The History Off The Victorian Government Education Essay

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This essay will identify a specific topic within one of the foundation subjects, include a lesson plan around that topic and identify a range of resources which could be used within the lesson, analysing one particular resource and describing how it would be used to enhance teaching and learning. The teaching of the chosen subject in general will then be looked at, including the challenges it poses, followed by an explanation of the planning, teaching and learning approaches used in the lesson plan. The chosen topic, juvenile crime and punishment in the nineteenth century, would be taught as a history topic under unit 11a: Children in Victorian Britain. Prior to the lesson, children will have learnt about other aspects of Victorian Britain and gained some chronological understanding of the period by doing some timeline work. Following the lesson, the children would learn about Elizabeth Fry and her work.

The Victorian Government was extremely worried about juvenile crime which had increased dramatically during the early part of the century, mainly due to the increase urban poverty, which came about as a result of the growing industrial revolution. People poured into the cities in the vain hope of finding work, poverty increased and the slums mushroomed (Jubilee Campaign, 2013). This in turn led to overcrowding and squalor, with the associated vices of crime, drink and prostitution. Children suffered through violence at home and many never went to school. They took to the streets in gangs, begging, picking pockets, and thieving from anywhere they could. (Jubilee Campaign, 2013) Some children combined thieving with employment. Domestic service for example provided much opportunity for theft. In 1809 fourteen year old Mary Fisher was found guilty of stealing six pounds of flour, two biscuits and five rolls from a her employer, a baker, and in 1806 Thomas Smith, aged thirteen, stole fifty pounds from his upholsterer employer. In 1840, chimney sweeps were made illegal due to the hazards involved so neglected, destitute boys were used instead. Their small frames were ideal for burglary and they could study the layout of the house undetected (Duckworth, 2002). Fences - receivers of stolen goods - were often used. They provided the market for the exchange and sale of goods, and in some cases, shelter (Shore, 2002). Charles Dickens painted a grim picture of the Victorian criminal underworld in his novel Oliver Twist. The film version of the novel starring Ron Moody and Oliver Reed, even romanticises the era with jolly tunes and dancing (Oliver!, 1968). The reality however was anything but. (Parsons & Oliver, 2012) Life for the street children was brutal. Only the toughest survived. (Duckworth, 2002)

If caught, child criminals could expect a harsh punishment from whipping to imprisonment (Parsons & Oliver, 2012), with children over the age of seven punished in the same way as adults. They were sent to the same prisons, transported to Australia, whipped or sentenced to death. In 1814 five child criminals under the age of fourteen were hanged in Britain, the youngest being only eight years old. Until 1808 pick-pocketing was punishable by death, along with 222 other crimes, from forgery to letter-stealing (Jubilee Campaign, 2013) Children under the age of seven were exempt as they were not considered to be criminally responsible for their actions. (Shore, 2002). When a child was committed to prison he or she was in for a rough time. First or second offences usually carried a one to three weeks sentence. During the first week they were given only bread and water; in the second and consecutive weeks the diet improved but they were subjected to hard labour (Duckworth, 2002): Work included picking oakum, the treadwheel or the crank, which had to be turned a given number of times before the prisoner was allowed to eat or drink. This practise resulted in one of the most scandalous cases of legalised cruelty recorded and resulted in the suicide of a fifteen year old boy (Jubilee Campaign, 2013) In 1838, a separate prison for juveniles was established and the first boys arrived at the newly established Parkhurst Jail, followed by 44 more throughout that year. The prison provided an improved diet and better living conditions. By 1843 an improvement in health was recorded. (Duckworth, 2002). By the 1840s and 1850s, a new system to cope with juveniles had started to evolve (Shore, 2002) and while some argued that punishment should be intensified it was decided that as hanging had already failed to prevent a rise in crime, anything less severe was not worthy of consideration. The best deterrent was to make prison life as unpleasant as possible. (Harrison, 2013). The separate, silent system was introduced which involved being held in solitary confinement for the initial part of the sentence, until the prisoner broke down and agreed to be reformed, followed by being forbidden to talk in case criminal tendencies were passed on. Punishments for breaches included stopping food rations, isolation in dark cells and flogging (Taylor, 1988). Rather than reforming prisoners however, this system resulted in a huge increase in suicides.

A series of Acts of Parliament followed that improved conditions in prisons and the treatment and trial of criminal offenders. The Juvenile Offenders Act of 1847 allowed children under the age of fourteen to be tried before two magistrates, making the process of trial for children quicker and out of the public glare (The National Archives, 2013). Between 1854 and 1857, Reformatory and Industrial School Acts replaced prison with specific juvenile institutions (The National Archives, 2013) which, although were an improvement, were still very tough places, with stiff discipline enforced by frequent beatings, that were designed to break the child away from 'bad influences'. Young people were sent there for long sentences - usually several years. However, a young offender still began their sentence with a brief spell in an adult prison (Emsley, 2011).

There were still 1500 children in adult prisons in 1871. However, by this time the government understood the need for separate treatment for children and there were special rules for those who ended up in adult prisons. (The National Archives, 2013) By 1890 there were only 253 children in adult prisons. From 1899 no children could be sent to one and further reforms followed in the early 20th century (The National Archives, 2013) In 1902 an experimental school was set up at Borstal, in Kent. It was run like a boarding school, with lots of sport, staff not in uniform and a more encouraging attitude towards the children.(The National Archives, 2013) The 1908 Children's Act finally abolished imprisonment for children under 14. (Royle, 1991)


Good history teaching is very resource heavy. Teaching historical knowledge, skills and understanding involves children using a wide range of sources (Hughes et al. 2000 p.15).

