Literacy and Numeracy: the essential threads that weave through a deep and rich curriculum

If you are reading this you are using one of the most important skills there is for learning.

It is essential as part of any review of the curriculum to identify the core and generic skills for learning that will open the door for all learners to access the information they need to build a sequential bank of knowledge.

Context provides the vehicle for mastery of the literacy and numeracy concepts that will help pupils to deepen their understanding and become unconsciously competent in their use of the skills they need to access knowledge within subjects and across the curriculum. Each subject expert needs to think carefully about the skills that allow pupils to deepen their understanding of the content of their subject.

Think about the skill of comprehension which is undoubtedly the most important skill for pupils to master in order that they can read and understand. This is carefully taught within English where the texts are used to help pupils to deepen their reading skills. Complex and rich texts are often an integral part of learning in other subjects. However, these texts are often written for the subject and take no account of the reading age of the pupil. Subject specialists, need to have the skills to help pupils decode the language, the vocabulary and the inference within those texts.

What about the skill of measuring in Maths? There are countless examples of where measurement is used as part of learning across the curriculum. Design and build, interpreting a map, making a cake, working out velocity and speed, conducting an experiment, defining cause and effect, comparing or contrasting, to name but a few.

The above two examples are specific skills linked to the teaching in English and in Maths.  There are also the concepts and generic skills that need consideration.  Consider the concept of space or shape, scale or time. All have their place as part of deciphering knowledge in many contexts across the curriculum. Curriculum planning must ensure there are opportunities for pupils to use different vocabulary, understand the method or the process and be able to see how their learning in one subject relates to learning in another one.

The curriculum is not a set of isolated, individual subjects but a tapestry of learning where the concepts, skills and knowledge are interwoven to create the right set of circumstances for pupils to learn and deepen their understanding. It must ensure that knowledge is retained within pupils’ long-term memory and set the context for future challenge.

The key to creating this woven fabric of knowledge and skills is to create opportunities for departments to work together to identify the age-related skills and knowledge within their subject and sequence the content so that there is seamless learning from one year to the next.  There should also be opportunities for cross curricular planning where teachers and their subject leaders can identify where the concepts, skills and knowledge overlap or are re-inforced.  Where teachers have a profound understanding of the wider curriculum they can share with their pupils where similar or the same knowledge is part of learning in other subjects.

Start by reflecting on how much time is given to curriculum planning, who is involved and to what extent there are opportunities for cross-phase, cross-curricular and cross-year collaboration to ensure depth, breadth and balance. Then encourage teams to to collectively piece together a curriculum map that will create the evidence that pupils build on prior learning, deepen their understanding and can develop the skills that will help them to access and master ever increasingly complex and challenging subject content.

We have developed a suite of training to support schools in their quest for curriculum cohesion.

For senior leaders and curriculum managers we look at the strategic vision and consider how to make sure we keep what works well and what needs to change:

For subject leaders we have a new course built on recent research and using our own expertise to look in detail at how to sequence a learning curriculum that builds on prior learning and deepens knowledge over time.

Research suggests that transition creates a dip in learning of anything up to 40%.  We have two highly regarded training courses that look at how to ensure positive academic as well as pastoral transition focuses on curriculum cohesion and building on prior learning.

Specific to those with responsibility for embedding literacy and numeracy across the curriculum we have developed the following outstanding training programmes. They have been part of our repertoire for several years. Our messages haven’t changed, the change of emphasis on curriculum intent, implementation and impact mirror what we already know works and delivers deep and challenging learning.

Weave your own tapestry curriculum using the resources and strategies that we know work.