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Learning Offer Development at Dover Transport Museum

Background

An independent, volunteer-run museum, Dover Transport Museum won just over £2,000 Community Engagement funding from Dover District Council and Kent County Council under the 'You Decide' Programme to refurbish their Education Room which would house instructional engines and auto parts.  This money would also be spent on refurbishing a locomotive to a safe condition whilst making it accessible to younger visitors.

Following on from the DDC/KCC grant, an MDO Micro-Consultancy grant of £5,000 was also sought to appoint a consultancy to steer the development of the renewed learning offer.  

Project Aims

Whilst the initial funding was to refurbish an existing room and make auto equipment accessible to school visitors, the Micro-Consultancy funding was to support the development of a wokring relationship between the Museum and East Kent College.  This development would include a planned programme of work experience student placements.

The aim was to explore and develop, on behalf of the museum's project team, the educational potential of the museum's many instructional engineering artefacts, and its planned new education room, for KS3 schools and further education colleges. The work was scheduled to conclude in November 2013 with implementation of an agreement with the local technical college (Kent College Dover) to lead to work experience opportunities starting in early 2014.

The brief to consultants on 'deliverables' was:

  • to advise the museum project team on current best practice in the design of, and equipment for, a venue for the delivery of talks and demonstrations of a technical nature;
  • to take a lead in drawing up the design for the venue, taking into account the nature of the exhibits in the museum’s possession that are to be used in the venue, any constraints on desirable adaptations to the fabric of the building, and relevant health and safety considerations;
  • to assist the project team in producing for the trustees a costed project plan based on the above;
  • to advise the project team on the advisability of writing formal agreements with regular end users such as staff from the local technical college and advise on any requirements and considerations attaching thereto.

Activity

Pursuance of the aims led to:

  • The consultants interviewed KS3 heads in local schools. It became clear that the nature of the curriculum (then subject to change and uncertainty) meant that there was no immediate desire on the part of the schools to take the opportunity to exploit the museum's assets. The consultants were, however, able to provide the museum with contact details for relevant school staff and advice about how best to pursue this aspect of the school visits programme in the future. That is now in the hands of the museum's school visits coordinator who will present her proposals to the governing committee in 2016;
  • the consultants provided valuable advice on materials and general fitting out of the proposed new education room and made recommendations as to suppliers that were pursued by the project team to the considerable financial advantage of the museum;
  • the consultants led the way on developing the draft agreement with Kent College and produced the final version that was signed on 2nd May 2014. Although it was necessary to re-present the agreement to the new management of the college it was accepted as sound and is the agreement currently in force.

Costs

The Micro-Consultancy grant was for £5,000 covering the costs of Topaz Consultants, Rochester (Stephen Brice and Keith Harcourt), balanced against volunteer hours in managing the project.

Outcomes

  • The education room is ready for use and the first step in selecting students to take advantage of the relationship took place with a familiarisation visit to the museum on 10th February 2016. We anticipate work experience taking place on Wednesdays with effect from March 2016;
  • the museum's engineering volunteers are reorganising their work programme to accommodate the learning requirements for the selected college students;
  • the museum's trustees and the school visits coordinator are better informed on the curriculum requirements of KS3/4 pupils. This information will be of value as the museum develops its successful schools programme beyond its current KS1/2 range;
  • the critical outcome is that the museum has further widened its engagement with young people thereby helping to assure its future. The importance of this cannot be overestimated since the museum's active volunteers are almost all over retirement age.

Evaluation - What went well, what didn't

What was the impact of the project/training?

  • The museum has added a new area of business to its activity – a unique contribution to the skills training of young people learning auto engineering which could not be obtained anywhere else in the county – and has also built the capacity to extend its school visits programme to accommodate the needs of KS3/4 children in the future.
  • The tuition of work experience college students is a new experience for the museum's engineering volunteers; it adds value to their experience of volunteering that is also helping to ensure the museum's future;
  • we see engagement with young people as key to the museum's long term future, and this project has materially helped that engagement.

What went well and what didn’t go well?

  • The project was dogged by delays that were not of our or the consultants' making. It would have been easy to give up and there were some volunteers who, in the face of a lack of response from the college whilst it underwent takeover, canvassed doing so. The project team stuck with it since the consultants had delivered a workable agreement and had given sound advice on creation of the educational facility, products that the team were determined to put to good use. In the event the project has been concluded successfully in the key areas.
  • The consultants were easy to work with and understood the educational environment. The project team were not familiar with that environment and would have found it difficult to take the project forward without the help provided by the consultancy.
  • Top Tips
  • Ensure that the consultants know exactly what is expected of them – the temptation to 'mission creep' is strong with people who know their subject but are not personally acquainted with the capacity of the client;
  • Frequent meetings / discussions on progress are essential – especially where there is a need to maintain confidence in a project that may be facing delay and uncertainty.

Plans for the Future

We shall be working to make the college relationship a permanent feature of the museum's activity and to use that experience and the facility we have created to attract KS/3 students to visit the museum. The latter is one of the aims in the school visits coordinator's contribution to the museum's forward plan.