'Wiggo and the Peloton' applied to Cultural Education

13 February 2013

Here are a few thoughts inspired by Sandra Standcliffe, head of education and interpretation at English Heritage, who spoke at the GEM/AND Conference: Forging New Agendas.

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(Image credits: Getty images via The Telegraph website)

She invoked the dynamics of flying in formation and applied it to cultural education. Geese gain 71% efficiency through flying in formation and this is the principle that informs the way Bradley Wiggins and his team-mates rotated leadership and saved energy by slipstreaming in the Peloton (the pack in a cycle road race).

Sandra applied this reference as to how schools might work together to lead their own delivery of cultural education and travel at speed in the right direction. She made a number of assertions that stuck in my mind.

1. Ofsted have never failed a school on their inability to deliver the statutory requirement of the curriculum.
2. Academies make up their own curricula.
3. Schools often plan their curriculum in a senior management bunker.

She implied there were opportunities to work in partnership with Heritage organisations to help shape and deliver different aspects of the curricula to make the statutory curricula relevant and place-based. She quoted what one young person had said "to know who you are, you have to have a place to come from." And another young person who had been so inspired by a heritage project that they wanted to do more, "I wanted to go higher up the stairs, but it was a different topic."

What struck me was that much of what Sandra said about the opportunities of schools working in partnership with Heritage organisations can be applied to schools working with Arts organisations.

Cultural education is Arts and Heritage (and libraries, museums and film) and there is much communality. Art is the passing on of knowledge, art learns from the past in order to look to the future. Heritage and arts projects are a real opportunity for collaboration and travelling in formation, particularly because the Heritage Lottery Fund has £400million to distribute each year until 2018, more than double it has distributed in previous years.