This blog will include destination guides written on our travels, including my top tips, as well as articles about EFL teaching - general observations, summaries of #eltchats, webinars and conference presentations, and more specific stories about my teaching experiences.
kind of auntie takes her school-aged niece (who she hasn’t seen in a long time)
to the British Schools Museum for an outing, on a day when the said niece
doesn’t have to go to school?I do!!And I make no apologies for it!!I enjoyed it (bit of a ‘busman’s holiday’!),
she enjoyed it and so did Grandma – a great afternoon out that suited three
British Schools Museums is located on Queen Street, Hitchin in Hertfordshire
and this past weekend was offering free admission as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme.The museum is housed in school
buildings dating from 1837 on a site where a school has stood since 1810.It has been open for twenty years and is run
by a team of dedicated volunteers whose enthusiasm for their subject really
adds to the enjoyment of the visit.
original school was divided into an infants’ school (mixed boys and girls up to
the age of seven), a girls’ school and a boys’ school.On arrival in the museum today, children can
enhance their experience by opting to wear the traditional smocks (for girls)
and collars and caps (for boys) worn by schoolchildren in Victorian times.The museum’s reception is located in the old
Infants’ School and is home to a wealth of information displayed on posters on
the walls and in numerous folders to browse through.Volunteers in Victorian costume are on hand
to answer questions throughout the site.
the reception area, visitors cross the playground (complete with hopscotch
grids!) to visit the headmaster’s house.This small house was first home to the original headmaster of the
school, his wife, and their seven children!It has been faithfully restored to its Victorian glory and is full of
authentic furnishings and accessories, giving an accurate insight into the
lives of its occupants.
The monitorial schoolroom
there, you walk up a slope, which would have originally been cobbled, but which
is now tarmacked, to the Boys’ School.In here, you can see the only surviving example of a ‘monitorial
schoolroom’ anywhere in the world.The
monitorial system of education was developed by Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker from
London who believed that all children had a right to learn, as a way of
teaching large numbers of pupils very cheaply.300 boys of all abilities would have been taught in this one room.Desks and benches filled the centre of the
room and lesson boards were hung around the walls.The keen children were taught by the Master,
both before and after normal school hours.These pupils became ‘Monitors’ who proudly wore badges giving them the
responsibility to teach small groups of other children.These lessons took place in front of the
lesson boards.The pupils then returned
to their desks and wrote what they had learned on slates.Younger children would practise writing with
their fingers in sand trays.Today, in
this room, visitors can practise writing on slates or in sand and can play with
the toys in the recreation corner.They
can also experience Victorian reprimands by wearing a dunce’s cap or having a
label hung around their neck with ‘Unwashed hands’ or ‘Too much talking’, for
Grandma & Grace practising their handwriting
galleried classroom, which was built in 1853 for 110 boys, modern day visitors
can experience what it was like to be a pupil in Victorian days.Originally, this classroom had no desks –
boys simply sat on the floor on a series of steps so that every one of them
could be seen by the teacher.Desks were
added in around 1880 and it is at these that visitors to the museum can sit and
practise their handwriting using authentic quill pens and ink pots.There is a volunteer dressed as a Victorian
teacher on hand to dole out suitable praise or punishment for work
submitted.My Mum was admonished for
‘blotting her copybook’ – quite literally, whilst my niece was praised for her
efforts, but requested a caning anyway!!
The 1905 - 1939 classroom
are two further classrooms, one of which depicts school life 1905 – 1939 and
the other the period 1940 – 1969.These
rooms are full of objects from the times and certainly led to a lot of stories
being told by my Mum and myself as we explained their significance to my niece.
‘discovery room’ at the end of our visit was another opportunity for Mum and I
to remember our schooldays and for Grace to play with the toys of
yesteryear.For me, I discovered that
I’m still no good at ‘cup ‘n’ ball’!!!
thoroughly recommend this museum to children of all ages and applaud the
efforts of the volunteers for keeping it going.Long may it continue!