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Research, raising the curriculum profile and designing a strategy for evolutionary change

 At the time of writing there is no doubt that our country is experiencing a time of political turmoil.  'Brexit' seems to be the only item on the agenda for the Government at the moment.  A consequence of this is that in terms of education there has been few changes to policy from the DfE over the past few months.  That is not the case with OFSTED who are forging ahead with their reform of the inspection framework for September 2019.  They have just published phase 3 of their research into how they might assess the quality of education with a much greater focus on curriculum intent, implementation and impact. What is being proposed is to be welcomed and moves school leaders away from the pernicious focus on results as the only accountability measures. There is to be a consultation on the draft OFSTED inspection framework when it is published in the new year. The profession has the chance to start the conversation that confirms what we as educators believe is ' quality in education'.  

The quality of education is a slightly woolly term and how this is assessed needs to be carefully defined.  The research has highlighted 25 curriculum indicators  of what they believe are those that represent good practice in curriculum design. They, essentially, fall into four categories. These are the subject of my last news post 'Raising the Curriculum Profile - a whole school strategy that delivers inclusive and deep learning'. Along with my curriculum team I have been following the progress of the research and have written a series of newsposts that bring together the main messages.  You can read all the posts together here or read them in sequence from the first post in September OFSTED, the Curriculum and Moving Towards a Change of Emphasis and follow the sequential links at the bottom of each article.

What is being proposed is good practice. In many schools it will be what they do already. It gives leaders and their teams an opportunity to reflect on what currently works well, what can be improved and what needs to be changed. Learning Cultures genuinely do not need to change much of what we deliver as part of our suite of training because we advocate the approach being suggested now as the best way to create the whole organisational strategies, pedagogical approaches and conditions for learning that lead to successful outcomes for all learners regardless of their starting point.

Coaching is, we know, the most effective way to ensure everyone understands the vision, can articulate and share what they currently do well and what needs to change and have the confidence to innovate and share their successes. In this newsletter we have looked at how we can support school leaders to use this time of change to re-appraise their curriculum offer, develop a CPD strategy that delivers a whole school cohesive and interactive curriculum and ensures a quality assurance strategy that links to learning outcomes and whole school impact.

Here's to a happy new year of positive change for the education profession.

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Leading a curriculum evolution - coaching skills to communicate the vision, empower change and inspire learning conversations

The information from OFSTED states several times that the proposed changes are an evolution and not a revolution. Evolution is a slow process of change or a gradual development.  Creating a coaching culture is an evolutionary process that is inspirational in creating opportunities for leaders to share their vision, work with their senior and middle leaders to disseminate that vision and ensure that various teams across the school can deliver the vision to create a cohesive, inter-woven curriculum that is deep and rich and meets the needs of all pupils. 

Learning how to coach is in itself a powerful leadership skill.  The assessment of what currently works well, the ability to empower others to embrace change and the skills that ensure individual team members can find their own solutions are all what is going to ensure that a curriculum evolution emerges from current good practice and creates opportunities for curriculum teams and cross curricular groups to work together to weave curriculum concepts, develop learning skills, enrich pedagogy and deepen learning outcomes for all pupils.

Change is inevitable and constant. One of the first principles of coaching is that leaders recognise the strengths and skills within their teams and build on what currently works well.  This ensures buy in from those involved in the process. Coaching is developmental where individuals learn to coach and then cascade their learning to others, this builds teams of highly skilled coaches who are positive, task-orientated and outcome focused. 

Dovetailing coaching and the re-defining of curriculum intent, implementation and impact will help to create a strategy that empowers all those involved to work together through the use of highly structured professional conversations. this in turn will lead to a collaborative process that will impact on the development of rich content that ensures the sequencing of concepts, that creates opportunities for learners to make those vital connections and learn the skills they need for knowledge progression that ensures they 'learn the curriculum'.

