How to design your curriculum

Cornerstones - Six steps of Curriculum design.
  • Six Steps of Curriculum Design

    Designing a curriculum is not easy. It is a complicated process that needs to be carefully thought through and involves much strategic decision making. With over 2000 schools now using the Cornerstones Curriculum, we have identified six crucial steps of effective curriculum design. These steps can be used by any school, including those wanting to design their curriculum from scratch and others wishing to review their existing curriculum. Starting with ‘Principles and purpose’ and adding a bit of your own creative sparkle, follow our six steps to design or refresh your curriculum.

    Step 1: Principles and purpose

  • Setting out the intent of your curriculum.
  • Schools should begin the design process by establishing their curriculum principles. The curriculum principles should reflect the school’s values, context, pedagogy and needs. Schools should be able to articulate the purpose or intent of their curriculum principles. For example ‘We believe in a broad and balanced curriculum where all subjects are valued. A broad and balanced curriculum will equip our children with a breadth of knowledge and skills in all areas of the curriculum.’

    Step 2: Entitlement and enrichment

    Developing your pupil entitlement.

  • After clarifying its principles and purpose, a school should set out its pupil entitlement. Your pupil entitlement should set out how the school intends to enrich its curriculum with educational visits, extra-curricular activities and specific entitlements. For example ‘All children in our school are entitled to two educational visits a year.’

    Step 3: Breadth and balance

    Developing the content of your curriculum.

  • Schools will need to arrange their curriculum content into a range of exciting themes and projects. These should enable the school to deliver on its curriculum principles and entitlement while ensuring coverage of the statutory requirements of the national curriculum. A school will need to make strategic decisions about what it covers, how it covers it and in how much depth to achieve both breadth and balance. These choices and decisions create a school’s curriculum structure or long-term plan.

    Step 4: Teaching narrative

    Planning the delivery of your curriculum.

  • After organising their long-term plans, teachers need to plot the narrative of their projects. A teaching narrative should be vibrant and cohesive. It should detail the starting point for each project, showing how it will develop, and outline any significant outcomes. This process creates a medium-term plan that can be used as a starting point for shorter-term plans.

    Step 5: Resources

    Sourcing high-quality resources to deliver your curriculum.

  • Schools need to identify the resources they need to bring their curriculum to life and enhance its coherence. A good curriculum needs good quality resources. Resources include human resources, practical equipment, environments and teaching resources.

    Step 6: Review and evaluate

    Deciding what is working well and where there is room for improvement.

  • After establishing its curriculum, a school will need to regularly review its impact on teaching and learning and make any adaptations or changes. It will help to consider the original curriculum principles and purposes when reviewing, and focus on particular areas for development in school. For example How well is the curriculum helping children to progress in writing?

Download a PDF version of our six steps of curriculum design.

And finally

Of course, the six steps are a simplification of a more complicated process, but they are a good place to start. Several missing ingredients that have a significant impact on your curriculum design are missing here. For example, the unique combination of the staff at your school and their experiences, your children’s passions and interests, and the creativity you bring to the process.

Do you want help designing your school's curriculum?

The Cornerstones Curriculum has provided 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 experienced curriculum consultants.

Curriculum Maestro™

Curriculum Maestro is a comprehensive curriculum design, delivery and management system. Created to help primary schools complete and manage complex curriculum tasks with ease and with maximum time-saving efficiency. Pre-populated with fully editable and coherently sequenced early years and primary content, Curriculum Maestro supports the process of curriculum design, that begins with the articulation and creation of curriculum intent to the daily detail of individual teacher timetabling and lesson planning. Linked assessment and the ability to monitor real-time curriculum coverage enables all staff to ensure that plans are taught and assessed. A magnitude of teaching resources, a whole-school skills and knowledge framework and the ability to generate and publish bespoke curriculum projects makes Curriculum Maestro a must-have tool for all primary schools.

Curriculum Maestro find out more

Published by

Melanie Moore

Mel is Curriculum Director and the author of the Cornerstones Curriculum. She writes, edits and oversees all curriculum materials and leads our creative team. Mel has over 20 years of primary teaching experience, including as a deputy headteacher. She has also been a teacher adviser and a local authority strategy adviser.

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