Sandford Award

The Sandford Award is managed by Bishop Grosseteste University in partnership with the Heritage Education Trust. The Trust is the only body in existence able to provide independent quality assurance to historic properties and collections which run education programmes. Bishop Grosseteste University has its own record of excellence in this field and offers a unique graduate and post graduate course in Heritage Education.  

What is the Sandford Award?

The Sandford Award recognises and promotes quality and excellence in education provision by sites across the British Isles.

More than 350 sites - including country houses, museums, galleries, places of worship, gardens, landscapes and collections - have received an Award since the scheme began in 1978. They include Hampton Court Palace, Brunel's SS Great Britain in Bristol, Fota Wildlife Park in Eire, Edinburgh Castle, and Big Pit - the National Mining Museum of Wales.

The Sandford Awards represent a broad spectrum of heritage sector partners who recognise the importance of the continuing programme of quality assessment that they provide. English Heritage is our principal funder, and the Historic Houses Association also supports our work. Historic Royal Palaces, The National Trust, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Scotland, The Royal Armouries and National Museums in England, Wales and Ireland all submit their properties for assessment.

The Awards focus on formal, curriculum-linked education opportunities offered to schools by heritage sites, although recognition is also made of informal learning such as family programmes. The Awards are made annually and are non competitive.  

Sandford Learning Cascade Project

Strengthening learning in the historical environment
The Sandford Cascade Project is an innovative East Midlands based project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to encourage confidence within heritage learning so that more sites and collections apply for the prestigious Sandford Award.  An aspiring site (Scholar) will be placed with a Sandford Award winner (Fellow) and support and capacity will be added through training, volunteer involvement, a range of user-friendly e-learning and funds to meet costs as well as financial contributions for those involved.  Scholars will receive good practice and learning from their Fellow(s) via short (potentially ‘virtual’) placements, and will in turn ‘cascade’ this back into their own site or collection.

Heritage experts will produce short films and follow-up support to encourage continued professional development in the historic environment. It is anticipated that this development will create a suitable platform in which heritage learning staff and volunteers can enter into professional discussions and also source relevant support and good practice.
The Sandford Cascade project is also building the foundations for an exciting informal learning award that seeks to recognise good practice and the fostering of positive relationships between visitors and venues.

The principal aim of this scheme is to build capacity and resilience within the heritage learning sector in the East Midlands.  By the development of strong networks of learning, cascading and sharing good practice, we can support the shaping of a resilient heritage economy in the region. Heritage sector professionals and volunteers will be enabled to build sustainable opportunities for the benefit of their service users and sites in the historic environment.

For more information, please contact our Sandford Cascade Co-ordinator Rachel Bryant by emailing or calling 01522 583750. 

Our Award Winners

The feedback that we receive from applicants proves how valuable they find the process:

A thorough judging process. An award worth having.
Ann Fraser Education Liaison Officer, Osborne House

It was a rigorous process for assessing the quality of the educational provision within the heritage sector, which could then be flagged up as a Quality Mark to our users, potential users and colleagues.
Hazel Cartledge, Education & Outreach Officer, Soho House Museum

The report was very useful as it highlighted the areas where we are performing to a high standard and also outlined areas where we could improve. Having a document to share with the rest of the education team and the rest of the Museum staff was really useful.
Jayne Ambrose, Education Officer, National Coalmining Museum for England

We gained 'Quality Assurance' from a well respected and widely acknowledged organisation.
Annette Cranston, Education Officer, St Albans Cathedral

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • The award has been running for more than 30 successful years
  • Over the last five years, the number of entrants has grown each year
  • More than 75% of applicants have been successful in gaining the award

Want to find out more?

Please visit where you will find out more about the awards and how to apply.

For details of the Heritage Education Trust, please go to:

You can contact us at:

The Sandford Award
Bishop Grosseteste University
Longdales Road

Tel: 01522 583695

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