Welcome these changes, embrace their potential to celebrate what works well and make changes that support the school, its staff and pupils that will ensure the data reflects high quality learning through the delivery of a seamless and rich curriculum offer. Our coaching courses are built on years of research, developed with education professionals and highly praised for their content and the resources we provide.

  • Leading a Coaching School – Empowering a culture of positive change that cascades continuous improvement
  • Coaching from the Middle - How to influence change, build outstanding teams and lead innovation
  • Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning - Cascading excellence, fostering collaboration and defining the pedagogy for learning

To reflect on the current issues, policy and proposed changes and link those to your current curriculum offer,

  • Re-defining the Primary Curriculum - Content, cohesion and purpose
  • Re-defining the Secondary Curriculum - Defining purpose, designing content and delivering impact

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 The pivotal role of the middle leader - their role in disseminating the vision, building positive teams and promoting reflective thinking

Content and coverage of the curriculum is the responsibility of subject leaders, phase and year leads and those who have responsibility for curriculum planning.  The list of curriculum indicators published by OFSTED refer to subject leaders several times both specifically and incidentally.  There is explicit reference to the need to ensure Mathematical fluency and the prioritisation of reading but the references make clear that the responsibility is across the full curriculum and is not solely the responsibility of leaders of Maths and English. The emphasis is on how well subject leaders for all subjects understand the design and delivery of the curriculum and have the knowledge, expertise and practical skill to design and implement the curriculum. There is also an imperative for leaders to quality assure the subject content to be sure that it is delivered and assessed well. 

Ongoing professional development and training is vital to ensuring that the curriculum design and how it is delivered and assessed is of a high quality and is linked to the school vision. Ensuring middle leaders have the leadership skills to empower their teams to plan effectively, work together successfully, manage time and resources well and understand how the outcomes relate to the quality assurance processes that will define success are essential.  Building the coaching skills of middle leaders is the way forward. All of those who have responsibility for the development of effective teams who can work together to deliver curriculum change, assess its efficacy and create opportunities for continuous improvement will benefit from learning how to coach. 

Middle leaders will learn how to focus on their own goals and priorities and how they communicate these to their teams.  They learn how to develop skills in prioritising, critical path analysis and time management.  They develop a deeper understanding of how to empower others to change, find their own solutions and try innovative pathways that will enhance learning.  Learning how to coach develops skills of reflection, deep listening and positive questioning that support managers to make sure the team is working smartly, to full capacity and is deepening their expertise over time. Coaching embraces all those involved in the completion of a project, task or strategy. If ensuring the curriculum is appropriate, is equitable for all groups of pupils and has sufficient depth and coverage of knowledge in all subjects is the project or task at the top of the agenda a coaching approach is possibly the best way to guarantee positive outcomes for the school, for teams, for pupils and teachers and all other stakeholders.  

Our Coaching from the Middle coaching course is tailor-made for those involved in planning for change over the next few months. It is an essential starting point for middle leaders to begin to develop a programme of continuing professional development for all their team members. The opportunity to cascade the learning from this day makes it cost effective and will ensure there is an impact on learning and achievement for all.

  • Coaching from the Middle - How to influence change, build outstanding teams and lead innovation

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Define the pedagogy of outstanding teaching and learning and use coaching triads to cascade powerful learning

Professional learning and development for those delivering the curriculum is an essential ingredient in ensuring a positive impact on learning. Teaching staff and their support teams take the vision and the strategy that is created out of that vision and shape it into the schemes of work and lesson plans that will impart the curriculum intent. Their understanding of pedagogy, the skills and conditions for learning, the sequencing of concepts and how pupils access and deepen knowledge over time are fundamental to the school achieving the outcomes that will ensure all pupils progress and achieve to their full potential.

