skip to primary navigationskip to content

ILAFS Beacon Schools Information 2019

Beacon Schools promote the aspiration-raising University of Cambridge Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS), formally known as Higher Educational Field Academy (HEFA) to schools in their area. ILAFS Beacon Schools are of fundamental importance to the ILAFS programme, and their role is vital to its success. The contribution of Beacon Schools input has a hugely positive impact on the lives of thousands of young people and is highly valued by them and by the University of Cambridge.

The information and resources on this web-page are to assist ILAFS Beacon Schools staff in promoting, recruiting and following up ILAFS courses in 2019. ILAFS Beacon Schools are responsible for ensuring that all information is disseminated to Partner Schools. It will be highlighted here if any changes are made to the content of this web page. If you have any questions or queries, please contact ACA.

Click on the links below to access copies of the ILAFS Beacon Schools logo (.png files, other formats available on request) for use in promotional material and correspondence:

ILAFS Beacon Schools Logo - Colour

ILAFS Full logo

ILAFS Half moon logo 


Before ILAFS

Useful documents, all schools should read these:

Information for schools 

Information for Students on ILAFS  

Information for Supervisors on ILAFS

 What to expect from ILAFS powerpoint - Teachers

 What to expect from ILAFS powerpoint - Students

  • Below is a timetable of the ILAFS recruitment process outlining the activities to be completed by Beacon Schools in preparation for their ILAFS:

ILAFS Recruitment timeline for Beacon Schools 

ILAFS Timeline for Partner Schools 

  • Beacon Schools need to target potential Partner Schools identified by ACA to promote ILAFS and recruit 40-48 students from 4-10 schools (including their own school), with similar numbers of students (4-10) attending from each school. A list of priority Partner Schools can be provided by contacting ACA. 48 is the maximum number of participants from schools, years 9 and 10 (12 groups of 4 students), and 12 is the maximum number of participants from school year 12 (1 to supervise each group of 4 younger students).
  • For a map of which schools to invite please follow this link. Beacon schools are marked in red, schools we have previously partnered with in blue, and schools that have not participated before in green. 
  • ILAFS Beacon Schools are the first point of contact with Partner Schools, and are expected to maintain frequent contact in advance of the course to ensure all arrangements are in place for their learners to attend ILAFS . Arranging joint transport may make logistical sense, especially for ILAFS Day 3 (in Cambridge).
  • To help when emailing partner school, here is a document of template emails you can use. 

Template emails; recruitment and reminders

  • Sixth formers may attend a) just the two days of digging as supervising 'staff' or b) the full three day course with the expectation that they will write a report afterwards. The latter should be in Year 12 and are considered 'participants' and will need to complete an application and make the payment.
  • Eligible students are UK students in UK state schools/colleges in school years 7-11, though the emphasis should be on years 9 & 10. Year 12 students are also eligible as supervisors. Students should be capable of attaining or having attained 8 or more GCSEs. Students attending schools in deprived areas and schools which send few or no students to Cambridge are a priority, as are students from ethnic groups under-represented in university education and students from families with little or no experience of top universities.
  • On the establishment of the ILAFS Beacon Schools network, it was widely felt that charging participants a small fee would increase the perceived value of ILAFS to schools and families, as it would be seen as good value rather than undervalued as free and therefore worthless. It was also felt that charging a small fee would encourage those reserving places to do so seriously and reduce drop-out rates. It was agreed that participants would be charged £25 each with a general presumption that schools would retain £15 as a contribution towards their travel/cover/administration costs, with the remaining £10 being due to ACA, but it was also agreed that in some circumstances some or all of these fees might be waived for eligible learners able to benefit but not able to pay, or for schools requiring the additional contribution towards travel costs.
  • Schools are asked to return completed application forms and any payments due three weeks in advance of the course. A school booking form confirming details of accompanying staff and emergency contact numbers also has to be submitted in advance. If completed forms are not available, a list of participant names, schools, ages, photo permission statements and any medical or dietary conditions MUST be submitted to ACA in advance of ILAFS. In exceptional circumstances, application forms and payment can be delivered to ACA on Day 1 before the course starts.

