Join us
Orange welcome sign that reads Royal Geographical Society with IBG.

Become a member and discover where geography can take you.

Join us
A view down a bridge to St Paul's Cathedral in London

School history

How can the place of school in local history be investigated?

Key questions

How has education has changed over time?

How can the place of school in local history be investigated?

How has education has changed over time?

Education in the UK has a very long history and can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have the longest histories, with Oxford (founded in 1167) being the oldest university in the English speaking world. However, prior to the 19th century there were very few schools and those that existed were usually run by the church.

How can the place of school in local history be investigated?

The Elementary Education Act of 1880 reformed education and meant that all children had to attend school from the ages of five to 10. Since then, the age of leaving has steadily risen so that, from 1973 it became compulsory for children to stay in education until the age of 16. Recent plans are in place to raise the leaving age to 18 from 2013. See the Wikipedia entry on the history of education in England for more information.

The subjects studied have also changed dramatically over time. Prior to the 19th century, as most schools were run by the church, religious education was the main subject studied. At the end of the 19th century the three Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) dominated and the main teaching style was through dictation. Visit Channel 4's Victorian Children: Victorian Schools website for more detail (you will see that geography is in there). Today pupils are given the opportunity to study a variety of different subjects from Politics and Art History to Travel and Tourism and teaching styles are much more interactive.


School in the late 19th Century

How do your experiences of school today compare with those of previous generations?

The picture on the front page of the Channel 4 Victorian Schools microsite shows a school at the end of the 19th Century.

How does this picture compare with your school today?

What are the similarities?

What are the differences?

Now take a look at the Victorian school timetable from 1899 on the same website.

How does this compare to your timetable?

You can find out more about each of the subjects that were studied by clicking on each one. There are even some tasks that you can try out.

Try out the dictation or drill activities provided to give you an idea about what it was like to be at school in the late 19th Century.

Main Activity

Anniversary front page

Your task is to produce the front page of an anniversary newspaper for your school. This will describe how your school has changed over time.

You can complete this work either individually or in groups of two or three.

Your school might have quite a long history (10, 50 or even 100 years), in which case you will need to find out as much information as you can about what your school was like in the past and how it has changed.

Think about where you are going to find out the information you need. You could do an Internet search, look in the school or local library, or interview some of your teachers (especially those who have been at the school for quite a long time!).

The anniversary front page document gives you some more guidelines and some ideas for presenting your front page.

If your school has a very short history, you might think instead about producing a newspaper from the future. Imagine you are writing the anniversary newspaper in 2100 and looking back at what the school is like now. How might the school change in the future, and how will school life be different then?


My front page

In this final task, you will be evaluating your work from the lesson. Complete one of the cards in the my front page document which asks you to write down what you think about your work:

  • What are you most proud of?

  • What would you change about your work?

  • What would you add to your work if you had to do it again?

Add a photo of your group to the card and print it out. You can now display it in the classroom alongside your anniversary front page.

File nameFiles

File type



Our Place In History Lesson 5 Teachers' Notes


260 KB

Our Place In History Lesson 5 Teachers' Notes (1)


81 KB

Our Place In History Lesson 5 My Front Page


40 KB

Our Place In History Lesson 5 My Front Page (1)


132 KB

Our Place In History Lesson 5 Anniversary Front Page


190 KB

Our Place In History Lesson 5 Anniversary Front Page (1)


246 KB

Download all files