This morning I met with colleagues from our Cultural Services Department to discuss how we might promote the East Lothian Council’s commitment to:
“Embed Scottish history, culture and heritage throughout school life and make every effort to support Scotland’s languages – both Gaelic and Scots.”
The associated outcome that schools have to work towards is:
“All children and young people will be able to demonstrate an appropriate knowledge of Scottish culture, history and heritage at key stages in their school careers.”
Obviously such an outcome still triggers further questions about what might constitute “appropriate knowledge” and what do we mean by “key stages” but over the next year we will be fleshing this out with the help of staff in schools.
Nevertheless, it does provide a stimulus for schools to begin to try to explore these areas for themselves.
Our discussion this morning focused upon the huge amount of work already going on in schools, which would link, to Scottish culture, history and heritage. The challenge for us is to find a way of tying this together into a coherent set of experiences that will fulfil our desire to give children a robust knowledge of their cultural heritage – without adding yet another layer of the curriculum to schools at a time when we are trying to declutter.
It was during this discussion that I recalled something that one of our quality Improvement Officers had brought back from a study visit to Oslo last year. On her return Valerie Irving had described a wide range of interesting elements of what’s going on in Norwegian education but the item which caught everyone’s imagination was the concept of the “Cultural Rucksack”. This metaphorical construct is used to ensure that children are acquainted with Norwegian Art and Culture and as they go through the education system they collect these experiences and place them in their rucksack.
We wondered this morning of we could establish a Scottish Cultural, History and Heritage “Rucksack” where young people would be entitled to have a number of personal experiences throughout their school career which provided them with a framework upon which they can develop their understanding of their country.
So what might go into such a rucksack? Here are some ideas for starters:
I have visited a Scottish Castle.
I can dance five Scottish dances.
I have attended a Burns Supper.
I can speak some Gaelic.
I have visited a Pictish fort.
I can recite a Scottish poem from memory.
I can cook oatcakes.
I can describe a famous Scottish battle.
I have a favourite Scottish historical character and can tell you all about them.
I can tell you about a former Scottish industry and why it has declined.
These are just a few examples but you can begin to how see we could establish a wider range of learning experiences – in an inter-disciplinary manner – which could help promote a true awareness and appreciation of their country’s culture, history and heritage. The exciting thing about this approach is that it allows schools to make best use of their local environment.
Would it work?