James Marriott: Welcome to the Primary Knowledge Podcast brought to you by Cornerstones Education. I’m James Marriott. Today’s episode is all about the steps to adapting and adopting a curriculum. Rachael Ashforth is with me, who is a curriculum adviser at Cornerstones. I’ve got to ask, first of all, this phrase “adopt and adapt.” Where does that come from? What does that mean?
Rachael Ashforth: It’s a very good question to start with. And I am going to read a little bit from the school inspection handbook, which was updated in February 2022, and I want to make sure that I quote them correctly. So, they basically released this updated inspection handbook, as I said, and what they’ve said there is “leaders adopt or construct a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils and including pupils with SEND, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life. From this, they’ve also been looking for evidence that the curriculum has been successfully adapted, designed, or developed to be ambitious and meet the needs of pupils with SEND, developing their knowledge, skills, and abilities to apply what they know and can do with increasing fluency and independence.” What does all that mean? Basically, in a nutshell, schools can create their own curriculum, when they’re happy to do that, or they can adopt one that’s been provided by a company such as Cornerstones. But they must show and evidence how they’ve adapted it for pupils with SEND to make it more accessible for them.
James: Okay, that makes sense. Cool. Thank you. So, what kind of context are we talking about where a school might decide to adopt a curriculum model?
Rachael: So, designing a curriculum from scratch is incredibly difficult, and it would take the school an awfully long time to do that, especially if they’re looking to do a redesign or to update any of the content that they’ve currently got. So, by adopting a curriculum model, it can save them a lot of time. Especially as I say, if they’re looking to redesign it. And giving them an actual model curriculum gives them a foundation that can then be built on and developed in their own way to match their own unique personality and characteristics. In fact, we’ve had schools that have said to us, you know, they want to leave us, perhaps because they’ve gone in their own direction, maybe they’re looking to design and construct a curriculum of their own. And inevitably, a lot of these schools do come back to us because we’ve done all that hard work for them, and they can just literally pick it up and go and adapt it as they need to as they go along.
James: It’s quite a wide-ranging question I’m going to ask you now. But what are the benefits then of adopting a commercial curriculum like Cornerstones?
Rachael: It is a very, very loaded question, is that one! There’s lots of benefit really for schools to adopt Cornerstones. In the first instance, it’s well sequenced, expertly written and fully resourced. It’s ready for schools to adopt and adapt on the Maestro platform, which just hugely saves time for everybody in the school. It follows a really robust knowledge and skills framework that builds on the national curriculum programmes of study. This then gives clear end points for concepts, aspects, knowledge, skills, everything that you need to allow pupils to make progress. There are so many benefits I could go on all day really. But the main thing is that it’s a fast turnaround. So, where schools are maybe having a time restriction and they’ve got to adapt something quite quickly, they can rest safe in the knowledge that it’s been designed by experts, and that all that coverage and progression have been done for them and they can literally pick it up, adapt it and go. They can rest assured as well that the resources are as good a quality as the curriculum itself.
James: Well, okay, how can a school adapt the curriculum once it’s in place?
Rachael: So, there are a few different ways in which they can do that if they’ve using something such as Cornerstones. As I mentioned, it’s been fully sequenced already, and they can have the flexibility of adapting it in line with their own unique characteristics. They can play to their own strengths and talents, the interests of the teachers and the children. Using that pre-planned model just basically gives them, teachers especially, more time to use their professional judgement and their own creativity to adapt the curriculum, the lessons, the resources. And when schools are really confident that the hard work of constructing the curriculum has already been done, teachers can feel more of a sense of freedom to edit and adapt the content to meet the more specific needs of their children. On top of that, schools can then adapt the long- and short-term aspects of the curriculum, particularly at the lesson planning stage. So, there’s lots of freedom still in using in that curriculum model. They don’t just have to take it verbatim and go as is. It’s not intended to be scripted by any means. It’s still enabling teachers to use their own professional judgement and capacity to make something really their own.
James: I want to ask a little bit about Maestro now. So, what are the key features of Maestro that ultimately can help a school that wants to do what we’ve been talking about?
Rachael: So yeah, the Maestro platform is just a really fantastic tool. As I mentioned, it’s already been expertly designed. It’s the progression, the skills and knowledge framework are underpinning everything that we’ve done. Everything goes through a really rigorous checking process. So, as I mentioned, the quality of the resources and the lessons have already been done. What they can then do on the Maestro platform is adapt things like the weekly and termly schedule. So, there’s a timetable functionality within there, and they can obviously choose how they plan the lessons within that timetable, move things around in accordance with their own schedule. There’s the ability to add their own lesson notes, lesson adaptations, they can work cross curricular, you know, to make those links between different curriculum subject areas. They can job share or partner up with other teachers through the school. So, there’s the option to share resources and planning aspects. Individually, each school is going to use the curriculum in very different ways. And I would imagine that no matter which school you go into that uses Cornerstones and Curriculum Maestro, you’re going to see something different in every situation because they’ve adapted it to suit the needs of their own children, the personalities of their teachers. So, for all that we’ve provided that pre-planned model, there is still a massive amount of flexibility. Additionally, schools have the ability to use their own locality to impact on their curriculum, where they go for educational visits, the places they carry out fieldwork, and the places they visit for curriculum enrichment activities, can help shape their curriculum to their own unique context.
Rachael: Maestro provides all the tools that they need to create these school projects and to add lessons to Cornerstones projects for this purpose. Or other events even that are specific to their school contexts, such as this particular aspect of religion that they want to include. Whatever it happens to be, there are the tools there to be able to do that. One of the other things that, just to finish that little bit there, is from the DfE, and they actually acknowledge that the place of curriculum technology is the future of curriculum effectiveness. And just to quote there, they say “good use of technology can play an important role in improving education, supporting reduced teacher workload, improving access for all pupils, and helping them achieve better outcomes, making the running of a school or family of schools more efficient and less burdensome.” And that was by Richard Vaughan, who’s the deputy director of curriculum in the DfE, and he did a presentation at the BESA conference in November. So hopefully Maestro plays to that strength in supporting reducing teacher workload and giving schools a foundation that they can then build on.
James: And just finally, if you’ve got any kind of tips for schools that want to know a bit more about Curriculum Maestro?
Rachael: We would always advise that schools book in for a free online demonstration with one of our experienced curriculum advisers who can really show them the benefits of using Curriculum Maestro. Equally, they can visit our main website or give us a call in the office. We’ve got lots of videos on the website people can watch, with important information for that, and obviously they can tweet us or use our live chat via the main website as well to find out more. We’re always happy to help with any questions people may have.
James: Brilliant, great tips. Thank you very much, Rachael. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. We have handpicked some extra resources and content and some links which we think you’ll find useful. So, if you head to the show notes section for this episode, you’ll be able to get all that stuff there. There’s loads more information, and you can find all our other episodes at cornerstoneseducation.co.uk. Thank you for listening and see you next time.
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