Six Steps of Curriculum Design



15th July 2021

Six Steps of Curriculum Design

Designing a curriculum isn’t easy. It is a complicated process that needs to be carefully thought through and involves much strategic decision-making. 

In this blog, Curriculum Director Melanie Moore shares the simple six-step process we have developed to help you design an effective, exciting curriculum.

Six Steps of Curriculum Design

How to design your curriculum

Since 2010 we have supported over 2500 primary schools with their curriculum. During that time, we have identified six crucial steps of effective curriculum design. These steps will enable you to design your curriculum, whether starting from scratch or reviewing your existing curriculum.

  1. Principles and purpose
  2. Entitlement and enrichment
  3. Breadth and balance
  4. Teaching narrative
  5. Resources
  6. Review and evaluate

Step 1: Principles and purpose – Set out the intent of your curriculum

Begin by establishing your curriculum principles. Your curriculum principles need to reflect your school’s values, context, pedagogical approaches and needs. In essence, your principles should clarify the vision for your curriculum.  

Tip: Discuss and define your curriculum principles, vision and intentions with all stakeholders.

Read more: What are curriculum principles?

Read more: Pedagogy: is yours distinct from your curriculum?


Step 2: Entitlement and enrichment – Develop your pupil entitlement

After clarifying your principles and purpose, you should set out your pupil entitlement (sometimes known as pupil offer). Your pupil entitlement should explain how you intend to broaden your curriculum with educational visits, extracurricular activities and other curriculum enrichment experiences.  

Tip: Consider what your pupils will experience as they move through school and map these out for each year group. Link your entitlement to your curriculum principles, where possible. 

Read more: Developing cultural capital in your primary school


Step 3: Breadth and balance – Curate the content of your curriculum

You now need to arrange your curriculum content into subject schemes. Begin by looking at the programmes of study and make careful choices about what you will teach, when and why. Decide which concepts and subject aspects your curriculum will cover and how they interconnect with other subjects. You’ll then need to break these down into smaller component parts: the knowledge and skills objectives that provide building blocks for learning. These should be carefully sequenced, revisited and built upon through your curriculum. These decisions will eventually form your school’s long-term curriculum plan.

Tip: You should underpin each subject scheme with a sequenced skills and knowledge framework. You can do this by breaking the national curriculum programmes of study into progressive steps that provide subject endpoints. The aim is to help children build a deep body of knowledge that enables them to perform increasingly complex skills.

Read more: How to sequence your primary curriculum

Read more: How to balance knowledge and skills in the primary curriculum

Read more: What is a broad and balanced curriculum?


Step 4: Teaching narrative – Plan the delivery of your curriculum

After creating your long-term curriculum plan, you will need to provide contexts for delivering it. At Cornerstones, we do this using projects. For subjects like history, the national curriculum sets out various contexts that must be covered, such as the ancient Egyptians. However, for subjects like art and design, you can create your own engaging contexts. The teaching narrative within each project or unit should set out how learning will be delivered. It should be sequenced and cohesive, clearly showing the starting point and how the project develops. Crucially, your planning needs to show how the subject knowledge and skills outlined in your long-term plan will be taught, revisited and built upon. This process is very complex and takes time to perfect. However, when completed, it will set out your medium-term plan, which you can elaborate on in short-term plans if required.   

Tip: Make the planning process easy so that teachers can create, adapt and share plans with others. Ideally, ensure that you have integrated, quick assessment for learning methods in place to support teachers as they deliver the curriculum.

Read more: What makes a great primary history curriculum?

Read more: How to design an outstanding primary art and design curriculum

Read more: The future of assessment in primary schools


Step 5: Resources – Source high-quality resources to deliver your curriculum

Your curriculum should not be let down by poor quality or ad-hoc resources. Inadequate resources will not only dilute the power of your curriculum but can also cause confusion and even misinform. Sourcing the best quality resources is vital if you want children’s learning to be factually correct and ambitious. To make your curriculum the best it can be, insist on high-quality resources and practical equipment. Don’t reduce the impact of your curriculum by accepting anything less.

Tip: Create or source high-quality resources to support your lessons rather than the other way around. Keep a schoolwide overview of resources to avoid unnecessary repetition and ensure that content builds in complexity.  

Download our free, fully-resourced, First World War sample mini project, Fallen Fields.

Read more: How to create the best resources for your primary curriculum

Read more: How to design an ambitious primary curriculum


Step 6: Review and evaluate – Decide what works well and where there is room for improvement

You now have an established curriculum. The next step is to regularly review its impact on teaching and learning, making any adaptations or changes you need to improve it further. At this stage, you may also identify Continuing Professional Development (CPD) needs for your staff. For example, the knowledge of subject leaders might need to improve to ensure that each area of the curriculum is well taught and supported.  

Tip: Check that monitoring subject coverage and progression and assessment for learning are live, integral parts of your curriculum.

Read more: Why subject leadership is crucial to the success of your primary curriculum



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

Download a PDF versions of our six steps of curriculum design for English schools.

Download a PDF version of our six steps of curriculum design for Welsh schools.


Need help to design your school’s curriculum?

These six steps of curriculum design are already covered and easy to implement using Curriculum Maestro, a multi-purpose online platform that includes a knowledge and skills-rich primary curriculum, a fully integrated assessment system and all the resources needed to teach and assess the curriculum.

  • A fully sequenced, ambitious primary curriculum that provides robust progression from Nursery to Year 6.
  • A massive supply of outstanding resources matched to quality learning activities to save time on teacher planning.
  • Assessment, analysis and reporting that is easy, fast and meaningful.

If you would like to know more about Maestro or our curriculum, click on the buttons below. 


This blog has been updated in September 2022 to reflect current best practice. First published in April 2019.

  • Expert advice
  • Tailored to you
  • At a time to suit you

Helping schools to transform the lives of children through powerful curriculum and meaningful assessment

Book a demo
Request A demo with our staff

Enter your details to download

    Download your file below

    You can download your file by clicking the button below.

    Download file
    Reviews Book a Demo Reviews

    We are in a much better place with CM than with our old curriculum. We will be making it more bespoke in the second year.

    Conrad Fox – Headteacher, Hunmanby Primary School, England


    I have used Cornerstones from its first launch. The product has been refined over time as it is driven by feedback from schools and teachers delivering the content. The company is also responsive to a school's needs.

    Lindsey Wain – Deputy headteacher, Hartburn Primary School, England


    Maestro is a real time saver, particularly for leadership teams and subject leaders. There is a wealth of information and resources which can be used and adapted by creative skills teachers. The way the curriculum is mapped is excellent and was commented on in a very recent Ofsted inspection.

    Charlotte Gibbins – Thurlstone Primary School, England


    I have recommended and told many other schools and school staff about it. I would always though suggest that they need to ensure it is right for their school setting and the needs of their staff and pupils.

    Kathryn – Teacher, Langton Primary School


    It has been a revelation. Staff are finding their way through it and if we have any questions, the support from Cornerstones is amazing. We always get answers to our questions. It is now our one-stop-shop for curriculum with linked up thinking and approach through an intuitive and user-friendly system.

    Moira Cross – Executive head, Dordon Primary School