Schools have the opportunity to build their own curriculum, relevant to their own school community. They can mould it into a shape that makes sense to them. The process of change has been explored by other schools that have embarked on this journey. All agree that the journey cannot begin without the support of the Senior Management Team.
Watch The Curriculum Challenge, part of the Future School series (length 15 mins).This programme focuses on the progress of the Hadley Learning Community’s leadership team as it devises a teaching and learning programme designed for the 21st century. As you watch the programme, make a list of what is discussed.
Examine the list of areas discussed. Were there any areas which were out of bounds? Anything which could not be changed? Who was driving the discussions?
Record your thoughts in your Personal Learning Space.
Watch Managing the Process (length 13.48) part of the series Progression in Primary Maths. The programme looks at how Great Barr Primary School's skills-based curriculum and advanced tracking system for pupil progress has impacted on maths standards in both foundation stage and Key Stage 1.
What is your school vision for learning? In the previous section, you checked that your school’s statement of vision and aims included references to mathematics. Is the vision for learning described or expanded on in the school’s policy for teaching and learning? Read the school’s teaching and learning policy to check that it reflects the school’s vision for learning.
Discuss your impression of the school’s vision for learning with a member of the senior management team. Take this opportunity to clarify any confusion you may have.
Does the school’s teaching and learning policy reflect the school’s vision for learning? Were you able to sort out any confusion you had? Record your thoughts in your Personal Learning Space.
This section links with the work on developing a vision statement in Module 5, Leading Improvement.
Designing and delivering a curriculum
The National College for School Leadership recognises that designing and delivering a curriculum which will inspire and challenge all learners as well as prepare them for life in the 21st century is a complex task. Their booklet Leading curriculum innovation in practice, produced in conjunction with QCDA, is a report on how more than 50 schools in their Leadership Network developed a curriculum for the 21st century.
Each school began with four questions to help shape the development of their curriculum:
- What are we trying to achieve through the curriculum?
- How do we organise learning in order to achieve it?
- How will we know that we have achieved our aim(s)?
- How can this drive for curriculum change best be led for success?
The snapshot of schools in the booklet clearly shows that there is no one model for success. It was also clear that the school’s own context really matters. The booklet presents a rich mix of practice, experiences and comment that would certainly support any school as they consider how to leading curriculum innovation in action. The introduction says, “Each theme includes a summary analysis of key points for leaders and an activity for planning your next steps to action. These activities are designed to prompt you to consider what action you might take along the route of curriculum innovation.” Organised into four themes, Remodelling the curriculum; Expanding curriculum opportunities; Improving teaching and learning, and Harnessing pupil voice, the booklet is well worth reading to inform your own school’s journey.
QCDA Disciplined curriculum innovation: making a difference to learners
The description of this document says that this publication explains a seven-step process of disciplined innovation, tried and tested in schools, which will help you transform your curriculum and ensure your changes have an impact on learners' achievements, lives and prospects. This diagram shows the cycle that is involved.
Get the feel of this model by looking at a case study. Grange Primary School adopted a new approach to the curriculum in order to make the children’s learning more personalised. Grangeton is Grange Primary School’s own town, run by pupils. Headed by an elected council and mayor, the town has its own newspaper, library, cinema, tuck shop, television studio, radio station, language café and museum.
- how far away is this from what happens at your school?
- what do you think are the pros and cons of this approach?
- where can you see maths being embedded in this approach?
Looking at aspects of the model for disciplined curriculum innovation.
- what aspects of the model do you recognise?
- how does it relate to other models of change that you are familiar with?
In order to help identify priorities, it would be useful to consider what skills and qualities you would like to see in your learners. Working in small groups, ask colleagues to draw a picture of a young person in the middle of a large sheet of paper and to write words around the picture to describe a well-educated young person.
Ask each group to draw a line from each word or phrase on their drawing to the appropriate part of the body (a hand for skills, the head for knowledge and understanding, the heart for attitudes and attributes).
Display the pictures and words around the room. Do most of the words that your colleagues have used relate to skills, knowledge or attitudes and attributes?
Taking the characteristics in turn, decide whether each is:
- green - seen in the majority of learners (an area of strength)
- amber - seen in many learners but not particularly strong
- red - only seen in a few learners (an area for development).
Based on this summary of strengths and weaknesses, what should be the priorities for your curriculum development work?
Although you could carry out this activity on your own, it is much more powerful if carried out in a group.
This activity ‘Identifying Priorities’ is from the QCDA document Your Curriculum Journey (p5, 2010).
Record your starting point
You will only know what impact you’ve made if you know where you started. Before you begin to change your curriculum you need to establish your baseline.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your current curriculum?
How well does it meet the needs, aspirations, interests and talents of all your learners?
Does it reflect the needs of the local community?
You may find it helpful to consider these questions at all-staff meetings.
To bring about powerful change you need to involve the views of all stakeholders - school leaders, teachers, parents, learners, governors and the community. You may like to use questionnaires and focus groups to gather the range and breadth of views from everyone.
This section links with
Module 5, Leading improvement.
‘If curriculum innovation is going to work, it has got to be strategic
and incremental. We made a number of small changes over a long period of time. We also involved a wide range of staff, from subject teachers to senior leaders, in working groups that took responsibility for different aspects. You can’t impose a ‘one size fits all’ innovation, you’ve got to win hearts and minds. If you can prove a curriculum innovation works, people will embrace it.’
Mandi Collins, Thomas Estley College
If you carry this out in detail, then record your findings in your Maths Subject Leader file.
Remember: the National Curriculum has three broad aims. It should enable all young people to become:
- successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
- confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
- responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.
These aims should inform all aspects of teaching and learning and be the starting point for curriculum design.
Set clear goals
This is about everyone being clear about what you are aiming to change and achieve and flows out of the activities above.
You have identified what skills and qualities you would like to see in your learners in the activity above. This is what your learners will be like when you have achieved your priorities. So that you can judge whether you have achieved your priorities, you need to set clear goals for each. The best way to do this is to look at the picture of your learners at the moment and define how you would like this to change.
Whether you have identified skills development, aspects of personal development or knowledge and understanding as your priorities for curriculum improvement, you need to think about what success in meeting these aims might look like.
To give you a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve in terms of each of the specific aims you have identified for your curriculum, write a description of:
- what your learners are like at the moment
- what you hope they will be like as a result of your curriculum development work.
This activity is from the QCDA Curriculum Network: Visualising success.