How connected is your curriculum?

In recent blogs, we’ve explored the importance of curriculum principles and articulating the curriculum design process. In this edition, Melanie Moore, author of the Cornerstones Curriculum, explains the importance of designing a well-connected and robust curriculum framework.

‘Invisible threads are the strongest ties.’ Friedrich Nietzsche

There’s not one person who sets out to write a curriculum that lacks coherence and connectivity. Doing so would result in a lack of understanding, meaning and progression. Whether it’s for a publication or their school, everyone aspires to design a robust and well-connected framework. Without a coherent curriculum framework in place, we will isolate subjects, fail to develop concepts, forget to revisit skills and omit to plan for lessons that build on prior knowledge.

Up until now, publishers and schools have tended not to articulate how such connections are made. Perhaps we have taken for granted that connections are evident from their outcomes: how well children learn and progress. However, in recent times, with an increasing emphasis on the importance of curriculum design (many schools are now being asked about their curriculum design), we find ourselves talking more about how our curricula make sense of everything we want children to know and be able to do.

The problem is that articulating the coherence of our curricula can be incredibly complex. Not only do we need to explain how national curriculum content is organised, but also how the necessary skills, knowledge and concepts are introduced, built on over time, revisited and assessed.

The benefits of a well-connected and coherent curriculum

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand the impact that a coherent curriculum has on learning. A well-connected curriculum will enable children to grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. It will enable them to seek out their passions, become increasingly knowledgeable and make sense of complex concepts that might otherwise be taught in isolation. In the light of the recent drive to reduce teacher workload, a coherent and well-connected curriculum can make the difference between having to do more detailed lesson plans or being able to do ‘light-touch planning’ that is secured by a robust framework.

Why achieving curriculum connectivity is so difficult

We shouldn’t underestimate the complexity of curriculum design or the huge amount of time it takes to get it right. I’ve had many discussions with senior and curriculum leaders who admit that after years of attempting to establish the perfect curriculum, it still eludes them. Logistics, time, curriculum expertise and staff turnaround in schools make this process even more challenging. That’s why many schools opt for an ‘oven-ready’ curriculum, like Cornerstones, that offers curriculum connectivity and gives firm foundations on which they can build their own curriculum and planning.

Cornerstones: four dimensions of connectivity

At Cornerstones, we identify four main areas of connectivity: big ideas, subject-to-subject links, pedagogical links and concept links. Click on the short clip below to see an example of how we’ve linked and built upon the big idea of ‘significance’ in history, across the year groups.

These four distinct strands: big ideas, subject-to-subject links, pedagogical links and concept links, help schools articulate the design and rigour of their curriculum and understand what is being taught as well as when and how. I explain all four in more detail in my article on page 18 in the latest edition of our free magazine, The Curriculum, so please do take a look by clicking on the link below.

Hopefully, for those of you already using Cornerstones, the article will help you articulate these links and make clear how well-connected your curriculum is. For those of you that do not currently use the Cornerstones Curriculum, I hope it will be a useful tool to assist you in thinking deeply about your own curriculum design.

Do you want help designing your school's curriculum?

The Cornerstones Curriculum is one of the UK’s leading primary curriculum companies, providing over 2000 schools with the tools, content, and expertise they needed to design their curriculum. If you want help developing your curriculum, then contact us to book a free online meeting with one of our team.

Find out more about curriculum design

Cornerstones - Six steps of Curriculum design.

Published by

Caroline Pudner

Caroline is a Curriculum Developer at Cornerstones. She writes curriculum materials, teaching resources and blogs. Caroline has 10 years primary teaching experience and has worked in both museums and galleries education and adult education.

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