Monthly Archives: January 2014

No room for martyrdom

I could work harder. I could do more. I could teach better.

These things are all true. However, I could also work every hour in the day, and it wouldn’t necessarily lead to any better learning. Most importantly, it might have a negative effect. Either way, the reality is: none of us is perfect. And what is more, in a job like teaching, nor are we ever likely to be.

I have written in the past about coming to terms with this, and I think it’s an important lesson for new teachers to learn as quickly as possible: you cannot achieve everything, so live with that fact and do your best. However, in too many cases that option isn’t open to people because of the place they work.

Tonight, on Twitter, I was perhaps surprised, if not shocked, to see this policy mentioned:

I’m always concerned by any policy which is so demanding and restrictive. It sets people up to fail, and prioritises policy over practice. After all, surely sometimes marking of work is not the best use of time for a teacher? And sometimes life gets in the way of things.

To make matters more concerning, the conversation continued with the defence of the policy that included the poster claiming that he sleeps only 5 hours a night, works an 11½-hour day at school, and that his marking was “great”.

Now, in many ways that is admirable. Indeed, even someone sleeping a healthy amount, and working a legal working week and achieving that might be considered to be doing admirable work. But what concerns me is that it is “policy”.

For someone to be superhuman is commendable. For anyone to demand superhuman behaviours of others is, to my mind, wholly unacceptable. By all means support people to achieve the best they can in the time given; definitely set high standards when you’re in a role of any seniority; absolutely do the best you possibly can by the children in your care. But the moment any leader’s aspiration for perfection becomes an expectation of others, it becomes an unforgivable demand.

As a newly-qualified teacher, being expected to turn up every day, plan lessons, attend meetings, and get your head round everything else while still finding time to sleep and eat is unbearably hard. Imagine also being told that “policy” was that every single book must be marked before you left each night. No concern for professional development, for family life, for planning time, for an opportunity to recuperate. No consideration of the educational benefits of marking on a case-by-case basis. Simply the demand that policy states that every book be daubed in red pen to show that you’re doing your job. And we wonder why the profession struggles to retain new recruits?!

The very worst of martyrdom can too often lead to the very worst in leadership, and can genuinely ruin lives. In becoming superheroes it can be all-too-easy to becoming unforgiving of others’ human frailty. But most of us are only human.

Further Reading

“Should I be marking every piece of work?” – blog by Ofsted Inspector, Mary Myatt

What if Feedback wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. – blog by Andy Day

Force fed feedback: is less more?David Didau on some of the perils of feedback

Teacher Support Network – for anyone recognising and needing support with the stress they’re under

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#blogsync: Dear Mr Hunt

This post is part of the January #blogsync project. Other blogs on the theme are available here.

Dear Mr Hunt,

I imagine that reading these posts will be far from revelatory to you. I imagine – indeed hope – that many places you go have teachers offering you advice about how you could make a better fist of being Education Secretary than the current incumbent. Consequently, I suspect that what I have to say will not shock or amaze you. But I also reckon it’s worth saying again and again, because it matters.

Almost every intervention that currently happens at secondary school is too late. The same is true of a large number of interventions in junior and primary schools.

Frankly, the fact that we automatically pay hundreds of pounds more every year for the average secondary school student than the average primary school child is nonsense. If we were serious about closing the gap, or social mobility or any of those other much-announced labels, then the investment we’d be making in Early Years education would dwarf that of secondary schools.

And I say this as someone who has never taught young children. I’m not asking for more money for me: I am only too aware that by the time children reach junior school, much of their future pattern of attainment has already been set. The children who are most likely to fail to meet the 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, the students most likely to become NEET, the students who won’t move on to further and higher education can in most cases be identified by knowledgeable infant and Early Years teachers.

What is more, in many cases, they also know a great deal about what could be done to support them, to allow them to catch up, and to avoid them ending up in the dreadful situation that faces too many of our young people. If we really want to make a transformative change, then don’t invest in free schools, or academies, or private schemes, or universal free school meals: invest in Early Years and infant education.

Provide every infant and primary school with the funding to employ highly-qualified and experienced Early Years teachers over-and-above the standard ratio, to provide small group, individual and intensive support and intervention for those children who really need it. Invest in systems that aim to have every child – every single child – working at expected levels by the time they are 7. Not by simply demanding higher average results, but by making clear expectations of support for those children who most need it, and providing the financial and structural support for it, whether that’s before school, or in the early years of schooling.

If we get that right, then everything else will become easier; keep getting it wrong and we’ll keep paying for it year after year. We may all have laughed about the title of the DCSF (“Cushions and Soft Furnishings”), but the reality is that education is about a lot more than which exams we think are important at the age of 16. It’s about children and about families too.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that the stability of anything depends on its solid foundations; it might take a brave Education Secretary to act on that obvious knowledge.

