During my NQT year I was a shocking teacher. I lurched from lesson to lesson, with the aim of getting through them. There was no interconnection between lessons and no sequence of lessons. During my second year of teaching I was very fortunate to be able to work with Jeff Stanfield, then the Geography Advisor for Hampshire and we create several schemes of work together. It became clear to me that individual lessons matter little without a coherent curriculum that binds them together.
In 2008 when I became a middle leader, I inherited a ‘curriculum’ that was on one page, a bit like this:
I really wish I was joking. The thing is, if teachers are to focus upon planning for every pupil, then they need to be aware of the bigger picture. Working without a scheme of work and a detailed curriculum us crippling. Not only so young people not benefit from a common curriculum entitlement, but much time is wasted in needless planning. Now, I’m not talking about prescription here, but a document that supports classroom teachers to create brilliant sequences of lessons. It’s about the what to teach, not the how.
By the curriculum, I refer to the detailed schemes of work that enable teachers to focus on sequences of lessons over the short to medium term. With a clear curriculum, teachers can differentiate and tweak: they will be nudging each and every time rather than starting with a blank sheet.
As a middle leader, we put a lot of time and resource into creating the curriculum, having Saturday away days and extended meetings. It’s important, and I still think that now. Here is what I think goes into creating a curriculum. I define the curriculum as schemes of work that covers each year group. I’ve written about what Schemes of Work look like before and I still have an 11-16 geography curriculum. It’s down to the lesson level, not because I’m and egotistical megalomaniac, but because nothing is missed and the education is the same for every student.
Before starting, here are a few key ideas:
- The curriculum should be co-constructed.
- Get the logistics right first – how many lessons are available? What are your resources?
- The curriculum should be driven by what’s right for young people, not how many lessons you have and stuff that is available. However, teams do have to work with what they have.