Upstairs and downstairs

SCOTLAND'S CASTLES and stately homes could play a role in delivering A Curriculum for Excellence, Historic Scotland announced this week as part of plans to expand its education programme.

The agency, set up to safeguard and foster understanding of the country's historic buildings, is to employ more teachers as part-time local learning officers to create community programmes based around a particular building.

Two teachers will be employed in the first phase of the heritage education programme, with potential for expansion. The posts, on a freelance contract basis, work out at a day a week, or one concentrated week in a month.

Sue Mitchell, Historic Scotland's education manager, said: "They will have a very important role. We want them to work with the local schools and look at what their particular needs are. It is starting out as quite a small initiative - it is very much a trial for us."

Mrs Mitchell says learning through activities at historic properties already helps teach pupils in areas such as travel and tourism, history, English, art and citizenship, and it could be formalised as part of the new curriculum.

A proposal for integrating heritage education in the reformed curriculum, compiled by the Heritage Education Officers Group and the Scottish Museums Council, has been submitted to Learning and Teaching Scotland, but not published yet.

"A Curriculum for Excellence is providing a huge opportunity for heritage learning. If you think about the four key principles - successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors - they fit in with the kind of activities we do," she said.

"Taking children out of school is giving them the opportunity to get involved in their own history, and heritage learning can do so much to support that."

Historic Scotland is running a skills for work project, initially at Stirling and Edinburgh castles. From March 12, it will go on a whistle-stop tour to Melrose Abbey, Croft-an-Righ in the shadow of Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace, St Andrew's Cathedral, Elgin Cathedral and Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban.

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