Curriculum Masterclasses – Inspirational thinkers; common themes.

Over the last year, the Curriculum Masterclasses concept that I developed with Mary Myatt and John Tomsett has expanded and I have to say – it’s been something of a triumph. We’re thrilled with the response we’ve had from speakers and the size of the online audiences that have gathered for each event. The appetite for curriculum thinking is significant – and that’s exciting.

Across the five events, 22 different speakers made a contribution. For me personally it’s been a real privilege, listening to each masterclass and engaging in short discussions with each speaker, each with their unique perspective and expertise. It’s hard to summarise so much material but, for sure, some common themes have emerged across the whole series:

Ambition: The search for richness, quality, challenge – runs though all the sessions. It’s not about doing more – but about pitching high, insisting on quality and being ambitious for what children can handle in terms of depth and challenge.

Weaving together: a curriculum bigger than the sum of parts; not just teaching one thing after another. We’re weaving our stories and ideas together, building secure but expansive schema, helping students make sense of the world in its interconnected glory. This includes planning for a spiral curriculum, revisiting and building over time, avoiding tacking things on but knitting them together; it means looking for authentic interdisciplinarity.

Choices with a balance of breadth and depth: There’s too much to teach! We need to make a selection the best we can, based on some shared principles, looking for a balance of breadth, selecting a core and sign-posting the hinterland. Richard Kennett and Hannah Cusworth explored this superbly in their museum analogy – the idea of choosing the specific exhibits for a series of rooms – the detailed content of units of work in the museum that represents a subject. It’s always a challenge and no two schools make the same choices – but it pays to be aware of what others are doing to learn and share in a community of practice.

Curriculum+ Pedagogy: the idea that a curriculum is always enacted; how we teach matters. This came through in numerous ways. We can’t just design a curriculum without attending to the way students will encounter it and make sense of it given their learning to-date. This moves into issues of instruction, memory, metacognition, making thinking visible, spiral curriculum design.

Reading at the heart: in numerous masterclasses, most recently from David Didau and Sonia Thompson, the central importance of reading was stressed. The value in blending teaching of reading with reading for pleasure, reading aloud, strategies for class reading, the text selection – fiction and non-fiction – the need to pitch it up and find a balance of voices and genres.. Such a lot to consider but it’s all doable.

Diversity: why it matters so much and the fact that the possibilities are everywhere. This came through in so many sessions – Jeffrey Boakye makes the case so well, as does Bennie Kara and Martin Robinson. If we’re actively seeking different perspectives, positive narratives, usualising diversity and thinking hard about our default settings in the stories our curriculum includes and excludes – we’ll end up with a stronger, richer curriculum for everyone.

Long-term process: Curriculum design isn’t an event; there’s no finished, polished product. It’s an ongoing process and it’s better if schools and leaders regard it as such, setting things up so that process is happening continually. Expertise builds over time and it helps if people are connected to subject communities beyond the school and to each other within a school, allowing ongoing dialogue to inform curriculum choices.

CPD Time is critical: Where to begin? A common refrain in the chat was ‘where do we start?’ The answer lies in creating a framework in time – the school calendar – that allows curriculum thinking to happen. Teachers and curriculum leaders should have a planned schedule of opportunities to discuss their thinking, to develop their expertise – bringing it in from outside where needed – and to thrash out the choices they need to make. It can’t be done on the fly. Schools making great strides with curriculum development seem to give it the time and human resources it deserves.

Catching-Up on the Masterclasses You Missed:

For the next couple of months, we will make the masterclasses available to buy if you missed them the first time. All the proceeds from this will go to FareShareUK as part of the lead-up to the EduGiveUK Curriculum Conference fundraiser.

In order to get access to any particular series of six masterclasses, we’re asking you to make a donation of £60 to the Just Giving page for EduGiveUK, here. This ensures that all the money goes direct to the charity. When you’ve done that, submit your receipt reference on this form alongside your choice of masterclass. We will then send you the links to all those sessions with all the slides.

Here’s a reminder.

Thanks again to everyone who supported the events and to all the magnificent speakers. Incredible work!

There will be more to come next year starting in November. Watch out for more info soon!


  1. Please can you suggest which curriculum masterclass covers authentic interdiscplinarity in most depth? I have made the donation to fare share but am unsure which masterclass would be most appropriate? Many thanks.


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