This is the third in a series of posts about the challenges and opportunities ahead of us. They are being prepared for a couple of conferences I will be speaking at during late June & early July. Each session will consist of a think piece, a short presentation and then a discussion. Any comments or thoughts you have would be gratefully received.
Who do you design your curriculum for?
This may seem a pretty obvious question but with the impact of accountability measures it is all too easy for schools to implement things they don’t believe in. The curriculum ends up designed for Ofsted or the league tables or to keep the wolves away from the door. These aren’t intrinsically bad things, in fact it could be argued these are good things – they just aren’t the main thing.
#Imagine All the Children, Challenged & Fulfilled
What Are Your Best 8?
The introduction of Progress8 seems to have been met with the general approval of the profession. There is certainly a lot to commend it. The main antagonisms seem to sit around the “marginalising” of the Arts, vocational education and for faith schools the status afforded Religious Education. St. Mary’s response looks something like this:
Defined, Restricted or Ignored?
With about 95% of students studying GCSE English Literature, two open option blocks, with a wide range of subjects for students to study from, and GCSE RE for all we have Progress8 pretty well covered. As long as the quality is right the accountability measure will be positive and the curriculum has a sensible core and a good range of choices for students.
The question that we are faced with is to what extent should accountability measures define our curriculum?
Is any school confident/foolhardy enough to ignore these measures?
Who is your curriculum for? Who will it benefit most – the school or the students?
At the heart of the Curriculum discussion is what Cultural Capital should we want pass onto the next generation? This is a highly emotive question as can be seen by many teachers’ response to the limited range of texts students are obliged to study in GCSE English Literature. With only so much time available in the curriculum suggesting that students can read lots of other books as well, even in Key Stage 3, misses the point about who controls the core cultural capital – Secretary of State, teachers, parents or students?
Is the control of the different stakeholders balanced appropriately?
The Illusion & Reality of Choice
It’s important to remember that all these stakeholders exhibit an element of control. Think about option time for Year 9 in a secondary school.
It is obvious that students have a choice of which subjects they wish to follow during Key Stage 4. We know that to a greater or lesser extent parents influence these choices. What is less commonly acknowledged is that schools actually decide what students can choose from. Here’s the other part of our curriculum which gives students the option to follow some great vocational courses. A real plus but check what’s not available to them from the list above.
With the curriculum elements you have control over what changes in the balance would you like to implement?
Is this Curriculum Good Enough for My Children?
Last year we introduced a limited option choice for students as they transfer from Year 8 to 9. They can study, for 10% of their week, either History or Geography, a creative subject and a free choice from the enrichment block. We thought it would be a good idea but didn’t anticipate how successful it would be.
Attendance in Year 9 is up, incidents of poor behaviour in class has plummeted and progress has been massively accelerated. Why this has happened is much more difficult to discern – students studying subjects they enjoy, fewer teachers during the week so better relationships developed or increased pace and challenge in the learning. I’m not sure, possibly all of these but it certainly seems to work.
However, the curriculum breadth has been sacrificed for greater curriculum depth.
Is this an acceptable sacrifice?
If you could change anything about your school’s curriculum what would it be?
Why don’t you change it now?
The Class Room Curriculum
Content is Common, Pedagogy is Personal
The second part of the discussion I want to open up around building challenge within the classroom. Most of this has been covered in early blog posts in the Lesson Planning series. The idea of constructing a curriculum around the big ideas and key concepts really appeals particularly when linked to SOLO. The taxonomy then becomes the core focus for assessment. This still needs a lot of thinking, planning and then implementing but there is the germ of an idea there for a challenging and fulfilling curriculum continuum from Key Stage 1 to 4.
Going the Xtra Mile
Final thoughts about a fulfilling and challenging curriculum would centre on the curriculum beyond the classroom. We have had Dynamic Days for many years as well as an annual Wonderful Week. For next year the addition of Academy Xtra genuinely excites me.
Do you see what happens beyond the class room as curricular or extra-curricular?
What provision have you got? What would you like to see?
What’s stopping you?
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
The Other Posts in this series:
#Imagine There’s No Chaos, Coherence is the Key (To Be Published)
Other posts you might find of interest include: