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A week in the life of White Rock primary school, Paignton, Torbay

Year 5 pupils at White Rock found out just how good (or not) the old days were when they went back to the time of their great, great-grandparents'


Linked to the term's history topic of the Victorians, the first day involved a visit from Pruw Boswell, a former mayor of Totnes who provides themed days for local schools. Ms Boswell gave the children a rude awakening to the reality of Victorian classrooms; no talking, stand up straight when speaking to the teacher, and loads of copy-writing - with your right hand, of course. In the afternoon, children had a chance to try out games and crafts.

Class teacher Chris Morris says that if the discipline of the school day was a bit of a shock, the following week's trip to Coldharbour Mill, to find out about working life, was a real eye-opener. First the children lined up for Mr Robson, a factory owner in the worst Dickensian tradition, who asked questions and set the children tasks to see if they would make suitable employees.

Those who passed the test found out about the harsh working conditions faced by children - some as young as six - about the penalties for being late or producing too much waste, and the dangers of working with industrial machinery. And it was no use protesting - complaining meant instant dismissal.

Chris Morris says children "remember so much more"when they experience the past in this way. And the next time they complain about having too much workI Snaps by Chris Morris

Sit up! Pruw Boswell takes the lesson

Material gains: cloth comes off the loom

How do you switch it on? Games from a pre-electric age

Hard labour: Mr Robson explains the rules

In stitches: Amelia learns how to do French knitting

Give us a job: young hopefuls reporting for duty at the wool mill

Watch your fingers: Adam and Sian clearing scraps from under the spinning jenny

Rodent patrol:Mr Robson explains how to kill rats with a mallet

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