One foot in the past: sharing the archive collection with our pupils.

Michaelmas is the busiest term in the archive calendar but is also a time for reflection. As the nights draw in the focus of the archive is internalised. In sharp contrast with the summer months when most of the attention is given to delivering tours and research to people outside our immediate School community, the autumn sees the focus shift to sharing Sedbergh’s history predominantly with our own pupils.

The new academic year is a chance to engage with our newly arrived pupils. Although all pupils interact with the archive through the autumn, the main focus is on Year 9. This cohort is unique as every pupil is new. What an opportunity to educate the year group en masse about the traditions, anecdotes, and rich history of Sedbergh School.

In 2021 the Head of History, Rupert Follett, redesigned the Year 9 syllabus to make the history of Sedbergh School the sole focus of the autumn term. Year 9 is the only year group at the senior school whose courses are not subject to external exams. This offers the flexibility to design our own rich course content while ensuring the pupils are prepared with skills to take the study of history to exam level in future years. Throughout the term pupils study the history of Sedbergh’s boarding houses, the foundation of the School by Roger Lupton, learn about key Old Sedberghians, examine features represented on the Coat of Arms, study the involvement of alumni in military campaigns and are told many of the anecdotes that enliven the history of the school. As well as using primary source material such as photographs, letters and auction catalogues in their classroom-based learning, all pupils visit the archive over the course of the term to enjoy an artefact ‘handling session’ to bring the stories they’ve learnt to life.

Year 9’s involvement with the archive isn’t restricted to history lessons alone. Last year the Head of Classics, Rachel Hodgson, initiated an archive-based project for her new Classicists. Working with the Archivist, pupils visit Akay woods to look for evidence of a settlement and test their skills as archaeologists. After an often-muddy lesson roaming the woods, each class has a follow up lesson in the warmth of Main School to look at the historical documents the School holds relating to the Akay estate and how evidence from these documents can inform the archaeological discoveries made ‘on the ground’.

It is a great delight to share the archive collection with eager and engaged pupils. This thorough grounding in School history often ignites an interest in the School history that remains throughout pupils’ time at School and beyond into adulthood.

Older pupils access the School’s heritage through a series of assemblies, lessons, talks in boarding houses and lectures to clubs and societies but this intense initial ‘induction’ to Sedbergh’s history that our Year 9 pupils enjoy establishes the history of the school as an essential feature of the education they will receive at Sedbergh. The stories of Sedbergh will continue to be told. Floreat Sedberghia.