Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by: Leeds Library and Information Service.



Curriculum Links

  • KS2 History: Changes in an aspect of social history, such as crime and punishment.

Aims of resource

To help children understand more about the development of their local area or the contrast between how rich and poor lived, using the case study of Leeds.

Learning Objectives

Knowledge of how living conditions altered for people in all areas of society in Leeds from the 17th-20th Century
Understanding of continuity and change throughout history and the effects of key events, such as legislation,
Skills to engage with a local history study and draw contrasts and connections between different periods

Discussion Ideas

  • What do you think it was like to live in Leeds in the past?
  • In what ways do you think life in Leeds improved from the 17th Century onwards?
  • How do you think rich and poor people in Leeds felt about living so near each other?
  • Why do you think rich and poor people enjoyed different leisure activities?
  • How did people try to solve the problem of poverty in Leeds?
  • Why might people have been forced to go into the workhouse?
  • What do you think it would be like to live in a workhouse?
  • How do people try to fight poverty in the UK today?
  • What do you think life was like before free medical care?
  • What would your life be like if you couldn't afford to go to the doctor?
  • How might life have been different for women in the past?
  • There were a lot of changes to ordinary people's lives in the early 20th Century. Which do you think were the most important and why?

Activity Ideas

  • Creative writing/interpreting historical documents:
    Use the 1881 Census list of Leeds Union Workhouse residents (see link below) as inspiration for creative writing. After discussing the document as a class, pupils can choose a particular inmate or family and interpret the 'clues' given in the document to build a character.

    - How old are they?
    - Do they have any relations in the workhouse?
    - Where did they come from?
    - Why might they have left their home?
    - What job did they do before coming to the workhouse?
    - Do you think

    Fleshed out with further research, they can use this information to write a short story (or an alternative creative response) about how the person came to the workhouse, and what their earlier life might have been like.
  • Class debate:
    Divide the class into four groups. They are 'rich', 'middle class', 'working class' and 'pauper' citizens of Leeds. Using a large sheet of paper divided into 6 boxes, each group writes down six points about how their lives changed for the better from the 17th to the 20th Century. Each point must be backed up with a piece of factual evidence.
    - The group then swaps sheets with another group who use sticky notes to respond to what the other group has written and find evidence to contradict their points.
    - Each sheet is then held up in front of the class, who vote collectively for which group's evidence is stronger and find a ‘winner’. 
  • Online Research: 
    Children can independently explore the images on the Leodis website (see link below) of historic Leeds, perhaps searching on a theme or researching a particular area of the city.