P.S. I’m not averse to a pay rise myself, naturally. I’d welcome more funding for junior- and secondary-aged children too. But if you’re stuck for priorities, let them be supporting our youngest children and their families so that we don’t end up trying to turn things round too late.

A little knowledge is no bad thing

I’ve tended to steer clear of the knowledge-vs-skills debates for several reasons. Firstly, there seem to be no winners, just entrenched views by-and-large – although see this blog by Chris Hildrew for a notable exception. Secondly. I’ve never seen that it had much to offer my teaching. My views have been sculpted over time by various things I’ve seen, read and done, but I didn’t really feel that I had anything worthy of note to say that hadn’t already been said.

I probably still don’t, but this thought has been playing on my mind for a few days and so I’m putting out there anyway.

Many wiser than me have pointed out that ” skills” is a hard thing to define, but then I’m not sure “knowledge” is any easier. That said, there have been several examples that have come to my mind lately that clearly suggest that the lack of the latter can easily lead to a failure at the former. And I think most teachers know and recognise this, even if they don’t see it for what it is.

This term, when trying to teach my class to calculate area of rectangles, it has become painfully clear to them why I have been banging on about times tables for so long. Suddenly, that seemingly discrete, unconnected and apparently meaningless list of numbers has made the difference between those who can focus on finding structure and breaking down complex shapes, and those who struggle to record accurate answers for standard rectangles. The skill of calculating area is dependent on the knowledge of tables facts.

And the fact is that this sort of issue replicates itself constantly.

  • The kids who struggle with the skill of reading scales are the ones who aren’t confident with the knowledge of halves and doubles, or division by ten.
  • The kids who struggle with the skill of employing advanced punctuation are the ones who don’t have a secure knowledge of what a clause is.
  • The kids who found it hardest to write an essay about the Battle of Hastings were not the weaker writers, but those who lacked the knowledge of the key events.
  • The kids who struggle with the skill of inference in every-day texts are the ones who lack the knowledge of key vocabulary
  • The student who plays their instrument most effectively in my music group is the one who knows the system of notes on a score.
  • The students who know the key periods of history are the ones who are most able to make connections between their learning.
  • Students who know the most common symbols on an OS map find the skill of interpreting the map so much more straightforward.

The list could be endless. Knowledge may well not be the be-all-and-end-all, but it certainly goes a very good way to giving the students I teach the necessary background to be able to skilfully do a whole range of things. Of course, this fits with those who argue that knowledge precedes skill, and also those who argue that both are necessary.

But it certainly rules out the suggestion that learning facts is of no use!

Tracking ≠ Assessment

There’s been a lot of talk about assessment since the announcement back goodness-knows-when about the scrapping of National Curriculum levels. However, to my mind, a vast amount of it – almost certainly the majority – has been not so much about assessment as about tracking.

Let me be clear at the outset that I think you need both. However, one of my major complaints about the current system of National Curriculum levels has been that its use as a tracking tool has long since superseded its purpose as an assessment tool.

It’s perhaps useful to re-visit some simple definitions of the two terms – simple enough to be taken from the Google definitions:

To assess: to evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of (someone/something).

To track: to follow the trail or movements of (someone/something).

Inevitably, the way that Ofsted works has meant that schools have been forced to use their assessments in the form of National Curriculum levels to demonstrate that they are tracking progress towards the end-of-key-stage expectations. However, in doing so we have all but divorced the act of assessment from the processes of teaching and learning.

As we approach the new curriculum, and new expectations of assessment, I want to argue again for the need to separate these two processes. It seems likely that the end-of-primary and end-of-secondary assessment processes are likely to change, and quite probably will become less criterion-referenced. As such, the easy choice for assessment and tracking would be to use scaled versions of the end of KS2/KS4 tests throughout all year groups, and judge progress accordingly. In theory, a student in Year 7 could be scoring as little as 1% on a test series designed for Y11. It would then be easy to judge progress each year and to track it accordingly. It would be easy to collect data on national averages, to make comparisons between schools, to feed data into Ofsted inspections and to share results with parents which they could reasonably understand.

It would do nothing to support teachers in their assessment of what has been learned and what must be taught.

The problem with the drive towards the tracking of progress is that with each step towards clear data for these broad purposes, we lose valuable information at the small scale.

For assessment to be useful and meaningful, it needs to tell students, teachers and sometimes parents, what it is that a single child can or cannot do. Levels were never very good for this, since they were designed to be broad. Consequently, sub-levels and APP were created to try to fill the void – essentially becoming mini-markers on the tracking scale. But still, doing too little to guide teaching and learning.

