School Workshops: learning within historic surroundings

Date Posted: 09/08/2013

The Cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral.

Sarah Rickett, director of learning and outreach at Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, tells us about the kind of educational activities you can expect on a school visit to the historic venue.

Walk into Salisbury Cathedral on any day of the school term and it is likely that the peaceful calm sanctuary you were expecting is in fact a buzz of activity.

This would most likely be down to one of the many school groups spending a day exploring this fascinating space on one of our specially tailored education programmes.

Led by the experienced cathedral education team and volunteers, primary and secondary schools can take part in a huge variety of creative and innovative workshops and hands-on sessions.

From Religious Education to History, Art, Geography, Philosophy, Tourism, Maths and Science, all of these subject areas can be brought to life at the cathedral.

Where else could school groups come face-to-face with the oldest clock in the world, run their hands under the largest font in the UK, see one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, hear about dead rats and murderous organists, lie on the floor to view the medieval ceiling and ask the deeper questions of life?

Re-enact history in the Education Centre

Salisbury places an emphasis on experiential learning and for primary school children in particular this is most clear in the range of programmes that use role play and costume.

The Education Centre now has a full set of specially made costumes for the whole class and a further set of outfits for older students ready for when they are soundly harangued by King John or Henry VIII or whichever other person from the past is in a bad mood.

There are murder mysteries to be solved, copes to be worn, incense to be swung, instances of the Golden Section to be found, six foot Gothic arches to be drawn, gold leaf to be applied, rubbings to be taken, and more.

Guides within Salisbury Cathedral.

Pictured: Tours of the cathedral can be themed and made suitable for all Key Stages.

Art workshops suitable for Key Stage 1

Alongside the History and RE activities, younger children can participate in a number of Art workshops.

These include making their own clay tiles to decorate, learning about the stained glass windows and having a go at creating their own version of this.

Using the environment around them to carry out textured rubbings, using a variety of waxes, school groups will record patterns in the medieval stonework to create a collage as a record of their visit to the cathedral.

Tours of the Cathedral

Key Stage 2 school trip organisers can choose from the General History, Horrible Histories, Royalty or Medieval Life: Books and Writing tours.

Further tours and adapted versions of the above are available for Key Stage 3 and 4 school groups.

A memorable learning environment

The experience of being in the amazing surroundings of the cathedral stays with students for a long time, and makes it a memorable learning environment.

The Education Centre now regularly welcomes in the region of 10,000 students of all ages through its doors each year.

Each visit is carefully tailored to the group’s particular needs and requirements and is carefully planned and delivered by experienced teachers and volunteers who are passionate about passing on the education value of this special place.

For further school trip information please contact:


School Travel Organiser's Guide