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Focus on: Berkeley Castle

Date Posted: 17/01/2015

Berkeley Castle has evolved its school trip offering for 2015 to make it more interactive and available year-round.

During 2014, 42 schools and colleges visited Berkeley Castle, of which 26 were Primary Schools.

The castle’s offering to schools begins with a tour of the castle, duration up to one hour, led by an experienced guide.

The guides adapt the content and style of the tour to the age of the children, and to any topics or activities that the school has identified for study. 

In 2015, the castle will be evolving its approach to school visits. To launch this, it held an event in summer 2014 with eight local primary schools, at which proposals were shared with teachers to obtained their feedback and ideas. Based on this, the castle’s new offering has three main objectives:

1.    To focus on the topics which the children are studying.

The castle, due to its long history and varied collections, offers a wide choice of subject matter, including:

  • The Norman Conquest
  • English Kings & Queens
  • The English Civil War
  • Battles in general
  • Life in a castle: cooking, feasting, keeping warm and secure
  • Architecture
  • Paintings & tapestries
  • Heraldry

2.    To give the children more “hands on” experience and role-playing during their visit.

The education team at the castle believe that, as well as making the visits more interesting and enjoyable, an interactive approach is much more effective in embedding learning.

Examples could include:

o    Laying the table in the Dining Room or Great Hall and planning a feast;
o    Preparing to defend the castle against invasion;
o    Studying a painting and writing a story about it;
o    Writing a short play or choreographing a dance, and performing it in the Great Hall.

3.    To give the children opportunities to study particular subjects that they can experience “first hand” at the castle.

This approach is suited to slightly older Primary School children at KS2. Experienced guides give the children a brief introduction to the subject matter and specially prepared worksheets for them to complete by working amongst themselves with assistance from the castle guide and their teachers. Examples could include:

  • Heraldry – a short explanation of Heraldry illustrated by examples at the Castle; the pupils can then design their own coat of arms and explain their ideas.
  • King Edward II – an account of King Edward’s reign and his murder at Berkeley Castle; the children would have the opportunity to discuss the “rights and wrongs” of the murder and its relevance today.

To help the children “live the part” the castle team are increasing their number and range of costumes, both for the children and for the guides! They have also developed a selection of quizzes, trails and art activities.

School visits originally took place over the period when the castle was open to the general public, normally between 1st April and 31st October.

However, to deliver the new approach to maximum effect the castle is accepting school bookings during the closed season.

This enables both children and teachers to get maximum benefit from their day by having exclusive access. For instance, the schools will be able to eat their picnic lunch in the Great Hall, again enhancing their “castle experience”.

The redesigned Schools Booking Form is available on the Berkeley Castle Website, www.berkeley-castle.com, enabling the schools to specify topics and activities which they wish to cover so that the Castle can be fully prepared for their exact requirements.  
 

School Travel Organiser's Guide