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 2016-17 was another busy year for Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), with Alison Dickens, Senior manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) continuing to oversee all ACA activities. Both Catherine Collins and Emily Ryley continued their roles within ACA as Archaeological Supervisor and Administrator respectively. Eoin Parkinson continued assessing the student’s written reports as well as delivering the main morning session on medieval settlement research and report writing skills during the HEFA. Additional and continued support was provided by report markers Ion Ostricher, Kimberly Watt and by new markers Jess Thompson, Joanna Walker and Ellie Maw.

For the 2016-17 season ACA changed the name of HEFA to the Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS) to reflect the ongoing changes within the school curriculum. The content of the student’s day in Cambridge was heavily reformatted, with a new lecture and archaeological questions. We are also very grateful to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for running an hour’s session with the pupils, building on what they learnt earlier in the day and using the museum’s collections.

Fourteen ILAFS were run in 2016-17 in Brundall, Hillington, Histon*, Blythburgh*, Rickinghall and Botesdale*, Southminster, Old Clee*, Hadleigh, North Warnborough, East Rudham, Healing*, Wendens Ambo*, Foxearth* and Riseley (*indicates villages excavated for the first time in 2017). The ILAFS season also extend into the autumn for the first time, allowing for flexibility for schools who have pressured timetables. In 2016-17 a total of 484 year 7-11 pupils and 43 6th form students attended ILAFS from 47 schools, with the University of Cambridge Widening Participation Project.

In 2016-17, 40% of pupils were from the lowest two quintiles for progression onto Higher Education (POLAR3 data). ILAFS helps these pupils to realise that higher education is an achievable aim for them. The proportion of pupils intending to go on to university rose significantly after attending the field school, especially the number now considering applying to the University of Cambridge. Most rewarding is the change in the number of pupils who now feel confident in their knowledge about university. “I have so much more information and knowledge now than I had before I went on this trip. I feel that this knowledge (knowledge about university in particular) will really help me in the future e.g. A levels and choosing university.” EM Robert May’s School.

ACA launched a new teaching programme for primary school pupils, called the Cambridge Archaeology Learning Foundation (CALF). Based around the new history curriculum for primary schools, CALF days are opportunities for pupils aged 5-11 to gain understanding of how we discover the past. Pupils are introduced to key historical concepts through the handling of real archaeological artefacts. The sessions are taught in the classroom, removing the barriers to learning. They have been a great success with 980 pupils taught so far and more sessions planned. 

ACA are already planning their 2018 season of ILAFS, as well as local community test pit projects, one of which relates to the on-going work at the new town development of Northstowe and smaller community focused excavations within Cambridge.