Increasing awareness of the profession in the classroom

Future project aims to inspire students to become planners, write Gavin Parker and Holly Mclaren.

There has been significant effort, largely through the Royal Town Planning Institute's regions and nations, to develop educational materials and workshops for schools, with the aim of increasing awareness of spatial planning and signalling planning as a worthwhile career choice.

Planning Aid, RTPI Ireland and the South West and North East regions of England, among others, have been active in this way. Given that 2014 marks the centenary of the RTPI, an effort to set up a nationwide project to drive these efforts is being prepared for a formal launch in the 2013/14 academic year.

The aims of the Planning for the Future project are to raise awareness and interest in what planning involves and in planning as a career. The project will be directed at 11- to 18-year-old students, schools career advisers and teachers in relevant subject areas, such as geography and citizenship.

Given the importance of such outreach work, and the level of enthusiasm across the institute for working with schools, the project offers an opportunity to review, consolidate and refresh this work into a clearly defined and shared project, drawing on the best of what has been developed in the past and new ideas and styles of engaging students to learn about planning. This will provide a great chance for volunteers and RTPI staff to put something back into the community.

The aspiration is to develop the project in two phases. The first will centre on an Ambassadors for Planning initiative championed by RTPI regions and nations. Members of the institute, appointed as planning ambassadors, will go into schools to engage pupils in different aspects of planning and to promote planning generally and as a stimulating and rewarding career. Ambassadors will be given a range of resources developed by the institute to support their visits.

The second phase of the project will focus on developing materials for school teachers to use in the classroom. It will involve producing case study-led resources for both classroom and fieldwork activities that address a range of planning-related topics. The resources will be mapped against relevant curriculums and, where possible, will be made available for download from the RTPI website.

Further information about this initiative will be available soon, with the key steps and timetable for the project being finalised this autumn. To make this work, we will be looking for support from the nations and regions. Watch this space!

Professor Gavin Parker is director of professional standards and Dr Holly McLaren, who is leading the Planning for the Future project, is education officer at the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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