Cities project - Making it work June 2010 conference

Making it work ~ creative KS3 curriculum development Conference, June 2010

This conference brought together teachers, representatives from local organisations and local authority advisers to explore creative cross-curricular approaches in secondary schools.

Inspiration for this work has come from the Cities Project~ creative KS3 curriculum development. It was an opportunity to take stock of achievements so far and to explore ways of taking this forward.

Exploring Maxi MapsThe conference was framed around four key themes of the Cities Project: Community Cohesion, Economic Regeneration, Climate Change and Health & Wellbeing

Key challenges for the day were…

How can local and global city issues inspire curriculum innovation?

How do we develop a connected curriculum and what does that mean?

Keynote speakers initiated these discussions.

Maurice Irfan Coles. CEO Curriculum Enrichment for the Common Era, Director, Islam and Citizenship Education Project

Islamic perspectives and the challenges for global society.

Maurice raised questions such as:

  • Where do we get our ideas from?  How do ideas travel?
  • Whose stories do we tell about the history of science, engineering and technology and whose stories are missing?
  • How can Islamic perspectives contribute to work on community cohesion and global learning?

Maurice’s presentation

Tony Howell, Strategic Director of Children, Young People & Families

The role of education in meeting Birmingham’s challenges.

Tony raised questions about the purpose of education such as:

  • What is the national curriculum for?
  • How do we design a curriculum that meets the needs of learners?
  • What are the needs of learners?

He spoke about preparing learners for the world they are going to be living in, and the need for them to develop skills of team working, flexibility, creativity and communication.

Jo Fairclough, Head of History and Teaching & Learning in Social Science, Broadway School, Birmingham

Reflections from the Cities Project teacher group

Jo shared her reasons for getting involved in a study visit with Tide~ to Cape Town and how this led to her involvement with the Cities Project.  She reflected on the impact this has had on her, her colleagues and her learners in terms of their enthusiasm for learning and willingness to try out new and creative ideas.

Jo’s presentation

Click to hear what Jo had to say

Partner-led workshops
~ Exploring the educational opportunities of Health & Wellbeing, Community Cohesion, Climate Change and Economic Regeneration.

Co-operatives in the community, John Boyle, Midlands Co-operative

This workshop shared the experiences of the co-operative movement in challenging inequality and finding ways to combat climate change. It looked at the role of schools and how they can work with communities to effect real change in their local areas.

A key question John raised was: What can co-operative learning experiences do to add value to what we do in schools?

Ideas included contributing to personal learning and thinking skills (PLT’s) through opportunities for creative thinking, and developing leadership or team working skills; participating in flagship awards such as the International Schools Award and Eco-Schools; and young people setting up social and co-operative enterprises in school.

Discussions raised further questions such as:

  • How do we explore Fair Trade in a sensitive way, for example with schools in areas of social deprivation?
  • Should the Co-op branch out into more international work?
  • How would a co-operative model of development work? Who would the partners be?
  • What is the link between co-operatives, fairness and universalism?

Health, wellbeing and the built environment

Jane Puzey, MADE [Midlands Architecture and Designed Environment]

Jane’s presentation

This workshop introduced MADE’s work with young people aimed at ensuring they have real influence over the design of the built environment and the process of place making. It also explored the impact of the built environment on people’s health and wellbeing. Some of the key points to arise included:

  • The need for outdoor spaces in cities that are safe and meet the needs of different ages
  • The potential for learning from communities in other places - local and global - about approaches to participation
  • How to establish a dialogue between young people and planners, politicians and others?
  • The need for planners and consultants to listen to the needs of communities
  • How might this link to education initiatives such as Every Child Matters and Sustainable Schools?
  • How are planning and migration linked?

The Zero Carbon House – a story of an environmental vision, John Christophers, Zero Carbon House

John Christophers is an architect at Associated Architects in Birmingham.  He has designed the UKs first zero carbon retrofit house.

John’s presentation prompted lots of discussion about the potential of the challenge of creating a zero carbon house for a cross- curricular project based approach which would offer opportunities for work in D&T, Art and Design, Geography, History, Science and Maths. The value of having a local example and the opportunity to speak with someone with expert knowledge was highlighted along with the potential for making international comparisons by looking at eco-houses and approaches to sustainable building in different countries and cities. One participant commented that we should ‘look at the earth as our home’.

Discussions raised the question: What can we learn from examples elsewhere?

Faith and Cohesion

Maurice Irfan Coles, Director, Islam and Citizenship Education Project

Maurice explored the role of faith in building community cohesion and raised questions about community cohesion itself:

What is it and how will we know when we have got there?

The workshop explored the role of the teacher in supporting young people to develop the skills they need to navigate cultural and religious issues as they arise.

Key points arising from the discussions included:

  • The importance of giving space for the exploration of controversial issues
  • Teachers need opportunities to learn and develop strategies for handling controversial and emotive issues.

Practitioner-led workshops exploring curriculum development

Climate change and young people’s voices

  • Andrew Marshall, The International School and Community College
  • Lorraine Cookson, Birmingham City Council Climate Change and Sustainability Team

This workshop shared the experiences of young people and staff at The International School and Community College in Birmingham exploring climate change and the significance of the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, December 2009. It particularly looked at the impact of global learning and sustainability on the whole school, including the introduction of a Fair Trade tuck shop and the outcomes of an energy audit.

Cities Project – The story so far

  • Claire Neville and Jo Fairclough, Broadway School
  • Samera Jabbar, Bordesley Green Girls’ School

This workshop shared some of the activities and approaches developed by a group of teachers involved in the Cities Project – using cities as a focus for creative curriculum development at KS3. The participants experienced activities based on the different approaches to curriculum development through subjects, departments and skills foci. The workshop explored the value of such a project including:

  • Understanding how cities globally are dealing with similar issues for example governance, community cohesion etc
  • The opportunity for localized curriculum making
  • Development of team work, creative and critical thinking within the curriculum
  • Opportunities to connect past, present and future and for intergenerational work using archives, plans, map work etc
  • Relevance for students as it is about their community
  • Exploring change and development

Enabling young people’s participation

  • Darshna Solanki, Envision

This workshop introduced the work of Envision in schools and how they engage and support young people in practical projects that help make a real difference in schools and in the wider community.

Creative Curriculum – project based learning in Wolverhampton

  • Chris Green, The Kings CofE School,
  • Jimmy Bullock, Colton Hills Community School

This workshop shared the development of the Wolverhampton Leading Teachers Network, which has been exploring potential of using the Global Dimensions aspect of the revised secondary curriculum to develop ideas and resources for use back in school. The thinking from the Network was then disseminated through the variety of networks held across the city’s schools

Click here for an article about the Wolverhampton Leading Teachers Project.


The plenary returned to the key questions of the conference, and raised some further points:

How can local and global issues be used to inspire curriculum innovation?

  • Young people have the capacity to produce creative, quality outcomes given space, inspiration and opportunity.
  • It is inspiring to have an opportunity for relevant and creative learning experiences!
  • How can the teacher create a sense of freedom without being too directive?

What does a connected curriculum look like…..

  • A holistic approach within a school to curriculum development is valuable
  • A connected curriculum has distinctive parts and subjects – like a stew - rather than a blended mush – like a soup.

….and how might it work?

    * Good planning and engagement in a process of curriculum development is essential