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

8 things to think about when delivering a curriculum

Last month, the School Improvement Advisor visited the school to give us feedback and support on our curriculum.

There was some useful feedback on things we are doing well and things we could improve on.  All of which could be quite useful.

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  1. Quality of interactions – Make sure these are supporting and moving children on.  Gone are the days where we can mark our books and just let the class get on with it. (Thank goodness!)
  2. Coverage is more about progression and depth nowadays.
  3. Make sure that your school has a curriculum intent otherwise your curriculum can be a mess of initiatives that no one has really got a handle on.
  4. Sharpen your learning intentions. This will ensure that children know what they are learning, teachers know what to assess against and evidence of this will be much clearer.
  5. Have a range of evidence. It doesn’t all have to be writing.  Include photos, quotes, observations, drawings, labelling, mindmaps, learning.
  6. Talk to each other.  As a team, it is important to come together in creating the curriculum.  The most recent staff meeting we had gave teachers that opportunity to talk and bounce ideas off of each other.
  7. Improve subject leadership.  It’s one way where we can all lead the curriculum.  It shouldn’t be one person’s job if we want all involved in creating the best!
  8. See other schools – what a way to grab the best ideas from all places.

Theme based learning UKS2 – Where does it fit in with the curriculum?

Key Stage 2 have had a fantastic term with lots of interesting learning going on. Despite the crazy Christmas term, a lot has happened.

Year 5

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The geography curriculum was covered by Year 5 during their Pharaohs topic.

Geographical skills and fieldwork

  • use maps, atlases, globes and digital/computer mapping to locate countries and describe features studied

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We have found that geography can be quite a difficult subject to teach across the school due to making sure there is progression. Finding countries on a map is something that a Year 3 or 4 child could do so it is important to be showing that we are moving children on…  Think about how this could link into another area of learning.

Year 6

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The topic all worked around TASC.  Children were given the task of creating a David Attenborough style video to show to parents.  All their science and geography learning built up to this super moment.

Geography

Human and physical geography

  • describe and understand key aspects of physical geography, including: climate zones, biomes and vegetation belts, rivers, mountains, volcanoes and earthquakes, and the water cycle

Geographical skills and fieldwork

  • use maps, atlases, globes and digital/computer mapping to locate countries and describe features studied
  • use fieldwork to observe, measure, record and present the human and physical features in the local area using a range of methods, including sketch maps, plans and graphs, and digital technologies.

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Even children are using their learning to complete something that they were interested in, away from school.

Science – Living things and their habitats

  • describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including microorganisms, plants and animals
  • give reasons for classifying plants and animals based on specific characteristics.

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