Victorian poor and the workhouse; what does Martha’s story tell us? NEW September 2020

NB This is an additional lesson that does not appear on the planner.

This topic couldn’t be more relevant to today. We frequently hear it said that the poor are always with us: so are the problems of what to do with them! By looking at a case study of the Victorian  New Poor Law and the associated workhouses, pupils will be challenged to think beyond their initial 21st century horror at the system to try to understand why so many Victorians wanted and supported it. Looking at a cameo of how one 12 year- old girl was treated by the system allows pupils to personalise some of the bigger issues. The core activities involve pupils in inferring from clues about conditions in workhouses and then creating speech bubbles to show the different points of view of supporters and critics such as Dickens.

Learning objectives

Pupils ~

  • grasp that although many people in Victorian times held ideas about society very different from our own some felt the same way we do.
  • infer from a range of sources and draw conclusions about life in Victorian workhouses
  • summarise arguments for and against workhouses as a solution to poverty

Starter

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