The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 88

Issue 88

May/June 2006



Meadowsweet flowers in prehistoric graves

Strange fish

"Find of several lifetimes" – cathedral archaeologist

Oldest houses in Scotland

Archaeologists mourn loss of two popular colleagues

In Brief


End of the line: St Pancras Station
How many graves would you have saved? Phil Emery rescues French revolution refugee history.

The floors that Rome built
Stephen R Cosh and David S Neal are recording every Roman mosaic.

Protests at Bling King's grave
What can the Prittlewell protesters hope to achieve?

on the web

Recommended websites


Views and responses

CBA news

Headlines from the CBA office.


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

CBA news

Archaeology and education

September 2006 will see an exciting development in 14–16 education. A new GCSE in history is being piloted in 70 schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This arose from concerns that current history GCSEs were too focussed on modern history, and were alienating potential students through being seen as too academic and, in spite of their modern focus, irrelevant to modern life. The CBA caMPaigned some time ago for the teaching of medieval history at 14–16, and has long spoken out in favour of a more obviously relevant form of history that engages pupils in their historic environment. The CBA was fully involved in the planning of the new GCSE, which has been taken over by OCR, the awarding body in Cambridge.

OCR's specification for the GCSE has two core units: medieval Britain 400–1500, and either a local history or international history study. The local study can cover local heritage sites and must include the issue of their relevance today. Two of eight option units must be chosen: four are traditional, looking at historical issues, while the others are vocational and cover heritage management, marketing and presentation.

One of the vocational units is an archaeological enquiry, and throughout the course students will be encouraged to look at all kinds of evidence for the past. This is an exciting, new kind of GCSE, supporting the government's desire to bridge the gap between academic and vocational education: archaeology is at the forefront of this development. Teachers of the GCSE will need help with resources and teaching ideas. Any archaeologist or CBA member interested in supporting the new GCSE should contact Don Henson (, who will pass their details on to OCR. The CBA continues to be involved through membership of the pilot steering group, and Don will also be able to supply a list of schools taking part in the pilot.

On a more depressing note, there is a looming crisis in the provision of university level part-time courses in archaeology and allied subjects like history for adults. University provision of such courses (known as continuing education) is under threat. Course numbers have declined by 15% over the last five years, matched by a 20% decline in the number of universities offering archaeology through continuing education. Even more worrying, the locations where courses are run, and their availability to the public, have declined by 42% as universities withdraw from running courses in outlying towns and villages. This has occurred at some well-known providers such as Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds and Surrey universities.

Other institutions have bucked the trend, with an archaeology professor appointed at Sussex, and courses provided at new universities like the University of Bath at Swindon. Yet the overall picture is one of decline. Local amateur archaeologists and societies have been able to meet and learn from professional and academic colleagues during continuing education. It has been the vital bridge between professionals and volunteers. The CBA has been unable to meet Bill Rammell, minister for higher education (he recently commented on the fall in applications to subjects like history, that it was "no bad thing" if students chose courses they believed would lead to better jobs). The CBA encourages members to write to their MP about this issue. Don Henson can provide details of the current situation.

The CBA has highlighted the problems archaeology graduates experience when trying to enter teacher training, especially at secondary level. Some teacher training institutions interpret Training and Development Agency (TDA) for Schools guidelines very rigidly, and refuse to accept single honours archaeology graduates onto PGCE courses. The TDA and the Higher Education Academy have agreed to fund the CBA's production of an information pack to persuade teacher training institutions to accept archaeology graduates. We all know that archaeology degrees provide many transferable skills and have subject knowledge directly applicable to teaching history or geography, and there are graduates very keen to enter teaching. At least we have the chance to persuade PGCE course providers of this.

Positive developments are not restricted to GCSE and teacher training. Archaeology in higher education is more and more looking outwards and keen to engage with more diverse audiences. The CBA is supporting an initiative under the HEFCE Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) to improve access for the disabled to practical archaeology.

The project, Inclusive, Accessible Archaeology, is being led by Reading University, and will see the development of a self-evaluation kit relating individuals' abilities to field archaeology. The notion of "disability" has no merit in archaeology. This project will make it clear that everyone has abilities and skills that can find a place in different parts of the archaeological process.

National Archaeology Week and CBA weekend

Are you planning an event as part of this year's National Archaeology Week (July 15–23 inclusive)? If so, please pass details to the NAW administrator at the CBA in York by the middle of May, to ensure your event is featured in the promotional colour booklet. This will be circulated to all CBA members with the Jul/Aug issue of this magazine (out June 9).

Full details and booking forms will be available soon for the CBA's weekend event, this year in Salisbury October 6–8. The annual Beatrice de Cardi lecture will be on Friday evening, with a coach trip to Stonehenge and Avebury on Saturday – including the chance to walk within the stones at Stonehenge. On Sunday there will be the CBA's AGM, and other activities including a local young archaeologists' event. See

The CBA and English Heritage have launched a new edition of Understanding Historic Buildings. Copies from English Heritage, or download from

Young Archaeologist of the Year Award 2006

The Young Archaeologist of the Year Award for 2006 was launched with the other British Archaeological Awards at the British Museum on February 22 by culture minister David Lammy MP. The challenge is to investigate a building and tell its history. Channel 4's Time Team archaeologist Raksha Dave was there to help youngsters from the local Camden YAC branch explore activity tables that highlighted identification techniques, medieval building materials and how buildings are constructed. Lammy also met children participating in activities that showcased the recent work of the Hackney Building Exploratory, whose exhibition explores buildings and the built environment. See

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