The skills and knowledge a school has across all staff is phenomenal but is rarely tapped.  Observation gives the observer and the observed an opportunity to share feedback and to celebrate good and outstanding practice. This is not often shared and is rarely disseminated widely and is therefore lost to others.  All subject teachers have profound subject knowledge, they also have a range of pedagogical skills and learning strategies that motivate and captivate pupils' imagination that mean they are ready to absorb and deepen their learning. Where teachers work together within their subject, across subject divides or in primary schools across year groups and phases there is a significant impact on continuing professional learning and outcomes for pupils. 

Where teachers develop a range of coaching skills, they learn to share their own strengths, work together to talk about pedagogy and how different classroom strategies have an impact on outcomes that ensure a measurable impact on motivation, innovation and learning. Coaching will help teachers and their support teams to be comfortable in sharing their own good practice, articulating their strengths and positive attributes linked to teaching and learning.  Teachers learn how to use deep and rich questioning techniques, how to listen actively and how to articulate what constitutes good and outstanding pedagogical practice.

Our Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning course raises awareness of how powerful coaching can be as a pedagogy in the classroom.  Teachers learn some essential coaching skills and are given a variety of resources that they can take back into school so that they can work with other teachers to develop their coaching skills.  We train the delegates to use triads to support on-going CPD back in school that will cascade the learning from the course.  In this way coaching is an integral part of a sustainable CPD strategy that cascades the coaching model.  The coaching conversations that emerge will help to ensure that curriculum implementation and the pedagogy that ensures high quality learning is articulated and shared widely both within a subject context and in a more cross curricular context for learning across subject and concept divides. There are several other courses that support teachers and their support teams to develop a professional dialogue that will deliver high quality learning outcomes.

  • Coaching for Teaching Assistants and Support Staff - Encouraging reflection, innovation and challenge
  • The Art of Positive Lesson Observation - How to use powerful feedback that nurtures reflection, learning and outstanding teaching
  • Lesson Study - Enhancing learning through professional collaboration and enquiry

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Create a tapestry curriculum that weaves literacy, Maths and numeracy across all learning

For those who follow my posts regularly you will know how passionate I am about the importance of the skills that allow all pupils to access the knowledge that is the curriculum. If you have not already read  my recent news post Skills versus knowledge - let's explore the conundrum using a Haiku poem. Two of the curriculum indicators linked to phase 3 of OFSTED's research specifically focus on reading and Mathematical fluency. I have been actively involved in research that clearly shows the value of ensuring that pupils can apply the concepts they learn in Maths and English in the context of their learning in all other subjects across the wider curriculum and beyond. It is potent and the results in terms of successful outcomes for learners is indisputable.

A review of how the curriculum is implemented does require a careful scrutiny of how competently pupils can use their Maths and English skills to access and deepen their learning in other subjects. The basic skills are the building blocks pupils learn in KS1. These need to be built upon through careful sequencing and creating opportunities to use them to support knowledge progression in KS2, 3, 4 and beyond.  The emphasis on knowledge and deepening understanding needs to be carefully planned inked to developing higher level thinking skills that will ensure success in tests and examinations. Our expertise in this area is unprecedented and we continue to deepen our own knowledge and understanding to ensure that the courses we offer help all staff delivering the curriculum know how to successfully embed the skills for learning that will continue to be important to all learners throughout their lives.

  • Literacy is the Language of Learning - Enhancing the role of the Literacy Co-ordinator
  • Making Number Count Across the Curriculum -Enhancing the role of the Numeracy Co-ordinator
  • Mastery and Deeper Learning in Literacy and Numeracy across the Primary Curriculum
  • Embedding Literacy and Numeracy in subject specific contexts across the secondary curriculum- Policy into Practice

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Quality assuring curriculum planning, delivery and measures of impact as part of a process of accountability and CPD

 "Quality assurance is based on the principle that if everyone is responsible for quality it is less likely there will be problems occurring along the way". A definition I used in an explanation of quality assurance in a Business studies textbook I co - wrote some time ago.  Although the context is linked to a business and not to a school the principle remains the same.  If what OFSTED are saying is right and we have no reason to doubt them they want to change their emphasis away from a starting point of data and much more to a focus on the quality of teaching and learning over time linked to curriculum content and how it is designed in relation to such things as knowledge progression and the sequencing of concepts that ensure pupils 'learn the curriculum'. 

