Press Release: Historic England awards West Dean College COVID-19 emergency funding to develop online training

  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation receives £47,564 grant from Historic England’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund
  • Grant will fund the pilot development of new blended online and practice-based Building Conservation training for the sector
  • Project will make Building Conservation knowledge and training more accessible and democratic

    Historic England, which is responsible for protecting and championing the nation’s historic environment, has awarded West Dean College of Arts and Conservation a grant of £47,564 to fund a pilot of courses that blend online and on-site approaches to learning. The aim is to make building conservation more accessible, to widen participation and provide the knowledge and skills necessary to conserve our irreplaceable historic environment.

    West Dean College of Arts and Conservation in West Sussex, has been running internationally respected courses in Building Conservation Masterclasses in conjunction with Historic England since 1999. Students come from across the UK and further afield for a range of two and three day courses taught by experts from across the sector, and using the College’s unique ruinette. Core subject areas include brick, flint, timber, stonemasonry, plasters, renders, metals, concrete and structural repairs. The courses can also be taken as part of a Professional Development Diploma. Students include architects, surveyors, engineers, stonemasons, carpenters, bricklayers, conservators and graduates.

    The funded pilot will see ten tutors undergo training to deliver selected course elements [or blocks of training] by e-learning and generate new online training material. The first three courses using the blended approach will be developed over the coming months. The team will assess which elements work well as online delivery to complement the practice-based teaching the College is known for. For students, the blended learning approach delivers flexibility and will reduce the cost and time of undertaking professional development. In addition to the courses, new material will also be developed and made available freely on an open access basis to support the building conservation sector worldwide.

    Catherine Woolfitt, Subject Leader of Historic Building Conservation at West Dean College said, “Covid-19 represents an existential threat to England's historic environment and to traditional teaching and learning. This joint initiative mitigates the risks we face by a paradigmatic shift from face-to-face teaching of building conservation skills to a flexible blended learning approach. This not only accommodates social distancing, but is an exciting step that will strengthen learning in the sector and support more students at all stages of their careers while sharing knowledge more widely.”

    Director of Education at West Dean College, Francine Norris adds, “We are really proud of the quality of the building conservation programme at West Dean and the tutors who teach on it who are recognised sector experts. This grant will enable us to make sure the specialist knowledge and skills that have characterised the programme for the last twenty years can survive this current crisis and be passed on to future generations.”

    Historic England’s £1.8m fund was set up to help heritage organisations, such as West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, that have been affected by the impact of Coronavirus by providing grants to help them survive the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic, and to prepare for recovery. The College is one of 70 organisations in England to have been awarded a grant through this fund.

    Emily Gee, Regional Director for Historic England in London and the South East, said: “We are glad to be able to support the West Dean College pilot and deliver online teaching, and through it the wider heritage sector by nurturing specialist skills that are in very short supply. Without adapting to new models and continuing essential training in conservation principles, we would struggle to preserve some of our most important historic buildings in the region.”

For more press information, interview requests and images please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 07790 732448

More information about the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund:

About West Dean College of Arts and Conservation 
West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international profile for conservation and arts education. It is a centre of excellence and creativity. Underpinning it all is the vision of founder and Surrealist patron Edward James, connecting today's students and visitors with a rich heritage of arts, craft and creative possibility. Study options span arts, craft and conservation and range from beginner courses to professional development diploma and Masters in some subjects. The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084) and many students receive funding support from the College and external funders to help make study possible.

About Historic England
Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all. We fundraise from individuals, charitable trusts and foundations and public sector bodies to enable us to deliver those aspects of our work that are not funded by our Government grant.