HEFA (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/fieldacademies.html) raises educational aspirations and enriches lives via mass archaeological excavation within rural communities.
3-day HEFA courses target teenage pupils who spend two days working in small mixed-school teams, under University of Cambridge supervision, to complete archaeological excavations in village gardens. Day 3 is spent in Cambridge University finding out about applying to University, lunching in a college, and analysing their finds to reveal the village’s historic development. Afterwards, pupils complete a written report, assessed by the HEFA team. The excavated finds contribute to academic research and results disseminated via local visits/lectures and the HEFA website (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/). Each year, HEFA community representatives come to Cambridge to review the year’s highlights, hear about HEFA’s impact on pupils, and find out how ‘their’ village is contributing to the ‘bigger picture’ of settlement studies in England. In turn, they encourage other residents to volunteer their gardens for future excavations.
Clarity of Purpose:
HEFA has three clear aims, with success in each being integral to success in each of the others.
HEFA’s primary aim is raising educational aspirations amongst UK state-educated pupils aged 13-15, especially with regard to progressing to study at tertiary level, targeting sectors currently under-represented in HE, interested in any subject (or none). Targets include pupils from lower socio-economic groups; those who would be the first in their family to attend university; and those attending schools which send few pupils to university or where pupils fail to aim appropriately high or wide when applying to university. This aim is met by HEFA’s challenging, tailored, multi-skilled learning programmes with small-group working/mentoring and clear, rigorous assessment (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/learningobjectives.html).
HEFA’s second aim is to involve local residents in the excavations in their midst, so they can both to contribute to, and benefit from, the opportunities HEFA provides. They can plan where the excavations will take place, offer their gardens as excavation sites, help with practical arrangements, excavate alongside pupil teams see the results on the internet and attend subsequent talks to hear about the results. (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/localresidents.html).
HEFA’s third aim programme is to generate new archaeological data for use in university research. The finds from the excavations reveal an otherwise lost history of today’s villages: normally viewed as inaccessible due to the presence of buildings, archaeologically they are the black holes of the British countryside, and as they are where most people lived in the past, they need to be better understood (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/cors.html).
The impact of HEFA has been evaluated throughout its successful delivery of 6,000+ learning days in 30+ communities to pupils from 200+ schools, involving thousands of members of the public in 1,000+ excavations.
The achievement of HEFA’s top priority, raising pupil aspirations, is rigorously and variously monitored and reported assiduously to funders including Aimhigher and HEFCE. Pupil data is collected on gender, ethnicity, disability, educational/family background etc, and shows HEFA effective in reaching target audiences. Pupils complete questionnaires before and after HEFA to identify attitudinal changes wrought by HEFA, and pupil’s written reports are trawled for comments about their HEFA experience. Pupils reflexively self-assess their attainment across six clearly-elicited ‘soft’ skill-sets, while their fieldwork performance and written reports are assessed objectively by supervisors using frameworks developed in collaboration with the OCR exam board. Pupils’ post-HEFA educational trajectory is tracked by for at least 2 years to assess longer-term impact. Since 2005, 80-90% of participants rate HEFA as ‘excellent/good’; 80% report HEFA boosting performance in all key skills. After finishing HEFA, nearly 90% of HEFA participants plan to attend university (an increase of up to 60%): the positive impact remains years later (www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/achievements.html).
HEFA’s impact on rural communities is assessed via verbal and written feedback and periodic formal questionnaires. Appreciation of the HEFA experience is very high. Residents are most commonly initially motivated to get involved by wanting to help young people, but afterwards particularly value the information they gain on their property’s history.
Academic dissemination is achieved via conferences, interim publications, with full formal academic publication anticipated in due course. Archaeological results are available to all via the website (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/excavationreports.html ) whose blog (http://accesscambridgearchaeology.wordpress.com/) received 1,000 hits in the last month alone.
Local and national newspapers and TV often carry stories about HEFA-related activities to millions (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/news.html)
HEFA is original in almost all aspects of its concept, ingenuity and impact.
HEFA was unprecedented when launched in 2005, and the notion that participation in archaeological excavation could boost educational aspirations involved a creative leap of faith. Imaginative innovation was vital for HEFA to succeed, including new promotional strategies, new excavation protocols and new teaching methods. Since inception, unconventional new collaborations between academia, government agencies, charities, schools and village societies have been established and expanded, and throughout HEFA has remained proactive in adapting to changing social, economic and educational circumstances and finding new ways to develop: in 2010 HEFA received endorsement from OCR for its high academic value, and in 2011-12 HEFA is developing a new teaching/learning package to link HEFA-based investigations to the GCSE History curriculum.
HEFA is a unique outreach programme giving thousands of people diverse chances to contribute to important, new discoveries in a university project that requires community involvement and hundreds of thousands of hours of work, and engenders in participants the sense of engagement, enthusiasm and aspiration that comes from genuine achievement - for themselves, for communities, and for academic research.
HEFA’s sustainability is rooted in its popularity, adaptability and demonstrable achievement of its aims. Previously funded by Aimhigher, HEFA will be funded 2012-15 by the University of Cambridge Widening Participation Fund, external grants and fee-paying participants.
In 2011 Newcastle University began running HEFAs under licence from Cambridge. Increasing numbers of villages wish to ‘host’ HEFA-style excavations, and in 2012 some will be funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England (via the Cultural Olympiad), private donors and charities including one mental health charity.
Teaching/learning packages enabling pupils to use HEFA to help complete their History GCSE curriculum (piloting in Suffolk 2011-12) will generate income and further increase demand for HEFA.