Studying Alice Hawkins in the Primary Curriculum
Children have a profound sense of fairness and when they learn that Alice had to campaign to get women the vote and fought for equal pay, her story can be used as a great stimulus to explore and debate the ideas of equality and democracy. Being as Alice was a working class woman and lived in Leicester, the children can relate to her story. The children’s emotional response can lead to an enlightening, insightful and memorable unit of work.
There are a number of different opportunities to study Alice’s inspiring story in the Primary National Curriculum.
In the ‘Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools’ document it states, “Schools should promote the fundamental British values of democracy , the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
The Primary National Curriculum KS1 states that children should learn about, “the lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements”
In KS2, the Alice’s story could be included as part of a local history study, or even in study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066. It could be included as a “significant turning point in British History” and you could include the development of democracy and universal suffrage through the Reform Acts and Representation of the People Acts.
If you are a Leicester School, there will be opportunities to visit places that are significant to Alice’s story. The Equity Boot and Shoes factory on Western Road has a Blue Plaque dedicated to Alice and the entrance has a large display about her life. The building is now student accommodation and called Code.
Alice’s statue is definitely worth a visit. It can be found in Green Dragon Square which is around the corner from Leicester Market where Alice would stand and address large crowds.
I have made a Leicester democracy and rule of law trail, which includes the locations on the link below:
The British Library has some great information
The Story of Leicester website has a good page about Alice
The story of Emmeline Pankhurst for KS2
There are a number of resources on the Heritage Schools Learning Platform about Alice and the Suffragettes
BBC class clips, the trial of Emmeline Pankhurst
The project can lead to some great opportunities to re-enact your own Suffragette rally. For inspiration, watch our film here
History and Citizenship resources about Suffragettes can be found here
‘Always facing towards the light’ is an inspiring look at Alice’s life performed live last February in Green Dragon Square, Leicester
Caroline Chester, The Hall School, Leicester
Learning about Alice Hawkins - Leicester’s suffragette – has been hugely beneficial. An email arrived from Heritage Schools stating that her great-grandson, Peter Barratt, was available to give talks to children about Alice and the local suffrage movement. We invited him to our school and it became immediately apparent that the children were fascinated by the subject. He has made two further visits since then so now 180 children have heard Alice’s story from him.
Prior to Peter’s visit, the children had been given background information about the situation for women in the Victorian era and how this led to the discontent felt by those who were drawn into the suffrage movement. We made use of resources on the Heritage Schools Learning Platform. Heritage Schools have published resources about suffragettes from a more national perspective and this allowed us to build a unit of work around it, starting with the wider issues and then bringing in the local angle. For details about how to access the Heritage Schools Learning Platform, please contact: Ismail.Dale@HistoricEngland.org.uk
It is interesting to consider the suffragists before studying the suffragettes. This video introduces children to Millicent Fawcett who is the first female to be given a statue in Parliament Square.
These video clips from UK Parliament are useful in providing information about prison life:
This video provides a summary and was produced by the BBC in 2018 for the 100th anniversary of some women being granted the right to vote.
At the end of the lesson, children were given the opportunity to write questions about the topic for our Working Wall which we could try to answer throughout the topic. Questions included: ‘Did all women support the suffragettes?’, ‘Were there any men who were suffragettes?’ and ‘Were there suffragettes in other countries?’
Following a good grounding in the suffragette movement and Alice Hawkins, we then studied Emily Davison. Our starting point was the PowerPoint created by Heritage Schools. The incident fascinated the children, especially the restored video footage which can be found here:
As well as learning about arguably the most famous suffragette related incident, it sparked a good discussion about sources, including looking at who they are credited to be able to judge their reliability. Children then considered each resource in turn before concluding whether Emily Davison did intend to die at Epsom.
We then moved on to analysing some of the pro-suffragette and anti-suffragette posters and cartoons that were produced at the time. There is a good selection on Heritage Schools Learning Platform but there are many to be found by carrying out a simple internet search. It prompted a good debate amongst the children as to whom the posters were produced by and aimed at. Analysing sources is a high-level skill but the input that children had received so far really enabled them to pick up on some of the subtleties of the cartoons and produce a thoughtful analysis. These examples show the achievement of a range of abilities:
Finally, we returned to Alice. There is a really good range of sources on the Alice Hawkins website:
We read the transcription of her prison notes and listened to the audio of them being read. We also had a copy of her arrest notes from Black Friday that Peter gave us which were annotated to highlight key points.
We brought all of the learning together in a final piece of work about Alice Hawkins. We read the transcript of her prison notes and listened to the audio, both on the Alice Hawkins website, looked at photographs and newspaper cuttings, again from the website and children could then choose whether they would write:
· a letter home from Alice about life in prison;
· a letter to the government from Alice about why women should have the vote;
· a diary entry from Alice; or
· a manifesto about why women should have the vote.
As a result of our interest in Alice, we were given the opportunity to take part in a local schools’ event where we were invited to join in a ‘mock’ suffragette rally. The children made their own flags and banners and we joined other schools to march through the city centre to the Market Place where Alice’s statue had been recently unveiled. Parents and grandparents came to watch or march with us and two of our children delivered a speech to the assembled crowd. A march is something that can be re-created in the school playground, especially if the children first learn the songs that can be found at the Heritage Schools Learning Platform.
To finish off the topic, we re-visited the questions we set for the Working Wall to see which ones we could now answer and reflected upon the actions of the suffragettes using the resources on the Heritage Schools Learning Platform asking if suffragettes were terrorists. We considered what different groups of people would say (e.g., MPs, women, the police). This was done in role. Children were grouped and had to state why they believed should or shouldn't have the vote. This was fun as well as being an opportunity to synthesise the many sources that the children had been exposed to in order to formulae an argument and give an opinion. We then discussed the eventually granting of the vote to some women in 1918 and whether the situation was fair or not.
The suffragette work that we do greatly enhances our Citizenship work and led to us signing up for UK Parliament Week. This is usually in early November each year. If you sign up for the event, you will be sent bunting, stickers and learning resources which help to give children a way of appreciating how the freedom to vote that we have today hasn’t always been the case. It is also a great way to teach British Values and make links with RSE.
The children really enjoyed the unit of work. It was an area of history that they didn’t really know anything about so the content was new to everyone. A child wrote:
“Alice was a very courageous person and fought for the rights women have today because she stood alongside other women against the government. That inspires me because she never gave up on life and humanity. She never gave up on her dreams and did all she could to win rights. She didn’t have much, but still gave all she could. Her legacy will never disappear.”