Heritage education contributes powerfully to civic awareness and our sense of place

An important aspect of the heritage sector is its role in defining local identity and reinforcing a sense of place. Sites of historical interest, collections and archives provide us with material evidence of how our locality has developed over time and give us insight into the events, personalities and historical processes that have formed its character. These windows on the past enhance our own sense of rootedness and belonging.

Recent initiatives such as the Royal Society of Arts’ Area-based Curriculum and the Heritage Schools programme run by English Heritage/Historic England have developed curriculum models that promote civic awareness and a sense of place. Some cities and regions have even introduced their own ‘place-based’ curriculum.

One of the most successful is in Hull, where local schools commissioned the heritage learning service to create a curriculum for their pupils, based on close consultation with local teachers about which personalities, events and objects to feature. The outcome is a bespoke curriculum, delivered across many different sites, that speaks directly but not uncritically to local people’s pride in the city’s history.

“Gives [pupils] an understanding of how things change over time and why. It’s important in deprived areas where they need to have aspirations; it sounds dramatic but I do think it has given them an aspiration for the future; things change, you can change, you are not defined by your area.”

Teacher in Manchester (commenting on Heritage Schools programme)

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