Below are the forms (supplied as both a .pdf and a .doc file):

 ILAFS Application Form 2019

 ILAFS Application Form 2019

ILAFS Booking Confirmation Form (to be completed for each school)

ILAFS Booking Confirmation Form (to be completed for each school)

  • Beacon Schools need to recruit supervisors for ILAFS Days 1 and 2 at a ratio of 1 supervisor for every 4 participants under the age of 16. Supervisors may be school staff, parents, friends of the school or sixth form participants. Supervisors do not need any prior experience of ILAFS or archaeology. Members of the local history/archaeology society hosting the excavations in their village may also be available to supervise but ACA require at least two weeks notice to contact them to recruit volunteers.
  • Beacon Schools need to make arrangements for a final half day report-writing tutorial, which may involve all ILAFS participants coming to the Beacon School for a single session (which has the advantages of standardising provision hence leveling the playing field, and also provide another way of maintaining a post-ILAFS community), or may involve sessions held in each participating schools solely for their own participants. Resources and guidelines on writing the ILAFS report can be found on the web-page here.
  • ACA will select the settlement site for the test pit excavations on Days 1 and 2 of the ILAFS . Sites will be confirmed with ILAFS Beacon Schools around Christmas. Directions to the ILAFS base in the settlement on Days 1 and 2 will be provided to ILAFS Beacon Schools at least 3 weeks in advance. Please ensure that joining instructions are shared with Partner Schools. Directions for Day 3 can be found here.

Day 3 directions

  • Below are copies of the risk assessments. One is for the first two days of excavation in a rural village location, and the other is for the visit to the University of Cambridge on Day 3.

ILAFS Risk Assessment Days 1 & 2

ILAFS Risk Assessment Day 3

ILAFS Risk Assessment Day 1 & 2

ILAFS Risk Assessment Day 3

  • Both Beacon and Partner Schools must have back-up plans at all stages of organising and running the course in case of problems with staffing, transport and students dropping-out. Schools need to identify another member of staff who will take on the coordination of the trip in their absence, and they need to have a list of reserve students to take up places if they become available. All schools should also identify alternative transport in case of emergency.
  • As photos will be taken and members of the press may be in attendance, please check that parents have not ticked the box in the application form objecting to photographs of their child being taken. If parents have refused to have their child photographed by the press, please ensure that ILAFS staff are informed and that pupils are made aware that they must ensure anyone taking photographs knows they are not to be included in any photo opportunities.
  • It is strongly recommended that all participants are up-to-date with their tetanus immunisations (these are carried out routinely during childhood in the UK). If participants arrive with any injury which breaks the skin (such as a broken blister or a cut), or sustain such an injury during the ILAFS , this will need to be kept clean and covered. If it is not possible to clean it fully, the participant will be asked to provide written confirmation that their tetanus immunisations are up to date, referring to their medical practitioner if they are not sure, and if they cannot confirm their current status as up to date they must obtain a tetanus immunisation within 48 hours.
  • The ILAFS Beacon School key contact will be expected to attend regular meetings in Cambridge to discuss progress, identify and share successful practice and discuss difficulties with ACA staff to ensure that recruiting, running and reporting on ILAFS goes as smoothly as possible to the greatest benefit of everyone involved. Meetings are expected to take place 2-3 times each academic year and school staff will be polled in advance to find the most convenient date for all invited to attend.


