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Curriculum design: Area-based curriculum

Written By: Daryn Egan-Simon
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2 min read
What’s the idea?

The aim of an area-based curriculum is to enhance the educational experiences of young people ‘by creating rich connections with the communities, cities and cultures that surround them and by distributing the education effort across the people, organisations and institutions of a local area.’ (RSA, 2012)

What does it mean?

The idea behind an area-based approach is for schools to work in partnership with their communities – such as businesses, cultural organisations, parents and voluntary groups – to build a curriculum that is localised, contextual, relevant and engaging (Facer and Thomas, 2102; RSA, 2012).

An area-based curriculum explores how the history, geography, culture and people within a localised community can enrich learning experiences in schools (Evans and Savage, 2015). The purpose behind this is to increase children’s understanding of the place they live and embed schools more deeply within their communities. For example, students might learn about their city through visits to local museums (history), walking tours (geography) and school-based workshops from local entrepreneurs (business and enterprise).

According to the RSA (2012) an area-based curriculum should ideally be:

  • about a place: using local resources to build learning
  • by a place: designed by schools and local partners
  • for a place: meeting the needs of the children and the local community.

Schools wishing to develop an area-based curriculum should consider the following steps:

  • reflect on why the local area is important
  • map out the area and look for challenges and opportunities for learning
  • engage with potential partners and open up an honest conversation about the purpose of education
  • scope out opportunities beyond the obvious. Involve as many staff as possible in the process
  • plan the project with partners and include clear timeframes and objectives
  • commit by drawing up a partnership agreement with clear roles, responsibilities and expectations (RSA, 2012).

What are the implications for teachers?

  • Which organisations exist within the community for schools to collaborate with on developing an area-based curriculum?
  • How can schools involve partners fully in the whole process – from the initial idea through to the development and implementation of the area-based curriculum?
  • Short-term, medium-term and long-term planning is key to success in designing and implementing an area-based curriculum. How will this be scheduled and managed?
  • It is important to consider how an area-based curriculum will be evaluated; what measures will be used to determine the success of the curriculum? When and how often will the curriculum be evaluated? Will the evaluation be linked to specific learning outcomes?

Want to know more?

  • Facer K and Thomas L (2012) Towards an area-based curriculum? Creating space for the city in schools. International Journal of Educational Research 55: 16–25.
  • Evans W and Savage J (2015) Developing a Local Curriculum. London: Taylor & Francis.
  • Royal Society of Arts (2012) Thinking about an Area Based Curriculum: A guide for practitioners. London: RSA.
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