Home > Random Stuff > crazy facts about old school classrooms


School's back and whether you love it or loath it, classrooms today are far better than they were even

just 30 years ago. Check out these weird and scary facts about old school classrooms…


1. You didn't have to go to school


It wasn't until 1877 that all NZ children, aged 7 to 13, had to go to school. Until then, many kids had no education or were taught at home (by their parents) or by churches.

This meant that most children over 8 were in either full time paid or unpaid (on the family farm) work. It also means that most children couldn't read or write.

So, if going to school feels like a bit of a drag, think of the hundreds of kids who used to have to go to work every day.

Photo: Spinner and doffers / National Archives - public domain


2. Teachers could hit naughty kids!


Did you know that teachers used to be able to use a strap, cane or wooden paddle to beat kids that misbehaved?

Boys were most often hit on their buttocks or hands, while girls were often caned on the backs of their legs and hands.

Aren't we lucky that in 1987 New Zealand banned corporal punishment (canning)? But, we were 204 years behind Poland who banned corporal punishment way back in 1783!

Try asking one of your parents or guardians if they remember the strap or cane still being used when they were in Primary School…


3. Teachers just didn't teach you



These days, our teachers work hard to keep learning new things. They regularly research using the internet, talk to other teachers (sometimes in other countries) and some even go to night school!

Teachers in the early 1900s didn't have access to the internet. They were also sometimes the only teacher in a community. So, if a teacher didn't know how to do something, the kids in their class just weren't taught that thing.

What's worse is, because teachers sometimes stayed in their job for up to 30 years, that meant that some kids were being taught facts and ways of doing things that were 30 years out of date!

Yay for modern teachers, and the internet!

Photo: FORTEPAN / Saly Noemi - CC-BY-SA-3.0
 4. The classrooms were huge!


Some classes had up to 60 kids in one classroom. That's over twice the size that classrooms are allowed to be now.

The teacher would keep control of the class by having a group of kids who acted as their assistants. Some of these teacher assistants were even allowed to cane other kids!


5. They used strange tools


In your classroom you'll probably find coloured pens/pencils, exercise books, whiteboards, loads of books and even a TV! But, 40 years ago, the tools were very different. Some common things found in classrooms of the past included:

  • Chalk board
    This was used by every teacher to share information with the whole class. Some classrooms also had small chalkboards for each student.

    Many of the poor teachers developed problems with their hands and wrists from writing at odd angles all day long. Some also developed skin conditions because they were allergic to the chalk dust!

Photo: Public Doman Pictures.net - public domain
  • Sand tray
    Year 1 and 2 children used sand trays to practice writing letters
  • Inkwells
    Back then, kids didn't have self-inking pens, so they used to have to dip their pens into an inkwell while they were writing.

  • Abacus
    This was a wooden frame with wire or wood rows along which beads were slid. It was used to help teach kids maths.


If you found these facts interesting or want to share something wacky about your classroom, let us

know and you'll go into the draw to win our “Kid Reporter of the Month” prize!

Entries close 28 February 2016.

First Name: 
Last Name: 
Email Address: 
Street Address: 
Post Code: 
Share something wacky about
your classroom: 



Terms and Conditions

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Upstart Magazine keeps your details safe. We will never pass your details on to anyone else.

Site by Xplore – your web agency