This article shares key ideas about global learning in primary schools, including the core thinking behind new teacher materials, and the implications for whole school planning. It raises debates from the network about the kind of curriculum we need, including the potential of the Primary Reviews.

The article draws on two network conferences, which have brought teachers and educators together from the primary sector to explore the idea of global learning.


We offer the contents list below as an overview. Each item has onward links to further relevant material.

1. Key ideas about global learning
2. Planning for change in our schools
3. Thinking about a new curriculum
4. Events overview, acknowledgements and onward links

1. Key ideas about global learning

A great deal of creativity and discussion involving teachers and educators in the West Midlands has gone into the core ideas we propose in the publication Global learning in primary schools. This resource also offers practical support in putting these ideas into practice.

Global learning in primary schools argues that, in an ever-more interdependent world, global connections are a very real part of all children’s lives. Therefore, global learning [ie learning that consciously addresses that global reality] is an essential context for personalised learning.

In our teaching, this means recognising that ‘the global’ is not only ‘out there’ – but it is wherever children live. This offers learners great scope for exploring their commonality with others. As teachers wanting to meet individual learners’ needs, we should also recognise that what this global context means for particular children may be quite distinctive.

One implication of this is that all learners will need space to:

  • think through for themselves questions about the ‘everyday complexity’ of the world;
  • understand and feel a part of it.

This will often mean an enabling, rather than a directive, teaching approach.

“How do we support learning and debate which is ‘confidently tentative’? … and how do we make the most of the commonality of educational issues worldwide?”  Scott Sinclair, Director, Tide~ global learning

Global learning in primary schools proposes some core ideas and principles. These could serve as a framework for organising and planning.

It also proposes that these ideas contribute to a learner entitlement to global learning.

In Global learning: a challenge to teachers, a challenge to schools, Dr Fran Martin responds to the challenges raised in this resource, and elaborates on some of the ideas on diversity and identity. How do we make sense of sameness and difference … in a global context?

2. Planning for change in our schools

Ideas about global learning have implications for the whole school. How can we use them to start planning for change? Can they help us develop a more integrated approach?

Head teachers in the network have begun to develop approaches which use ideas about global learning to help integrate whole school planning. In doing this, they have made strong connections to other priorities in their schools, such as developing a learner-centred and creative curriculum, and responding to the challenge of sustainable schools.

Jean Edge, from Apley Wood Primary School in Telford, shared some key prompts for whole school planning. She has used these as a focus for her school, which has prioritised work on pupil voice.

Teacher advisor Jane Howard has been engaged in work with Worcestershire schools on developing a ‘21st Century Curriculum’. Taking the example of planning work around food and farming, she shared thoughts about how schools might move from activity based planning to addressing key concepts in an active learning context .

How we offer meaningful learning experiences has been a focus for debate. Responding to a Tide~ resource on Learning Journeys 
~ creating a global learning experience at KS2, Herefordshire teacher Karen Williams offered the following challenge.

“If we are talking about learning journeys, we are not just talking about children’s journeys but teachers’ as well. These take time and that’s one thing we’re very short of. How can schools provide time for teachers to think about what they’re trying to do, the kind of meaningful learning experiences we want to create and how we develop them?”

“We need time to think about how we engage children emotionally and intellectually in these experiences; about how we can we use the excitement involved to lead on to children dealing with ideas and conflicts of ideas. We need to prepare for such experiences and be able to follow them through, building on them and taking them forward. We need to do this, not just to tick boxes but so as to encourage children to think about ideas, and to use what they have learnt to engage with and contribute to society.”

Karen’s challenge also draws on her experience in the project Polytunnels ~ a focus for exploring global issues?

3. Thinking about a new curriculum

Both conferences debated questions about the sort of curriculum we need, if we want to address learners’ needs in a global context.

The following expand on their ideas.

The Primary Reviews

Two reviews of primary education in England have also been raising questions about its future, including thoughts about a new curriculum.

There was concern at the November conference that The Primary Curriculum Review, led by Sir Jim Rose, makes little acknowledgement as yet of a global context for learning. This review has been set up to make proposals to DCSF about the next primary curriculum.

The wide-ranging Primary Review led by Professor Robin Alexander has raised many substantive questions about what is happening in primary education as a whole, including the impact of global change on young learners and the need for professional development time for teachers.

For a presentation by John Crookes from the Secretariat of the Primary Curriculum Review at the November conference, click here.

It's Final Report was published in April 2009. For Tide's response click here.

The Primary Curriculum Review published its Interim Report in January 2008. For Tide~'s response click here.

4. Events acknowledgements and onward links


Useful Tide~ Talk articles include:

Supporting papers on this website:

Key policy documents supporting global learning in primary schools

Key Tide~ resources:

Tide~ teacher groups have produced many resources which support work on global learning in primary schools.

The following resources have particular relevance to this article:

If you would like to know about new work which is taking these ideas forward, please contact us