Having the role of Curriculum Lead means that I need to keep up to date with current affairs. There is a lot of talk going on about the curriculum in terms of how it will be inspected by Ofsted. On 18th September, research findings were released about exactly this and what Ofsted could be looking at when they come to inspect schools. It is not only a useful document for school leaders but also subject leaders and teachers, as we are all keen to know where to go next and how to improve experiences for our children.
We need our teachers and leaders to think deeply about what we want our children to learn and how to teach it. This is not always easy because there are so many different forms the curriculum can take on. The research states three types of curriculum- a knowledge-led approach, knowledge-engaged approach and a skills-led approach. Not every leader is entirely sure what their curriculum is and I must have to admit, until now, I had also been blind sighted. Leaders and teachers need to be clear of this. What do they want for their children? What is best for their school? What are their teachers fully engaged with implementing?
I have never been one for a knowledge-led curriculum as our children are not all going to end up appearing on ‘The Chase’ or ‘Eggheads’ however, children need some knowledge in order to use the skills needed to go out into the wider world. Only today I was teaching programming but what use is programming if children do not know what an algorithm is?
The knowledge-engaged approach uses knowledge to enable to application of skills. There are some schools that place more value on the type of skills we could teach children. This makes me worry but only because I wonder if the progression of skills I have created actually teaches them the right skills. I use Bloom’s Taxonomy as a side part to our curriculum but what if I need to use this theory more explicitly to get real value out of it. I may have to rewrite the whole of my curriculum.
I have some time though and that is my solace. My curriculum has been a year in the making and we have come so far from what it was before and there is still another year before the new framework comes into fruition. So what can we all do this year to prepare?
Children need to have access to the whole curriculum. I know the importance to schools that they do well in end of key stage assessments but the curriculum needs to support these not hinder them. We need to find a way in which the two go hand in hand. After visiting a local secondary school for my son, I realise that secondary schools are starting to see it in this way. Their job is to get children work ready but I think we all have to admit that teaching to a test is not the only thing needed to get children through life.
Schools need to know their curriculum intent. It needs to match the beliefs and values of the school and everyone; teachers, children, parents and stakeholders need to understand the intent of the curriculum. It is part of creating a community and with everyone understanding the intent, it is clear what we are all trying to achieve. Working together is best for everyone.
Reasoning within the curriculum has been pushed hard in subjects such as maths and there is so much guidance to support schools with this. However, in foundation subjects it is not so clear. Sending my subject leaders off to find out what mastery looked like in the curriculum was a difficult task. However, the fantastic professionals I work with were able to discover ways that children could reason within their subjects. A step in the right direction!
Successful curriculum design is paramount. We started off with using Cornerstones, a fantastic curriculum that engages children, develops them and allows them to use the knowledge and skills learned in a range of different contexts. Not all of it matched our needs though so we slightly changed the curriculum design. This was through another important aspect – regular curriculum review and renewal. Since starting my role as curriculum leader, the staff and I have made many changes due to reviewing our curriculum as we went. We are now in a place where hopefully we no longer need to add anything new to our curriculum but we can renew aspects of it.
At the beginning of my journey, I looked at the progression of skills, linked to the National Curriculum and later on, Bloom’s Taxonomy. A clear progression model has been extremely useful in supporting teachers in knowing what to teach children and how to develop them further so that they are getting breadth and depth of learning. From this assessment, which was non-existent, is beginning to take shape. We need thoughtfully designed assessment so that we can address gaps and continue our journey to inform and improve on future curriculum design.
Curriculum will have greater coverage in the new Ofsted Framework and I am glad of this. It is our job to develop well rounded individuals who are not held back due to their lack of interest and ability in reading, writing and maths. These are important, yes, but other areas of the curriculum running alongside these skills make for a much more interesting world.