Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by:  The Harris Museum

This resource looks at the working and school lives of Victorian children and uses contemporary documents, objects, paintings and photographs to encourage historical enquiry, thinking skills and group collaboration. Many of the questions could prompt cross curricular work.

Two men in white aprons standing outside a butchers.  There are many hides of meat hung up on hooks outside the shop.
Workers at the Co-op shop in Preston

Child Labour in the Victorian Era

Most Victorians had a very different attitude towards child labour than we do today.  Sending young children out to work was an economic necessity for most families, and was taken for granted by parents and children. Children would work long hours in often unpleasant or dangerous conditions. They did not earn much, but even a few pennies would be enough to buy food for the family. Some Victorians campaigned to improve the conditions children worked under, which led to a reduction in their working hours and the introduction of elementary education. Such campaigners included Lord Shaftesbury and Sir Robert Peel.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 History:  A study of an aspect or theme in British history after 1066


Learning Outcomes

  • To ask and find answers to questions and record relevant information
  • To collect information from a range of sources and draw conclusions about the Victorian period
  • To understand that ways of life differed greatly across Victorian society

Activity Ideas

Detailed notes and background information on activities are provided in the downloadable documents (in both PDF and PowerPoint formats).  The resource uses contemporary documents, objects, painting and photographs.  The list below gives a brief overview:

  • Use the included census to individual, pair and group work to explore what kinds of jobs people did, what the data can tell us about Preston at the time, what else would we like to know and creating a class or school census.
  • Using the provided paintings, explore the jobs done by children in towns and countryside and critique the pictures reliability as evidence (includes teacher notes on each painting).
  • Use supplied photographs to compare modern and Victorian schooling, using observational and questioning skills and identifying sources for further research.
  • Use a contemporary log book to explore life in a Victorian school.