‘Peacing Together the World’ was the name given to the curriculum theme developed by the primary schools of the Pilot Partnership for the second of their three collaborative residentials aimed at Year 3/4. These Birmingham schools developed this theme as a response to a rapid change over just a few years in the cultural diversity of the local area from mainly white working class to fifty or more language groups. With the help of specialist educators the residential became the centre piece of curriculum activity around food, dress, dance and music.
In many ways the residential, a self-catering trip using a local scout camp offering dormitory bunk beds and a safe rural outdoor space, was conventional with challenge, team work and problem solving activities to develop the pupils’ collaborative and problem solving skills.
However, alongside this, dance and music workshops, mask making and ethnic food production all led to a spectacular performance of culturally diverse entertainment around the camp fire in the evening. Like any production, the atmosphere became more and more tense and electric as the time for the performance grew nearer.
The curriculum links were mapped out in advance by teachers from each participating school. This offered all the partner schools a map of the possibilities for developing the theme of the residential as a theme in the classroom before and after the residential itself. The team also developed a central pool of resources for classroom teachers, whether they personally attended the residential or not, to help with curriculum integration. Each school chose a different theme related to the topic that most supported their situation and other curriculum plans.
There is no systematic evidence that the theme had any impact on issues that might have arisen from the rapidly growing cultural diversity. It can be said that there were few actual concerns. Also, in focus groups, teachers were clear that they felt supported by the programme as they developed their practices to respond to the changing situation in each school. For example one school reported that muslim parents were concerned about their children attending the Year 2 residential. However, once their children had attended this Year 4 trip their attitudes shifted and many agreed to attendance provided it took place in Year 3 and not Year 2. This was adopted for the schools concerned and has led to an excellent dialogue between this new group in the community and the school.
Another story from a pupil focus group highlighted the problem that many of the new children attending these schools were being bussed in from other districts of Birmingham where school places are scarse. One Year 4 pupil described how he had been lonely as no one at the school came from his district, but he had made friends on the residential and that his parents had arranged a sleep over for them afterwards. They now play together at school and see each other at weekends and holidays.
Clearly, residentials can help with social integration as well as curriculum integration.