How is progress assured as part of a well designed and sequenced curriculum?

How pupils make progress as they travel through the curriculum must be at the heart of curriculum planning.  An essential part of this is to ensure we can accurately assess that progress is being made and that learning is sustained.

It is therefore essential that assessment of learning is a critical part of the substance of the curriculum design.  The introduction of the National Curriculum in 2014 saw the end of a generic system of assessment linked to clearly defined levels. Learning curriculum content and deepening knowledge and understanding is now much more of a focus for defining pupils’ progress whether in the primary or secondary phase.

The emphasis is more on progress linked to the knowledge and skills pupils develop incrementally within subjects and across the curriculum.  There needs to be a cohesive whole school strategy where teachers work together to ensure that the learning is sequential and developmental. Reading is a critical skill, as are all the other literacy skills embodied in the programmes of study across all subjects.  Maths is taught conceptually but mastery will come when pupils can make connections and apply the concepts they learn in Maths in contexts across the curriculum.

The curriculum programmes of study are a blueprint for creating a progression model. What pupils will learn and how they will learn it needs to be clearly defined in order that teachers can assess whether progress has been made. A rich curriculum offer will recognise that subjects are interwoven, that concepts transcend subject learning, that the core and wider skills for learning are an integral part of every subject and pupils need to know where and how to apply them in and across all subjects.

This won’t happen unless time is given to shared planning across year groups, within and across curriculum subjects and at transition points. There needs to be a culture where professional learning conversations articulate the ambition for what pupils will achieve as they journey towards well-defined outcomes and achieve their potential. School leads to a final end point which is life and work but there are steps along the way and assessing learning and progress must define these carefully.

We have an outstanding range of CPD that will support leaders, managers and teachers to be at the forefront of this curriculum evolution.  Our knowledge and expertise are highly praised and we have a wealth of well-researched resources that provide a platform for future learning across the whole school or college.  Below is a flavour of our curriculum offer. Coaching is the best way to build a culture of professional learning, have a look at our Coaching in Education section.

For primary schools

For secondary schools


How do subject leaders and teachers create learning opportunities linked to curriculum intent?

How do senior leaders ensure that the planned curriculum is implemented across all classess, year groups and at points of transition?  How can we at Learning Cultures ensure that the training we offer, the solutions we propose and the resources we provide create the right tools for subject leaders and teachers to deliver a deep and rich curriculum that serves the pupil cohort and the local context?

The answers to both questions above are linked to a clear imperative to build into the school culture real and meaningful opportunities for collaboration and the professional dialogue that leads to challenging conversations and high quality learning outcomes for teachers and pupils. This will include,

  • Make the curriculum rationale and ambition visible and visual across the whole school
  • Include all stakeholders in the celebration of a strong and stimulating curriculum offer
  • Making sure that the curriculum is central to every meetings that takes place
  • Take time to build an understanding that the programmes of study for English and Maths are the bedrock of planning all other curriculum subjects
  • Create opportunities for cross-curricular planning where there is a shared understanding of how to sequence the learning across topics, across year groups and at times of transition
  • Ensure that assessment outcomes are an integral part of planning the curriculum
  • Planning should focus on the importance of developing pupils core and wider skills as part of ensuring that information becomes knowledge and remains within the long term memory

Our suite of curriculum courses are designed to offer solutions, they provide practical resources that can be shared and cascaded widely.  We are aware through the work that we do that changing the paradigm of curriculum delivery is difficult. In order to ensure consistency across all learning that leads to high quality outcomes and a visible impact on the life chances for all pupils a co-operative and shared approach is essential.

Focus on your priorities from these key words and make sure you and your staff have the tools and resources to find the answers that build high quality learning.

Primary Curriculum Intent, Implementation and Intent ***Secondary Curriculum Intent, Implementation and Intent***Sequencing of the curriculum***Transition from KS1 to 2***Transition from KS2 to 3***Concepts in subject design***Primary Formative Assessment***Secondary Formative Assessment***Lesson observation***Quality Assurance***Coaching for Outstanding Teaching & Learning

Building pupils knowledge sequentially in both the core and wider subjects – do you have the evidence?

