SCA Education Coaching Programme

SCA Education Coaching Programme

In 2018 we identified a need for specific and focussed support for archivists to develop and extend their education and outreach work. So, to complement our ongoing programme of training workshops, online resources and creative partnership projects, we introduced our education coaching programme.

Archive services could apply up to three days of on-site focussed support to review existing provision, learn new skills, create resources, plan new projects and programmes, and think creatively about how to share their collections effectively with their local communities and schools.

Outreach and education work is essential for our archive services. Our effectiveness as organisations is often judged by measuring levels of local engagement, but outreach is also our opportunity to express our enthusiasm for what we do as archivists, and to engage our local communities with the stories, people and places contained in our precious records.

We’ve had an enthusiastic response to the programme. Archive services from across Scotland have received focussed one-to-one coaching through the programme, building and enhancing their education and outreach programmes.

Take a look through our case studies, below, for more detail how our education coaching programme is improving archives outreach, advocacy and access across Scotland.

Applications for the 2020 programme are now closed.

2019 Coaching Case Studies


Perth and Kinross Archive had developed a learning module for high school students based on the WW1 letters of John Alex Veitch and wanted to pilot it with a third year class from a local school. Douglas worked with Assistant Archivist Sarah Wilcock to deliver the drama process element of the module in which students took the roles of characters from John Alex’s life, created still images and voiced their thoughts.

John Alex Veitch © reproduced with permission of Perth & Kinross Archive

They went on to develop Sarah’s next project, a secondary schools learning unit about the history of crime and punishment in Scotland, using local archive records as sources.

“The SCA coaching has been invaluable to my professional development by further developing my decision making and problem-solving skills and increasing my confidence in the delivery of our education programme and the rest of the archive outreach programme as well.”

Sarah Wilcock, Assistant Archivist

Read Perth & Kinross Archive’s full case study here.


Fife Archives asked SCA for support in developing a new schools programme, starting with devising an entertaining tour of the archive store and search room.

Douglas worked with Archivist Andrew Dowsey and Collections Assistant Susan Goodfellow. Together they scripted a tour talk, mapped the route and identified stopping points in the store to demonstrate interesting elements for young students, including a taxidermy fox!

Andrew Dowsey, Douglas Roberts, and a fox

North Lanarkshire Archivist Wiebke McGee was interested in developing artistic workshops using digitised images from the archive. She and Douglas worked together to identify interesting sources, and to rewrite an existing workshop plan to make it more appealing to local community groups. They discussed how to find and approach groups with an interest in specific types of records or activities.


Abertay University Archives is running a major HLF-funded outreach project titled Abertay 25. University Archivist Ruaraidh Wishart sought SCA support in developing the volunteer-led project with three local secondary schools, including devising the training format for the community volunteers and designing a memory exchange project.

Abertay 25 project with local High School students © reproduced with permission of Abertay University Archives

“Douglas’s support for Abertay 25 went beyond his input to the volunteer training. He has been a valuable source of support throughout a project that has been a steep learning curve for us as well as the volunteers, providing guidance and confidence for us where we were a bit unsure about elements of it.” – Ruaraidh Wishart, University Archivist

Read Abertay University Archives’ full case study here.


Argyll Estates Archivist Alison Diamond applied for SCA assistance in researching and developing a major funding bid for a records-based multi-arts project on the Island of Tiree titled Tìr Ìseal nan Òrain.

Members of the Tiree community pore over the Turnbull Map (ref AP R038) during the Archives Roadshow in May 2019

Alison had previously collaborated in a highly successful Archives Roadshow on Tiree in May 2019, as part of the Written In The Landscape project, including exhibitions, talks and workshops, and a dramatic performance by local school children. Of particular interest was the Turnbull Map of Tiree, a lavishly illustrated hand-drawn 18th century map of the island by James Turnbull. Enthusiastic community feedback asked for more.

Douglas and Alison liaised with community groups, artists, An Iodhlann heritage centre and the local school to build a project plan and funding bid using the Turnbull Map as a starting point, and to identify archive records that told stories of the island’s history, geography and mythology.

Survey plans by George Langlands for the division of crofts (ref AP PV 19) on display at An Iodhlann, the local community heritage centre on Tiree

“To date, users of my archive service have been mostly academic researchers and genealogists. Through the Coaching Programme I have developed a level of confidence with which I feel I can approach artists and creative practitioners and from which may develop work with new audiences, particularly schools and communities.

The development of the project plan and budget which has been so successful with funders has boosted my confidence in applying for funding. This has massive implications for a small archive service where anything other than day-to-day management requires external financial support.”Alison Diamond, Argyll Estates Archivist

Read Argyll Estates’ full case study here.


East Dunbartonshire Archives (EDLC Trust) sought SCA support in creating a community exhibition project, Campsie Collections, at the Lennoxtown Community Hub aimed at reaching new audiences in the local area.

Invitation to concert for Belgian Refugees © Reproduced with permission of East Dunbartonshire Archives (EDLC Trust)

SCA Education Development Officer Douglas Roberts worked with East Dunbartonshire Archivist Janice Miller to identify appropriate records, devise a theme and activities to attract and engage meaningfully with people who might not ordinarily visit an archive or use archive records.

“The Education Officer helped me understand that people need an emotional connection to remember and engage with the material. You can’t just display items and expect people to be interested.  The challenge is to guide them to this emotional connection and make it meaningful for them.  I see now how important it is to signpost and guide people through interpreting archive material. Up to now I’ve often been too literal in my exhibitions and captions, and focussed on maintaining an objective use of language as I was trained to when cataloguing.”Janice Miller, East Dunbartonshire Archivist

Read East Dunbartonshire Archives’ full case study here.


The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow has been developing tours and study sessions for school groups for a number of years, based on the Centre’s records of children who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe on Kindertransports and came to Scotland. Children were often unaccompanied, their parents having failed to get permission for themselves. A number who came to Glasgow were housed and cared for at the Hill Street Boys’ Hostel adjacent to Garnethill Synagogue, and many remained after the war and made their home in Scotland. SJAC holds the documented stories of these refugees, along with artefacts and images from their lives.

Hill Street Boys’ Hostel, 1939 © Reproduced with permission of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre

SJAC Hon. Curator Deborah Haase wanted to review and improve these study sessions in line with the Scottish curriculum and using more active learning techniques. She and SCA Education Development Officer Douglas Roberts worked through the unit notes and explored new activities, timings and questioning techniques to get the most from the stories.

“The joy of your input is your total understanding of archives coupled with professional educational knowledge and skills. This has been truly invaluable to me and so to the project, helping to develop the drafts into effective timed participation kits.” Deborah Haase, SJAC Hon. curator 

Read SJAC’s full case study here.

Coaching Programme 2018 Case Studies

“We are delighted with the outcome of our SCA Education Coaching. Douglas’s input has been invaluable to the process of creating a new education offer for Perth & Kinross Archive Service.”

-Sarah Wilcock, Archivist, Perth & Kinross Archive

“Getting Douglas for three full days was brilliant – he helped us focus on the aims of the project, came up with potential ideas of a product and guided us in terms of what material could be most effectively used.”

-Jan Merchant, Senior Archivist, Dundee University Archives

“It was extremely useful having access to an experienced teacher who has previously structured workshops and is knowledgeable in drama techniques for both primary and secondary children, to assist in adapting our material and giving advice.”

-Jocelyn Grant, Outreach and Learning Manager, National Records of Scotland

In 2018’s Education coaching programme we are working with seven archive services around Scotland, providing professional coaching to develop outreach projects, widen access, learn new skills and create education resources.

More details of our annual Education Coaching Programme can be found here.


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