The M&S Company Archive: learning with a retail giant

Date Posted: 09/03/2016

Rationing during the war and the Science behind making a chocolate pudding are just two of the topics that can be learnt on a school trip to the Marks & Spencer Company Archive in Leeds. 

The M&S Company Archive is a 70,000-piece collection and exhibition which tracks the retail giant Marks & Spencer’s progress from a penny bazaar stall in Leeds market to its current position.

The collection includes documents, reports, letters, employee magazines and advertising leaflets, as well as clothing, food packaging and merchandise from all the way back to 1884.

And school groups are welcomed at the archives, to study a range of school subjects from History and Design Technology to English and Maths.

Educational workshops

Based in the Michael Marks Building at the University of Leeds, the M&S Company Archive offers a school workshop programme.

These sessions cover a variety of subjects for all Key Stages, and make use of onsite resources, including the Marks in Time exhibition.

Each teaches students a little about the archive as well as topics linking to curriculum subjects.

Children are encouraged to understand the importance and purpose of preservation on top of their chosen workshop topic.

Design your own biscuit tin

Take the biscuit: colour, shape and texture
Suitable for:
Reception, Key Stage 1 and 2
Subject links: Maths, Art, Design and Technology, English

Pupils will hunt for colour, shape and texture in the Marks in Time exhibition, and find out how messages are communicated through design.

The pupils will all get to design an M&S biscuit tin that customers won’t be able to resist.

Overall learning objectives include being able to recognise shapes and colours, and using persuasive langue to communicate a message.

Fair Trade fabric
Suitable for:
Reception, Key Stage 1 and 2
Subject links: Textiles, History, Geography

Pupils will use all their senses to find out about fabrics, and answer questions such as: where do fabrics come from? How are they made? What is Fair Trade and why is it important?

The class will be encouraged to ask about the nature and purpose of an archive, to understand the nature of different textiles and where they come from, and to identify what Fair Trade means.

The proof of the pudding
Suitable for:
Key Stage 3 – 5
Subject links: Science, Food Technology

During this two hour workshop, students will conduct a scientific exploration of the challenges and chemistry of the M&S melting middle chocolate pudding, with a taste test at the end.

The class will also find out about the role of a food technologist, design an innovative dessert product, and use scientific thinking when sampling the end product.

Learning at the M&S Archives

Saving for the future
Suitable for:
Key Stage 3 – 5
Subject links: Science, History

During this workshop, the class will find out about how materials decay, and how humans can slow down these processes.

Students will consider the value of different objects, and spark a debate about what should be saved from a burning building.

There will also be hands-on activities with artefacts, during which children are encouraged to express their opinions about the importance of different objects.

Additional learning objectives

Other educational ties at the M&S Company Archive include social history, war time rationing, and social economics.

The site also lends itself to areas of study such as development of staff welfare programmes and financial performance, as well as the growth of the store network and the range and nature of products provided to a growing mass market.

School visiting information

All M&S workshops are free, and the learning room at the archive can accommodate classes of up to 35 children.

To book a workshop, call 020-8718 2800 or e-mail company.archive@marks-and-spencer.com.

For further information visit marksintime.marksandspencer.com/schools.

School Travel Organiser's Guide