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Prep School pupils delve into the School Archive in a quest for knowledge

Prep School pupils delve into the School Archive in a quest for knowledge
group of pupils looking at historical resources on a table in Pocklington School Library

Year 3 pupils recently had an interesting morning in the School Library where they delved into the Archive to explore Old Pocklingtonian, William Wilberforce, and the anti-slavery movement. This was part of this term’s Curiosity Project question, ‘is power always in the right hands?’

The Prep School’s unique Curiosity Project curriculum was established in 2021 to encourage critical thinking skills through a structured, yet creative, enquiry-based approach. The aim is to provide children with opportunities to connect with ideas and explore them at a deeper level. The Curiosity Project has gone from strength to strength since its inception, and this term’s question was a perfect example of the depth of learning that it offers.

The Year 3 pupils started exploring the concept of power by understanding its different forms, such as physical, political and cultural. They then went on to investigate who holds the most power in a democracy and how this power is exercised. The pupils were intrigued to learn about the role of councillors in local democracy before expanding their knowledge to include MPs and the Prime Minister, which connected with their class reader, The Accidental Prime Minister. This then led to their exploration of William Wilberforce, an Old Pocklingtonian, and his power and influence in the abolition of the slave trade.

Two pupils sat at a desk reading an archive document in the Pocklington  School Library

To pursue their learning, the pupils visited the Pocklington School Library and had a fascinating lesson with School Librarian, Natalia Ward. The pupils examined resources from the School Archive, where they learned about William Wilberforce’s involvement in the abolition of slavery campaign and his life, during his time at the School and beyond. They even saw a photocopy of a school essay he wrote whilst he was a boarder at Pocklington School, where he expressed his opposition to the ideas of slavery. The pupils also learned about the awful practices of the slave trade, and how at the end of the 18th Century, with the help of William Wilberforce and others, public opinion began to turn against it, until it was abolished in 1807. The pupils had numerous questions and were thoroughly engaged throughout the lesson.

teacher giving lesson with pupils in the Pocklington School Library

Speaking about William Wilberforce, Natalia Ward commented: "Wilberforce’s contributions to the good of society and his commitment as a compassionate public servant continue to inspire to this day. Whilst the abolition of slavery is a result of a combined struggle of many people, his involvement in the anti-slavery movement in Britain and his tireless humanitarian efforts cannot be underestimated."

Next, the pupils will develop their geographical skills by exploring the continents linked by the triangular trade route before they visit Wilberforce House Museum, the birthplace of William Wilberforce in Hull, to learn more about his influence and work as an MP. Finally, the pupils will work collaboratively to plan a much-anticipated finale to their project. Guy Askew, Pocklington Prep School Year 3 teacher, remarked: "It will be a teacher and pupil 'swap day' where we very much hope that they exercise their power kindly!"

He concluded: “The pupils had an exceptional learning experience delivered by our Pocklington School Librarian. The children connected with ideas, explored them at a deeper level and expanded their critical thinking skills through the session. Throughout our project, they have gained a real appreciation of the importance of understanding the concept of power and its different forms, as well as how it is used by those in authority. They have particularly enjoyed learning about William Wilberforce, a former pupil of the School, and we are looking forward to learning more about his work during our forthcoming trip to his birthplace in Hull.”