Two of Worcestershire's most popular visitor attractions have been awarded a prestigious Sandford Award.
The Sandford Award for Heritage Education is an independently judged assessment of education programmes at heritage sites across Britain.
Both the Worcestershire County Museum at Hartlebury Castle near Kidderminster and The Commandery in Worcester have just been given the award in recognition of the quality of their formal learning programmes.
Gemma Dhami, Museums Worcestershire Learning, Volunteering and Partnerships manager, said: “We are very proud of the Learning Teams for winning the Sandford Award.
"It reflects the hard work and passion of our teams to deliver learning with accuracy and imagination. As historic sites our museums are the natural place to learn about Worcestershire’s history and it’s great to have it recognised in this way.”
The award for The Commandery recognises the formal, curriculum-linked education opportunities offered to schools.
The judges wrote after their visit: “The Commandery Teaching Team offers a first class experience. They are dedicated and well-informed and deliver an interesting and exciting day of interactive and hands-on learning activities.
"There is a good balance of imparting historical information and factual details with asking direct questions and promoting discussion. Young visitors have the opportunity to experience a personal and meaningful encounter with a real and very significant historic event.”
The Worcestershire County Museum chronicles over a millennium of the county’s history through a wide-ranging combination of galleries and exhibits that showcase an impressive collection of authentic historical artefacts.
Housed in the recently renovated Hartlebury Castle, the former home of the Bishops of Worcester, the museum is one of three sites run by Museums Worcestershire, the joint museum service of Worcestershire County Council and Worcester City Council.
One of the judges, Eric Steed, said he was 'very impressed by the learning programmes on offer at the site' and felt that they were 'worthy of commendation by the scheme'.
He wrote afterwards: "The Worcestershire County Museum gains a very well earned first Sandford Award.
"The museum is extremely well stocked with authentic and replica artefacts that students are taught to interrogate and make decisions about their original use in the secure knowledge that their ideas will not be ridiculed even if wildly incorrect. Learning whilst at the museum is meaningful, focused and fun."
The awards ceremony this year is taking place in November and will be managed by the Heritage Education Trust in partnership with Bishop Grosseteste University Lincoln.
The Sandford Award provides a ‘kite mark’ for high quality education provision which is recognised by schools and other education institutions across the UK and also national recognition among the heritage sector.