Changing conceptions of Childhood

Early Childhood Studies students visit London in their first year to learn about the changing conception of childhood throughout history.

At the University of Northampton our first year students on the Early Childhood Studies degree embark on a coach trip to London to visit both the V&A Museum of Childhood and the Ragged School Museum at the beginning of term. One of the reasons that the trip is carried out so early in the semester is that it is a great day for students to forge relationships and begin to develop friendships — aspects that are crucial for them to be content in their learning experiences that follow.

However, the trip isn’t just about building friendships. The venues have been chosen to allow the opportunity for reflection; reflection around the concept of childhood and how childhood has evolved over recent times. The learning from the trip is then embedded into the Child Development module that follows.

The V&A Museum of Childhood is the largest institution of its kind in the world. It holds the nation’s childhood collections including toys, childhood equipment and costumes.

Here the students were asked to take photographs of three things that they thought that showed childhood of a certain time. They were asked to record what era it was from and what they think it says about being a child at that time.

“I loved all of the interactive displays, it felt like we were children again! I really took an interest in the sensory part of the Museum as I have an interest in SEN but also the benefits that exploring has on any child.” Joanna Hubbard

“I thought it was really interesting to see what children used to wear and play with in the past, and it was also fun to see some toys that I used to have when I was younger!” Cerys

Our visit to the Ragged School was more structured and our students were seated in a Victorian classroom and had a talk about the formation of the Ragged School and what it would have been like to have been a child at that time.

The Ragged Schools were established by Thomas Barnado in 1867 to give children from poor families a free basic education. Tens of thousands of children were educated in these institutions.

“The things that amazed me the most was the ragged school. How the conditions were for those children at the time was shocking, especially as when my group arrived early, we were talking to one of the volunteers and he stated that the children never had lighting…. Also, the stairs, they didn’t have any, there were vertical ladders which were through small holes of the ground floor and ceiling, it must have been hard for individuals who feared heights!” Louise

The experiences gained from the visit to London will be used in lectures to be further explored by the students back in the classroom.

If you’re interested in the development of children and babies, from birth to the age of eight visit our

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