Marks & Spencer launches free online lessons from its Leeds-based archive to help primary and secondary school pupils

School children can now learn about the history and science of clothes and food, thanks to resources developed by M&S with teachers. Stephanie Smith reports.

Marks & Spencer has dipped into its Leeds-based company archive to launch a series of learning resources to help school children learn in a fun and engaging way about the history and science behind our fashions, fabrics and foods.

The online learning packs have been created using the products, packaging, imagery and promotional literature associated with the history and development Marks & Spencer, which started life as Marks’ Penny Bazaar in 1884 at Leeds Kirkgate Market. There is even an online game challenging children to match the clothes to the period of history.

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Based at the University of Leeds, the M&S Company Archive has developed and provided the resources free via its website, offering lessons for pupils and teaching aids for parents, carers and teachers of primary and secondary school children to download at home.

Could your child tell you which in era these clothes were first worn? The M&S Company Archive schools learning resources include a quiz matching the clothes to the period of time.

For almost 10 years, the archive has been running educational programmes for schools at its exhibition but, in response to the pandemic, it has now accelerated its plans to extend its learning to children at home, as schools across the UK remain closed.

Developed by education experts in collaboration with teachers and home-schooling coordinators for Key Stages 1 to 4, the resources aim to support skills in maths, science, art and design, and business studies.

The four digital resources bring to life M&S’s heritage while teaching topics including the history of food, the science behind textiles, the process of designing packaging and delivering for customers. They feature short films, printable worksheets and fun, practical tasks, from pitching business ideas to creating food packaging to inventing clothes of the future.

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The resources contains downloadable worksheets about fashion and fabrics.

Robert Fairbairn, careers lead at Oastlers School, Bradford, has been using the business studies resources for GCSE pupils. He said: "The M&S resources are invaluable as they help learners link curriculum activities with real life experiences of an established UK brand that they can recognise and relate to. They are adaptable enough to be used within a range of subjects, both for learners that attend school and those working remotely during the current lockdown restrictions.”

The M&S learning resources are available for free from the M&S Company Archive website.