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Access Cambridge Archaeology 2012-2013

2012-13 was an exceptionally busy year for Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), directed by Dr Carenza Lewis which included the first of three years of a programme of Higher Education Field Academies (HEFA) for schools as well as two other major projects, Cambridge Community Heritage and Managing a Masterpiece. Catherine Ranson and Clemency Cooper continued in full-time roles as archaeological supervisor and administrator respectively, with Jessica Rippengal (Department of Archaeology) and Jenni French (Peterhouse College, Cambridge) providing part-time support for excavation supervision and written report assessment.  In addition, other graduate and undergraduate students have been involved as volunteers on summer fieldwork and winter courses, with Alex Pryor (former PhD student, University of Cambridge) making a major contribution to fieldwork on a range of ACA activities. Sue Poll (McDonald Institute) coordinated the Discovery Day programme, and Claire Halley (former PhD student, University of Cambridge) taught ‘A’ Level Archaeology at Suffolk One College in Ipswich.

The Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) programme was scaled up again in 2012-13 as funding from the Cambridge Admissions Office (WPPF) came on stream. A total of 521 students attended 14 HEFAs for 3 days each, with the WPPF monies thereby providing 1,563 learner days, involving students from 49 schools, accompanied by 86 school staff. This represents a doubling of provision compared with 2011-12. This is a real triumph, as the loss of Aimhigher (ACA’s former partner in the HEFA programme) deprived the HEFA programme of the support provided by Aimhigher link staff in schools and Aimhigher programme managers and coordinators, all of whom who helped promote HEFA within schools. In response to this, in 2012 ACA devised and set up a system of Beacon Schools for HEFA, in which key schools agree to liaise with target schools in tesselated territories local to them to ensure that as many students as possible who will benefit from HEFA are able to take part.  This has worked remarkably well even in its first year, with the number of HEFA places filled higher in 2012-13 than ever before. The HEFA programme in 2012-15 is focusing on school students in the upper 20% of the ability spectrum, with the aim of raising participant aspirations to attend top universities. The structure and content of Day 3 has been revised and expanded and now includes an academic lecture on the background to the HEFA excavations whose content can be used by students when preparing their written assignments. 2012-13 has seen a marked rise in the number of students submitting written assignments, rising from 39% in 2011-12 to 68% in 2012-13: this appears to reflect (1) the impact of the new additions to the HEFA course structure especially on Day 3; (2) the success of the Beacon School system in coordinating additional sessions supporting writing up; and (3) the commitment shown to HEFA by the high-achieving students who attend.

Feedback from HEFA in 2012-13 show very high levels of participant satisfaction. 97% rated HEFA as 'Excellent' or 'Good', while HEFA participation can be seen to significantly raise students’ confidence in their education, and bolster their confidence in their intentions and aspirations. After HEFA, 77% of students felt more confident about trying something new; 82% felt more positive about staying in education after Year 11; 83% felt more positive about going to university, and 89% felt they knew more about what life at university would be like. In significant numbers, a step change was achieved, with students changing their mind entirely re whether to consider university, Russell Group Universities or the University of Cambridge, with the number considering applying to the University of Cambridge rising by 50%.

A number of new settlements were drawn into the HEFA programme in 2012-13: Stapleford (Cambs), Walberswick (east Suffolk), Daw’s Heath (south Essex), Great Amwell (south Herts), and North Warnborough (Hampshire).  In addition, HEFA excavations also took place in villages where ACA had previously carried out test pit excavations as part of other, non-HEFA, projects, Swaffham Bulbeck (Cambs) and Long Melford (Suffolk). Highlights in 2013 included the first discovery in Essex of significant quantities of Saxo-Norman Thetford ware, which was found in two pits near the church at Manuden (Essex). Essex rural settlements tend to produce no material of this date, so this is a significant discovery. It was therefore interesting to also find Thetford ware associated with a post hole in a test pit excavated in 2013 at Long Melford. This lies very close to the Essex border in Suffolk and had also previously produced no material of this date. Another particularly interesting discovery was in Walberswick, where, unusually, all the test pits produced medieval pottery and there was no sign of any later medieval decline. A summary of the results of all the HEFA test pit excavations will be published in Medieval Settlement Research volume 29. 

The need to devote significant amounts of ACA staff time to setting up the new Beacon School programme for HEFA reduced time available for ACA’s other main school programme, indoor winter ‘Discovery Day’ day-schools aimed at 10-14-year-olds.  Sue Poll coordinated this programme in 2012-13, and a total of 134 learners, plus school staff, attended seven Discovery Days. Elsewhere in schools, a second cohort of GCSE students at Mildenhall college completed archaeological excavations as part of their GCSE in History, a total of 244 learners have now completed their GCSE ‘History Around Us’ controlled assessment (25% of their GCSE marks), using their excavated data to explore and contextualise the development of the historic settlement. Their experience left 81% of learners more pleased to be studying History GCSE than they had been before they took part in the excavations.  Across all attainment levels, almost all students were able to match of better their target grade, and overall the controlled assessment was the highest scoring unit within the GCSE. At Suffolk One College in Ipswich, Claire Halley continued her successful involvement with A Level Archaeology, instigated by ACA, seeing her first cohort through the second year of their course.

ACA also continued to undertake wider community archaeology projects 2012-13, with its Managing a Masterpiece projects reported on here and Cambridge Community Heritage projects reported on here. In total, approaching 2,000 people took part in hands-on archaeological activities run by ACA in 2012-13 for between one and five days. The total number of test pits excavated within CORS has now topped 1,500. Interim reports on the results of the CORS excavations are published in Medieval Settlement Research each year. Reports on other excavations are made available online via the ACA website as they are completed on the project reports page here.


Lewis, C.and Pryor, A. 2013 Archaeological Test Pit excavations at Nayland, Essex

Johnson, M. and Lewis, C. 2013 ''Can you dig it?' Developing an approach to validly assessing diverse skills in an archaeological context' Journal of Vocational Education Training vol 65(2), 177-192

Lewis, C. 2012 'Test pit excavation within occupied settlements in East Anglia in 2011' Medieval Settlement Research vol 28

Lewis, C. 2012 ‘A Practical Guide to investigating Medieval Rural Settlements’ in N. Christie and P. Stamper (ed) Medieval Rural Settlement. Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600 (Windgather Press), 288-308.

Jones, R. and Lewis, C. 2012 ‘The Midlands: Medieval Settlements and Landscapes’ in N. Christie and P. Stamper (ed) Medieval Rural Settlement. Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600 (Windgather Press), 186-205

Lewis, C. and Ranson, C. 2012 Archaeological Fieldwalking at Goldingham (Bulmer), Essex

Lewis, C. 2012 ‘Test pit excavation within occupied settlements in East Anglia in 2011’ in Medieval Settlement Research 27, 42-56

Lewis, C. and Ranson, C. 2012 Archaeological Test Pit Excavations at Clavering, Essex