Archives hold the key for teachers: Discuss!

Remember the debate surrounding the new history curriculum when it was unveiled back in 2014? Some of the more exciting elements got a bit lost in the furore about pre-history and the chronological approach to teaching. I’m thinking about the renewed focus on historical skills and the introduction of local history studies at KS1 and 2. Funnily enough, both elements which archives are very well placed to help with!

If you’re a teacher who’s slightly flummoxed by the local history study requirement, why not get along to your local archive where you will not only find a wealth of well organised information about the local area, but also a resident expert to guide you through. Collections are often surprisingly eclectic, which is great for cross curricular links and increasingly, archives offer school workshops, online resources or teaching packs to support curriculum requirements.

Taking a class of KS2 pupils on an archive visit offers a unique opportunity to handle original artefacts and documents, and to encounter a piece of history which has resonance within their immediate experience. The history curriculum requirement to learn about significant local events, places and people is an ideal opportunity to deliver genuine child centred teaching – teaching which begins with what they already know. When children become engaged in the stories behind familiar buildings, local characters and street names, they develop a sense of immediacy and a thirst to find out more – what happened next? why?

As they progress, pupils realise that the answers to these questions are not always straightforward. Archives offer a fantastic opportunity for pupils to examine and compare resources side by side. By developing skills of historical enquiry – learning how to source, analyse, appraise and interpret the narratives which so engaged them at KS1- pupils start to develop an understanding of the connections between local, regional, national and international history. Further on in their school career, they can begin to extract wider historical themes from local history – the role of women, the development of empire, or technological change.

Here at Heritage Quay we’ve been busy developing and piloting school workshops with links to the curriculum from KS1 – 3 – and they’re all free! If you would like to know more, come along to our Teatime Taster on June 9th. You can grab yourself a goody bag, take a tour behind the scenes, and find out what other schools thought of our workshops! Places are limited, so please contact Trizia Wells at or ring 01484 473168 to register your interest.

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