Taking a look at the most recent OFSTED reports where inspectors have been into schools this term makes interesting reading.  There are several entries where schools have been judged inadequate or requiring improvement who were previously outstanding or good.  The change of emphasis to a much deeper dive into the way the curriculum is planned, sequenced and assessed is clear in the improvement strategies these schools are invited to address.  I have listed here several quotes that are typical of what is deemed to be missing,

“The school’s curriculum is not sufficiently sequenced and coherent. The breadth of the National Curriculum is not covered in all subjects.”

“Leaders need to make sure that the curriculum is planned so that teachers can build pupils’ knowledge sequentially, over time, allowing them the learn more and remember more.”

“The curriculum is poorly planned and taught. Pupils do not gain enough skills and knowledge of subjects outside reading, writing and mathematics.”

“Improve the effectiveness of leadership by ensuring that learning in the wider curriculum is carefully sequenced so that pupils make good progress within topics and year on year.”

“Improvements should be made by developing the curriculum, in both the core and the wider curriculum subjects, so that it is well planned, builds on prior knowledge and understanding, meets the needs and interests of all pupils and enables them to achieve well.”

The messages could not be clearer. There is a sharp focus on curriculum sequencing, building on prior learning and planning to ensure pupils develop deep knowledge and skills across all their learning.  I could have included several other quotes about issues relating to assessment and the concern about subject knowledge and subject expertise as well as issues about how the curriculum is taught but this is a news post and not an essay.

Over the past few months we have followed the development of curriculum research, commentary on curriculum design and finally the publication of the latest OFSTED handbook for schools in a series of news posts and comments.  You can read the story so far here. We have developed some outstanding resources and tools to support leadership teams, curriculum managers and subject leaders to plan and deliver a deeply knowledge rich and skills focused curriculum.  We have focused on how to make this happen using practical approaches and well-researched strategies that are receiving high praise.  Our training is practical and solutions focused and is based on the principles of coaching. There is no better way to cascade outstanding practice and build a culture of professional dialogue that is shared across the whole school.

Have a look at our website for the many other training courses that are both relevant and will enhance the CPD potential in your school. We run superb INSET training or off-site courses.  There is something for all the staff in your school or college.

Incremental Coaching – taking small steps that deliver high quality classroom pedagogy

Q: What is the best way to ensure that the curriculum is consistently delivered across subjects, year groups and key stages?

A: Design a quality assurance system where the incremental components are carefully crafted and communicated so that all staff know the part they play in the successful delivery of a curriculum that is rich in knowledge and develops the skills learners need to access that knowledge.

We have a brand new training course that focuses on how to create a QA system in your school: Quality Assurance – a framework for curriculum cohesion, collaboration and impact 

Q: How can leaders and managers create the culture that ensures that good and best practice in teaching and learning is shared and opportunities for further development decided upon to incrementally build excellence?

A: Lead a coaching culture and create opportunities for leaders, managers and teachers to learn the coaching skills that will allow them to tease out their strengths, identify their gaps and focus on small steps and positive actions that will enhance their potential and allow them to continuously improve their performance. We have the sequence of courses to support your school on the journey towards a coaching culture.

Q: How can subject leaders empower their teams to create the curriculum that weaves skills and knowledge to deepen understanding and deliver a visionary, ambitious and innovative curriculum?

A:  Ensure strong subject teams use professional learning conversations and coaching skills so that there is a consensus about how to build on prior learning, sequence that learning towards clearly defined end points and decide how the knowledge and skills will be consistently assessed and moderated. Join us for a ‘deep dive’ into how to create strong subject teams that work together and also share cross curricular collaboration. Defining and Enhancing the Role of the Subject Leader – managing curriculum change that delivers sequential, seamless and deep knowledge and skills.

Then focus on assessment,

For an in-depth review of the story so far in relation to the need to focus on curriculum intent, implementation and impact and defining quality read our series of news posts from the past twelve months here. or follow the posts on our website here.




