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.
A classroom before World War one was bare and simple. There were only a few books and most learning was done straight from the blackboard.
There were no carpets covering the bare floorboards. There may be a globe and a map of the world showing the British Empire, which covered a quarter of the world.
Children would write on slates with chalk. Paper was too expensive to waste. Children had a damp cloth to rub out mistakes.
Older children were given ‘copybooks’ to write in and a wooden pen with a metal point to dip in their inkwells. You had to be very careful not to make a blot or smudge or you would be punished.
Pupils had P.E. lessons, known as 'drill'. Girls and boys marched on the spot and did simple stretches. To build up their strength, they swung large wooden clubs around. In some schools, boys were also given boxing lessons.
In the afternoons, some schools taught crafts or trades that would be useful in later life, this would depend upon if you were a boy or a girl. Boys would learn carpentry, using saws, chisels, hammers, planes and drills to make useful things from wood. Girls learned how to sew and knit, how to cook and how to use a flat iron, heated on a stove, to get wrinkles out of newly washed clothes. At some schools, boys and girls were taught gardening.
Teachers were much stricter than they are today. Can you match the punishment to the ‘crime’?
A - Make several mistakes in your writing.
B - Late for lessons
C - Talking in class
D - Being lazy of rude
C - Write out one hundred times ‘I must not gossip in lessons’.
B - Rap on the knuckles with a ruler
A - You have to wear a large cone-shaped hat made of paper. A large letter ‘D’ was written on it, which meant ‘Dunce’ – someone very ignorant.
D - Hit with a wooden cane or a long strap of leather, called a tawse.
Ink monitor – top up the ink wells in every desk. Careful you don’t spill a drop!
Blackboard Monitor – clean the blackboard with a duster. Make sure you remove all traces of chalk!
Bell ringer – go round the classrooms ringing the bell at the end and start of lessons and hometime. Make sure you don’t ring it a minute too early!