As the UK reports a drop in the number of school visits to historic sites, Jersey Heritage is relieved to be able to report that it is bucking the trend, with one of its best years ever connecting young Islanders with local history through their education.

While the cost of living crisis is having an impact in England, the story is different in Jersey. During the course of the 2022/23 academic year, over 11,500 schoolchildren learnt about the Island’s heritage with help from the charity’s Education Team. It was also the first year the Team was able to link up with pupils at every school in Jersey, either through a visit to an historic site or outreach work. This included all 32 primary schools and nine secondary schools, as well as pupils from Highlands College.

Helen Otterwell, Jersey Heritage’s Head of Education, said: “We are very lucky to be in a different position here in Jersey. In comparison with the UK, we are bucking the trend. Apart from the first year of Covid in 2020, we’ve seen a steady increase in connecting schoolchildren with their local heritage over the past eight years. In fact, the 2022/23 academic year was an incredible one for us. Never before have we been able to cover every single school in Jersey with our annual education programme.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students we’ve connected with and it is fantastic to think that so many of them have either visited or learnt about a part of the Island’s rich history. Each of them will have come away knowing more about Jersey’s story and, in some cases, how big topics such as the Stone Age and Second World War relate to our small Island. This is really important for Jersey’s new Heritage Strategy, which seeks to enable and encourage local teachers to use the Island’s heritage to teach history – for example, visiting La Hougue Bie to talk about the Stone Age, rather than looking at images of Skara Brae or Stonehenge – and we are proud to be helping to achieve this aim.”

Helen attributed the positive situation in Jersey to several factors. She said: “The States Assembly’s decision to spend 1% of its annual budget on arts, culture and heritage led to an increase in funding for Jersey Heritage and an expansion of our Education Team. We grew from one to three during the last academic year, which meant that we had more people on the

ground and were able to go into more schools and connect with different groups. Our success has also been down to the relationships that we’ve built up with teaching staff and we’d like to thank all of them for including Jersey’s history as part of the curriculum and welcoming us into their school communities.”

A breakdown of the Education Team’s figures for the 2022/23 academic year show:

  • Over 8,700 pupils in formal education visited an historic site or had an in-school session – an increase of 13.5% compared to 2021/22
  • Over 2,800 children took part in educational outreach work, including community groups such as Scouts and Brownies, as well as Young Archaeology Club (YAC) sessions
  • There were 234 school visits to historic sites, with Mont Orgueil Castle being the most popular
  • 12 walks around St Helier to discover its Victorian history
  • 51 in-school sessions on a variety of subjects, ranging from medieval medicine, Liberation, Vikings and science-based topics, such as fossils
  • Additional activities held during the school year included art and nature workshops at Hamptonne Country Life Museum and ‘Monarchs at Mont Orgueil’ sessions to celebrate the King’s Coronation.

Helen explained that the most popular subjects for schools and groups were Castles and the Stone Age but the Jersey Heritage Education Team also helped with other subjects outside these core historical topics, such as the International Baccalaureate’s ‘Theory of Knowledge’ topic and Year 12 studying Human Geography.

She said: “In previous years, we’ve been lucky enough to engage with most of the Island’s primary schools. This past academic year, we focused on finding ways to engage with secondary students as well. For example, going into Haute Vallée to do a talk on medieval medicine that included helping pupils to make up some of the medieval oils that were supposed to guard against the plague.”