Measuring the quality of outcomes based on data has always been a blunt instrument. It gives us a snapshot in time and does not give any indication as to what interventions, strategies and approaches made a difference and which ones did not.  We should all welcome the opportunity this offers to focus on what we should be measuring, how we can extract the right information and how we can use it as evidence of good practice in curriculum planning and implementation, effective teaching and learning and highly motivating assessment techniques. Quality assurance needs to be an integral part of the planning process from the outset, it is not something that can be added on after the curriculum content and how it is to be implemented is decided.  With this in mind it is essential to focus on what should be included in determining the quality assurance measures you would want to have in place. These are some important aspects to focus on.

  • Measure your current practice against the standards included in the current and future inspection framework and other performance indicators that apply to your context
  • Define carefully what your own measure of good and outstanding is and focus on where you know you are currently meeting the standard set by your stated measure
  • Work closely with your teams and ensure that the measures you want to assess are the product of everyone within the team and are not an imposition from senior leaders
  • Focus on the outcomes you are looking for in terms of curriculum implementation and impact and work backwards so that you can determine how you will achieve them
  • Create a set of key performance indicators (KPI) that your team can use to measure both qualitatively and quantitatively to ensure that the defined KPIs are being met
  • Ensure that quality assurance is an integral part of all CPD activity so that you can measure the impact of training and development on the achievement of objectives and the impact on improvement
  • Celebrate where quality measures are being met and continually focus on the fact that quality of output is the responsibility of every member of staff

Quality assurance is an integral part of our two training courses that are supporting senior school leaders in both primary and secondary schools to review their current practice and benchmark it against what is being proposed to ensure that the curriculum delivers powerful learning for all pupils.

  • Re-defining the Primary Curriculum - Content, cohesion and purpose
  • Re-defining the Secondary Curriculum - Defining purpose, designing content and delivering impact

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Assessment to shape future learning that is consistent, accurate and inspires learners to embrace challenge

If data analysis is less important than on-going formative assessment linked to learning outcomes then assessment of the learning must be at the heart of the process on ensuring that the curriculum is fit for purpose and delivers a deep and rich tapestry of knowledge that is accessible as well as challenging.  Have a look at my news-post, Formative Assessment - essential to assessing curriculum impact on learning and progression. Amanda Spielman has said on several occasions that she believes assessment and the curriculum are inseparable and the outcomes that are stated as required as a result of what is being taught should be very clearly and carefully defined for both the learner and the teacher. 

There is a clear emphasis in my article and much of the literature and research available that the need for positive dialogue with the learner reaps great benefits.  Marking rarely offers the pupil the opportunity to improve and is time consuming and sometimes detrimental to well-being and work-life balance.  The more we provide opportunities for pupils to talk about their own output and how they feel they have progressed and can articulate what they have learnt the more likely they are to know what they need to do next,

The emphasis on dialogue is key. This is just as important where teachers work together to share and moderate their assessment decisions, where pupils and teacher work together and where pupils work in one to one settings to assess each others work. The use of coaching techniques can make a huge impact on how beneficial these strategies are.  Join us for one of our training courses looking specifically at formative assessment and learn how to coach your pupils towards achieving more, trying harder and deepening their understanding of how to use higher level thinking skills.

  • Formative Assessment across the Primary Curriculum- Planning, questioning and collaborating for learning
  • Formative Assessment across the Secondary Curriculum – Planning, questioning and collaborating for learning

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Plan a curriculum offer to ensure parity for all groups of pupils

One of the themes listed in the curriculum indicators included in phase 3 of OFSTED's curriculum research is the need to ensure curriculum coverage allows all pupils to access the content and make progress through the curriculum.  Planning needs to take account of how the curriculum content meets pupils' learning needs and delivery must be equitable and appropriate to all groups of learners.  There is also an imperative for leaders to consider how to ensure that interventions are appropriately delivered to enhance pupils' capacity to access the full curriculum. 

