Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
There was a rumour circulating around school and it wasn’t until the agenda for our fortnightly curriculum team leaders’ meeting arrived in our pigeon holes that it was confirmed. Item 1: Thematic Curriculum.
Other schools in the area had introduced a thematic curriculum within Year 7 with many more were contemplating undertaking a similar initiative. I knew that responses from maths departments had been somewhat mixed with many wishing to protect the purity of their subject. That mixed response was echoed during the meeting, with departments split on whether they believed it to be a worthwhile venture. Although initially sceptical, I was experienced enough to realise that by the simple fact that we were having the discussion, decisions had already been made – it was going to happen in some form or another.
Our Curriculum Deputy argued that a thematic curriculum would raise standards, creating a more meaningful, exciting and fun learning environment that would equip students with generic life skills. It would provide an opportunity for students to experience a variety of learning styles and promote creative and purposeful teaching. The net result would mean improvements in student motivation, behaviour and attitude to learning. Who could argue with that?
Well, as it happened, half the room! Time was the major concern. To introduce such a radical curriculum change across the whole school would require careful planning, discussion and resourcing. It was rare to have any teaching and learning dialogue across subject areas as it was, so when was this to happen? Although overlaps inevitably occur across subjects, there was an agreed need for meaningful and relevant links whenever possible. And more to the point, what exactly were the themes to be and would they be appropriate for all?
I left the meeting with mixed feelings. I was finding it difficult to argue against any of the points raised, both for and against the idea. Yes, we need to develop the teaching and learning which takes place within the school and a thematic curriculum could be the lever for driving this change. However, any changes must be pragmatic with careful consideration given to its feasibility and sustainability. The staff need to believe in it for it to be successful and at present, I don’t think enough of them do. Personally, I’m in favour of a ‘process’-driven curriculum whereby the process skills are made explicit to students and integrated within everyday lessons. If presented with a ‘theme’, I, like many others, may be inclined to shut my classroom door and pretend it isn’t there.