Leading from the Middle – using coaching to enhance the skills of subject and curriculum managers

Ensure your middle managers are leading their teams with clarity of purpose by developing their ability to coach others. Coaching allows managers to use highly effective professional conversations to ensure that curriculum rationale and ambition is translated into positive pupil outcomes.

Essentially, it is subject and curriculum managers that must communicate the messages established as curriculum intent and inspire their teams to plan and deliver a sequential learning platform of the highest quality. The most successful approach to ensuring this happens is to create a culture of self-reliance, reflection and trust.  Each individual needs to feel empowered to take risks and make relevant and positive changes. They need to have the skills to collaborate within teams and departments as well as across the curriculum, year groups and key stages.

Middle leaders are pivotal. Across the range of subjects and within a broader curriculum remit there needs to be a clearly defined plan of action that covers a wide range of potential change to current practice.  Subject and curriculum design expertise are a pre-requisite of the job role. However, there are a range of other more generic skills that are also vital. Managers need to be able to lead change, inspire innovation, understand how teams are formed for success and ensure that stated goals become positive outcomes.

Leading from the middle is the key to ensuring everyone is on board and knows the part they play in achieving the school vision for continuous improvement. It is the role of the senior leader to define the vision, rationale and ambition for the school. Middle and subject leaders then disseminate to their teams how they can all work together to create well focused strategies for change or review.  Therefore, they must have the right professional development that will enhance their role as effective communicators, powerful influencers and positive motivators.

Developing their coaching skills and implementing a coaching culture is, we know, a sustainable and cost-effective way of ensuring middle leaders develop and cascade a wide range or leadership skills and achieve sustainable change and cohesive teams.  The skills of a coach are those that empower others to find solutions, reflect on their own strengths, focus on the positive and deliver within well-defined frameworks. Our suite of coaching and curriculum courses provide the solution that will deliver cohesion, professional learning conversations and strategies that are time efficient.

For middle and subject leaders, we have two well-researched one- day courses

For leaders who want to use coaching as part of a sustainable and cost effective CPD solution start with,

All teachers and support staff will benefit from learning how to coach,

 

 

Governance and OFSTED – Curriculum content linked to aspirational learning

OFSTED’s Amanda Spielman’s latest speech to Governors at the NGA conference reinforces here conviction and commitment that the curriculum will be and to some extent is already at the centre of inspection.  She starts her speech talking about substance and integrity.

“Getting to the heart of it, this new framework is about two things: substance and integrity. It puts the real substance of education, the curriculum, back at the centre of inspection and supports leaders and teachers who act with integrity.”

We are assuming here that by integrity she means we put the pupils first before results and data! Substance has been a word widely used as the developments about the new approach to curriculum intent, implementation and impact have unfolded.  In terms of substance we need to look closely at the concepts that are upheld as important facets of curriculum design.  Breadth and depth, differentiation, relevance, coherence and continuity all figure as essential components.  Essentially, we must focus on a deep and rich curriculum that weaves concepts, skills and knowledge and sequences learning over time.

Amanda Spielman tells Governors that what OFSTED are clear about is that the curriculum is a core part of the ‘Quality of Education’ judgement.  The outcomes will focus on what the school chooses to teach, but more essentially it is about how the content is taught and how well the curriculum is ordered and structured.  Having a clear focus on the what and the how as part of a strategy for intent and implementation are clearly important.

We all want to know the answer to the question she poses ‘What is a good curriculum?’ Her answer cites the second phase of research published by OFSTED that suggests that there are several approaches to curriculum design and all can work.  She prompts Governors to ask the questions,

  • ‘What do you want your children to know?’
  • ‘What is going to help children in later life?’ 
  • ‘What will help children develop cultural capital?’ 

Cultural capital in the National Curriculum is described as,

“The essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.”

OFSTED judgements will be based on how much schools are giving pupils the knowledge and cultural capital to succeed.  She suggests that for some that should be recognising what is lacking in the home life of some pupils. She also suggests that we identify gaps in knowledge, skills and understanding and that content should be ambitious linked to aspirational learning. What she says OFSTED want to see is a deep and rich curriculum offer that does more than ensure pupil engagement but that creates opportunities for deeper and richer content that will stretch, challenge and provide a range of different contexts within which pupils work outside what is their normal experience.

