School-led reforms to improve levels of engagement and interest

Schools across England are involved in initiatives to improve levels of pupil interest and engagement by modifying what they teach to better reflect the demographic makeup, background and concerns of the local communities they serve.

For example, according to an article in The Guardian on 27 March, more than 660 schools have signed up to a diverse and anti-racist curriculum developed by teachers and council staff in Hackney. The Diverse Curriculum – the Black Contribution “provides pupils aged five to 14 with nine weeks of lessons on subjects including the Windrush generation, activism, British identity, and diversity in the arts and science.”

The article makes clear that individuals and organisations have been taking the initiative in undertaking curriculum reform: “In the absence of government-led change to the National Curriculum, grassroots groups have offered schemes to help schools improve.”

Click here to read the Guardian’s report in full.

Orlene Badu, a former primary school headteacher who led the development of the project, said:

“A curriculum that references you does engender a stronger sense of belonging and commitment, which would hopefully lead to improved educational outcomes and lived experiences.”

Meanwhile, The Black Curriculum is an organisation that campaigns for the systematic teaching of black history not just through the subject of history itself but also through a properly diversified curriculum:

Our curriculum is grounded in the arts for young people to engage with history imaginatively, encouraging student satisfaction and critical thinking skills. Through our holistic approach, we aim to remedy a wider systemic issue.

from the website of The Black Curriculum

You can find their report The Black Curriculum Report 2021: Black British History in the National Curriculum in the Documents area of this website.

The Guardian article also highlights the work of Claire Alexander, a professor of sociology at the University of Manchester, who set up the Our Migration Story website. She said:

What we have found in all the schools we work with — in Cardiff, Leicester, Sheffield, London and Manchester — is that taking a different approach to history can engage all young people, no matter what their background is. It does provide a sense of shared belonging and understanding.

Professor Claire Alexander, founder of the Our Migration Story website

Life-based learning was first developed as a response to weaknesses in the National Curriculum. Too many children are currently switched off learning as they struggle to see its relevance.

A life-based approach will improve children’s motivation to learn. Community is one of nine learning themes that are at the core of the life-based learning vision for primary education.

In a recent post we argued that history is a great way to develop children’s sense of community:

“Through the study of local history, children learn about things that have made their community what it is — the events that shaped it, the movements of people in to and out of the community, and the development of work and leisure opportunities and features of interest in the area over the decades and centuries. Through national history, meanwhile, children explore national and international events that shaped the community, particularly times when people have pulled together in the face of adversity.”

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