How do you quality assure the curriculum that is delivered in your school?

There is an emphasis on quality as schools return to the rhythm of the autumn term. The stakes are high as the new OFSTED handbook becomes a reality.  Quality of Education is one of the major changes that inspectors will be asked to focus on. They must ensure that the planning, sequencing and delivery of curriculum content and knowledge delivers breadth, depth and challenge over time.

There is a move away from a focus on data obtained as a result of testing at the end of key stage 1,2,4 and 5. The picture and associated dialogue must be about HOW results that translate into data have been achieved.  Amanda Spielman has republished a speech she wrote in June focusing on accountability and autonomy. She suggests that the two are inseparable in the quest for high quality learning in schools and colleges.In other words achieving results that translate into a positive data set in order to define accountability are not enough. Measuring quality must look at the excellence of teaching, the depth and breadth of curriculum, the ability of pupils to know how their learning intertwines and connects as well as a focus on the work that pupils produce.

“…and government should be able to distinguish between the quality of the system in terms of data, and the quality in terms of substance. We need that balance in the accountability system.”

Amanda Spielman – HMCI commentary: the roles of inspection and autonomy

Autonomy should give all leaders the belief that they can look at quality assurance as part of the bigger picture. In primary schools the foundation subjects must have greater prominence. Subjects should be taught by experts, learning should be sequenced and knowledge and skills carefully built over time. In secondary schools key stage 3 must be seen as a time where pupils build on learning from their primary school and develop the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for future learning and deeper thinking.

The three areas that OFSTED plan to focus on are:-

  • high quality pedagogy
  • classroom management and the behaviour of pupils
  • the curriculum and how it is planned and implemented

The indicators they will look out for are:-

  • building on previous learning
  • depth and breadth of coverage
  • pupil progress
  • evidence that pupils have opportunities to revisit and practice what they know

However, managing quality assurance in the school system must have a much wider focus if it is to create the right evidence that all the above indicators achieve the desired outcomes for the school. Here at Learning Cultures we have focused on seven principles that underpin highly successful quality assurance that are tried and tested in all sorts of organisations and should be an integral part of a QA process in schools and colleges.

These include:-

  • A clearly defined policy for quality assurance as part of the structure of strategic management
  • A mechanism for defining and communicating the vision for the organisation including how the curriculum intent is integral to the vision and ambition for the organisation
  • Processes for the design and approval of the curriculum in terms of content, sequeuncing over time and intended learning outcomes
  • Clearly defined standards for classroom pedagogy, behaviour and the management of and assessment of learning
  • The management of information and data to ensure that analysis and use of data informs progress, intervention and challenge
  • A strategy for assessing staff development needs linked to achieving the school vision and the needs of individuals and teams within the organisation
  • A mechanism for sharing success within and outside the organisation

Quality assurance is all about effective communication. It is about high quality assessment of the indicators that underpin what is expected within each stage. It is also about the sharing and celebration of successful outcomes.  Professional dialogue, collaborative team-working and a shared commitment to organisational excellence will deliver sustainable educational outcomes and the related data to be proud of.

Join us at our event,

Quality Assurance – A framework for curriculum cohesion, collaboration and impact

Have a look at the Learning Cultures’ Curriculum offer. We have training linked assessment in the primary phase, assessment in the secondary phase. A look at transition from KS1 to 2 and from KS 3 to 4.  We can support you on your primary curriculum journey and your secondary curriculum journey and we can support subject specialists to re-define their approach to curriculum planning.

What are the curriculum priorities for the new term?

What are the curriculum priorities that will guarantee a rich and deep curriculum offer that sequences learning over time?  They must include,

Creating the right teams that can take forward the vision and rationale for breadth and balance of the curriculum. Teams that can work together to create a sequential curriculum that weaves concepts, knowledge and skills into a body of learning.

A balance of innovation and conventional pedagogy that creates informed choices for how the curriculum should be taught. Developing a culture of professional learning that means staff within teams and departments, across year groups and at transition points all talk to each other and learn from each other.

