Introduction - Messages from the curriculum team at Learning Cultures as we celebrate successfully training over 1,000 delegates
Here at Learning Cultures we are keeping up to date with the unfolding of academic thinking and research linked to the in-depth focus on how the curriculum is designed and delivered. Our training is highly interactive and focuses on practical approaches to support positive change. Time is short and there is a lot to do before the summer term is through. For many, curriculum change is at the heart of planning for the new academic year 2019/20 both in England and in Wales. Make the most of this time and create collaborative teams that will build on current good practice and embrace change where it is seen as positive for pupils, staff and school. Some of our key tips:-
Start by focusing on what works well, that is an important time saver and is elevating and motivating.
Think about using coaching as the conduit for change. We know that where schools develop a coaching culture individual staff use professional dialogue to share their practice, absorb new ideas and innovations, and feel that their contribution to the school vision is making a difference.
Subject leadership and subject expertise are pivotal to the process of developing a curriculum offer in the primary, secondary and tertiary settings that has breadth and balance and delivers positive learning opportunities for all pupils from those with SEND, those that need to be challenged to achieve more and the higher achiever.
Know the strengths of the subject teams, fill any gaps and use expertise wisely to ensure subject and cross-curricular collaboration leads to the development of a curriculum that weaves concepts, knowledge and skills to create a tapestry of learning.
Reflect on how meeting time is structured so that there is sufficient opportunity for teams to collaborate, learn from each other and create a curriculum map that sequences the learning over time
Focus on transitions at the end of each key stage. Ask the question, "How much emphasis is placed on academic transition?" There is an imperative to ensure that pupils build on their prior learning over time.
All staff across the school need to know how important it is to sequence learning so that pupils continue to deepen their learning, can store knowledge in their long-term memory and build increasingly complex skills for learning and life. Part of this is to focus on the subject and cross-curricular concepts that knit the curriculum together and allow pupils to make connections and deepen their knowledge
Use the considerable expertise of the Learning Cultures curriculum and coaching teams to make the last few weeks of this very important term ensure your staff have the knowledge and skills to create a dynamic and creative curriculum and then enjoy a restful summer.
Put the spotlight on your curriculum but make sure change happens using what is already working well?
One of the principles of coaching is to look carefully at what you currently do well before you plan for change. It is valuable advice. A school has a wealth of talent and expertise. The development of curriculum plans, schema and maps as a result of the curriculum changes introduced in 2014 will have been carefully drawn and structured to ensure progression and opportunities for pupils to deepen their knowledge and acquire increasingly complex skills for learning.
Curriculum planners, subject leaders and subject specialists need time to reflect on the curriculum and begin to build a picture that keeps what works and ensures change is planned with the impact it will make in mind. Read the research and listen to the commentators but use the messages carefully only where they are relevant to your particular context. Focus on the concepts that will define curriculum intent and then think carefully about how to translate that intent into ambitious but achievable goals and targets.
There will be many aspects of the curriculum currently in place that will meet some of the current curriculum indicators linked to research into good curriculum design and this should be the starting point for what needs to change in the short term. It is far more motivating to look at what is working well and use that as a springboard to make changes that will benefit the staff, the teams they work with and teachers and pupils than to think and act upon a belief that the curriculum needs root and branch reconstruction.
Leading a culture that creates the vision, defines the rationale and drives ambitious futures for all learners
Leaders who have developed specific coaching skills as part of their repertoire of leadership skills are the most successful at empowering others to deliver change, manage positive improvement and build effective teams. The vision is the domain of the leader who has ultimate accountability for seeing that vision become a reality. However, if the vision is not wholly owned and embraced by everyone it is unlikely to be successfully achieved. How the vision is disseminated and translated into specific aims and objectives that can be achieved and measured for impact requires middle leaders, managers and subject leaders or HODs to empower their teams to develop the relevant strategy for change over time.
The power of coaching is in its focus on individuals being empowered to find their own solutions, embrace change and understand how their contribution impacts on improvement over time linked to the school's vision. There are so many positive benefits that emerge as a result of making the decision to use coaching as an integral part of a whole school CPD strategy and the best place to start is to ensure that the leadership team have the skills and attributes that will help them define the vision and empower all staff to take on the challenges it sets and make the changes that will forge a pathway to excellence and improvement.
Leading a Coaching School is a highly regarded training programme that defines the principles of coaching and how they dovetail with the skills that a Headteacher, Principal or other members of the SLT need in order to lead a complex organisation like a school or college. The current imperative to re-focus priorities linked to how the curriculum will be delivered and assessed requires the leadership team to carefully craft their intent, rationale and ambition for the curriculum and then ensure teams across the organisation have the relevant knowledge and skills to make sure what is planned is what is delivered. This requires a high level of ongoing professional dialogue, collaborative conversations and expert understanding of how to ensure that the curriculum builds on prior learning, is sequenced over time and offers challenge and parity for all. Coaching provides the vehicle for developing the skills to ensure the best use is made of time, individuals know their strengths and how to use them and there is a collective desire to realise the shared vision. Join us and focus on how the power of coaching can have a life changing effect for all those involved.
