04th July 2020
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 curriculum framework. Without a coherent curriculum framework in place, we will over-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, 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.
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand the impact that a coherent curriculum has on learning. A well-connected and well-sequenced 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 ad-hoc, detailed lesson plans or being able to do ‘light-touch planning’ that is underpinned by a robust knowledge and skills progression framework.
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 a curriculum package, like Cornerstones’ Curriculum Maestro, that has built-in curriculum connectivity and progression and can be adapted for a school’s needs.
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 time-saving edition of our free magazine, The Curriculum.
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, or our online curriculum platform, Curriculum Maestro, I hope it will be a useful tool to assist you in thinking deeply about your own curriculum design.
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.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated to ensure accuracy and comprehensiveness.