How to design your curriculum


22nd August 2019

How to design your curriculum

Designing a curriculum isn’t easy. It is a complicated process that needs to be carefully thought through and involves much strategic decision making. With 10 years’ experience supporting over 2000 primary schools, we have identified six crucial steps of effective curriculum design. Follow these steps to design your curriculum, whether you are starting from scratch or reviewing your existing curriculum.

How to design your curriculum

Six Steps of Curriculum Design

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

Begin the design process by establishing your curriculum principles. The curriculum principles should reflect your school’s values, context, pedagogical approaches and needs. You should be able to explain the purpose or intent of your curriculum. 

Tip: Hold plenty of discussions to define and share your curriculum principles, vision and intentions with stakeholders.  

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). The pupil entitlement should explain how you intend to enrich the curriculum with educational visits, extracurricular activities and specific experiences. 

Tip: Consider what 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.

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

You will need to arrange your curriculum content into a range of engaging themes and projects. Make strategic decisions about what your curriculum covers, how it interconnects, and in how much depth lessons are taught to achieve both breadth and balance within and across subjects. These choices and decisions create your school’s curriculum structure or long term plan. 

Tip: Underpin your curriculum with a clear skills and knowledge framework for progression that provides subject endpointsKeep a close eye on coverage of national curriculum objectives, key subject aspects and larger concepts. 

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

After organising your long term plans, your teachers need to plan the detail of how they will deliver each project. A teaching narrative should be clearly sequenced, cohesive and based on sound pedagogical practice. It should detail the starting point for each project and explain how it will develop. Planning should show how subjecobjectives will be taught, revisited and met, and outline the desired outcomes. This process creates a medium term plan that can be elaborated on for short term plans if required. 

Tip: Make the planning process easy, so that teachers can create, adapt and share plans with others. Ideally, this stage should be supported by integrated, quick assessment for learning tools 

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

You now need to identify the resources required to bring your curriculum to life and enhance its coherence. A good curriculum needs high quality resources. These include human resources, practical equipment, community partners, environments and teaching resources. 

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

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 and to make any adaptations or changes. It will help to consider your original curriculum principles and purposes when reviewing and focus on areas for development in schoolAt this stage, you may identify Continued Professional Development (CPD) and curriculum support needs for staff.  

Tip: Check that monitoring of subject coverage and assessment for learning is a live and integral part of your curriculum.  

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

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


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. For example, 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. 

Need help designing your school’s curriculum?

These Six Steps of Curriculum Design are much easier to implement using Maestro, our new all in one curriculum platform. If you would like to see how Maestro can help your school to design, deliver and manage your curriculumplease book a free online meeting with one of our experienced curriculum advisers. 

What do schools say about Curriculum Maestro?

Over 1500 primary leaders across the country are using Maestro to design their curriculaHere’s some of the kind feedback that we’ve received. 

‘As a leader, for me to go in and check what is being covered has been really reassuring. I’m not sure how I would have been able to do that without Maestro.’ Jade Wakley, Deputy Headteacher, Monmouthshire

‘Maestro is a gamechanger for leadership at all levels’ Christian Hilton, Executive Headteacher, Shipston-on-Stour

‘Maestro has provided us with a great platform to create and develop our own unique broad, balanced and enriched curriculum’ John McMorrow, Headteacher, Tredegar

‘Really enjoying spending time reviewing our curriculum, selecting core texts to support it and mapping out skills and knowledge. ThanksCornerstones, for great tools to help with this.’ Kelly Hamilton, Headteacher, Essex

‘We have just had our Ofsted inspection under the new framework, and I wanted to let you know that Curriculum Maestro was a vital part in the subject deep dives that we had. It is massively useful for subject leaders at the moment.’ Headteacher, Liversedge

Read more school success stories here 

Curriculum Maestro/Cwricwlwm Maestro

Curriculum Maestro (or Cwricwlwm Maestro for schools following the Curriculum for Wales) 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

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