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    Local learning - what's on your doorstep?

    A couple of years ago I took a year out from the classroom to take on the role of education officer in my local county museum. Part of my new job description was to increase the number of school visits over the course of the year so the first thing I had to do was take a look at the number of school bookings over the previous few years. The numbers looked okay, but not great. Which led me to wonder: why are teachers from schools across the county not clamouring to visit this fantastic resource? 

    I spent a lot of time talking to local teachers about the museum's educational offer. I was truly astonished to find that a great many of them a) didn't know that the museum existed, b) were aware that there was a county museum but had no idea what it could offer their school or c) knew about the museum but felt that it would be too costly to take their class on a trip there, mainly because of the rising transport costs.

    When I returned to the classroom a year later, my colleagues and I spent an entire staff meeting trying to find places to visit or people to invite into school to support and enrich our current topic, 'Art for Arts' Sake'. We knew there must be local artists, musicians and actors who would be happy to come into school to lead workshops, and there had to be galleries or museums that could put together an art-based session for us - but we really struggled. 

    So I realised that there was a real problem: there are local organisations and local talented individuals offering fantastic learning opportunities, but, for a variety of reasons, they are simply not connecting with the schools in their areas. And teachers are scrabbling around trying to find good curriculum enrichment opportunities but they have so little time to do the research, they either book the same old trips every year or they just don't bother.

    Out of this realisation, the School Visits Network (formerly Kuloko) was born. I knew that if we could create a network of people, places and organisations that could offer valuable learning opportunities to schools, then vibrant learning communities could be established.  Local areas would benefit because children would be given opportunities to learn about and from their locality, thus they would up with an understanding of and respect for where they live. 

    So when you start thinking about school trips for next term (and I hope you will take your children for days out - but that's a subject for another blog!) or when you want to book an outreach session for next term's topic, look at what's on your doorstep. Don't be afraid to contact people and ask for help (residents from my local care home recently came into school to talk about their WW2 experiences - it was fantastic!). Think local, think School Visits Network.

    And if you run an organisation that has something to offer schools, or are one of those talented individuals I've been writing about, please do join the School Visits Network. Together we can create wonderful communities of local learners.

    What we do

    School Visits Network provides resources, training, news and support to organisations, businesses and individuals who offer learning opportunities, helping them to collaborate, network, share good practice and keep up to date to ensure high quality learning experiences.

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