‘Documenting change in British society and politics’: The Schools’ Learning Programme at LSE Library – Debbie Challis

LSE Library has worked on using our unique material in school engagement for around five years. Our collections cover records of social and political history in Britain and its relationship to Europe and the wider world from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. Highlights include the suffrage and the women’s liberation movement material in the Women’s Library, the archives of William Beveridge (architect of the Beveridge Report), the notebooks and London maps of Charles Booth, election material from 1900 to 2019 and campaigns for peace, such as material in the CND archives.

 ‘Another Brick in the Wall: Family Workshop at LSE Festival, 2019’

In the past we have either supported projects using our archives, particularly during the suffrage centenary year, or been responsive to schools. We are always keen to hear from potential project partners. For example, we are currently working with the Women’s Resource Centre on supporting school sessions on feminist leadership and the voluntary sector as part of a Lottery Funded project to mark 50 years since the opening of the first women’s refuge by Erin Pizzey. We continue to work with schools on bespoke sessions and, in addition, still offer Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) workshops.

The main change we have made in 2019 to 2020 is to revamp our programme to offer specific curriculum-based sessions based on our archive material, with a view to creating online resources around these subject areas in the future. This is a change from vaguely offering workshops in certain areas to offering broader but more specific content that can be easily identified by teachers in key stage level and subject areas.

We used the findings of a major archive evaluation to identify topics from The Women’s Library and LSE Archives that are rarely covered elsewhere or that we have a great deal of content for. Rather than listing our collections, we pulled out topics that can cover several collections and archives. For example, we have found that primary schools are interested in activism more generally, rather than just suffrage for example, and so offer a session on ‘Activists for Change: options (a) Social Reform (b) Suffrage (c) Nuclear Disarmament’.

‘A Key Stage 3 workshop at LSE Library around the Women’s Liberation Movement, 2018’.

We partly made this change due to a pilot project linked to an exhibition in 2018 when we created resources around the Beveridge Report and Welfare Reform 1900 to 1948 for Key Stage 3 history. We did this after advice from secondary teachers that this area had limited resources. LSE’s collections, particularly the Beveridge archive, give unique insights into welfare reform. The resources around the welfare state were the most popular, despite the suffrage centenary, and continue to be most in demand online.

Most sessions in the library are delivered to Sixth Form groups and so we have developed a series of sessions that are subject and exam board specific. In these we embed the information literacy skills that we cover in our EPQ sessions; how we search and find material and read archive (or primary) content and use it. So far, there has been most interest on sessions on either the changing role of women or current political issues, such as the role of referendums.

Using the evaluation of our archives to pinpoint the main areas in which we can support the curriculum, primarily in history, politics, sociology and citizenship, we have developed archive workshops and downloadable lesson resources. Although this isn’t a new thing to do within the museum and archive sector, it is new to LSE Library.

Obviously, in developing a strategy for working with our content, we also considered our school audiences and surveyed teachers who use us and sought advice from the LSE’s Widening Participation team. The Widening Participation (WP) team work with state schools that have been identified as being most in need of university and other support in attainment for their students. We have also mainly advertised our new programme with WP before looking to promote it more widely for 2020-21. So far, the changes and our limited promotion has paid off with new schools visiting or requesting outreach as well as giving us a strategy of action to engage with schools. If you would like to find out more our learning resources are on TES: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/d_challis and our schools and engagement web page is here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/whats-on/learning-programme-for-schools.

Debbie Challis, Education and Outreach Officer, LSE Library

Contact: library.enquiries@lse.ac.uk and Twitter @LSELibrary

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