For assessment to work, it needs to be directly linked to the taught curriculum. Since even with the new National Curriculum we don’t yet have a prescribed teaching order, a national assessment framework could only provide a broad-strokes judgement suitable for tracking. In schools, we need assessment processes which are directly linked to the taught curriculum that allow teachers to judge how well their students have learned what has been taught. Current national tests (optional and statutory) do not serve this purpose. A child in Y5 might not have covered all of the KS2 curriculum content which could come up on a test, but a test level does not differentiate between that which has not be taught, and that which has been taught but not yet grasped.

To take a classroom example, a child can quite feasibly achieve a Level 4 on national curriculum tests, or even through APP assessment, without knowing their tables up to 10×10, despite this being a requirement of both the APP criteria and the National Curriculum attainment target. What is more, that same child can continue to make progress to Level 5 and beyond. Indeed, some students who manage well in many areas of mathematics can continue to appear to be making progress on tracking scales, despite never confidently knowing these key things in the curriculum.

In the absence of assessment, it is perfectly possible for a student to never have this key need identified.

Despite all that we know about the importance of some key aspects of subjects – not just mathematics – we continue to build our progress-measuring systems on criteria relating to tracking, rather than assessment.

I note this particularly because this evening, in a twitter discussion, Sam Freedman indicated his desire to have a system which would allow him to compare his child’s progress/attainment with others. The problem here is that systems which allow that, inevitably lack the nuance that meaningful assessment entails. A child might well be achieving level 5, or within the expected range for his age, or 101 on a scaled score- but none of that information gives away the truth about whether he/she can quickly recall 6 x 7.

That’s not to say that they cannot have their place, but rather that if we are to be even slightly serious about employing the most effective aspects of feedback and assessment for learning which have been proven to be so beneficial, then tracking test cannot be expected to underpin this.

If anything positive is to come out of the government’s announcement of the scrapping of levels, I hope it is that we begin to take the original advice of the curriculum expert panel more seriously and address assessment as a tool which identifies what each student can, or cannot yet, do, rather than how close they are to achieving a particularly grade in a number of years time!

“We believe that it is vital for all assessment, up to the point of public examinations, to be focused on which specific elements of the curriculum an individual has deeply understood and which they have not.”

p50, The Framework for the National Curriculum
A report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum review
December 2011

Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum

Following on from my previous post about what doesn’t need to change for the new curriculum, I thought it might be equally useful to consider the main areas where considerable change is needed. After all, it is often these big areas of change which will require most work in schools when it comes to planning, resourcing and professional development. Some of this information may be a useful starting point for subject leaders.

Inevitably a short blog post cannot cover everything, so I recommend looking at other resources for more detail, such as the core subject breakdowns at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support and foundation subject comparisons at curriculum2014.wordpress.com amongst others.

Not all foundation subjects are included here, as they require relatively little change (see previous blog)

English

There are a couple of substantial changes of focus in the programmes of study which affect the two key stages in turn. Firstly, there is very clear and unequivocal expectation, particularly in KS1, that children will be taught to read using phonic approaches. The teaching order of some elements is set out quite clearly, and the focus of the reading strands is very much on decoding. This will not be that new to many schools, but certainly bears noting.

Similarly, in KS2, the focus on grammatical language and structures is substantially more notable than the 1999 curriculum, with far higher expectations of metalanguage. We can reasonably expect a greater emphasis on SPAG testing from 2016 onwards. I suspect the teacher assessment of Writing may become incidental.

Spelling patterns to be taught in each phase are clearly set out, and the expectations are high in this area.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Does the current programme for teaching spelling fit the new requirements?
  • How does staff subject knowledge support the teaching of new grammar specification?

Mathematics

Although much has been made of changes in maths, much of it is a rearrangement of content, with data largely slimmed down, and some objectives moved down through the year groups to fill that gap. Most schools will already be aware of the expectation that tables (to 12×12) are learned by the end of Year 4.

Some of the most notable increases in expectations are in the area of fractions and decimals, with expectations by the end of KS1 including finding fractions of quantities, and those for the end of KS2 covering skills previously taught at Y7+ such as carrying out all 4 operations with fractions, and the ability to convert a fraction to a decimal. Some of this may require further mathematics development for staff, as may the introduction of formal algebra in Y6.