We have developed a brand new course for subject leaders and Heads of Departments who will have a pivotal role in re-focusing curriculum intent, implementation and impact. Subject expertise is given a high priority within the 25 indicators that OFSTED have identified as essential components that will define the quality of education in the new handbook they will use to inspect schools from September 2019.
The essential elements for the subject leader are,
We have developed this course using our own in-depth sector led research and a focus on looking closely at the sequencing of learning that is inherent within the programmes of study, performance indicators and assessment materials available to us. There is a tacit acknowledgment that what is already in place as a result of developing subject specific curriculum models will be an excellent starting point. We have used our subject and curriculum expertise to look at how best to build on what is currently available to strengthen the curriculum offer so that there is a positive tapestry curriculum that embraces subject concepts, skills and knowledge and weaves a seamless learning continuum from early years to post 16.
Re-defining the planning process - the curriculum at the core of every plan, every meeting and opportunity for CPD
What is happening in your school to ensure that the academic as well as the pastoral is an essential part of transition?
Building on prior learning and sequencing learning over time is one of the essential indicators underpinning any change to how the curriculum is planned and delivered. Having the right policies and efficient communication systems at times of transition is a vital component in the quest for a continuum of learning. All too often, schools focus on the pastoral process and are extremely successful at ensuring pupils moving from key stage to key stage are well looked after in terms of their care and personal needs. Information about what has been taught, how it has been taught and how well pupils have absorbed the knowledge and acquired the skills associated with their learning is not well communicated.
Learning Cultures have an expert transition team and we have been supporting those with responsibility for pupils as they move from key stage 1 to 2 or from key stage 2 to 3 over several years. We have gathered many examples of good practice and can provide a strategy that ensures all staff who plan the curriculum and teach the content can build on learning and deepen understanding over time.
There is an average 40% dip in the performance of pupils as they transfer from primary to secondary school. This is not so pronounced in year 3 but there is still evidence that pupils lose some of their learning and their confidence as they move from infant to junior school. The difference a carefully crafted plan for transition can make is profound. However, this requires a commitment to communicate with those in the previous key stage. There needs to be opportunities to share schemes of work, strategies for assessment and approaches to pedagogy so that teachers make sure that pupils can move seamlessly through a sequential learning experience.
Crossing the Transition Bridge - Seamless learning from Key Stage 2 to 3 is one of our most popular and well - received training courses. It has been a part of our curriculum offer for over ten years now. It has never been more relevant to the current imperative to create a continuum of learning through the design of a well-crafted curriculum. The advice, guidance and positive best practice examples and strategies will provide those with responsibility for transition to take back all they need to ensure pupils build on prior learning and are ready for the challenge of a knowledge rich and skills focused secondary curriculum.
Moving on - Transition from Key Stage 1 to 2 is a more recent addition to our repertoire of courses. It is just as important a stage for consideration of how to ensure transition is seamless and well-structured. Building on the basic skills that need to be secure at the end of key stage 1 and developing a curriculum offer that recognises how children learn and retain their knowledge is essential if they are to succeed and become confident learners by the end of year 6.
Having a strategy that ensures positive transition wherever you are on the learning spectrum is profound evidence that you are developing high quality educational provision, building on prior learning and sequencing learning over time and that is a very positive starting point in the curriculum planning process.
Knowledge and skills are intertwined in the quest to ensure all learners deepen their understanding and retain knowledge in their long-term memory.
Comprehension is first and foremost the most important skill of all. The ability to read and understand is critical in the pursuit of knowledge retention and motivation to learn. Sometimes, scant attention is given to the skill of comprehension in subjects other than English. Teachers of Science, Geography, History or RE for instance all use resources and publications with increasingly complex language structures. The text is often written to the subject and not to accommodate the reading age of the child. Creating opportunities to help pupils to access the subject vocabulary within non-fiction texts has huge benefits in the quest to ensure fluent readers.
Group work allows pupils to learn from each other, they develop the skills of collaboration, co-operation and the sharing of ideas and information. Learning how to work well in a group is another skill that must be nurtured to support pupils to become effective team players. Group work requires a teacher to focus on the qualities and skills of each individual member of the group in terms of how well they contribute to the task that the group has been set. It is often a neglected area of pedagogy that is deemed too difficult to manage and arrange and that can lead to behaviour or output issues.
Presentation skills both through the development of written scripts to the actual speaking and listening skills needed are essential in the pursuance of independent learning and the development of self-esteem and confidence. Creating opportunities for pupils to make their own presentations using their own enquiry skills and group work skills deepens learning and helps to ensure knowledge enters the long-term memory.
