March 23, 2023

Context Matters

How a local context in your curriculum provides a window to the world.

We all know that a well sequenced, ambitious curriculum is key to a good quality of education. It should be a narrative, with children knowing little at the beginning and knowing a lot more by the end. But how can we make it more meaningful to children, allowing them to make sense of the world? The answer is in your local context.

What is local?

Local can mean your village, your region, your county; it is unique to your school. Whatever it is, children should be able to identify it and see themselves as a part of it so they can build a sense of relevance and belonging.


A sense of belonging

Local contexts and histories are a fundamental way of making meaning to learning and embedding it into the school curriculum.

Diagram concept courtesy of Historic England

Your local natural and built environment and its heritage, contribute to who your children are and therefore will influence how and what you want them to learn in order to prepare them for later life.

Local history and context provide relevance and a sense of belonging. It celebrates diversity, enabling children to identify with people and places. Talking about places and people that the children know is an easy way to engage them.

Your local context can provide a golden thread through your curriculum. Have you considered the unique heritage of your pupils? It hooks children in and creates greater opportunities for learning outside of the classroom that become memorable. It creates motivation and therefore positive behaviours for learning. It boosts self-confidence as children begin to identify themselves in relation to their context. For example, with an understanding of “place”, starting in EYFS.


How does that then develop an understanding of the wider world?

Starting off locally and then developing wider, children will be able to identify commonalities, where experiences are the same, but also then understand differences. For example, by looking at pictures of a local street in the 1950s, they will immediately notice the changes through time and have an understanding of how things have changed on a wider or global scale. The Historical society describes local context as providing “Little stories to illuminate the big picture”.

Little Stories to illuminate the Big Picture.

How will it be easier to plan and support?

Adapting the curriculum is not always easy, but it does allow us to have the freedom of looking at it with different lenses. With local context comes local expertise and rich experiences for the children. Research, resources and expertise to support subject knowledge is easier to find with local providers. And it’s not just about history, the local context can inform all areas of the curriculum from Geography to PSHE and PE.

Thinking about introducing the local context into your curriculum?

Here are 4 simple examples:

Ruth McGlone – Principal Consultant

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