A pilot project exploring this idea ran in three schools from September 2008 – July 2009, with a view to longer term development both in Manchester and, potentially, in other cities in the UK. The project was funded by Manchester City Council and managed by the RSA.
Challenges include developing more meaningful engagement between schools and community stakeholders and institutions in creating the area based curricula, and negotiating logistical problems. We are building on this learning in the development of the Peterborough Curriculum.
The benefits of the Manchester Curriculum outlined in the evaluation report include:
- The big idea of a "Manchester Curriculum" challenged schools to build bridges with their city and also to reorganise time, space and teaching roles in the schools.
- The emphasis on competencies encouraged a re-examination of teacher identity and pedagogy.
- The project offered support for risk taking and innovation.
- Time for collaborative work amongst teachers for curriculum development was seen as critical in creating opportunities for staff to reflect upon their practice, challenge assumptions, develop new ideas and personal relationships.
- The opportunities for teachers to spend significant and sustained time with participating students was reported to make a major difference to staff-student relationships, and to the capacity of staff to develop appropriate and effective teaching strategies.
- Visits to the city were seen to provide authentic and informal opportunities for learning conversations.
- The diversity of teaching strategies encouraged were reported to motivate many students, and to provide opportunities for different students to demonstrate achievement.
- The visible investment in students through trips and activities was considered to be a particularly important message to children who often came from disadvantaged areas within the city.
This report recommends the following:
- Offer free transport to schools and school children.
- Build a collective resource that allows city institutions and organisations to identify their ‘offer’ to educational organisations and identifies their key point of contact.
- Work with the Manchester Curriculum Pilot schools and others to develop guidance and information for external organisations.
- Map the existing initiatives in the city that are attempting to build links between schools and community organisations and publicise these widely, and encourage schools to participate in them.
- Encourage cultural and civic institutions to create template risk assessment resources.
- Explore the creation of new annual home-school agreements that will overcome the necessity of schools having to gain written permission for off-site visits.
- Support the development of community tools that enable local communities to map and make visible their ‘funds of knowledge’.
- Encourage new forms of professional development that enable teachers and partners to build ongoing relationships to design curriculum.
- Encourage new forms of continuing professional development that value learning about schools’ immediate vicinities, parental expertise and local organisations.