Archaeology in schools

With Chester and Sheffield Archaeology departments being under threat, the pressure is on schools to step up and help our HE colleagues. Archaeology should be included in some manner in schools, whether it is taught as part of a syllabus or a club.

In our last academic year, I devised a topic for the Year 7s travelling through time and the world, using archaeology. It was a huge hit with them. A group of them wanted an Archaeology Club, but sadly Covid got in the way of our plans.

We did manage to set it up during lockdown this year, as a virtual club. They researched their areas by using old maps and the Heritage England database. However, they wanted to get their hands dirty. In the words of one, ‘We want to dig up the school field and find Anglo-Saxons’. My vision when we set up the club, was getting a few archaeology friends down to the school and putting test pits in the field. Again, with restrictions and lockdowns, this hasn’t be possible. With our lovely Year 8s leaving at the end of this term, I felt they deserved something better.

Our luck was about to change. The local Society decided to re-visit a previous dig, and have a change of management. The new management is a friend of mine, who has dug on my team for the last 8 years. As my own group is unable to do test pits due to Covid, he approached me to see if I wanted to assist. I jumped at the chance, but with one proviso, I could bring 11 enthusiastic Year 8s with me. The deal was done.

The decision was then, how do we do it? What involvement is the school going to have? The Society offered to make them members, which takes the paperwork away from the school, as they will be digging on their own time. It also means that they can continue with the dig long after they leave in July. Our younger Club members will be invited to spend a few hours with us, different year groups on different days. The Year 8s however, can come and go as they please.

Today, we are clearing the site to start next weekend. I am making a video for our Year 8s to go through rules and health and safety. It is lovely to see that most are from my Year 7 History class from last year. Their enthusiasm certainly hasn’t been dulled by Covid.

If we can instil a love of archaeology from an early age, it doesn’t mean they will go and study it at Uni, but they will find a way of supporting it. Without it being in schools we are likely to see more closures of Uni departments, and a threat to an amazing subject.

It is easy to get in contact with local firms, community groups, or the local University. Build those relationships, no matter where you live there will be archaeology going on somewhere nearby, pupils will love it!