She makes the statement already said many times before which is undoubtedly true but is sometimes difficult to reconcile,

“If a broad and balanced curriculum is well taught the exam results should almost take care of themselves.”

There is also a within this speech on the role of assessment in determining quality outcomes for pupils learning the curriculum.  The message to Governors is clear. Assessment should be linked to learning, deepening that learning ensuring that pupils can make sense of their learning. This in relation to what has already been taught and understood and how the learning leads to the development of a range of skills linked to reading and writing but also to the wider skills that support pupils to continually develop and grow in their learning.

“Progress should be measured by how much a child has learned the curriculum, rather than when or whether they are hitting a particular target”

Everything said here reinforces the messages from many of the speeches, research papers and the new handbook.  It reinforces for us the importance of a totally collaborative approach to ensuring the curriculum is about substance, depth and breadth. How do staff across subjects, year groups and transition points work together to sequence the learning? How do they define the concepts that underpin the learning and draw out the numeracy and literacy skills that allow pupils to access the knowledge? What assessment strategies ensure pupils know how to use increasingly higher levels of response to demonstrate their understanding?

We have now trained over 500 educators to look closely at their approach to curriculum design and delivery. We have developed some outstanding and well – researched materials and tools to support change where change is needed.  We know that our approach is having a significant impact and are proud of our record so far.

Join us at one of our innovative and hugely well-received training courses. We haven’t changed our ethos and understanding of powerful drivers for learning. OFSTED have though and we can support you to make the right changes where they are needed. Here is a snapshot of our valuable training.

 

 

Concepts in Curriculum Design – Creating the culture that delivers seamless learning

The architects of positive curriculum design must start with defining the concepts that will build a coherent and deep offer that delivers seamless learning and progression.  This is essential if the curriculum is to deliver the highest quality education for all pupils across the ability spectrum.

OFSTED’s new handbook and associated research reinforce the need for a clear and coherent rationale for curriculum design.  Creating a cohesive, inclusive and rich curriculum offer remains the key challenge for all headteachers and their senior leadership teams across all schools from early years, in primary and secondary schools and in post 16 education.

There are two parts to this and both require a focus on certain clearly defined concepts.  The curriculum intent, ambition and rationale is defined by an overarching set of concepts that include breadth and depth, relevance, continuity, progression and attitudes to learning.  Subject leaders have a pivotal role in ensuring the curriculum is implemented so that what is delivered reflects the vision, the intent and the ambition. The concepts that subject leaders need to focus on in relation to strategic planning for their departments, faculties or teams might include coherence, differentiation, continuity, knowledge, skills and understanding.

There is a third set of concepts that then need consideration as the planned curriculum is delivered to ensure high levels of learning and progression. These are linked to both subject content and to generic learning outcomes that are essential to learning in the classroom, across the curriculum and beyond.  Subject concepts might include, sources, predictions, measurement, beliefs, methods, settlements, environment, to name but a few.  Have a look at a list we have compiled, it is a work in progress. If subject teachers simply focus on the knowledge within their subject and do not see the connections both in relation to skills and generic learning concepts, opportunities for depth and breadth, continuity and coherence may be lost.

The key to leading this process and to orchestrating strategic practices that are consistent across all teams, subject specialisms and cross curricular partnerships is to ensure high levels of collaboration and professional learning conversations that bring together expertise from the senior leadership team, within subject specialisms and across the subject divides.

It is essential to turn the concepts into contexts that create clearly defined and workable solutions that all staff can contribute to achieving.  This will happen if continuing professional development (CPD) is carefully planned and linked to quality curriculum implementation which is seen as the essential and overarching vision.

We have designed our coaching and curriculum training to support schools move seamlessly to a solutions focused strategy, start with our Curriculum Re-defining series,

Build a coaching culture that will support highly effective collaboration for leaders, middle leaders and subject specialists,

Develop the coaching skills and pedagogy that will deliver a cohesive and positive curriculum and ensure teachers can share and cascade their practice widely,

Have a look at other coaching courses, courses linked to teaching and learning and those that support curriculum planning and implementation. Start your journey towards a seamless curriculum with Learning Cultures.