Think-tank calls for local curriculums
Schools should develop their own local curriculums as a way of encouraging pupils to learn about where they live, an influential think-tank is recommending.
The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce) has argued that there should be regional variation in what schools teach.
"What do children in Tower Hamlets need to or want to learn at school in order to thrive in the real world?" it asks in a paper published this week.
"Is it precisely the same as what children in Cumbria need to or want to learn? Some of it will be, but some things will be different."
It argues that a curriculum inspired by their area would help to engage pupils and build links with the wider community.
The society is calling for teachers to work with pupils, the community and local organisations to develop their own curriculums that can be integrated with the national one.
The RSA already has considerable influence over the curriculum in England with its thematic Opening Minds framework, which is now used in more than 200 schools. Its latest idea for an area-based curriculum can be used alongside Opening Minds, has already been trialled in Manchester and is now being tested in Peterborough schools.
"Children in different places will bring different kinds of experience and knowledge into school, and will require different inputs from school in order to equalise knowledge and opportunities with children elsewhere," it argues.
The RSA said the idea could chime with the Government's Big Society agenda because of its emphasis in getting communities more deeply involved in schools.
But it could also encounter opposition from Conservative ministers who have commissioned their own curriculum review and made it clear they favour a greater emphasis on subject knowledge.
The RSA's paper, by contrast, says: "The idea of a single curriculum (national or otherwise) perpetuates the idea that there is one kind of knowledge that schools should impart.
"Our argument is that knowledges are multiple, overlapping and multi-dimensional. The official, national, canon of knowledge is but one of many that young people - and everyone else - do and could encounter."
It also has "positive benefits for the self-esteem and status for groups traditionally marginalised by the national curriculum, and is essential in a democratic system that seeks to promote equality".
Russell Hobby, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said: "To what degree people in one part of the country need to learn different things from those in others I am not sure. There will be a common core. But schools in an area collaborating to produce local aspects to the curriculum is an excellent idea."
Pride in manchester
Where's Whalley Range?
Girls' school Whalley Range High developed its own "Manchester curriculum", running a project called "Our Manchester: Our Whalley Range" for half a term at the start of 2009.
It involved all Year 7 pupils, staff from the RE, history, geography, citizenship and ICT departments, and used about 10 days' curriculum time. Each class planned, filmed and edited a documentary about a different period of Manchester's history and produced a joint DVD.
One teacher said: "By the end of it the majority of the girls felt more part of Manchester and they felt proud of Manchester and proud of what they had produced, so yes I think it had a fairly sizeable impact."