Funding blow halts visits to historic museum

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FUNDING cuts and job losses have led to a historic Yorkshire museum stopping its school visits after more than 10 years of delivering education.

Museums Sheffield has announced that is has suspended school activities at Bishops’ House “for the foreseeable future.”

The decision follows the trust missing out on £1.4m Arts Council funding which has forced it to cut jobs and services.

Museums Sheffield, which is also responsible for the Millennium Gallery, Graves Gallery and Weston Park is set to make 45 of its 107 staff redundant.

School visits to Bishops’ House, one of the oldest timber frame buildings in the city, will stop on April 1.

However the Friends of Bishops’ House are now looking to see if a scaled down service to schools can be set up with the help of volunteers.

For the past 14 years the building has been used to help teach thousands of children in the city who could explore the house’s historic collections and take part in activities as they learned about the Tudor Period.

In a statement issued yesterday Museums Sheffield described it as “unique learning resource”.

The Friends of Bishops’ House chairman John Brown said it would be “detrimental” to pupils’ education if this could no longer continue.

He added: “We do not want to make any false promises but if there is any way school visits can continue we would like to be able to help.”

Kim Streets, the director of learning and knowledge at Museums Sheffield said: “We’re very sad to see our work with schools at Bishops’ House come to an end, though we hope that we can find a way to resume it in the future.

“In the current climate, we simply can’t afford to maintain that provision and it just isn’t viable to ask primary schools to meet the full cost.

“Our focus now is on working with partners such as the Friends of Bishops’ House to find a solution which will allow schools to access the house.”

Museums Sheffield has received £341,000 transitional funding from Arts Council England to allow it to restructure over a four-month period.

It hopes to be able to bid for more strategic funding later in the year. If this bid is successful it would receive “significantly less” than the £1.4m it originally bid for.

Bishops’ House will remain open at weekends through the voluntary work of the Friends of Bishops’ House. Museums Sheffield will continue to deliver its existing programme of schools workshops at Weston Park, Millennium Gallery and Graves Gallery throughout the summer term.

From September, provision for schools will be more limited, with a reduced programme of workshops led by museum staff.