Curriculum United!

In Term 6, the teachers at school all worked together to create a new curriculum overview. This united us as a team and got us creating a curriculum that united us as a school.

This was not easy because the National Curriculum had to be shared out to ensure that there was complete coverage.  There are pros and cons to starting a fresh.

Pros:

  • Creating a curriculum that matches our intent, our values and our vision
  • Teachers can plan for what they enjoy.
  • Plan for the children
  • Make cross curricular links
  • Organising hooks early
  • Place the learning into context
  • Resource early on
  • Take on the changes within the local area
  • Link to national and international events (Olympics)
  • Talking to each other to find out strengths and what/who we know
  • Thinking about it with fresh eyes in terms of SMSC and BV

Cons:

  • Coverage for those children who have already been through Year 1, 3, 4, and 5 may be repeated again.
  • It’s easier to do what we know
  • Reliance in topics or learning known due to own subject knowledge
  • Sharing out the National Curriculum (it was much easier in KS1 than it was in KS2)
  • Linking subjects
  • Time

We managed it though.  The next step though was to get teaching staff to think about each piece of learning as part of a learning journey.  There needed to be a context and a reason so it was real life.

We looked at giving children big questions within the term to give children an area to work towards.  Children can work towards building the skills to answer these and you’ll find that all children can get involved. In Year 1, a child finding out ‘Which flowers are fit for a queen?’ will use a range of learning areas with some children learning from research, some children learning from being read to, some children going to the park with their family.  All of these experiences can then come together to create a wide range of fun and interesting outcomes.

Then there are topics which engage children through taking on professions.  It’s good if you can get a parent in that can share more.  In Year 2, children are bakers, advertisers, dancers, musicians, critics, event planners, engineers and film directors. Think how fun children find the concept of Kidzania.  We are giving children a little bit of that!

Implementing a 21st century curriculum

There are many schools that are still behind in their curriculum development. Unfortunately, it has been seen that

  • some subjects not taught well,
  • curriculum intent still needs to be implemented
  • focus on curriculum is narrow
  • there is no accountability
  • the strategies used in planning and delivery is pre-2014 National Curriculum.

There are also schools that have a good curriculum where teachers have good subject knowledge and there are good checking systems. These are the schools we need to learn from.

My next step into curriculum development is to develop subject leaders in leading their subject so that we can ensure that all subjects are implemented well, teachers have good subject knowledge and there are good checking systems.

The following video shows Heather Fearn talking about what we need to think about in implementing our curriculum intent.

In creating a curriculum that moves into the 21st century and develops subject leaders’ knowledge we need to think about:

  • What is taught?
  • How it is taught?
  • Assessment

Bringing the school together on the curriculum intent

A lot of work has gone into the curriculum and supporting staff in understanding and implementing our school intent.

In Term 4, I carried out a staff meeting to support subject leaders and teachers with delivering the curriculum.

Sharing the indicators

I started with giving staff members the indicators for intent, implementation and impact. The sorted them into what we are doing, what we are beginning to do and what we need to improve. This was something that we did as an SLT team but it was interesting seeing it from the point of view of teachers and subject leaders.

Sharing the curriculum intent

Sharing the intent is key to get everyone reading from the same page. There are aspects of it that some teachers may not understand so we discussed the Characteristics of Effective Learning.

Teachers needed to see what this entailed and more importantly, that we already do most of this. By using a record grid to record how we use this, teachers really got to see where we were doing well and what needed to be done next.

This was a really useful activity and really got us together in the view of our intent.

Looking at curriculum intent

This week the leadership team at my school will be discussing the intent of the curriculum ready for the new OFSTED framework. We already have an idea of what we are providing for our children but now we need to make that vision more succinct.

Starting the meeting with a discussion on the list of curriculum indicators will also give us a good start. Here we need to discuss the clear rationale for curriculum design. This is an important part of the job as you can then go to others and think of how to implement the ideas. There are many people out there with lots of great ideas so use them.


A rationale need to be clear and coherent setting reasons to why we are providing what we are providing for our children within the curriculum. When discussing this area of our intent, I will be looking at the areas of an outstanding curriculum that I shared on my first post.


Look at these areas and how you want these to look in your curriculum and then you can work on how to implement them. In order to do this, it is a good idea for Senior Leaders to decide what is working well, what needs to change and what can go. Getting staff and other stakeholders involved can also be extremely beneficial.