Each school is different and the nature of the learner, their local context and their specific needs linked to learning, achievement and well-being all need to be taken into consideration when planning the curriculum offer. Alongside this is the need to focus on specific subject progression and coverage over time and across key stages, phases and year groups. Identifying need is a critical part of the planning process especially at times of transition from key stage to key stage and from year to year.  The curriculum content should be carefully sequenced and the needs of different groups of learners taken into account as part of the planning process. Differentiation is integral to this process and all staff involved in delivery and assessment of the curriculum should demonstrate their planning in relation to how they are creating learning opportunities in a way that does not exclude pupils who have special needs or who need extra stretch and challenge. 

We have thought about this in the design of several of our curriculum and teaching and learning courses. The need to focus on the learner, the right conditions for learning and the need to recognise the challenges that different groups of learners present is ever changing and needs constant review.  It is my own personal experience of working with low ability learners that given the right programme of study and focusing on active and challenging pedagogy you can turn some learners around and see them blossom into high achievers linked to their starting point. We have several courses that will support this aspect of the new thinking on curriculum.

  • Accelerating Learning to Foster Higher Achievement, Greater Challenge and Positive Mindsets
  • Managing the Pupil Premium - Creating successful outcomes and having the evidence of impact for stakeholders
  • Mindset Matters to Unlock Learning - Creating self-belief and a culture of positivity in the classroom
  • Moving on - creating a transition strategy that builds a continuum of learning from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2
  • Crossing the Transition Bridge – Seamless learning from Key Stage 2 to 3
  • Psychological well-being - Promoting emotional health, mindfulness and wellbeing to optimise learning and achievement

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Build a whole school strategy for change - CPD that builds cost-effective and sustainable strategies for curriculum and pedagogical change

The secret of success is positive collaboration, deep learning conversations and giving every member of staff an opportunity to share in the vision for how the curriculum is designed and delivered. There are several strands running through this and our previous newsletter that to what will create a cohesive curriculum built on learning, the deepening of knowledge and acquisition of the skills that allow pupils to access that knowledge.  The most powerful way to ensure that this happens is to put coaching at the heart of ongoing continuing professional development. 

Coaching is a powerful pedagogy, all those involved in change will benefit from the use of a range of coaching skills in helping them to embrace new ideas as well as focusing on what they already do well and how they can build from there.  Everything that has been written about changes to how schools plan, implement and assess their curriculum offer can be overlaid onto a coaching model. Coaching is about positive conversations, it is about using highly effective questioning and listening skills to empower others to find their own solutions. It is non-judgemental non-directive and leads everyone involved towards solutions focused outcomes that are part of a culture of success. There has never been a better time to embrace coaching and reflect on your curriculum, what is working well and what you might change to enhance its quality, efficacy and opportunities for learner success.

Start a coaching journey by having a look at our Coaching in Education section on our website.

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  • Read issue 4 of the Chartered College of Teaching's magazine IMPACT. It is all about the curriculum
  • The Learning Rainforest: Great Teaching in Real Classrooms by Tom Sherrington was recommended to me by one our coaches Sandra Stansfield
  • The Power of Questioning by Starr Sackstein looks at the importance of positive questioning in the classroom, it resonates so well with a coaching model
  • The National Curriculum and the Teachers Standards by Learning Matters is not new but does provide a good overview of the national curriculum as we are about to unpick it again
  • Experiential learning: A practical approach for training, coaching and education by Colin Beard It is always useful to focus on the differences and similarities
  • Coaching and Mentoring: a critical text by Simon Western is in some ways a history of coaching linked to techniques today

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Wishing all our schools and the leaders, managers, teachers and support staff we have worked with this year a sparkling new year. 

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