Communities

Places people want

ASCWith funding from the Academy for Sustainable Communities (now the Skills and Knowledge team of the Housing and Communities Agency), Angus Willson was leader of a GA Living Geography project with teachers looking at aspects of settlement.

This project has now been completed (2006-2008).

For the project site see www.geography.org.uk/projects/buildingsustainablecommunities [opens in a new window]

It also produced a chapter in the book Living Geography. Read more >

The project was also run in collaboration with local architecture centres which are members of the Architecture Network.

Living Geography: building sustainable communities

In July 2006 the Geographical Association project started based on the recommendations of a critical review:
Knowledge, understanding and skills for building sustainable communities: a critical review of geography in secondary schools
Angus Willson, Geographical Association
April 2006

The brief

The study of settlements, living space, population distribution and service provision are found in the mainstream of the geography curriculum in secondary schools and colleges. There is some evidence that this knowledge-base at its reduced level has become static or in a delayed response to recent trends. However, there are positive signs in pilot exam specifications and recent projects that this can be rectified. Meanwhile other aspects of the classroom learning context, such as thinking skills and use of geographic information, has been very creative. Upon this basis of educational change, teachers and young people are faced with keeping up with the current geographical dilemmas such as large-scale housing demand in the south-east of England and refurbishment of housing in cities.

Building knowledge and understanding is sound preparation for present and future engagement with and in sustainable communities. There is also recognition that the geography classroom and fieldwork provides the context for the development of both generic and specific skills as identified by the Egan Review and ASC. The issues and solutions explored in geography are multi-sectoral, perhaps the subject is alone in representing the work of such a diverse range of professions. Also schools now place more emphasis on student participation in the school and the wider community.

Two dynamic contexts are under the remit of this review and the main purpose is to clarify the areas of convergence and departure. It seeks to understand the mutuality between the two contexts of ASC and school geography and to explore how further collaboration can be beneficial.

The literature review will embrace the school constraints and opportunities as presented by the national curriculum, examination specifications, reports and guidance from the Quality and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and OfSTED, and textbooks and other learning resources.

A critical review will be derived from interviews with a select number of teachers and a focus group meeting (with email follow up) including geography academics, geography educators and practitioners in planning, the building industry and architecture. This will include reference to research and journals beyond the usual scope of geography teachers in schools.

The Review will be written by the principal consultant in liaison with the chief executive of the GA. It will form a substantive piece of work in its own right, leading to publication in professional journals. Hopefully, it will also act as a spring board and platform for subsequent work that will have significant national impact. For example,  the focus group could be retained and reconvened to feed forward ‘recommendations’ for, and subsequently guide, a longer-term project which will actively engage teachers and pupils in a process of profession-led action research, leading to curriculum development. This model has proved successful in combining a progressive curriculum agenda with teachers’ professional development. A second phase of this project would concentrate on imaginative dissemination.

The project

It became called ‘Places People Want‘ and consisted of :
* action research conducted by teachers in four working-groups;
* CPD sessions in four locations;
* workshop sessions at the GA Annual Conference;
* a photo-CD and cut-out figures;
* an online CPD unit;
* a chapter in Living Geography;
* A DVD called “Sustainable Communities: Places People Want?” Available from the GA shop > [opens in a new window]

For further details see the GA website at www.geography.org.uk/projects/buildingsustainablecommunities [opens in a new window]

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