Blog on The Blackboard

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 Curriculum Research – Expectations of Subject Leaders

The Phase 3 Curriculum research stated that inspectors have been collecting information about a  school’s curriculum in a uniform way and this ensured that they were assessing the curriculum in a reliable way.  No school left under fire more than others.

The visit included:

  • Monitoring the quality of at least four subjects. These were not just English and Maths so be prepared.
  • Discussions with subject leaders about the standards of their subjects.

So what do subject leaders need to do?

Triangulating evidence involves taking at least 3 independent approaches to reviewing the variable being studied, for example by using different sources of evidence.   This can be a useful way of improving the quality of the conclusions drawn.

In assessing teaching and learning within your subject, you could carry out the following:

  • Data Analysis
  • Learning walk/Lesson observations
  • Book/work scrutiny
  • Pupil Voice

This is incredibly useful but make sure to get an even bigger picture, look at different groups of children. Also, when monitoring is completed, make a note of your next actions. These can be the next steps and how you use your time next time you have your subject leadership time.

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.

Subject Leadership: Audit to solutions

I created a staff audit about the curriculum last term and had some worrying results.  It was from the view of a subject leader and was incredibly useful.

Here are the questions.  Now of course the results only really help my school but what if there are problems in certain areas this could give some ideas.

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As best as you can choose subject leaders who are interested in the subjects that you are giving them.  As a teacher, pick a subject you too are interested in.  But be careful… there are some big subjects in the pile to pick from and some of these can be extremely daunting.  In my second year of teaching I was given PE.  I loved playing sport but couldn’t organise anything to save my life when I was 22 years old.  There are also teachers that wished they’d never picked art because there subject leadership is used to tidy up the art cupboard than to improve the standards of art.  Not fun!

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The Ofsted Inspection Framework is extremely useful.  If you look at the standards that we as schools should follow then you will know what standards in your subject are.

  • the quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • outcomes for pupils
  • effectiveness of leadership and management.

For example, an outstanding school would be able to show:

  • Pupils love the challenge of learning and are resilient to failure. They are curious, interested learners who seek out and use new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills. They thrive in lessons and also regularly take up opportunities to learn through extra-curricular activities.

If your subject encompasses this, then the standards are outstanding.

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Please, please, please read the National Curriculum.  Even if your school comes away from it every once in a while, it is worth knowing what everyone else is talking about.

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I had to write the curriculum overview myself but once staff have got their heads around their subject they should be able to contribute their ideas to the overview.  Staff meetings where subject leaders can talk to others from different year groups should help with gathering ideas.  They get the opportunity to share their subject with other members of staff.

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It is always worth leadership supporting staff with this as part of a training programme. Once this is in place and subject leaders are aware, building a culture of coaching and mentoring is amazingly supportive.  In my seventh year of teaching, I had a second year teacher observe a lesson and give me feedback.  The confidence that he had in doing this and my openness in receiving this feedback was helpful in improving my own practice as he could see things that I hadn’t.  Working together is much more beneficial than working alone.

6

It is important that at the beginning of the year the vision of the school is shared with all staff. From Day 1, all staff should be aware of the aims of the school and how we are going to do this.  Strategic decisions need to be shared otherwise no one will be on the journey with us.

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Look at a range of websites, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook to get ideas to share with your team.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to get fun ideas to get your children into your subject. In fact most good things are free and you’ll find that your local schools will work together and share ideas.

This fantastic science task that was completed across the school  from Early Years to Year 6 was a great idea that was found for free.

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There are websites that support in the ideas for SMSC and British Values, such as…

http://www.doingsmsc.org.uk/

https://www.smscqualitymark.org.uk/

Also if you use a curriculum programme such as Cornerstones, you may find examples for your subject.

If all else fails, other schools have done the work so get on that search engine and get looking.  You’ll find lots.

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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