Project is dirty work, but pupils dig it

Forty teenagers descending on your village, digging metre-deep holes in random gardens, might be what nightmares are made of for many.But for the residents of Carleton Rode, near Attleborough, the invasion of schoolchildren has been welcomed with open arms - especially as they have brought with them celebrity Carenza Lewis.

Forty teenagers descending on your village, digging metre-deep holes in random gardens, might be what nightmares are made of for many.

But for the residents of Carleton Rode, near Attleborough, the invasion of schoolchildren has been welcomed with open arms - especially as they have brought with them celebrity Carenza Lewis.

The archaeologist from television show Time Team is spearheading a project to get schoolchildren interested in going to university by getting their hands dirty and joining in

with the sort of research undergraduates are expected to do.

So yesterday pupils from Acle, Attleborough and Old Buckenham high schools and Rosemary Musker School in Thetford were carefully sifting layers of soil in the village to see what historical artefacts they could find.

At the end of the two-day dig the pupils then carefully replaced the soil, layer by layer, and organisers are confident that in two weeks time the patches of land will look no different from any others.

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Ms Lewis, a Cambridge academic, will then use the research in a paper she is preparing on the growth of rural settlement - and the schoolchildren will take part in a day of lectures at the ancient university before graduating with a special certificate.

Split between nine sites the length of the village, artefacts uncovered include a fragment of a 12th century wooden beam and pottery ranging from the 16th century all the way back to about 650AD.

"We're getting participants to learn about higher education," said Ms Lewis. "We're giving them the chance to do real research at a level they'll understand and enjoy, to break down the boundaries and show them how fun education can be - and it works brilliantly.

"We ran this last year and there was a 60pc increase in the kids wanting to go to university. But it's also really good for improving the community spirit, and people are absolutely delighted to find out all about their village's past."

Since arriving in Carleton Rode on Wednesday, the team has discovered that the village actually grew in two sites - the area near the church developed in the early modern period but, surprisingly, a hamlet down the road sprung up in medieval times.

Josh Ahmed, 14, and Steve Haskell, 15, both from the Rosemary Musker School, said they were more determined than ever now to go on to university.

"When we were told about this I thought it would be a fun thing to do," said Josh. "But now I'm here it's better than I expected. It's hard work and challenging but it's lots of fun."

Steve added: "Getting my hands dirty is so much more fun than learning from a stuffy text book. I wanted to do an engineering degree but now I want to combine engineering and history!"

The scheme is being run by

Aim Higher Norfolk, a government group aimed at persuading youngsters to continue education after school. Ms Lewis will be back in Hindringham next week leading a similar group of pupils from north Norfolk schools.

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