The new Primary curriculum looks like a great step forward but it’s also a potential bear trap. The more thematic, cross-curricular, skills development approach suits museum and gallery collections down to the ground. It’s exactly what many of us have been advocating and programming for years, so it would be easy for us to fall into complacency; marketing ourselves as the cavalry riding to the rescue of the hapless formal education sector.
If we did take the bait, I wouldn’t blame schools for sticking two fingers up at museums and galleries. Our involvement with MAGPIE (Museums and Galleries Partnership in Education) in Manchester has taught me that teachers have improved their practice hugely in the past few years, despite the restrictions the curriculum has imposed, and we have a lot to learn from them.
The new curriculum offers the chance for us to work together from the beginning to develop programmes and resources that truly combine the best of both worlds, but I believe it has to happen slowly and on the ground. Of course we need the politicians in MLA to lobby government and persuade educational strategists that the cultural sector should be factored into planning, but while we’re waiting we can lay the foundations for more integrated working.
Many schools will just want to get on with learning and delivering the new curriculum – the last thing they’ll want is museums and galleries knocking on their doors offering to show them how to do it. But most of us already have strong relationships with particular teachers who trust us, know we can deliver and share our commitment to collaboration. These are the people who will be ready to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.