Could we do better?

We all know that learning can be challenging but we also know we’re more likely to succeed if we can build on things we already know and we can see the point in it. So, have you ever looked at your curriculum through the eyes of your pupils?

Many schools have a curriculum that has evolved over time, initiatives have come and gone and things have been added and changed, sometimes without much consideration of the impact on practice. A trawl of school websites indicates that many schools still have elements of the good old QCA schemes of work that were first introduced sixteen years ago and, despite a new curriculum and a different decade, Katy Morag and Florence Nightingale are still taught in many classrooms. Now this may well be fine but has due consideration been given as to whether other topics might be more appealing or exciting?

Over time the ever increasing pressures to raise standards has meant that teachers have had to focus on the core skills of English and maths, sometimes to the detriment of other subjects. The school day is often rigidly timetabled to make sure these are covered; a morning of phonics, guided reading, English and maths is not uncommon in many classrooms. I often wonder what that must feel like to a child? Comments like ‘ we only work in the morning,’ ‘we’re too tired in the afternoon’ and ‘ behaviour is worse in the afternoon’ are commonly heard in schools. Could we make better use of learning time?

A carefully planned curriculum can provide opportunities for pupils to acquire key literacy and numeracy skills and to use and apply these in meaningful contexts. If we exploit links between subjects, not only can we optimize the learning time, but we can enable pupils to make more sense of, and reinforce, their learning. Assessment becomes more accurate (and often easier) if we can assess those key literacy and numeracy skills in different contexts, for example; you can easily check out whether children really understand the concept of right angles if they can confidently turn through degrees in PE, or accurately use co-ordinates when exploring maps in geography. It could be argued that we can only be sure pupils have embedded a concept when they can apply it independently in different contexts.

 

Planning such a curriculum requires a great deal of thought and can be time consuming, but the result can be energizing to teachers and pupils alike. The progression of skills documents (see previous blog ) were specifically developed to support cross curricular units of learning, links between subjects are embedded throughout. The ‘how-does-your-garden-grow plan is an illustration of how they can be used to develop medium term planning.

 

Every so often, maybe we should take a moment to look at the curriculum through the eyes of our pupils.

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