SHARE with Schools is a widening access project based within the School of History, Archaeology and Religion (SHARE) at Cardiff University which seeks to build and maintain long-term partnerships with secondary schools in Communities First locations. The project aims to break down barriers to Higher Education within these areas of significant socioeconomic disadvantage, as well as providing both undergraduate and postgraduate team members with an opportunity to gain essential employability skills. Coordinated by a team of postgraduate students, a group of enthusiastic and dedicated undergraduate volunteers deliver a programme of interactive workshops to selected schools in Cardiff and the Cynon Valley. The workshops are developed by the postgraduate coordinators to showcase the subject areas taught and researched across SHARE. These include hour-long sessions aimed at pupils in year 7, 9 and 12 on 'The Romans in Wales', 'The Cynon Valley in the Nineteenth Century', 'Medieval Society', 'Cardiff during World War One' and 'Archaeological Science'. Following consultation with teaching staff, it was decided that the toolkits should be object-led rather than relying upon traditional teaching methods. Consequently, the workshops are extremely interactive and include a range of resources such as original archaeological artefacts, replica historical dress and objects, PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, quizzes and web resources. Reciprocal visits to the University are organised in the summer to sustain the relationship with the schools and provide the pupils with an insight into university life.
Continual feedback has been essential to the development and quality of the SHARE with Schools project. Extensive evaluation surveys are repeatedly undertaken, including audio interviews with participating teachers and video diaries of undergraduate volunteers. Following the delivery of each workshop, feedback forms, which highlight successes and suggests areas for improvement, ensure that the project is constantly evaluating and developing. Meetings are established between the coordinators and teachers, who give feedback on the content and structure of the workshops, resulting in a number of trial sessions run at different schools. Such close and continual engagement with the schools has ensured that the workshops are tailored to the varying academic level and abilities of the pupils. The developed SHARE with Schools workshops adhere, where possible, to the national curriculum, whilst also reflecting the research undertaken in SHARE. The workshops are continually altered based on teachers' advice, with staff from Blaengwawr actively involved in the modification of the 'Wales as it Was: Life in the Cynon Valley in the Nineteenth Century' workshop, to reflect the strong need for the pupils to gain greater historical understanding of the area in which they live. Individual schools identify which pupils they feel would benefit most from the experience and which toolkits they wanted our undergraduate volunteers to deliver, providing dates that suit them. All volunteers are asked to complete pre- and post- workshop evaluation forms and this has been equally important to the advancement of the project. This ongoing consultation process, in addition to annual reviews, has closely informed the nature and assured the quality of the project, involving teachers, postgraduate and undergraduate students in the development and delivery of the workshop at all stages.