Wicksteed Park wins national award for its heritage education programme

An early merry-go-round at Wicksteed Park. The team which keeps alive the history of the Kettering park has been praised with an award.
An early merry-go-round at Wicksteed Park. The team which keeps alive the history of the Kettering park has been praised with an award.

The team at Kettering's Wicksteed Park has been given a national Sandford Award in recognition of its heritage educational work.

The award is an independently-judged quality assurance assessment of education programmes at heritage sites, museums, archives and collections across Britain.

Wicksteed Park founder Charles Wicksteed.

Wicksteed Park founder Charles Wicksteed.

The Kettering site was selected for a 2019 award following an inspection of the programme it offers to schools and other educational establishments.

It will formally receive the award at a ceremony taking place later this year.

In his assessment of the park’s educational programme, judge Eric Steed praised the skill displayed by the education team in using excitement and anticipation to help students to learn about and appreciate the work and achievements of park founder Charles Wicksteed as the creator of swings and slides as we know them today.

He installed his creations at Wicksteed Park, which he founded in 1921, as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play for the health and well-being of families.

An early wooden slide at Kettering's Wicksteed Park, which was at the forefront of encouraging play as part of families' health and well-being.

An early wooden slide at Kettering's Wicksteed Park, which was at the forefront of encouraging play as part of families' health and well-being.

Mr Steed said: “A visit to Wicksteed Park is a joy for visitors of all ages. The school group visits are days of fun, coupled with fascinating learning when teachers liaise with the resident education staff to enable students to understand that people of former times lived lives that were not so very different from our own.

“They too played the same games, had the same desire to learn and understand how their ancestors lived.

"Visitors to Wicksteed Park are lucky because the members of the education team are able to teach all these things in ways that are memorable.”

Tracey Clarke, the park’s community link manager, said: “We are delighted to receive the park’s first-ever Sandford Award.

An educational room at Wicksteed Park. The team behind the educational programme at the Kettering site was praised by a Sandford Award judge for providing a joyful experience for school children and other visitors.

An educational room at Wicksteed Park. The team behind the educational programme at the Kettering site was praised by a Sandford Award judge for providing a joyful experience for school children and other visitors.

“We love telling the story of the park and the important part it has played in the development of children’s play and the award is high recognition indeed for the work we are doing.”

The awards, now in their 40th year, were named after founder Lord Sandford. More than 500 sites such as historic houses, museums, galleries, places of worship, gardens, landscapes and collections have now received an award since the scheme began in 1978.

Wicksteed Park is one of 41 sites to receive an award for 2019, with Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens in Northamptonshire also being a recipient.

The scheme focuses on formal, curriculum-linked educational opportunities offered to schools by heritage sites, although recognition is also given to informal learning, such as family programmes.