• How do we begin exploring big issues for Birmingham for ourselves and with young people?
  • Who do we talk to?
  • How do we start those conversations?
  • How do we get people from very different organisations talking to each other in a constructive way?
  • How do we get people excited about the Cities Project~ creative KS3 curriculum development?

These were the dilemmas we faced when beginning to plan the Cities Project~ creative KS3 curriculum development, and one solution was to hold a gathering of interested people to begin to explore some big issues for Birmingham. This happened on Wednesday 15th October 2009 – a very exciting event.

Following conversations with many people in the city, we chose to frame the seminar around four themes:

These issues are clearly not the only issues for Birmingham, and will not define the focus for the rest of the project, but gave us a good starting point for our discussions.

Four speakers gave a personal reflection on issues as they see them. They took one of the four themes as a starting point, but made connections to all of them giving a holistic view of the issues.

Click to view the presentations:

Darren Wright  Programme Manager: Life expectancy, Birmingham Health & Wellbeing Partnership
Doug Clarke  Water Efficiency Manager: Severn Trent Water
Peter Wright  Development, Planning and Regeneration: Birmingham City Council
Izzy Mohammed  Community Outreach ad Education Officer: Birmingham Archives and Heritage

Following the presentations, participants were asked to consider the implications of the points raised by the speakers for Birmingham and its young people. The feedback included some interesting points:

  • The city is an organism – constantly changing
  • Data about cities is static – is it helpful in discussions about the future?
  • Constant process – a continuum which young people need to know about to understand place
  • What is deprivation? How do we measure it?
  • All the themes are linked
  • All can be connected through looking at heritage
  • Have we become scared of asking questions about people?
  • Is health and wellbeing in Birmingham any better/ worse compared to similar sized cities?
  • Despite the crucial need for people to be involved in planning and managing their cities, at the end of the day the power and influence is held by big business and  politicians
  • How can we involve young people as decision makers?

The next step

The next step in the project is to work with a group of teachers during the rest of the academic year to explore the idea of cities as a focus for creative Key Stage 3 curriculum development. We will be engaging with partners across Birmingham to ask questions about the city, and are looking to reach out to other cities in the UK and further afield to explore commonalities in a range of places.

This is a really exciting project with great potential, and we are all looking forward to watching it grow and develop over the next two years.

Keep an eye on our website for news of the teacher group, online discussions in the Spring Term, and a conference on 24th June to share some of the new ideas.