Black and white photo of children studying at their desks in a classroom at Cleator Moor School
Children studying at their desks in a classroom at Cleator Moor School © Historic England Archive. John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/01/108/61
Children studying at their desks in a classroom at Cleator Moor School © Historic England Archive. John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/01/108/61

Historic England Launches New Education Resources and Films as Part of Breaking New Ground

Today Historic England launches new education resources, which have been created to help primary school teachers engage key stage two pupils in the history of buildings, as part of the Breaking New Ground project supported by the John Laing Charitable Trust.

The education resources are accessible to all via the Historic England website and will provide a lasting educational legacy for the project, which has run workshops and visits for primary school children to meet ex-Laing workers in Swindon, Bristol, London and Coventry since October 2019.

As part of this legacy and to help inspire schools and their pupils, three new films show the workshops and visits in action. A further film explores the trainee programme, which has enabled three young professionals to work with the Historic England Archive team and develop their skills in cataloguing, conservation and digitisation.

These new education resources and films are part of John Laing Collection: Breaking New Ground - a 21-month project run by Historic England that explores the history of constructing modern Britain through the John Laing Photographic Collection. When completed, the project will have resulted in 10,000 images being digitised and made accessible via the Historic England Archive

New education resources

Today Historic England has released new education resources, which have been created to enable teachers across the country to benefit from Breaking New Ground. The resources include a lesson plan and film from each of the four schools workshops which have taken place over the past year, giving teachers useful templates and resources for conducting interesting and engaging classes on the built environment.

Heritage Schools Case Studies

Teaching Activities

The schools workshops aimed to develop the pupils’ sense of pride in where they live, helping them understand their local heritage and how it relates to the national story.

Through the schools workshops, Breaking New Ground has also developed a guide for conducting oral histories (see ‘Downloads’), to help teachers engage pupils in learning from others about their experiences.

New films bring construction history to life

Three schools workshops and visits in Swindon, London and Coventry have been turned into films.

The workshops involved local ex-Laing construction workers talking to the school children about the images of Laing’s work in and around their local area. They shared memories of their work on construction sites, took questions from the children, and rounded off with tours of the local sites built by Laing – this included visits to Easiform Housing Estates in Swindon, Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, London Central Mosque and Coventry Cathedral.

The aim of the programme is to engage students with the John Laing Photographic Collection, to share stories and to increase the students’ knowledge and sense of pride in their local heritage. Following our workshops, we are delighted to present these education resources and films, so teachers throughout the country can access materials online to help teach their pupils about the history of their local buildings and bring them to life.

Ashley McKenzie-White, Breaking New Ground Outreach Officer Historic England

The Trainee Programme

The Breaking New Ground training programme has involved three year-long placements in archive cataloguing, conservation and digitisation. The three trainees have been part of the team at the Historic England Archive, Swindon, working first hand with the Collection and with Historic England’s Archive specialists and conservators.

In the past year, Rachel Stokes, the 23-year-old cataloguing trainee, has advanced her research skills. In order to catalogue images, she used Laing’s ‘Team Spirit’ newsletters, used mapping software, improved her skills on “Adlib” archive software, and has used the register of photographic negatives. In the past year, she has helped to catalogue images of sites including London Central Mosque, Easiform housing and the M1 Motorway.

She said: “I have really enjoyed my traineeship. My highlights have included learning technical cataloguing skills and taking part in the additional experiences and training such as conferences, workshops and social media. This has made my time as a trainee really diverse and valuable for professional development. In future, I’d like to continue my career in the archives sector.”

New film about the trainee programme

Breaking New Ground

The Breaking New Project is a 21-month project to digitise 10,000 images from the John Laing Photographic Collection, held by the Historic England Archive. Many images from the Collection are now accessible via the Historic England website, with final images to be uploaded by autumn 2020. Alongside the digitisation of images, the Breaking New Ground project has involved a nationwide programme of education outreach.

Founded in 1848, John Laing plc was one of the most significant British construction companies of the 20th century. Throughout the 20th century, the company employed photographers to capture its work, which resulted in the John Laing Photographic Collection. Now held by the Historic England Archive, this Collection of over 230,000 images provides a unique insight into the origins of iconic British buildings and the professional development of the construction industry over the course of the last century.

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