You’ve got to have a core curriculum system. What’s yours?

On my travels I encounter multiple situations where teachers are teaching the same curriculum content from school to school and I’m often struck by how varied the delivery approaches can be. The variation can be in the specifics of the way the curriculum is delivered and, more crudely, in the extent to which there is a clear system in place at all. In fact, I’d say the gap between the most and least impressive is huge.

Some students embark on units of learning that are planned and resourced in such a way that feels secure, rich, well-organised and coherent such that a new teacher could come in and pick things up; a student could miss a fortnight due to ill health and know exactly what they’d missed; students can continue their study in a supported manner at home and, most importantly, lessons are supported by planned resources of the highest quality, with teacher inputs, practice tasks, homework tasks and assessments all linked in a straight-forward manner. Sometimes this all comes a published scheme but usually it’s a combination of elements that link; sometimes schools make their own excellent workbooks and study resources.

Meanwhile elsewhere a teacher runs through assorted powerpoints and worksheets that feel cobbled together week to week, and there is no central resource for students to gain independent access to the knowledge content – they can only gather information imparted piece by piece by the teacher in lessons with students required to copy things down in exercise books that they’re not even allowed to take home. Quizzes seem random to the point there’s no real point preparing. And even if they wanted to prepare – to study – they don’t have a resource at home to prepare from. Across a team, teachers are delivering a pick and mix miscellany of inputs rather than following a planned curriculum scheme. In these situations if feels that everyone is held back – teacher and students.

And, yes, it pains me to see a teacher delivering an exciting topic through mediocre slides – that some students have to peer to see from the back of the class – when there are perfectly good textbooks available that would deliver the material in a far far better manner, you know, by that old fashioned process of reading them and looking at the high quality images! People often complain about the quality of textbooks but I’m rarely so impressed with a powerpoint deck that I think they’re superior to a proper textbook – and not only for the reduced opportunities for reading this creates. Why make it so hard to enact the curriculum for the least confident students? Why show them such naff images and examples for this wonderful topic? Why make it so hard to set more practice questions or set routine homework? Why shy away from developing students’ agency as students -providing them the tools they need to study and expectations to match?

I had a go at trying to generalise the elements that might make up a really good system for implementing a curriculum – it’s the sum of a lot of parts. Some of it could be online… some hard copy – as long as it all fits together as something coherent and the online elements makes it more accessible, not less:

Here’s an example for KS3 science…

Here’s an example for KS2 Geography… a Workbook is a hybrid textbook + exercise book, normally crafted by the school, combining reading, diagrams, simple recall and knowledge check tasks and more extended writing tasks.

So, that’s the challenge for schools – for each subject department and subject lead. Beyond deciding the content of your curriculum – the list of topics and experiences to whatever level of detail you need – you need a system; a process; a set of resources and routines that everyone follows for teaching, for classwork and for homework. A system where the assessment process is planned as an integrated element of the whole program. Ideally it would be one an ECT or new member of staff could pick up and run with without any preparation beyond reading through it all and getting ready.

Even more ideally, it’s a system your students understand so well, they can run with it with high levels of independence. They know what’s coming, where they are and how to study by themselves any time they want to.

What’s the system for your curriculum?

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