A day in the life of a learning and interpretation manager

A day in the life of a learning and interpretation manager

Esther Lockwood helps to develop learning schemes at the National Trust property that is Knole in Sevenoaks.

This involves leading the development and delivery of learning programmes for a very broad range of ages, from toddlers who are exploring the house and park with their families, to school children enjoying a Tudor-themed trip, through to adult visitors who’ve come for a day out, hoping to discover something new. My role is also focused on the development of a brand new learning facility: the Hayloft Learning Centre, which is set to open in 2016.

The first thing I do is make a coffee and check in with my learning officer to find out what the day has in store for her. We’re working hard to broaden our programmes for secondary schools and post-16 visits, as well as the adult learning offer in the new Hayloft Learning Centre.

‘The Inspired by Knole’ project is incredibly exciting – it’s what brought me down to Kent from North Yorkshire. The project team at Knole, led by our head of grants, bid for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to contribute towards our landmark five year project to repair and conserve Knole and share its heritage with visitors. In 2013 we were delighted to hear that the HLF had awarded us a grant of £7.75million towards this project. The Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Inspired by Knole’ project is changing how we understand and relate to Knole and what visitors can see and do when they come
here – it’s a really exciting time for Knole and it’s a pleasure to be part of the process.

At the moment I’m doing lots of planning and writing policy documents. This might sound dull, but actually it’s really exciting – it’s about discovering our audience’s needs and then looking at how we can meet these needs through the development of the learning programme. It’s also about looking at the built environment, the park and collections here and deciding what really unique learning experiences we can offer.

My lunch times are completely variable, depending on whether I’m in meetings, at my desk or out and about on site, but I try to get out for some fresh air during my lunch break and take advantage of working within a 1,000 acre deer park.

There’s no such thing as a typical day for me! The work is so varied. I could be copywriting and editing text and planning interpretation across the site, attending meetings, drawing up workshop plans for the new Hayloft and contacting potential tutors or freelance practitioners or mapping out our learning offer and planning new cross-curricular programmes with my team.

I’m very partial to a piece of flapjack from our outdoor café around 3pm, when I’m in need of a boost!

Learning and educational activity happens every day at Knole and pretty much every member of the public who comes through our doors is partaking in a learning experience of some kind. We welcome around 1,500 school children a year and have an award-winning schools programme for pupils aged seven to 16 that’s interactive and handson. Our most popular schools workshop is the Tudor life workshop, which sees pupils dress up in our gorgeous Tudor costumes (all hand made by volunteers), take a tour of the house and visit the education room to explore our handling collection.

I love my job at Knole for many reasons, but I love that the house has a beautiful faded quality about it, which I haven’t experienced elsewhere. I never get tired of imagining what ghosts of the past are sharing these rooms with me. I also have a real passion for history – every one of us is a kind of living history and our histories make us who we are. I love sharing special places like Knole because they mean so many different things to different people.