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And the winning museums are...

A cathedral, a warship, a medical museum and a zoo are among a diverse group of 15 sites that have won the Sandford Award for Heritage Education this year. Organised by the Heritage Education Trust, the award is recognised as one of the prime prizes in museum education. It is non-competitive and encourages projects that enable children"to explore and integrate with the heritage, rather than spend time in a classroom on the site". Other criteria for the award include adherence to the requirements of the national curriculum, efficient management and administration, and the provision of good resources.

Among the winners this year is the Thackray Museum in Leeds, which uses stories of the lives of real people to engage children, and which has created an authentic-looking and smelling 19th century street, complete with contaminated well, unsanitary slaughterhouse and communal privy to explore health issues. The galleries address a range of subjects, including history, English, science, numeracy and health and social care from key stage 1 to GNVQs.

A new winner this year is Chedworth Roman Villa near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, once one of the largest houses in 4th century Roman Britain. Surviving features include intact mosaics, underfloor heating, baths, and latrines, and there is a small exhibition of artefacts.

Mark George, visitor services manager, attributed their success to tours which encourage children "to became archaeologists. We get them to try and work out for themselves what they are seeing and how people lived. We also ask them to compare the villa to their own homes and to use artefacts to investigate life as it was then".

HMS Belfast, another new winner, is a warship anchored on the Thames river near London's Tower Bridge. Built in Belfast and launched in 1938, it served in the Second World War and Korea and was the last ship involved in a ship to ship battle in Europe. It became a museum ship in 1971 - a branch of the Imperial War Museum.

"We treat it as a floating town, with dentist, hospital bakery and much more, which enables us to tackle a range of subject apart from history, including citizenship", said director Brad King. One of the ship's successful projects is "kip on a ship", where children sleep overnight in a recreated 1950s mess deck. Other projects include teaching sessions in the Life at Sea exhibition centre and talks by veterans.

For full details of Sandford Award winners, see Thackray Museum. Tel: 0113 244 4343; Chedworth Roman Villa. Tel: 01242 890 256; Belfast. Tel: 020 7940 6323

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