hand. This was very hard work and would take a long time. For a start the water would have to be fetched in a bucket from a water source such as a well. Then the task of heating it was not easy especially if it had to be done with no other heat source than an open fire. The soap used in Victorian times was not that good, and of course clothes would get very dirty because of coal fires and unhygenic conditions.

Do the boys have a separate lesson?

In some larger schools boys would be taught in a separate classroom to the girls, or sometime even in a separate wing of the school. In village schools the children would be taught together, although the boys and girls would probably sit in separate rows.

How was PE like?

PE didn't exist as a lesson in Victorian times.

How do you do that swirly writing?

Did Victorians have toilets?

Did they play football?

Why does Victorians wear corsets?

Did they go out of play?

How old did you have to be to be a servant?

Did they have any other punishment?

Do the boys have a separate PE lesson?

Why were they called the Victorians?

Do the boys play instruments?

Do the rich go to the same school the poor go to?

How do you know all the things about the Victorians?