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10
Apr

The building blocks of an effective primary curriculum



Andy Goodeve

Written by Andy Goodeve

Andy is our Head of Pedagogical Services with extensive experience in education leadership across a range of socially challenging diverse schools in varying locations. His experience includes differing age ranges including secondary, middle, primary and junior schools.

An effective curriculum should be at the core of every successful school. It is therefore critical that schools assign time to allow staff to collaborate to create the right curriculum for their pupils. But what are the most important elements to consider when developing the best curriculum for your school?

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Definition of curriculum

A curriculum is 'all the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school' John Kerr 1968.

Curriculum should be 'a balanced and broadly based curriculum which promotes the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life' - Department for Education.

Each school is unique and so the curriculum therefore needs to be appropriate. Schools need to look at the whole curriculum and offer much more than knowledge, content or subjects to teach, transmit or deliver. They also need to plan and teach the hidden curriculum - i.e. social and cultural messages, attitudes and behaviour.

Here are our top seven things to think about:

Curriculum_Content_V21. The right content  Ensure your curriculum provides the right activities and experiences. Today’s society needs to be creative, imaginative and innovative. Our children need to have the ability and skill to work with anybody, anytime, anywhere. They need to learn by interaction and independence. Teachers are preparing pupils for jobs of the future that will require new skills and need them to be agile thinkers, adaptable problem solvers and have flexibility in their ability to learn. 'The curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired and facts stored’ – Hadow report 1931    2. Keep it real  Schools need to teach pupils the things they can't discover or learn by themselves in a way that is interesting, engaging, challenging and relevant - every pupil is unique so one size does not fit all. Teachers need to constantly review and adapt their teaching to ensure the current and future needs of all pupils are met. A content-heavy curriculum model is becoming less meaningful and expedient in a world where just about anything can be found on the web.    3. Lesson for life  A curriculum should be structured in a way that expands beyond the teacher-controlled classroom. It should include learning beyond the school context and beyond school years through the concept of the 'lifelong' learner.'  'Successful learning occurs when learners have ownership of their learning, when they understand the goals they are aiming for; when crucially they are motivated ' - ARG 1999    4. Cross-curricular approach  A cross-curricular approach creates a bigger picture. It encourages teachers to link across subjects; reinforcing the learning of pupils by applying different contexts. Subject leaders need to work together to organise programmes of study into units of learning. Effective subject links mean that pupils can apply the knowledge and skills learnt in one subject to another, reinforcing their understanding.    5. Innovation  Developing a school curriculum can and should be supported by the spontaneous innovation of teachers. Let them dig out forgotten things that worked brilliantly in the past, share practices within and between schools, improve learning activities and use both quality paper-based and digital resources.     6. Assessment  Assessment should form a natural and wholly integrated aspect of teaching and learning activities in the classroom. Teacher assessment information improves pupil learning. Assessment is essential for effective teaching. All teachers, whether consciously or unconsciously, are continuously assessing pupils. Good teaching gauges the level of pupil learning to lead to further development.    7. Aligning  Curriculum development in schools is essential and needs to be supported by the Government and the Ofsted accountability framework. Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman absolutely understands the relationship between the national curriculum and a school curriculum, and wants England to achieve the kind of curriculum we see in high-performing systems.  The speech made by Ms Spielman at the Festival of Education at Wellington College in 2017 was especially welcomed by educators and helped to open up an important discussion on the school curriculum. Within the speech, she stated:  "To understand the substance of education we have to understand the objectives. Because education should be about broadening minds, enriching communities and advancing civilisation."

1. The right content

Ensure your curriculum provides the right activities and experiences. Today’s society needs to be creative, imaginative and innovative. Our children need to have the ability and skill to work with anybody, anytime, anywhere. They need to learn by interaction and independence. 

Teachers are preparing pupils for jobs of the future that will require new skills and need them to be agile thinkers, adaptable problem solvers and have flexibility in their ability to learn.

'The curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than knowledge to be acquired and facts stored’ Hadow report 1931

 

2. Keep it real

Schools need to teach pupils the things they can't discover or learn by themselves in a way that is interesting, engaging, challenging and relevant - every pupil is unique so one size does not fit all. Teachers need to constantly review and adapt their teaching to ensure the current and future needs of all pupils are met. A content-heavy curriculum model is becoming less meaningful and expedient in a world where just about anything can be found on the web.

 

3. Lesson for life

A curriculum should be structured in a way that expands beyond the teacher-controlled classroom. It should include learning beyond the school context and beyond school years through the concept of the 'lifelong' learner.'

'Successful learning occurs when learners have ownership of their learning, when they understand the goals they are aiming for; when crucially they are motivated ' - ARG 1999

 

4. Cross-curricular approach

A cross-curricular approach creates a bigger picture. It encourages teachers to link across subjects; reinforcing the learning of pupils by applying different contexts. Subject leaders need to work together to organise programmes of study into units of learning. Effective subject links mean that pupils can apply the knowledge and skills learnt in one subject to another, reinforcing their understanding.

 

5. Innovation

Developing a school curriculum can and should be supported by the spontaneous innovation of teachers. Let them dig out forgotten things that worked brilliantly in the past, share practices within and between schools, improve learning activities and use both quality paper-based and digital resources.

 

6. Assessment

Assessment should form a natural and wholly integrated aspect of teaching and learning activities in the classroom. Teacher assessment information improves pupil learning. Assessment is essential for effective teaching. All teachers, whether consciously or unconsciously, are continuously assessing pupils. Good teaching gauges the level of pupil learning to lead to further development.

 

7. Align

Curriculum development in schools is essential and needs to be supported by the Government and the Ofsted accountability framework. Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman absolutely understands the relationship between the national curriculum and a school curriculum, and wants England to achieve the kind of curriculum we see in high-performing systems.

The speech made by Ms Spielman at the Festival of Education at Wellington College in 2017 was especially welcomed by educators and helped to open up an important discussion on the school curriculum. Within the speech, she stated:

"To understand the substance of education we have to understand the objectives. Because education should be about broadening minds, enriching communities and advancing civilisation."

You can read more from me regarding my views and opinions on education right here on the InfoMentor blog. You can also find out more about InfoMentor - a teaching and learning resource that has been specifically designed to make life easier for schools by tackling workload for the modern teacher. You can download white papersview case studies and request a demo.

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