Curriculum coverage is arguably the curse of the English Education system; a mile wide and an inch deep. Decades of national curriculum with the indispensable and the peripheral intertwined and given a sense of equal importance.
Busyness is created in many class rooms as teachers try to cover what must be taught. If anyone actually had time to think, there is an acknowledgement of the gap between what has been taught and what has actually been learnt. But coverage is inexorable; it’s time to move on with pupils’ learning gaps producing insecure foundations on which to build future learning. These gaps come back to haunt us at the end of a key stage.
Over the past week or so a couple of headteachers have visited St. Mary’s (similar work is also done at both Christ the King & St. Cuthbert’s primary academies); viewing our work on teaching assessment and learning as “inspirational common sense”.
It’s great to hear comments like these but we are not doing anything particularly notable or new; we’ve taken the bleedin’ obvious, what is happening in many class rooms up and down this land and many others, and systemised it to ensure a greater consistency in every class room.
Choices are made about what to teach; the indispensable key concepts and the big ideas must come first. We define the expected standard and then redefine it if, with the benefit of experience, we believe it lacks challenge. Ask ourselves why we have different expectations for pupils who come to us with differing prior attainment; should we simply set a standard and then find ways to maximise the number of pupils who attain it?
Teachers look at data that matters to them in the class room; which things that I’ve taught don’t pupils know or can’t they do? Which aspects of the curriculum am I teaching well and what do I want/need to teach better? Discussions ensue between colleagues; re-teaching increasingly happens in the class room close to the point of first teaching. We leave a number of curriculum weeks “empty”; we only know how to fill them once we’ve found out what pupils don’t know. These more formal interim assessments are punctuated my simple learning milestone checks in between.
There’s never enough time; with all the centrally driven assessment and curriculum change, in such a short period of time, you have to create time and give time for planning. Across the Trust we have implemented additional INSET days; needs must and we will repeat next year. Our academy freedoms permit this. Although we are open for a few days less than maintained schools we believe teachers are better prepared and teaching time is better utilised. For over a decade, we have had a shortened day on a Thursday, taking ten minutes off our 3 x 100 minute lessons, finishing half an hour early. We then have two hours of meeting/CPD time with large numbers of these sessions now passed over to department for the planning and evaluation of teaching. We say “no” to many other things to allow us to do a few things well; protect staff from initiative overload.
It’s common sense; it’s a lot of hard work. Probably more perspiration than inspiration but the cumulative impact of teaching that little bit better, leaving fewer gaps in learning, will hopefully help transform the progress our pupils make.
#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.