No room at the inn?

Image, Students in our LifeLab

There’s a fantastic buzz in the museum’s galleries during term time. Children and young people of all ages and abilities are busy exploring the displays and developing their skills of inquiry and analysis. School groups are carefully coordinated by the Learning Team to ensure the best possible experience for every child.

The timetable is organised to provide each group with enough room for an enjoyable and meaningful visit. A quick glance at the website will tell you that we offer guided visits and workshops on a wide range of subjects for the whole age range, from Early Years to post-16. To be fair to everyone this inevitably means that spaces and time slots have to be rationed. We recommend that teachers plan as far ahead as possible and book the visit early to avoid disappointment but, like any other popular service or facility, we sometimes find ourselves in the situation where we can’t offer the dates and times when people would like to book a visit to the museum. We hate to turn schools away but when the timetable is full adding more groups would compromise the quality of experience for everyone.

Image, Students being taught on the Pre-historic Life Gallery

So what’s a teacher to do when the museum says it’s full? There is an answer. Over the past six or seven years museums and galleries around the country have been boosting the quality of the service to schools with the help of Renaissance in the Regions, a government-funded programme of staff training, collections development and improvements to facilities.

The Manchester Museum is part of the ‘Northwest Hub’ – a group of institutions dedicated to sharing good practice and professional development. The region’s museums and galleries are tuned in to the changing curriculum and develop programmes in partnership with teachers and pupils. Of course each museum or gallery has different collections and teachers want their students to see particular objects – you wouldn’t expect to study the ancient Egyptians in a science museum or vice versa (although cross-disciplinary learning is exactly where museums and galleries excel so I wouldn’t discount the idea!). One result of Renaissance in the Regions is that we can now consistently offer high quality alternatives for learning in most subject areas across the wider group of museums and galleries. Teachers looking for a relevant, engaging and productive cultural experience now have a better choice than ever, which is why we are happy to recommend our colleagues in other venues if we are unable to accommodate a group at The Manchester Museum.

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