Strict discipline teaches Steyning children a lesson about Victorian times

Children at Steyning Primary School have been given a true taste of Victorian school days, including strict discipline and working in silence.

The year-six Victorian Day on Friday included a Latin spelling test, manual labour, checks for cleanliness and even the cane.

The children found it tremendous fun, though the teachers remained in their strict Victorian roles all day.

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Haidee Boyt, 11, said: “It is different to anything else and it is really fun.”

The 11-year-old boys had beef dripping, bread and cress after doing manual labour. Picture: Steyning Primary School

She chose to dress as a chimney sweep and said she had been ‘up cleaning chimneys’ before school started.

Mio Andersson, 10, was one of the children who was made to use the right hand for writing, despite being left-handed.

He said: “My grandpa was left-handed and he had his hand slapped with a ruler, so he can write with both hands now.

“You can’t slouch, you can’t fidget and you can’t talk, otherwise you get caned.”

Girls and boys were given Victorian names and sat separately all day for lessons such as handwriting practice. Picture: Steyning Primary School

Head teacher Sue Harrsion gathered the children in the hall at the start of the day and spoke about the Bible.

Miss Lizzie Messina-Reeve, upper key stage two team leader and year-six teacher, said: “She was 100 per cent in role! She disciplined the children as necessary, said The Lord’s Prayer and we sang All Things Bright and Beautiful.

“We then came back to class but the children were not allowed in until they were deemed clean enough. They were dressed for the occasion and were ready to check their hands and nails for cleanliness and that their hair was neat.”

Girls and boys sat separately all day, with their Victorian names written on a chalkboard in front of them.

Some children had to wear the dunce’s cap while others worked in silence. Picture: Steyning Primary School

Luukas Glass, 10, said: “We have to write a letter about being a child in the Victorian times and that is really going to help us remember.”

Lessons included numeracy, a Latin spelling test and learning about the British Empire.

Miss Messina-Reeve said: “Our 11-year-old boys left us for part of the day to do some manual labour, followed by a snack of ‘beef dripping’, bread and cress.

“We shared bread and jam as our snack before lunch. At playtime, they were given skipping ropes and hoops to play with.”

The boys did woodwork, making a square frame for the girls' sewing

In the afternoon, the boys were given drill practice while the girls did sewing and learned how to fold material and sort household goods, then the girls played tennis while the boys did woodwork, making a square frame for the girls’ sewing.

Miss Messina-Reeve said: “We tried to keep to Victorian disciplines as much as possible. Some children were made to wear the dunce’s cap, as well as others being sent to stand in the corner, face the wall, and some even suffered the wrath of the ‘cane’.

“It was an amazing day, where everyone involved dressed for the occasion and enjoyed the day.”

Lara Hammond, Ellie Kingston and Niamh Veal. Picture: Steyning Primary School
George Dorrington. Picture: Steyning Primary School
Henry Tarry. Picture: Steyning Primary School