How to achieve a world class curriculum- where to start.

When it is unclear on where to start on curriculum design, the diagram below is extremely helpful.  I used this at the beginning of my journey, looking at what we had and what was important in establishing our curriculum.

effective chracteristics of learning

Each part gives you something to think about and acts as a tick sheet to what makes a world class curriculum.

  • The individual children, making sure that every single child’s needs are met.
  • The characteristics of effective learning, ensuring that all children are engaged, motivated and thinking.
  • The duties of your school that affects the curriculum and, in turn, the curriculum affects.
  • Embedding skills for school and later life.
  • Inclusion, safeguarding and equality are all intertwined within this diagram. Even though they are not shown, it is important to keep this clear in our minds.

Curriculum Design – Strengths, targets and barriers

When thinking about your school’s curriculum you need to question….

‘Is your curriculum world class, unique and individual to the context of your school, whilst meeting the needs of all your current pupils?’

With this question in mind, draw a heart and inside place what is going well.  What it is that makes your curriculum meet the needs of all current pupils?  What makes it world class, unique and individual to your school?

heart

Looking at the curriculum linked to your current pupils works for any schools.  When I attended the course where we were asked to complete this task, it was interesting what provision special schools were giving their children.  There are no limits to what we can do with our children.

targets

Next look at how you would want to improve your curriculum.  This can come from things that you have seen while:

  • On courses
  • Reviewing your current curriculum (with teachers, leaders, children, parents, support staff),
  • School monitoring,
  • Creating key issues from the school development plan,
  • Investigating children or adult experience and expertise.

There are so many ways to get us in to an even better position.

barriers

The next part really interested me because we were thinking about it before it happened – the barriers.  Now as well as problems, we can think of solutions before many of them occur.

problem

I did this in January 2018 and this is how it looked.

curriculum

Luckily I had recently carried out pupil voice, reviewed my action plan and completed a book look so I had some ideas to joint down.  However, I used all of those pieces of paper to tell me what to do next instead of looking at this.  Also looking back at it now… there are some questionable strengths which would now be a target.

Now this is something that I would do on a regular basis with all stakeholders within the school to review the curriculum and look at where we can go next. It’s easy, quick and doesn’t involve filling in a form.  Children can complete and I’m sure staff would enjoy the felt tip pens as well.

Curriculum and the new education inspection framework

curriculum

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.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/hmci-commentary-curriculum-and-the-new-education-inspection-framework

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.

Back in time…

I started at my new school with a lead on Key Stage One and the Arts, part of the curriculum that many people ignored.  I did my best to lead on this because I see the benefits, the excitement and the joy that we give children when teaching this and other foundation subjects.  However, twelve months into my role, there was a whole lot of upheaval.  Taken over by an academy trust, which had a leadership model that they had used in their other schools, I was not sure my role played a huge part in that.

One SLT meeting, I remember the Executive Headteacher going around the table of our SLT and looking at each and every one of us, “you’ll lead maths, you’ll lead English, you’ll lead early year, you’ll lead SEN and you… well I don’t know Carla.  Key Stage One?”  My heart sank. I didn’t take on the role of Assistant Head teacher to just do the job I did three years previously.  Maybe I should have accepted it.  I was paid more for the privilege.

My reaction (my face does not hide anything and neither does the thick sarcasm) showed I was not happy.   I love teaching, I love providing experiences for all children that are engaging and give them the skills for life.  If I was not able to share this enthusiasm for my vocation, then there was little point in me taking on the role.

The Executive Headteacher saw this in me and mentioned leading Curriculum.  I had led the arts, English and humanties throughout my career.  I had led on foundation subject assessment and supported the curriculum leader at my last school to ensure that it was linked to English as much as possible.   I loved the idea of being Curriculum lead but it wasn’t going to be easy…  No one cares about the foundation subjects.  It’s all about the English and Maths, end of key stage SATs, attainment and progress, surely?  But wow, am I grateful of the opportunity that I have been given.