Number skills are the essential building blocks that help us to make sense of the world and how it is structured to make things work. However, number is often seen as part of a Maths lesson and not a part of other subject learning contexts. Numeracy has an integral part to play in most subjects, sometimes in simple calculations other times in much more complex operations. We must endeavour to identify where number skills create opportunities for learning and where they can be strengthened in different contexts to help pupils master the skills and make connections across their learning.
It is essential that we focus on the skills that allow pupils to access the learning in all subjects. No one wants to contrive a place to introduce the use of apostrophes or the construction of a shape such as a triangle or a rectangle. There is a myriad of examples of where these are essential in the development of understanding in subjects other than English and Maths. If teachers can't see this then there is little chance pupils will. Raising awareness of the vital use of the basic and wider learning skills and how they help pupils to access knowledge across all subjects is implicit in how we plan new approaches to curriculum implementation. We must create a tapestry that weaves the skills and the knowledge to ensure pupils build on their learning and deepen their knowledge and understanding over time. Learning Cultures have written a suite of training courses using our considerable expertise in this field to raise awareness and provide a wealth of outstanding resources that have proven invaluable to delegates who have already taken advantage of this opportunity.
Learning is made up of all sorts of stimulations that force the brain to open up neural pathways that will eventually ensure that what we are learning remains in our long-term memory. The curriculum offers us a wealth of experiences so that learners can make connections, build on their prior understanding and use the skills they have learnt in English and Maths across a range of contexts or subjects. The careful sequencing of the knowledge and skills learners will learn as they follow the National Curriculum is essential.
OFSTED clearly states in the Quality of Education judgement of their new framework that curriculum planning must demonstrate how content builds on prior learning and leads learners towards stated end points that define progress made. It is not always easy to see clear pathways for learning the knowledge. For instance, in History, the teaching of certain periods does not necessarily have to be chronological. What is taught in one year may focus on the Romans in the next the Tudors. If there is no synergy and no communication across the whole learning spectrum it is unlikely that a sequence of learning will emerge. It is therefore essential that there is a collective and whole school map that defines the content of the foundation curriculum in primary school from early years to year 6, with an eye on what will be taught in year 7. In the secondary school the map needs to cover what will be taught in year 7,8, and 9 with an eye to what has already been taught in at least years 5 and 6. The content and requirements of GCSE or vocational specifications should also form an integral part of the planning process so that pupils can have an opportunity for exposure to relevant concepts during their key stage 3 experience.
This is quite difficult to manage and requires a degree of expertise in the understanding of the relevant subject in its entirety. The place to start is with the aims of the National Curriculum programmes of study. If we focus on History, once again, the specification does not prescribe in any way a logical sequence to the learning. It is suggested that there should be a coherent, chronological narrative and the need to deploy a historically grounded understanding of abstract terms (concepts) such as empire, civilisation, parliament and peasantry. The programme of study suggests that key stage 1 pupils should 'develop an awareness of the past' in key stage 2 'they should note connections, contrasts and trends over time..' In key stage 3 'Pupils should understand how different types of historical sources are used rigorously to make historical claims and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed.' It seems clear that part of the planning must be to look at concepts that are key to how the learning should be sequenced. If time is a concept then deepening our understanding of how where we are now has been carved by past historical events should shape the content of the planned curriculum. To take a generic example, an understanding of the concept of power has a very different meaning in History, Geography, Science or PE. The concept however that power can be destructive, can drive change and can shape and form something new will aid understanding and allow for connections to be made by pupils across a range of learning experiences.
However we determine the sequence of knowledge acquisition, skills competence and conceptual understanding it is essential that subject specialists and leaders create opportunities for serious collaboration across year groups, in departments, across the curriculum divide and at points of transition. We need to ask the questions,
The curriculum is not a strait jacket, it is a guide and gives those with subject expertise an opportunity to be innovative and create seamless learning that will knit together a rich vein of conceptual and subject specific vocabulary, opportunities to use a wide range of literacy, numeracy and the wider skills that lead to deep learning and high levels of progression. The key to this is positive collaboration, joint planning and a map of learning over time. We explore these ideas as part of our course for subject leaders and Heads of Departments.
To add to the coaching bookshelf:
If you haven't already, join the Chartered College of Teaching, they have an excellent magazine for members and provide excellent guides to good research in education leadership, curriculum and teaching and learning.
CPD in a Box will be available from September 2019. There will initially be five of our courses available to buy as a stand-alone training resource which will include presentations and transcripts of the course content, cards and other resources and activities to use with staff, relevant research material and advice on how to present the training to staff.
I am reading Barkskins by Annie Proulx. It is an epic tale of two families and their ancestors devouring the North American forests and defining culture and landscape over three centuries. I am thoroughly enjoying it although it is a very long read. A great holiday read especially if you have a long journey ahead of you.