Footprints of Faith

Walks for schools through culture, history and belief in Cambridge

Stop 4: The Senate House

At each stop on the walk there will be a story and an activity. Resources for these can be picked up at the Round Church at the start of the walk. These will include a teacher’s booklet (containing a set of maps, useful phone numbers and contact details, information about loos and picnic/snack points); instructions for the stories and activities; a set of resource cards displaying relevant images; a set of artefacts.
However, copies of worksheets for children to use during the walk need to be downloaded and printed off at school and brought with you.

Stop 1 | Stop 2 | Stop 3 | Stop 4 | Stop 5 | Stop 6

Story Four: Philippa Fawcett (1868–1948)

• Stand on the pavement beside the railings in front of the Senate House. Choose a place where you can see the notice boards for posting exam results, if they are out on display.

This is Philippa Fawcett. She was born over 140 years ago, when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

• Show the picture of Philippa Fawcett – Resource Card J

Philippa really liked maths.

I wonder how many of you like maths?

Nowadays, when girls are good at maths they often go to university to study for a degree in maths. That was not an easy thing to do when Philippa was a teenager. When she was 19, Philippa came to Newhnam College in Cambridge. Men had been students at Cambridge for nearly 700 years, but there had only been colleges for women for 17 years. Women were allowed to go to lectures, and had been allowed to sit exams for the last six years, but they weren’t allowed to be awarded a degree and graduate.

When she was a student Philippa worked at her maths for six hours a day, and even went to extra physics lectures because they were interesting. In her spare time she played hockey and did debating. She seemed quite normal, even quiet and shy. But everyone knew she was brilliant at maths.

This is where the university exam results are put up.

• Point out the notice boards or explain that they would be beside the steps
Students come here to read the lists and find out how well they have done.

I wonder what it feels like to come and read your results?

When Philippa was in Cambridge there was a special tradition for maths students. The final year maths students all came to hear the maths results being read out loud inside the Senate House.

• Point out the Senate House

Not only were they read out loud in front of everyone, but they were read in order, and the person who got the top result had a special title called the Senior Wrangler. Lots of very famous people have been Senior Wrangler, and it was a great honour. It wasn’t such an honour for the person who came bottom – as a joke, they were given a wooden spoon by their friends – it was dangled on strings off the balcony and presented to them during the graduation ceremony.

Have you ever heard of anyone being given the wooden spoon because they came last?

• Ask for a candidate to be awarded the wooden spoon – Artefact 9

What about Philippa? She was really good at maths, but she had no chance of being Senior Wrangler, because she was a woman and women couldn’t get a degree. HOWEVER, the women’s results were read out in order after the men, and they said what position women would have come if they were allowed to be included in the list. So far, the highest maths result had been between the seventh and eighth men. The university officials didn’t know what to do about Philippa, because she scored 13% more than the highest man that year.

• Unroll the scroll and pretend to read it – Artefact 10

When they came to her name, they couldn’t say she was the Senior Wrangler so they announced that she came “placed above the Senior Wrangler”.

It was amazing! Philippa walked out of the Senate House with the Principal of Newnham College, and the cheers were deafening! When they got back to Newnham, the other students picked her up and carried her inside. They decorated the whole college with flags. They had a big dinner in the evening, with lots of speeches, and lit a bonfire on the hockey pitch afterwards and carried her round it – three times.

I wonder how Philippa felt about all this?

Philippa’s interest in education didn’t stop. She was a lecturer at Cambridge for 10 years, and she really inspired women to continue their education and campaign for the right to vote in elections. After that she went to South Africa to set up schools in war-torn areas, and when she came back to England she organised schools and education in London. She felt it was really important that all children should be educated – boys or girls, rich or poor, black or white.

She died in 1948 when she was 80, a month after hearing that women were allowed to get degrees at Cambridge.

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Activity Four: Education Slogans

You are really lucky to be able to go to school!

There are still places in the world where children can’t go to school and learn.
Many children would like to go to school so they can be educated, and get a better job, and not be so poor.

Your task is to get into your groups and make up a slogan for a campaign to say everyone has the right to have an education.

What sort of things might you say?

You can write down some ideas for your slogan on the worksheet, then make it into a poster on a piece of card.


  • worksheet to brainstorm slogans;
  • pens and pencils;
  • A4 card

Make a placard: Optional response activity to Philippa Fawcett’s story

Now you are going to make your poster into a placard, and we are going to go on a short demonstration march, shouting one of the slogans.

Stage a ‘demo’ along Senate House Passage.

To make a placard
• plant sticks
• sellotape

Stop chanting the slogan and take the placards down as you round the corner towards King’s College – they like the children to arrive quietly and calmly as it is a place of worship.

Background information for teachers

Stop 1 | Stop 2 | Stop 3 | Stop 4 | Stop 5 | Stop 6

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