• Making history real in Coventry
  • Making history real in Coventry
  • Making history real in Coventry
  • Making history real in Coventry

In 2013 the National Curriculum for KS1 and KS2 changed to include a focus on local history. The four museums run by Culture Coventry (The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry Transport Museum, Priory Visitor Centre and the Lunt Roman Fort) responded with a programme of Coventry history sessions for schools. Schools Project Manager Emma Hewitt explains.

“Most of our schools work is with primaries and so we were well-placed to meet the demand for local history sessions. We’ve developed programmes across our four venues, all aimed at giving pupils and teachers hands-on experiences of life in Coventry at different times, from the earliest Roman period to the Second World War. We now cater for upwards of 200 schools a year from across the city and further afield.

“The Victorian Cycles sessions at Coventry Transport Museum are very popular. During the 19th century, Coventry was at the centre of the burgeoning bicycle manufacturing industry – the first cycle made here was actually created by a sewing machine factory, of all things! These early bikes consisted of just a frame with wooden wheels, there were no proper brakes or safety features. We show the children a selection of early bikes, including a penny farthing, and they can have a go on a Victorian tricycle. We explain how the designs developed into the modern bikes that they own today, and also how Coventry grew from producing bikes to producing cars. So we have design, engineering and history teaching all rolled into one session.

“The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum runs World War Two object handling sessions. We explain the Coventry blitz, which of course destroyed Coventry Cathedral, and show the children ARP helmets and a real incendiary bomb. We also have a bomb shelter in our undercroft that they can visit, to get a sense of life at war. It’s a way of taking history out of the books and making it real for the pupils. We are often told that we give teachers new ideas and confidence for their history lessons that they then take back to school.

“We are part of the Museums and Schools project, with Arts Connect as a partner, which allows schools to make repeat visits to our venues. Through this the children feel a sense of ownership – they turn the museums into their own spaces and many then return with their families. That’s when we know that our sessions have worked!”

Emma Hewitt, Schools Project Manager
Culture Coventry

“It has been really inspiring to be a partner in the development and delivery of the Museums in Schools project with Culture Coventry and the V&A Museum. Through development of their partnership with the learning team at the V&A and with support from Arts Connect, Culture Coventry have undertaken ambitious projects and developed new skills and greater confidence in working with high quality artists and designers.”

Susan Goodwin