Blog on The Blackboard

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.

Designing a curriculum intent

Curriculum Intent

At our school, we have finally published our curriculum intent. We have been passing our intent back and forth between the senior leadership team with it not being quite right.  Lots of ideas and examples on the internet meant we had too many ideas so it took time but it was worth it.

The point in which we began was with all 5 SLT members giving their ideas on what we should have in our curriculum. We had so many great ideas but it was far too much. When you have a lot of commas in a statement just so you can get everything in, you know it is too wishy washy.  It needed to be more punchy.

Alongside this view, myself and the foundation stage leader knew all about the effective characteristics of learning and felt that these should be the centre of our intent.  It took a while to get everyone on side but once we had explained how this fits, we got it in there.  Result!

Every child is recognised as a unique individual where positive relationships and enabled environments result in strong learning and development.

We  shared our view on challenging ourselves and digging deep in our learning and felt that this needed to go in. We didn’t want what we taught children to end up just been worksheet lessons.

We believe that all children should be equipped with skills to enable them to ‘dive into learning’ and strengthen their ability to learn at a deeper level – ultimately allowing them to welcome challenge, articulate their learning, demonstrate quality thinking, apply skills/knowledge, solve problems and reflect on their journey.

We picked three main areas that we felt summed up what our curriculum was designed to do. Most of this came from what we already implement so it was easy to come up with these (maybe a little too easy)

allow children the opportunity to explore, learn actively and become critical, creative thinkers.

Then there was our intention for staff. What they should share in terms of what our children’s education should be like:

Our staff share the ethos that childhood should be a happy, investigative, enquiring time in our lives, where there are no limits to curiosity, possibilities or ambition

And what the role of our staff is in providing our curriculum:

 where children lead and adults facilitate a thirst for new experiences and knowledge.

The whole thing put together is great and really gives a feeling of what we want to do.  But now… we need to implement it!

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