Number 1C of the curriculum indicators states that we have to be clear on the important concepts related to curriculum design such as knowledge progression and sequencing the concept. A curriculum overview and progression of skills will ensure that progression and a clear sequence is in place. There are many ideas on the internet and schemes which include these so that you don’t have to do all the hard work. However, you do need to think about how all children are going to make progress within your curriculum.

How are you going to include children with SEN needs?

How are you going to engage boys?

How will you keep children who have emotional needs focused?

How will you inspire disadvantaged children that they can do well?

Making your curriculum ambitious can be difficult when focus has been primarily on data but this is a good change. Coming away from this mindset can help with English and maths outcomes if you get it right. Developing learning behaviour can help get children on the right track and then providing deeper learning experiences can give children the scope to challenge themselves, as well as us. That’s ambition from two corners!

I have found that open activities or projects not only gives children the opportunity to the challenge themselves but also decreases work load on teachers. Children have the opportunity to work out problems and develop their skills while teachers can facilitate challenge and support.

I have seen some great examples of this:

Design a Saxon village, making sure that you can get to everything that you need. (Year 4)

Create an advert to sell a Victorian invention and persuade the teacher to buy it. (year 6)

Make an advert on road safety. (Year 2)

2B looks curriculum principles and there is a create article on this here: https://cornerstoneseducation.co.uk/curriculum-principles-important/

Values in a school are so important and these can give school’s a clear idea on what they want children to become. Think about these values and how you are going to deliver these, along with where your school is, the kind of children you have and what you really believe in. Just like Early Years leaders believing that child led learning helps children’s development. They and other practitioners have made this happen! If our ideas really work for your children and become embedded within the curriculum then it gives them the best chance of succeeding.

English and maths are also mentioned in these areas. This is impportant to. As Curriculum Leader, with colleagues who have roles for leading and maths and English, it is easy to let them get but it is important that the core and foundation subjects merge together. So many people see English and maths as a reason to push out the rest but they should all work together. It’s great to see that these are not seen as separate entities.

And that’s what I have concluded for the meeting. Hopefully it goes well and we can then all be clear on what we are providing for our children.

“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” 

“A lack of clarity could put the brakes on any journey to success.” 

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


Phase 3 findings- indicators and judgements

During the Phase 3 Curriculum research, inspectors used 25 indicators that they expected to see associated with curriculum quality.

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As all schools are different, it is only fair that what is seen could be so varied so the indicators below are to ensure that what is seen is judged on based on the individual school.

They wanted to ensure that

  different school contexts were not judged the same

  effective and ineffective curriculum design could be distinguished

 curriculum narrowing is happening is identified

 curriculum intent  and curriculum implementation are clear from the senior leadership team.

The list is split into three parts – pink for intent, green for implementation and blue for impact. All of which I will look at in due time but it may be worth a quick look before hand.

Each of the indicators will be judged against the following five categories:

judgements

The 1-5 categories were put into place to prevent an inspector’s unconscious bias.  This is the beginning and all schools are taking a different approach, therefore it is important that we are all treated the same.

It is clear that the indicators and the five point judgements are rather  lengthy but for the time being, this is necessary as we find out what is easy to evidence and what is more relevant.  As more research is completed there may be evidence to allow for these to be refined or narrowed.  This may be irritating to some as teachers, in general like to do a good job and know that what we are doing is right but that still can be done.  In fact it is better.

At least for now, there is some chance of having an idea of what may be expected so that we can put things into place, while still keeping children at the heart!

Shaping your curriculum – Phase 3 findings

After reading the Phase 3 findings of curriculum research, some things may be important to highlight and even if you don’t fancy reading it all, http://www.blackboardonline.co.uk can give the main points.

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Here are factors that appear related to curriculum quality from the research and other leaders, and may be worth a look.

  1. the importance of mapping subjects as individual disciplines thereby focusing on subject disciplines even when topics are taught
  2. using the curriculum to address disadvantage and provide equality of opportunity, while addressing gaps in pupils’ background.
  3. considering the local context
  4. seeing the curriculum as the progression model
  5. considering depth and breadth of curriculum content
  6. having a clear purpose for assessment which informs curriculum design
  7. revisiting and recalling previously learned knowledge ‘baked into’ the curriculum planning
  8.  regular reviewing and evaluating of curriculum design
  9. distributed curriculum leadership and ownership