Caroline Pudner, primary teacher and Cornerstones Consultant, summarises the recent national curriculum report from John Blake, Head of Education and Social Reform at Policy Exchange. She takes a look at some of the proposals sure to influence government education policy in England.
Coherent curriculums: How to be part of the curriculum revolution
Good news for schools: It’s time to take stock. With no curriculum changes afoot in England, a newly-released report is calling on schools to focus on how the curriculum ‘revolution’ that began in 2014 is brought to life in their setting, and to what extent it is making an impact.
The big question is: How rigorous, coherent and well-constructed is your curriculum?
What’s it all about?
Like many teachers, I have had to adapt to educational ebb and flow. Some changes fade into obscurity, while others stand the test of time. By far the biggest change I’ve experienced in my professional life has been the 2014 national curriculum.
Over the past four years, schools have been making sense of this stripped-down-yet-rigorous curriculum, trying their best to structure, adapt and resource it for their settings.
This struggle has caught the attention of Ofsted, whose well-publicised findings have led to a new report by the UK’s leading think tank, Policy Exchange, and it’s set to influence government policy.
The report, Completing the Revolution, is written by John Blake, Head of Education and Social Reform at Policy Exchange. He has a clear message: schools must now take time to ensure their curriculum is coherent, purposeful, enriching and robust. They will also have to prove it, as Ofsted’s new 2019 framework will include a curriculum assessment.
So, why is this good news for schools?
There’s time to review your curriculum so far; build on the good work you’ve started; find and invest in curriculum support, and make impactful changes.
Ofsted does not favour one particular curriculum model, so you can create one that really suits your school’s needs – as long as it’s coherent, enriching and rigorous.
What are ‘coherent curriculum programmes’?
In these recent blogs by Cornerstones Curriculum author, Melanie Moore, she describes how creating a curriculum requires careful planning and consideration. National curriculum coverage should underpin a school’s curriculum, but it is up to schools to build upon this in a meaningful and enriching way.
Blake’s report highlights the need for ‘coherent curriculum programmes’ or CCPs (certain to become an educational buzzword!). He stresses that a curriculum should have clear structure and progression from beginning to end. It must also be ‘rooted in the knowledge and discipline of the relevant academic subjects’ so that children gain a rich and deep understanding of them.
Consider ‘oven-ready’ curriculums
The report also advises schools to consider published curriculums and resources that are well thought-out and of proven quality. Blake calls these coherent curriculum programmes ‘oven-ready’ – in other words; you can deploy them immediately. Although this term may imply a rigid ‘quick-fix’ curriculum, there are many benefits of taking a coherent programme and adapting it to the needs of your school – saving time is just one of them.
Blake suggests that evidence from countries who use ready-made curriculum programmes points to a reduction in workload and higher standards. He highlights that teachers are being freed to ‘deploy their professional skills where they will make the most difference’.
Use quality, coherent resources
Blake proposes that schools support their curriculum with coherent materials from established providers, rather than relying too heavily on teacher-generated resources. There is concern that teachers have been turning to online resource banks, many of which Blake describes as unregulated, of varying quality, and lack coherence in the context of a school’s curriculum. He states:
‘..teachers in England are trapped on a treadmill of endlessly turning out curriculum resources, with little or no quality assurance and no guarantee of coherence with the curriculum pursued in other schools, or even other departments of their own school.’
Curriculum focus in the new 2019 Ofsted framework
Ofsted’s curriculum research will inform their new inspection framework, going ‘live’ in 2019. So, whatever curriculum and resources your school chooses, you’ll be expected to explain to inspectors the purpose, values and detail of the journey that your children will take. Staff, parents and children should wholeheartedly believe in your curriculum, understand its values and feel its positive impact on learning and growth.
Next steps for schools
- Complete a curriculum audit.
- Contact and utilise established, quality providers such as Cornerstones Education, for curriculum programmes and resources.
- If you are in a MAT (multi-academy trust), ensure you have coherent curriculum programmes in place across your schools.
- Prepare in advance for Ofsted’s assessment of your curriculum from 2019 onwards, and potential scrutiny by Regional Schools Commissioners.
Do you want help designing and resourcing your school’s curriculum?
I’m passionate about the work we do here at Cornerstones and champion many of the messages in this report. Our curriculum programmes are tightly linked to the national curriculum and are cohesive, creative and fully-resourced. While it is an ‘oven-ready’, durable curriculum, it can easily be adapted to the needs of your school.
‘The school’s curriculum is a strength of the school. It is broad, balanced and provides pupils with opportunities to explore and develop key skills and concepts in depth.’
Ofsted report from Bilsdale Midcable Chop Gate CE (VC) Primary School, Middlesbrough, using the Cornerstones Curriculum
- Curriculum audit form
- Report summary: Completing the Revolution
- Full version: Completing the Revolution
Ofsted’s spring conferences – Sean Harford’s recent blog provides an insight into Ofsted’s focus on curriculum.