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What is a local curriculum?

Here we review what the term Local curriculum means and consider the opportunities for culture and heritage organisations to enrich it.
Rainbow coloured pedestrian crossing on Dixon Street in Wellington

In this step we review what is meant by the term Local Curriculum and consider what the opportunities there are for culture and heritage organisations to enrich it.

What is a local curriculum?

When you first come across the term ‘local curriculum’ you might initially think it means a curriculum built around a particular locality. Location is an important element of a local curriculum, but it is only part of it. A local curriculum is intended to encompass all of the priorities, needs and interests of a whole school community, which may or may not entirely relate directly to the local area where the school is positioned.

While the government provides nationally significant curriculum frameworks, it is each school’s responsibility to develop their own way of bringing the national curriculum to life by weaving it into their own local curriculum. They are encouraged to do this planning and development in association with the principal, teachers and board of trustees, taking into account the views of whānau | families and their wider school and local community.

This autonomy is intended to give schools the ability to design a curriculum that is both nationally consistent in terms of the principles, values, key competencies and learning areas, but which is also tailored to meet their particular school community needs.

The Ministry of Education encourages schools to be responsive to the unique identity, language, culture, interests, strengths, aspirations and needs of their particular learners and their families. They encourage schools to reflect on how they will integrate Te Tiriti o Waitangi into their curriculum.

How can culture and heritage organisations feature in local curriculum design?

Take a look at this short vimeo clip which illustrates what a local curriculum is and how schools develop them.

The Ministry of Education has developed a range of resources for schools to refer to when developing their Local Curriculum. Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) is a great place to look to find out more. This four minute video graphic How do I develop a Local Curriculum? clearly explains how local curriculum is intended to work.

It states, ‘Making use of the best use of the people, places and resources on your doorstep is integral to local curriculum design. Your community has rich cultural knowledge and expertise, your local environment can be your classroom… you can build learning focused relationships with local businesses and organisations.’ This approach to local curriculum design opens up a great opportunity for culture and heritage organisations to initiate learning partnerships with their local schools and work together to reach learning goals for students.

As a local community culture and heritage organisation consider how you could become a stakeholder in some of your local schools’ consultation processes when they develop and review their local curriculum.

Maybe you would begin with inviting teachers to view the resources at your site?

Maybe you would start by offering to attend a local school planning hui?

Perhaps you would do some research into local curriculum priorities via plans published on websites first, identify where you could help meet learning goals, and then approach local principles for a hui to discuss the potential learning partnerships that could be formed?

The ministry foregrounds some ‘key high impact practices’ for schools to consider when designing their local curriculum. These are described in this infographic. Two of these areas in particular provide an opportunity for culture and heritage settings to focus on when working with schools to enrich their local curriculum – ‘enabling relationships for learning’ and ‘providing rich opportunities for learning’.

Diagram describing high impact practices for local curriculum

This image shows the high impact practices the Ministry encourages schools to incorporate into their local curriculum. Reproduced with permission. Originally published by the Ministry of Education, as on TKI 13 June 2022.

How can culture and heritage organisations enrich a local curriculum?

Building ‘relationships for learning’ with local schools, and providing ‘rich learning opportunities’ to students are two areas where culture and heritage educators are ideally situated to enrich local curriculum. A good place to start is by asking, do any aspects of my culture or heritage site connect with any of my local school community’s identity, language, culture? It might be that you can share expertise around a topic which relates to some of these aspects of a school’s local curriculum. Schools are likely to be seeking access to the people and/or places, objects, artefacts, or taonga Māori, within your culture and heritage organisation that could bring some of these topics to life for their students.

In the ‘Leading Local Curriculum Guide’, Designing rich opportunities and clear learning pathways for all students schools are encouraged to map the full range of their potential local community resources, and identify how they might make use of these. It asks teachers to think about ‘Which topics being taught this term could be enhanced through local connections?’ and goes on to suggest that they ‘Make a database of topics and possible connections and allocate staff to investigate’.

Similarly, as an educator within a culture and heritage organisation you can dedicate time to researching what the local curriculum focus is for the early childhood centres, kura and schools in your region, and investigate ways in which you can connect and enrich learning for them.

What are Kāhui Ako?

Alongside the development of their individual local curriculum, many schools and early learning services are increasingly enjoying the benefits of being part of ‘Kāhui Ako’. In te reo Māori kāhui means cluster and ako means to both teach and learn. Put together they form the term ‘Kāhui Ako’ which are self formed clusters of education providers that aim to work together to build a sense of cohesiveness among them, in order to help their students achieve their full potential as they move from one learning setting to the next.

Kāhui Ako clusters are usually formed around education providers who are naturally connected through their locality or via the learning pathways their students typically follow. Kāhui Ako can bring together early childhood learning services, me ngā kohanga reo, schools, kura and various other learning providers, in a particular area.

One of the benefits of Kāhui Ako is that they work together to identify shared goals and achievement challenges based on the particular needs of their learners. Then they pool their knowledge, facilities and resources, to work together and support each other to achieve their goals, while working in partnership not only with each other but also with their learners, their parents, whānau | families, iwi | tribes and wider communities.

These clusters represent another opportunity for culture and heritage organisations to form learning partnerships with groups of schools in their region. By connecting with your local Kāhui Ako you can seek to identify how you might be able to contribute towards achieving the shared goals the Kāhui Ako have identified for their learners, and work collaboratively alongside them to achieve those goals.

Please share your initial thoughts about the ideas, statements and suggestions about local curriculum and Kāhui Ako in this article in the comments below.

If you are outside Aotearoa, you might like to share how you perceive these concepts to relate to education and curriculum in other countries.

In the next step we discuss how culture and heritage organisations can connect with learning settings to find out about their local curriculum priorities and feature in their local curriculum designs.

Extend your learning! If you would like to find out more about local curriculum and kāhui ako explore the links below.

Watch this webinar about demystifying Local Curriculum by Alison Woolard Learning Manager for Experience Wellington with Sue Clement Principal of Te Aro Primary School in Wellington.

Local Curriculum

Curriculum tool

Kāhui Ako

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Enriching curriculum through culture and heritage in Aotearoa, New Zealand

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