This lesson will be resource rich, which will enable it to be fast-paced, relevant and above all, engaging for the children throughout. Resources that are included in the lesson plan include: props for teacher in role, for example, bonnet, shawl and glasses, photographs of real child criminals along with records of their crimes and punishments (The National Archives, 2013), examples of prison rules and menus (E2BN, 2013), rope for authentic oakum picking and two video clips, a scene from the film 'Oliver!', which romanticises the era with its jolly tunes and dancing (Oliver!, 1968), and a recording of a personal account of the life of child criminal, Ellen Woodman, which describes the harsh, gritty reality (Parsons & Oliver, 2012).

The photographs of child criminals Dennis Fairey, Frederick Clark and Emma Gates are a very interesting example of early use of photography in police records (The National Archives, 2013). Within the lesson children will initially be introduced to Dennis Fairey and the following questions asked: What do you definitely know about this person? How old do you think they are? Who do you think photographed them? Why do you think they were photographed? What is their story? What questions would you like to ask this person? Analysing the photographs in this way will encourage the children start to engage with the process of historical enquiry. Later in the lesson, the children will be encouraged to show evidence of their empathy skills by using the photographs of Frederick Clark and Emma Gates as the basis of their letters to their families.

Analysing photographs is one way in which historians research the past, as photographs can provide information that enriches our historical understanding (Canadian War Museum, 2012). Hoodless (2008) states that picture reading forms a key part of early literacy, with children beginning to learn from images even before they begin school. Everyone can learn from photographs. Children who do not read, speak or write easily or those with special needs, will often respond well to them positively (Durbin, et al., 1990). Primary sources in the form of photographs get children thinking about what we can learn from historical sources, in particular the value of photographs as evidence (Dorset History Centre, 2012). Pupils can be encouraged to make observations about people and objects in the photographs, aswell as the era and the setting in which they were taken. This will give them a concept of time and chronological understanding. More able children will be able to provide further analysis by looking at the backgrounds in the photographs, making inferences about what is happening and offering their own opinions and interpretations (Durham University, 2013). If children are struggling, KWL grids could be used as aids, with the children answering the questions: What do I know? What do I want to know? What have I learned?

'Objects have a remarkable capacity to motivate. Handling objects is a form of active learning that engages children in a way that other methods often fail to do………as children learn, they put themselves in a position of wanting to learn more.' (p4)

(Durbin, et al., 1990)


'Experience has shown that this is a crucial time for pupils to develop a passion for history' (Murphy, 2007). Therefore, in order to make the most of this small window of opportunity, history lessons must be lively, fast-paced and engaging. The use of artefacts and primary sources is a key way of grabbing the children's attention teaching them the art of historic enquiry in a fun, interactive, multisensory way. The teacher needs to be an expert in the subject being taught and the end goal should be to make history lessons as child centred as possible, rather than entirely teacher led (Hoodless, 2008).

One of the advantages of history is that, because it is such a broad subject, it embraces many other subjects and can be taught using a wide range of strategies, depending on the needs of the children and content of the unit. Cross curricular approach increases the range of strategies/resources that can be employed. Good classroom management is fundamental. Physical organisation can affect flow and pace of the lesson.

The lesson plan included in this portfolio shows a logical structure, moving from crime onto punishment. It involves whole class work, pair work and group work with children of similar ability and a TA is used where appropriate. There is also the opportunity for individual work using differentiation in order to consolidate learning, with or without writing frames. An abundance of key questions are included in the plan for children to think about and discuss. As Hoodless (2008) states: Questioning is key. The heart of history for teachers AND children. 'Questioning is so vital a part of the historical process that it is difficult to envisage studying history without it' (Turner-Bissett, 2005)An element of bias is shown with the comparison of the two video clips, which also teach the children to distiguish fact from fiction (Cooper, 2012). As the lesson is aimed at year 6 children, they have the opportunity to hypothesise and offer their own viewpoints.

There is a clear need for variety in teaching strategies. 'Clear learning objectives focus teaching, so that pupils' learning is effective and can be recorded.' (Turner-Bissett, 2005) (p23). Within the lesson, evidence skill can be assessed such as: Observation, discussion, analysis (questioning), hypothesising/interpreting, justifying and research (Hughes, et al., 2000). Assessment will be carried out mainly by listening to oral responses and recording can take a pictorial or written form. Can children observe & describe evidence? Can they place in chronological order? Can they distinguish between their own life and the story the evidence tells? Can they move from description to reasoning? Is an interpretation offered? Is it logical? Is a reason offered? Different interpretations? Can he/she explain why it may not be possible to be certain? Do they know how to find out more? (Hughes, et al., 2000).

In conclusion, A unit of work should start with a key question from which may spring other questions (Turner-Bissett, 2005). Children's classroom activities should be framed by cause, consequence, interpretation and evidence (Alexander 2010: 229) Teacher plays a key role in many ways: Working with whole class to make sources accessible through verbal, visual, interactive methods. Devising activities to help children find ways into the evidence (detail) (Turner-Bissett, 2005). Select and organise material for presentation in the form of writing (The National Archives, 2013) Alternatively, it could be used to spark off discussion about prison today.

(The National Archives, 2013)

Timeline (IMPORTANT)

(Hoodless, 2008)

Roleplay ideas:


(Fairclough, 1994)