How do leaders define the concepts that will create an ambitious curriculum for learning?

Forget Brexit, this is a defining week for education. We should, by the middle of the week, have an opportunity to consult on the content of the new inspection framework due to be used for inspections from September 2019.  We have several clues already as to what it might contain from the publication of the third piece of research into curriculum intent, implementation and impact just before Christmas. We have been working closely with schools who have already started to review their approach to curriculum design and implementation. One of the questions that emerges from our experiences so far is ‘How do leaders define the concepts that will create an ambitious curriculum for learning?’ 

The elements linked to creating a curriculum rationale are set out in the diagram below.  

The definition of a concept is, something abstract or generic linked to a theme, it is an idea or a theory or a way of grouping or categorising things.  Within these definitions we can safely say that curriculum is the concept. The role of the leader is to create the vision for how the curriculum is planned and implemented. It is within subjects, both core and foundation, that conceptual learning underpins knowledge acquisition.  The vision needs to focus on how the curriculum will be implemented to ensure pupils learn through the acquisition of skills and the deepening of knowledge over time.

One of the 25 indicators OFSTED  suggests as examples of important concepts or aspects of curriculum design are knowledge progression and the sequencing of concepts.  This to some extent reinforces the need to ensure that it is within the subjects that we focus on the concepts. The concept of conflict, authority, development, source, beliefs, creativity or democracy occur across the subject divides as well as being overarching concepts linked to topics and subjects.  Within subjects there are many concepts to focus on such as religion in RE, country, continent and city in Geography or monarchy, evidence or civilisation in History.

It is how these are taught and how subject leaders and their teams work together to focus on sequencing for progression, deepening knowledge and the acquisition and transfer of skills for learning.  It is the leaders that need to make sure that their vision clearly outlines the need to focus on subject specific concepts and how these are taught within subjects and the wider curriculum.  Leaders must also focus their vision on how pupils acquire the reading and mathematical skills they need to access knowledge and become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills over time.  The need to focus on outcomes that demonstrate pupils build on prior learning, deepen their knowledge, have a sound understanding and are ready for the next stage in learning is also important in assessing the quality of the planned and implemented curriculum.

If there is a focus on concepts in the intent stage of curriculum design it is in raising awareness of the issues for subject leaders and their teams.  It is in a focus on what knowledge is in different contexts, the sequencing of that knowledge and how to deepen the skills pupils need to learn to acquire that knowledge. It is in how we define progression. One of the concepts that needs further exploration is ‘quality‘ and how leaders quality assure their curriculum plan as it is rolled out.

We will review the consultation document due out on Wednesday 16th January and this will be the subject of a newspost for all our readers.

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