Today I had the pleasure of travelling down to Wiltshire with 45 students to attend the annual Chalke Valley History Festival – basically Glastonbury but with academic historians and journalists instead of musicians and glitter. It was a fantastic day and I wanted to share my thoughts on why I think it is possibly the best day field trip to organise for students.
Firstly, it is important to introduce young people to a wide variety of academic historians from a young age so that they can understand what an historian is, but also so that they have relatable role models within the academic sphere. I thought the programme this year was fantastically diverse (see below). Although I know that this is subject to debate, certainly a couple of years ago (see article here), I do think the festival is moving in the right direction and it is definitely more diverse than other events I have attended with students. What is important to me is that from speaking to different students throughout the day, I found that they all had different ‘favourites’. I love the fact that my students left the festival with a favourite historian, something that I didn’t experience until university.
Secondly, the cost was reasonable at £17 per student, with a discount for Pupil Premium students at £6. When considering that most paper back books fall around the £10 mark it puts into perspective what excellent value for money this is, giving the students the opportunity to engage with academic historians for a fraction of the cost of buying the books. There were also students who attended today who had not signed up for our Berlin or Washington DC trip due to the cost of residentials, so I think it is important to provide field trips which are accessible to all students.
Thirdly, the living history element of the festival where students could go and talk to different people in costume and ask them about the time period they were representing was excellent for both chronological understanding and a sense of period. There are few places that I have visited that have provided a full overview from Normans to WW2 which solely focused on every day life .
Lastly, it is a truly fantastic day for teachers. It helped me to brush up on my subject knowledge and explore completely new ideas. My favourite talk was by journalist Rania Abouzeid on her experience of covering Syria for 6 years. Yes, I bought her book (from the very impressive Waterstones tent) and shamelessly fan-girled her at the end, but perhaps the best bit for me was getting to share the excitement of learning something new with the students who had also attended her talk.
To conclude, I know that it is getting increasingly difficult to take students out of school during lesson time, but I would certainly fight to run Chalke Valley again over all other trips.