Click on the title to read the first blog on my new website relates to the curriculum . Over time the bogs will chronicle my school improvement work and hopefully provide inspiration to those who
Dare to be Different
Date: January 3rd 2018
The curriculum provides the lifeblood of a school. It should encompass everything the learner experiences from mathematics to lunch times. This blog describes how governments and inspectors have strangled curriculum development and then tells the story of a school working to reverse this trend.
Many years ago I trained as an Ofsted inspector. There were 20 of us in the room, and it was made clear we were there to listen and not question the guidance being imparted. It was clearly emphasised to us that a school’s curriculum could only be judged as good the test results were good. Inevitably the opposite applied and when the results were below the national average then the curriculum should be judged as weak. This was the Ofsted era of triangulation where A+B had always to equal C. As a consequence, many school leaders believed that inspection judgements relating to the curriculum were made in a desktop exercise many miles away from the school. I once was witnessed an inspector make a judgement of the curriculum by walking around viewing display boards. Whilst she periodically slowed, she never stopped walking.The process was completed in five minutes. I quickly realised the decision about the curriculum had already been taken and the activity she was undertaking served no purpose.
This approach continued for almost two decades. Whilst the better inspectors tried to make sense of this nonsensical formula, for others it made the inspection of the curriculum an easy task. For the twelve years that I was employed within a local authority school effectiveness service I witnessed over 350 school inspections. Headteachers realised that test outcomes ruled supreme and they therefore concentrated on how to a few percentage points to their results. As result too little attention was placed on developing a holistic view about the curriculum which would become the beating heart of the school.
Then in December 2017 Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools produced her first annual report. It criticised many schools because they had neglected curriculum development whilst pursuing a standards agenda. It seems harsh that Ofsted are now criticising schools for playing to the rules they had laid down. However it is also true that schools need to develop a personalised rich and vivid curriculum that meets the needs of children growing up in the twenty first century. Schools are now being told that when Ofsted visit they will be asked to describe the underlying principles behind their curriculum and how it was devised.
A great curriculum will firstly be built around a school’s deeply held beliefs about the best teaching and learning. Secondly their curriculum will be based around a deep understanding of the needs of the community served.
In January 2018 I took this message to a school that is close to my heart. I worked with their fabulous staff and dedicated leaders to create that set of underlying curricular principles that our clip boarded friends are now seeking. More importantly it created a statement of intent about how the pupils would enjoy an unforgettable primary education.
Love Learning Love Life Love Leavesden
Whilst the curriculum at Leavesden Green will accelerate academic progress and promote high standards, we recognise that it should play a far wider role. It is therefore essential that all staff recognise that the curriculum includes everything that learners experience throughout their time in school. With this in mind the school will at all times demonstrate positivity and promote a love of learning. As a result, the curriculum not simply identify the knowledge and skills that will be taught. It will also be focussed upon
- Uncovering and nurturing the considerable talents within the young people
- Providing the essential personal learning and thinking skill required to be successful in the twenty first century.
- Creating learners with a ‘can-do’ attitude within a growth mindset.
As a result, the curriculum will equip the children will become confident, brave, decisive, adventurous, and courageous learners who are ambitious to succeed.
This will be achieved because teachers will use lively direct teaching strategies to ensure that children develop appropriate skills in literacy, numeracy and across the curriculum. Once these skills have been learned exciting meaningful well-planned challenges will be provided to extend learning and promote mastery. Sometimes these challenges will involve children learning independently and sometimes they will learn in a social context and by participating as a team member. This will allow children to demonstrate their personal strengths by allowing their natural aptitudes and personal passions come to the fore.
Teachers will use their professional judgement and will not be afraid to develop imaginative themes that will stimulate the children. These themes will bring a sense of creative curiosity that will release high levels of engagement and lead to deep longer lasting learning. Opportunities will be provided for children to examine and make a positive impact on both their own environment and the world . This will foster a sense of community, social responsibility and shared accountability.
As a result, the curriculum will equip the children to be thoughtful, empathetic, considerate, respectful honest and friendly members of society.
Learning outdoors will be promoted by teachers who recognise that memorable experiences lead to memorable learning. Well focussed sensory and practical activities will also be used to make children inquisitive, and reflective whilst promoting critical reasoning.
Children will be taught to take responsibility for shaping their own learning. Teachers will recognise the importance of developing an ethic of excellence in their classrooms. Well presented learning environments and affirming encouragement from both adults and children will aid children to demonstrate pride and perseverance in all that they do.
As a result, the curriculum will equip the children to be determined, resilient, independent organised learners who demonstrate grit in all they do