A clearly defined strategy for highly effective CPD that is agreed linked to individual and team development needs.  If change is fundamental to re-defining the curriculum and how it is developed and delivered all staff will have their own collective and individual needs.  It is vital that this is planned and implemented to ensure that all staff are able to collectively deliver curriculum intent.

How the learning is assessed must be woven into the curriculum plan, assessment is fundamental if we are to measure the impact of the curriculum being taught on learning and progression.  There needs to be a balance between formative and summative assessment and opportunities for those with pupil facing roles to plan their assessment approaches together to ensure consistency, consensus and cohesion. There also needs to be agreement across all teams, departments and year groups as to how and when to intervene when pupils fall behind.

Building a system of positive quality assurance is key to defining the success of the curriculum and its implementation.  It is essential that the process secures high quality outcomes while retaining any strongly supportive team culture.  The process should be qualitative and not quantitative. Data is the result of a lot of other processes that are measured over time.  Lesson observation, learning walks, measuring pupil outputs, student voice, parents’ views are all part of measuring quality. It is, however, essential that all are used to celebrate a learning culture and are not seen as a measure of what is going wrong.  If we build a highly effective quality assurance strategy it will highlight the strengths within the organisation, inform the need for change and provide the steer for next steps in the process of continuous improvement.

Wherever you are on the curriculum journey we have a superb range of training and development courses that have been specifically designed to bring clarity and deeper meaning.  We are a coaching organisation and we achieve outstanding results.  Our courses are set out on our website in three sections,

We are launching a coaching certification programme and some on-line training courses which we are calling CPD in a Box this term.  Have a look at our website for more details.

Make sure all your staff have a CPD offer that is sustainable and provides profound learning that can be cascaded to others and has an impact on the organisation, the team and the individual.


CPD for the Curriculum Journey

Continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential ingredient in the quest for high quality learning and teaching of the National Curriculum.  The current imperative is on how the curriculum is planned and implemented in the quest for highly effective quality learning. There are several themes that have emerged over the last few months that require deep thought to create effective strategies that will ensure cohesion, consistency and positive outcomes across all learning. These are,

In order to weave together the elements outlined above schools need to craft a whole school CPD strategy that ensures all staff who have a hand in delivering curriculum outcomes can articulate the part they play in ensuring pupils deepen their learning over time.  Teachers must work together using structured planning time and professional dialogue. However, in order to use time effectively they also need to have the skills and knowledge to shape the pedagogy that will deliver what is defined in the vision or intent.

Our team at Learning Cultures have developed their expertise in this field over the past 20 years.  We know what works well and how to plan for outstanding and high-quality learning. Collectively, we have an enviable range of skills linked to curriculum design, pedagogy for learning, the weaving of skills through all subject specific content and how to ensure assessment is part of a cohesively planned curriculum.

Our suite of curriculum CPD courses have been carefully crafted to create the right balance for schools to shape a learning culture over time.  They can stand alone or be part of a planned programme of training for leaders, managers, teachers and support staff.

If you are the Headteacher or part of the senior leadership team and are planning the journey, shaping the vision and intent and defining the priorities you should attend one of our Re-defining series

If you are leading a subject or focusing on quality of learning within a faculty or department you need to attend our course looking at the importance of the subject expert. You also need to focus on the importance of weaving literacy and numeracy and the wider skills through all learning.

If you are involved in ensuring seamless transition from one key stage to the next and want to focus on how to ensure there is an emphasis on the academic as well as the pastoral that will provide evidence of seamless learning don’t miss out on one of our transition courses

Make sure, if you have responsibility for the assessment of learning, to join us at one of our assessment events. Assessment is key to the focus on curriculum implementation and how it impacts on learning. Consistent high-quality formative assessment will be an essential ingredient in the development of a cohesive and seamless curriculum. 

If your role is to measure the impact, or you have a part to play in determining how quality assurance delivers clearly defined outcomes join us at one of our courses that focus on how to assess for quality across all learning.

