Tudors out, Romans in - the unforeseen consequences of curriculum change

A recent headline in the Daily Mirror read ‘Henry VIII's life ruined by Michael Gove as National Curriculum changes bite’. This attention-grabbing statement refers to recent changes made to the delivery of history in schools. Our past is now taught in chronological order which means that children in most primary schools will in future be learning about changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age; the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain; Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots; and the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor. Although there is some scope for studying a significant event beyond 1066, the balance is definitely pre-Conquest.

The Tudors have become secondary school material, and are now studied under ‘the development of Church, state and society in Britain 1509-1745’ – rather different to the ‘Terrible Tudors’ approach of recent years. The unforeseen impact of this change is that many small businesses, museums and heritage sites who ran successful and established school activities based on the Tudors are now finding that their bookings are drying up - secondary schools are much less likely to put time and resources into such visits.

The Trust’s own plans for developing outdoor learning materials for schools has also been affected by these changes. On the downside, during the St Benet’s Abbey Conservation Access and Community project, volunteers dedicated much time to developing primary school activities which explored the Peasant’s Revolt and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but these are now no longer in demand.

pupil at T&THowever, the change in focus actually opens up great opportunities for encouraging school visits to our other sites, and there has been a definite burgeoning of interest in visiting Burgh Castle Fort and Caistor Roman Town. Both these sites have the potential to explore the Iron Age, the Roman Period and Anglo-Saxon settlement and so they are perfect for school visits.

A partnership between Historic England and the Time & Tide Museum (Great Yarmouth) has produced materials to support a half day at the museum followed by a site visit to Burgh Castle, which will now be supported by local Trust volunteers. And at Caistor, volunteers from Caistor Roman Project, supported by an Historic England Education Officer, are developing learning activities for the Roman Town which they will lead on behalf of the Trust.

In facilitating school visits we will be extending the public benefit of our sites, and providing opportunities for children to get inspired about archaeology, heritage and history – hopefully igniting the spark for a life-long interest.

[Photo: Time & Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth]

If you’d like to get involved with school visits at Burgh Castle, Caistor Roman Town or any of our other sites please get in touch: carolinedavison@norfarchtrust.org.uk

News in brief

  • Trip to 'Celts: Art and Identity' exhibition, British Museum, Friday 15 January 2016: members of NAT are invited to join in with an upcoming NAHRG trip to this exhibition. The cost is £58.00. This includes all-day car parking in Norwich, return coach travel, a timed ticket to see the exhibition, a buffet meal on the way home and a driver gratuity. NAHRG members will have priority until 7 December but other applications are welcome. For further details and a booking form please email Tony Bradstreet at enquiries@nahrg.org.uk
  • NAHRG/NNAS joint lecture: 2.30pm Saturday 5 December at Castle Museum Norwich Textiles: a Global Story, 1750–1820 Michael Nix, formerly Research Manager, Textiles and Technology, Glasgow Museums (non-members of NAHRG/NNAS are asked to give a donation) Further info: http://www.nnas.info/lectures or http://www.nahrg.org.uk/lecture.php