Press release: New initiative reveals 'the world's biggest teaching resource'

By the Engaging Places team | 02 February 2009
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Photo of students sitting on floorboards, constructing paper building models

Highbury Grove School students on a How Places Work project at the Royal Opera House © Michele Turriani

A new initiative launched on 14 January 2009 will help every school exploit the ‘world’s biggest teaching resource’. Engaging Places will champion teaching and learning through the whole built environment, from grand historic buildings to the streets and neighbourhoods where we live.

It includes the launch of a major new online teaching resource, This will be the most comprehensive guide ever created to help schools teach by using the buildings and places around them.

Research has shown that teachers view buildings and spaces as an important educational resource, and want better access, information and support to exploit it (see Editor’s note). Contrary to previous assumptions, cost and health and safety were not the major barriers: instead, the key issues for teachers were explicit curriculum links and much stronger promotion of this approach to teaching and learning.

Andy Burnham MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said:
‘Engaging Places champions a fresh and practical way to teach. It will inspire young people to think critically about the places where they live and learn, and reveal how using the built environment can make learning any subject creative, surprising and relevant.’

Schools will be able to use Engaging Places to:

  • access a nationwide directory of organisations and venues, including architecture centres, museums and historic buildings
  • search for high quality resources and materials by curriculum theme or whole school issues
  • access case studies from fellow teachers.

Engaging Places has been funded by the Government and is managed by CABE and English Heritage. It has been designed to help deliver the new Key Stage 3 curriculum, and support initiatives including ‘Learning outside the classroom’.

Matt Bell, Director of campaigns and education for CABE, commented:
‘For a long time, built environment education has felt like a niche interest for schools, confined to a few traditional subjects. This is about stripping away the jargon, helping schools understand how it connects across the curriculum, and making it an everyday part of how teachers teach.’

Tina Corri, Head of Education at English Heritage, said:
‘Buildings and places can be used to explore anything and everything from how the past has shaped the way we live today, to how different events, societies and influences are shaping our future environment.’


Editor’s notes:

  • ‘Engaging Places: teacher research’ was commissioned by DCMS in 2007 from the National Foundation for Educational Research and researched views towards using buildings and places to support learning across the curriculum.
  • CABE is the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. As a public body, we encourage policymakers to create places that work for people. We help local planners apply national design policy and offer expert advice to developers and architects. We show public sector clients how to commission buildings that meet the needs of their users. And we seek to inspire the public to demand more from their buildings and spaces. Advising, influencing and inspiring, we work to create well-designed, welcoming places.
  • English Heritage is the Government’s lead advisory body for the historic environment and has a statutory role in the planning system. It gives advice to local authorities and other professionals on work that involves listed buildings or conservation areas. It also provides an extensive education programme, opening up its properties to schools for visits and providing educational resources.
  • The Engaging Places website is built using the Culture24 publishing system and is powered by its database of UK cultural organisations, events, resources and exhibitions. Culture24 are non-profit online cultural publishers funded by MLA, Arts Council and DCSF.
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