Guest post from Claire Bogue, Museum of London
In our built-up capital city it can be a stretch of the imagination to visualise what life was like for our ancestors living here through the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, but there is a fascinating story to tell.
Changes to the National Curriculum saw Prehistory introduced in primary classrooms for the first time in September. The majority of primary school teachers have a limited knowledge of key themes and distinctions between the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age.
They are also unfamiliar with the chronology of this period, how to convey the length of time to children tackling BC and AD conventions for the first time and at which point in this long story of human prehistory to take as their starting point.
The result is teachers who lack confidence in their own subject knowledge and therefore their ability to provide a creative and meaningful learning experience for their pupils in this subject is limited.
Our LSEF project draws together expert knowledge from the curatorial and learning departments at the Museum of London, the chronological journey presented in our London Before London gallery and our world-leading object handling collection. We developed our CPD training with the view that investing in teachers’ subject knowledge increases confidence that will, in the long term, mean that pupils are provided with high quality, inspiring teaching in an entirely new aspect of the National Curriculum.
Initially we worked with two teaching alliances in east London, using a cascade methodology to embed learning within alliance schools. Two lead teachers were identified to participate in in-depth training with museum professionals, with the expectation that they would pass on or ‘cascade’ their learning to other colleagues within their alliances, act as advocates for the project and help to shape the programme overall so that it best meets teachers’ needs.
In the second academic year the programme has expanded to include INSET training at the museum for more than 100 teachers from across London and a series of sessions for ITT students.
Early on in the project, feedback from teachers touched on the need for access to good quality objects in schools. We too felt that there was a need to deepen pupils’ understanding that prehistory, being before written records, was understood through objects and landscapes. Our LSEF project scaled up in order to create replica artefact loan boxes, 24 of which can be accessed via London Schools Library Services.
For those schools unable to access physical loan boxes, we are creating a set of virtual 3D artefacts from our collections. We hope that these resources will support understanding of prehistory through objects and act as a legacy to this project.
“The loan boxes provided a multisensory experience for the children, which they could not get from pictures or even video. This was invaluable and enabled the children to make the prehistoric period much less abstract. Children’s enquiry skills also developed through using the loan box artefacts as their curiosity and imagination was sparked by the unfamiliarity of many of the objects.”
Alongside face-to-face training the museum has also developed a suite of free access online resources to support teaching and learning of prehistory. These include videos, games and teacher packs.
See www.museumoflondon.org.uk/prehistory-resources for more details.
Teachers self-assessed confidence ratings before and after CPD training: