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2015-16 was a busy year for Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), with a number of staff changes, but a full complement of Higher Education Field Academies (HEFAs) were undertaken with various community and outreach projects and a programme of events with HLF landscape partnership scheme, Touching the Tide.  ACA founder and director Carenza Lewis left ACA for the University of Lincoln to take up her new role as Professor for the public understanding of research.  Her position was filled by Alison Dickens, Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), on a part time basis. Former ACA administrator Laure Bonner left ACA to become the outreach and communications officer for the Division of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. She was briefly replaced by Laura James, former receptionist at the McDonald Institute, who left to teach abroad. Currently in role as ACA administrator is Emily Ryley, an Archaeology and Anthrophony graduate (2012) from the University of Cambridge, who was appointed in June 2016.  Catherine Collins continued her role as archaeological supervisor with Jessica Rippengal (Division of Archaeology) providing part-time support for excavation supervision. Dr Jenni French (Peterhouse, Cambridge) continued in assessing HEFA students’ written reports as well as delivering sessions on report writing skills during the HEFA. New support was also given by Eoin Parkinson, Ian Ostericher and Jeremy Bennet who gave lectures to students as well as marking their reports alongside Silvia Ferreri and Kimberley Watt.

Fifteen HEFAs were run in 2015-16 in Bardney (x2)  Hillington, Blo Norton, Southminster, Walberswick, Hadleigh, Brundall, Riseley, Sawtry, North Warnborough, East Rudham*, Rampton, Clavering and Long Melford (*indicates villages excavated for the first time in 2016). In 2015-16 a total of 498 year 9 and 10 pupils and 40 6th form students attended HEFAs from 51 schools, accompanied by 125 school staff, with the University of Cambridge Widening Participation Project funding thereby providing 1570 learner days.  

In 2015-2016, 91% of schools or 92% of pupils participating in HEFA were from top or high priority schools with low levels of progression rates to HE, GCSE attainment and ‘Value Added’ indices. 40% of HEFA students were from families with no family history of Higher Education. 92% of pupils rated the Field Academy as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’, and similarly high percentages of pupils reported saying they felt that had grown in confidence and learning ability from the experience. Pupils were also much more positive about staying in education in general, the number intending to apply to a Russell Group university by 96 per cent and to Cambridge by 44 per cent.

Additionally, ACA carried out several community outreach projects in East Anglia throughout 2015-16. As the first phase of the Northstowe (Cambridgeshire) excavations by the CAU came to a close in the autumn, ACA supervised the residents of nearby Longstanton in excavating 6 test pits through the village to see how their results relate to Northstowe. In conjunction with Touching the Tide, ACA ran a weekend test pitting event in Snape (Suffolk) in the spring where 15 test pits were excavated by over 40 local residents and volunteers and noting a surge of occupation in the village during the 11th century.

ACA and the CAU jointly led an excavation at Peterborough Cathedral at the end of June, where a total of eight trenches and four test pits were excavated by over 150 local volunteers and about 180 primary school children over 12 days. The excavation was in the north-west corner of the cathedral precinct and found remnants of the more recent ‘garden’ archaeology of the site as well as the backfill from a medieval fish pond! As well as receiving many visitors over the city’s Heritage Festival weekend Alison Dickens has delivered several lectures at the Cathedral about the excavations and their archaeological time frame.

As part of the St Johns Summer School for potential archaeology students, two days of the event was set aside for test pitting in Jesus College Cambridge.  The CAU and ACA directed these excavations, guiding 43 sixth-form students digging five test pits over two days at the end of July, identifying the early archaeology of Cambridge as well as later development phases related to Jesus College.

ACA are already planning their 2017 season of Higher Education Field Academies from their new offices on Pembroke Street.