Remember all of these courses will have an element of coaching woven through.  Developing a successful and sustainable coaching culture is a guarantee of success.


Certification in Coaching – Cascading a culture of learning and collaboration

Developing a coaching culture is the most positive way to ensure the curriculum is the fulcrum for quality learning outcomes across the whole school or college.

Ask yourself:-

  • How is curriculum intent, rationale and ambition accurately translated into positive classroom practice?
  • How is learning sequenced over time and across phases, year groups and key stages?
  • What is in place to ensure all staff engage in professional learning conversations about their practice, curriculum content, concepts, and learning outcomes?
  • How is CPD planned to deepen knowledge and understanding linked to the vision and ambition for excellence and improvement?

The Learning Cultures’ coaching and curriculum teams have worked together to develop a Certificated Coaching Programme for schools and colleges to use to embed coaching successfully and sustainably over time. There is, within our schools and colleges a wealth of talent.  Current policy and good practice create an imperative to tap this by creating the right strategies that allow for collaboration and highly focused learning conversations that will provide the best solution to ensuring cohesive outcomes for pupils, teachers and their leaders and managers.

Coaching is the conduit that will provide the thread to linking subject specific and cross curricular learning. Coaching will help to create the dialogue that ensures skills and knowledge are woven through all learning. Coaching will ensure all staff embrace change, feel safe to innovate and can find their own solutions that deliver powerful learning outcomes.

A Journey in Coaching – Certificate in Coaching Competence provides a framework within which a school can begin to embed coaching.  We work over three terms with six members of staff (smaller or larger groups can be an option) who want to train as coaches and who will be the catalyst to begin the coaching journey for the whole organisation.  We provide all the materials, research documentation, three days training and on-going, on-line and telephone support.  We have opted for a certification rather than an accreditation route as this requires more on-the-job outcomes defined through evidence where the theory is applied in the context of educational learning. Read more by looking at the certification page on our website. Contact us here for more information.

We also have a range of coaching training courses for all staff including leaders, managers, teachers, support staff and those with a pastoral role.

We are continuing our highly acclaimed Redefining the Curriculum courses for both primary and secondary schools.  Have a look at our new course focusing on the role of the subject specialist.  Booking early is highly recommended.

Call us on 01746 765076 or Glynis directly on 07974 754241 if you would any more information.  You can also email Glynis at If curriculum cohesion is part of the question, coaching is without doubt the answer.

Preparing for subject specific ‘deep dive’ conversations and observations

The phrase ‘deep dive’ is the latest new terminology to come out of OFSTED’s focus on the curriculum and how it is planned and delivered.  I can’t help it, every time I hear the phrase it conjures up for me an image of an OFSTED inspector, in a rubber swimming hat, goggles and baggy trunks preparing to dive into the depths of murky subject knowledge or the dearth of it. Let’s unpick what this means for subject specialists or leaders.

Managing how the curriculum is implemented should fall to the subject team leader or subject expert.  It is their responsibility to create opportunities for that in-depth look at what is happening in the classroom to ensure that the content of subject learning is rich, builds on prior learning and prepares pupils for the next stage of their education. It is their role to translate the curriculum intent into clearly defined strategies for implementation.

This includes a focus on what the National Curriculum is asking for in their particular subject or wider area of study.  English, Maths and Science have a much more in-depth overview of what should be taught than the foundation subjects.  There is a degree of choice and opportunities for subject teams or departments to use their own local context, expertise and knowledge as the starting point for determining the content of their curriculum plan. The essential ingredients are,

  • the sequencing of learning over time
  • creating opportunities for pupils to make connections within and across their learning
  • ensure pupils understand the key concepts that link their learning within a subject and across subject boundaries
  • highlight the key skills that pupils will use and strengthen as part of their learning

In order for the subject or department lead to build a continuum of learning they must define the strategy that ensures schemes of work identify all of the above.  They must look closely at their own criteria for ‘deep dives’ into evaluating the quality of teaching and learning within their subject.  This will include collaborative planning meetings, opportunities to share through the use of professional learning conversations, highly interactive lesson observation and the review of pupil outputs such as in their written work, question and answer sessions and what they have produced in terms of models, presentations, art work and other media.

