Wakefield Museums and Castles has an established schools programme of on site and outreach sessions, which halted with the Covid-19 pandemic. From July 2020 we started to receive enquiries from teachers about our provision in the new academic year. At this time, we were still uncertain how and when our sites would be re-opening, and schools themselves did not yet know their own plans and restrictions.

Kyte Photography for Wakefield Council

Each teacher that contacted us was asked if they would discuss future planning and provision. An online survey had been sent to teachers in May, but a low-response rate coupled with a changing environment necessitated a more proactive approach.  It became clear that teachers were looking to book or at least ‘pencil in’ sessions that could complement and support their in-school teaching. The rapidly changing guidelines were complicating travel arrangements for schools, and so teachers were requesting outreach sessions over on site visits.

We already have a well-developed and popular outreach programme, and so a decision was taken to select sessions from the existing programme that could be tailored to still provide high quality engagement but within safer socially distant, Covid-secure delivery.  To do this we have taken the following steps:

  • Spoken to other local museums and galleries about their ideas for future provision from September 2020
  • Written a new Covid-secure risk assessment and Safe Working Practice for outreach delivery
  • Reassessed session content to revise handling opportunities for pupils
  • Rewritten content to ensure enquiry, thinking and creativity is still within sessions
  • Discussed session content with teachers before delivery
  • Increased the questions we ask teachers in the booking process to ensure we are aware of their procedures in-school
  • Amended our cancellation policy to cover local and regional lockdown restrictions
  • Requested teachers to provide a way to send presentations and support resources prior to the session
  • Prepared and quarantined session boxes, objects and resources a minimum of 72 hours prior to session delivery
  • Set up a quarantine time of 72 hours after delivery for session boxes, objects and resources

Kyte Photography for Wakefield Council

We now have 7 different sessions marketed and hope to be adding more as the term progresses.  Our outreach programme has begun to be delivered in schools whilst we are more distant from the pupils the content and engagement is still strong.

The spark in a session remains the objects we hold in our collections. Having chance to hold an object to get a tangible connection with the past is a huge ‘wow’ moment for pupils. Even now we have minimised handling, taking an original 1920s liquorice tin, ancient Greek pot or crocodile skull into the classroom still creates those ‘Whoa, is that real miss?’ moments. We still get to see eyes light up and questions provoked, ideas created and thoughts discussed.

Our suggestions:

  • Get in touch with your teacher contacts and chat with them to see how things in their school are working
  • Talk to other local organisations about how they have and are planning for schools delivery
  • It adds time, but ask questions in the booking process about safe working in school and how to send your support resources before the session
  • Don’t underestimate the time it takes to plan, pack and quarantine session boxes and resources – get dates in your diary and stick to them
  • Remember the power of the object! The fact you have brought an object to school is a connection many pupils would not normally get
  • If you can’t or don’t want to move around the classroom, ask teaching staff to do this for you
  • Chat with your delivery staff after a session – check their welfare and how the session went