During ILAFS

  • On days 1 and 2 participants will be required to arrive at the site for 9.00 am. The course will end each day at 4.00pm.
  • All participants should bring a packed lunch and plenty to drink.  Refreshments will be provided mid-morning on day 1. Digging can use up a lot of calories so we advise participants to bring additional snacks.
  • Participants should wear sensible outdoor clothing (not school uniform) and be aware that this may get dirty. They should wear trousers or shorts and it’s a good idea to wear several layers including at least a short-sleeved top and a thicker outer layer (fleece, hoodie, etc). As the weather can be unpredictable, pupils should be prepared for a range of conditions and should bring a waterproof outer garment and sun cream and a sun hat. An umbrella will prove useful if rain is forecast.
  • Participants should wear sturdy shoes which can withstand a couple of day’s digging, and they should bear in mind that these may get dirty or scuffed.  Wellies, walking boots, Doc Martens etc are perfect, trainers will be fine. Thin soled trainers such as converse are not advised. No high heels or sandals.
  • Participants should bring a biro pen, pencil and rubber for completing their written records. A copy of the ILAFS test pit record booklet will provided to each participant to complete and keep. Each test pit group will borrow a copy of the ILAFS test pit instruction booklet to refer to during the course. For the Day 3 of the ILAFS in Cambridge, students may wish to bring a notebook to make additional notes during lectures. 
  • Participants may find it useful to have a pair of gardening gloves if they are unused to handling tools and soil. Please note that this is a recommendation, not a compulsory requirement, and ACA does not provide gloves.
  • Test pits will be excavated in mixed-school groups of three or four, with most groups numbering four in total and comprising either two pupils from two different schools or one pupil from four different schools. These groups will be organised by ILAFS, but if school staff have any particular recommendations or advice regarding the allocation of their students into groups, in the interests of ensuring the best possible working team spirit, we would be grateful if the staff member accompanying the group could advise of this as soon as they arrive on Day 1. However, ACA can not guarantee that recommended pairings will be possible as groupings are dependent on attendance on the day. Each group will be accompanied by a supervisor recruited by the Beacon School (member of teaching/assistant staff, school governor/friend, parent volunteer, sixth form student).
  • A briefing covering health and safety while on site is given before participants proceed to site: staff are asked to ensure that pupils observe these guidelines and behave safely at all times in order to avoid endangering themselves, those around them, or causing damage to the premises they are digging in.
  • Each staff member will need to have a mobile phone with them, with which they will be able to keep in contact with ILAFS organisers and other groups, and ILAFS organisers will be able to keep in touch with them. Details of the phone numbers should be supplied to Access Cambridge Archaeology.
  • Participants must be aware that they will be digging on private land, mostly in gardens or adjacent small fields. In most cases the property owners will be around, and will provide access to toilet facilities. Participants must respect the land and property they are on, and be courteous to their hosts. School staff (not ACA staff) will be expected to deal with any disciplinary matters.
  • Day 3 (in the University of Cambridge) will begin at 10.45am and finish at 4.00pm.
  • Pupils attending Day 3 in the university are not required to wear school uniform unless their school specifically requires them to do so. Most pupils will not be wearing school uniform.
  • Lunch is provided free of charge on Day 3, so participants do not need to bring a packed lunch or any money unless they expect to have a long journey or school staff have arranged to spend additional time in Cambridge.



  • On leaving at the end of Day 3, each pupil will have a booklet with instructions for writing their assignment and their completed copy of the record booklet from their test pit excavation. Any encouragement and/or support schools can provide pupils with in completing this assignment is likely to be appreciated by pupils and result in higher rates of completion and standard of completed work. We highly recommend that Beacon Schools organise a half day session for the ILAFS students to start work on their assignments.
  • All of the information required to write the report can be found on this webpage, including submission dates, guidelines and resources.
  • Schools are asked to send completed pupil assignments to ACA by the deadline, usually four weeks after the end of the ILAFS course. Reasonable extensions will be issued when requested but schools must inform ACA about when to expect submissions.
  • Certificates marking successful completion of ILAFS will be sent to each pupil via their school. Schools are asked to arrange for these to be formally presented to students in a manner which marks appropriately their achievement in completing a challenging course.
  • Schools should ensure that pupils’ ILAFS attendance is recorded on their school records and that they are reminded to include this on UCAS forms and other applications.
  • ILAFS will aim to track pupils who have attended ILAFS to monitor their educational outcomes so schools are asked to expect to be contacted regarding this at intervals in the future.


Expectations and requirements 

  • Participants will adhere to all rules and expectations of behaviour, archaeological practice and health and safety regulations given in the morning presentation on Day 1. No participant shall endanger others through their conduct.
  • Participants will obey instructions given to them by their test pit supervisors or ACA staff.
  • All participants will maintain accurate, reliable records of their excavations for their own use. All supervisors will do so for ACA’s use.
  • All participants must provide true information in the application form, and notify ACA of any medical, dietary, or other special needs. ACA will do their best to accommodate these to ensure equal participation for all in the activities.
  • As all areas of the field school are assessed including excavation and personal skills as well as the written report, pupils are expected to participate in all tasks as well as motivate and encourage others in their team.  



  • On Days 1 and 2: Cat Collins on 07816388628
  • On Day 3: ACA office on 01223 761519 or mobile number above