Some of OFSTED’s research provides a starting point for what subject leaders can use to determine how they can assess the quality of education and learning within their sphere of influence.  Specifically phase 3 of their research which includes 25 curriculum indicators that define what good curriculum design might look like. Also, the more recent publication of their research into lesson observation and workbook scrutiny. These documents give us clues as to a definition of high quality in education outcomes. Individual leaders and managers can add their own deep knowledge and understanding and create a powerful strategy for change or maintaining the status quo.

There is a lot to do and a lot to think about but now I think it is time for a deep dive into rest and recreation as we head for a well-deserved holiday for everyone with a pupil or curriculum centred role in a school or college.  We will continue to dive into the research, create our own and strengthen the Learning Cultures’ CPD offer based around our own deep expertise knowledge and understanding.  I will also keep publishing news-posts through the summer to highlight anything new that emerges.

Happy Summer and we look forward to working with you next term.

Glynis Frater

Observing Quality in the Classroom – measuring the impact of curriculum design

The quality of education is defined by OFSTED as ensuring pupils learn the content of a well sequenced curriculum across all subjects.  This re-balance (their language) requires leaders and their teams to look more closely at what is taught and how it is taught linked to their rationale and ambition for curriculum intent.

The clues to how this can be managed in school are linked to the myriad of speeches, publications and research that OFSTED have published over many months.  My post from last week, Curriculum Coherence and Coaching Conversations talks about a triangulation. This includes, lesson observation, book scrutiny and professional conversations with all stakeholders. The imperative to translate what is planned (intent) into education outcomes that deepen learning over time (implementation) and clearly define how all pupils will achieve their full potential (impact) is critical.

What we have to work with can help to create highly useful best practice models. The result of using these will deliver curriculum clarity to satisfy the inspectorate but will, more importantly, also foster a culture of highly interactive collaboration and the sharing of positive pedagogy that will have a lasting impact on morale, motivation and high quality learning.

Observation of learning is the key. This includes observing pedagogy and the learning outcomes that emerge from that. It also includes assessing the learning through what is written, how well pupils read, how pupils answer questions and what is performed, played, displayed or recorded for practical subjects including drama, PE, design technology, music and art. I have taken the observation indicators that OFSTED are using as part of their own validation and added to them a set of indicators of what observers and teachers might be looking for in terms of learning outcomes. Essentially, a far less subjective set of indicators that are linked directly to evidence of what pupils produce, learn, what they retain and their attitudes to learning.

So, when defining the quality of education, focus on the questions below so that you are clear as to what you would like to see when you observe pedagogy, practice and learning,

  • what are you expecting to see in the classroom, what do you want to see happening?
  • how does the content of this lesson fit into a sequence of lessons and other learning?
  • how is the learning assessed to ensure understanding and next steps?
  • to what extent are all pupils challenged to achieve more?
  • how involved are pupils in their own learning and how well can they articulate how they have accessed and retained knowledge over time?

We are as up to date with all this as it is possible to be. We continue to offer our suite of curriculum courses, including an in-depth and up to date focus on Re-defining the Curriculum.  One of our Leadership and Management courses looks specifically at Lesson Observation. The Art of Positive Lesson Observation – How to use powerful feedback that nurtures reflection, learning and outstanding teaching looks in-depth at the power of positive two-way observation that focuses on learning and successful outcomes for the teacher and their pupils.  At this crucial stage of change you may be looking at performance management and we have a highly acclaimed training day Re-thinking Appraisal and Performance Management- Influencing learning, empowering people and creating a culture of positive change  which will provide a focus on how to ensure every member of staff has a deep understanding of the contribution they can make to high quality education outcomes.

Make time for positive and highly praised CPD from Learning Cultures that is solutions focused, informed by sector led research and delivered by experts in education.