Calculation policies will also come under scrutiny as the balance changes. Again, most schools are now aware that calculators will not be required for the main KS2 tests. However, some of the more significant changes are in terms of expectations for methods. There is a clear expectation that formal written methods (column addition/subtraction, short & long multiplication/division) will be taught during KS2, and again we should expect assessments to reflect that.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Is there a need to review calculation policies to reflect the new curriculum?
  • How well-equipped is the school for teaching the new expectations in fractions? (including teacher subject knowledge)

Science

The changes in Science are by far the least notable among the core subjects. Some new content is required, including the teaching of evolution in Year 6. Other than this, most content remains broadly similar, with minor changes of content between year groups and key stages. For more detail, see the core curriculum changes document at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support

Computing

This has been one of the most widely publicised and talked about changes, and so many schools are already beginning to prepare for the changes. As mentioned in the previous blog, the changes are not as overwhelming as they might first appear, but there is clearly a renewed emphasis on areas which we might previously have considered to be “control technology”, with an expectation that all students will be introduced to some form of programming in KS1 and KS2.

Expect a boom in sales of roamers, and for Scratch to become a staple unit of work in KS2.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • How does the balance of control and applied ICT work need to be altered?
  • What investment is needed in resources to support the new control requirements?

Design & Technology

After a radical first draft back in February, the final version of the D&T curriculum is actually not that different from what was previously in place. The main change for primary schools is the new statutory requirement for cooking to be included. Where schools don’t have full kitchen facilities that could present some real challenges.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • What food-related units of work do we already have, and do they meet any of the new NC criteria?
  • What cooking techniques can we tackle given the facilities in place?

Geography

Arguably, Geography is the subject where the programme of study is least recognisable in comparison to its previous form. There is a substantial re-balancing in favour of acquiring knowledge about places with clear guidance on the expected locations to be taught. For many schools they will already be covering many of these areas. However, some teams may need to consider a new unit covering an area of the Americas in KS2. There are also some more specific expectations about aspects of human and physical geography to be taught, which may need to be addressed in existing or new units of work, including elements such as trade links and land use.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Do existing units of work meet the requirements to study the UK and a non-European country (KS1) and the UK, Europe and the Americas (KS2)?
  • How can existing units of work be adapted to incorporate new areas of knowledge, especially relating to physical and human geography?

History

Another of the widely discussed subjects, where change is perhaps not as daunting as it might first appear, particularly at KS1 where very little change is needed. The two main areas of the subject which schools have not likely to have covered in the past are the pre-Roman study (stone age, iron age, etc.), and the world study which must focus on one of three 10th Century societies (Benin, Mayan, or early Islamic). Schools which had previously taught the Aztecs as their world study will also need to address a change there.

Consideration will also need to be given to the extended chronology and local studies. Many schools will want to combine these with existing units of work on Tudors, Victorians or Britain since 1930 (which are no longer required at KS2), but others may need new units of work to cover these expectations.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Will units on Tudors/Victorians/WW2 be scrapped, or modified to match new local/extended study requirements?
  • Where and how will pre-Roman and World civilizations be taught in KS2?

Languages

In lots of schools, MFL is already in place and will meet the new requirements. However, in schools where existing programmes rely on taster sessions, or a combination of languages, discussions will need to take place about how schools meet the requirement to “focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one language.”

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Do existing MFL plans allow for students to make substantial progress in one language?

New Curriculum? What new curriculum?

If you read some of the initial drafts of the new Primary Curriculum, and some of the media coverage, blogging and tweets that accompanied it, then you’d be forgiven for burying your head in the sand when it came to the new curriculum. However, as so often is the case, you needn’t panic quite yet. The re-drafts brought a lot more sense to the process, and even in those subjects which seem radically altered, there’s still plenty of scope for retaining some of the excellent units of work which are already in place. In this blog I’m going to attempt to reassure you that you don’t need to start from scratch – indeed, you may not need to change much at all!

I’ve attempted to break it down by subject, with only very brief mentions of the two key subjects of English and Maths. Partly this is because the amount of change and non-change is immense in both, but also because the changes are covered far better in detail by the comparison documents available at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support/.

This at-a-glance table gives an indication of the amount of change required for each subject, with red indicating substantial change, and green negligible.

Change Table

I have included a second blog on the key areas which will need addressing entitled: Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum.

Art & Design

The content is of the new Programmes of Study is so sparse (120 words across both key stages) that pretty much anything goes from September 2014. The specific requirements are so broad that the chances are that most units of work you currently have will still meet the new requirements.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at https://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/art-design/

Computing

This is probably the subject which has had the most shouted-about change, but even it isn’t quite as drastic as it first seems. The wording of the new programmes of study is rather technical in places, but the reality is different.

Some teachers worrying that the new curriculum doesn’t include the traditional experience of spreadsheets, word processing, research online and creating presentations need not worry. They’re all still there (although called things like “work with variables”; “use and combine a variety of software”, “be discerning in evaluating digital content” and “presenting data and information”).

Equally, although there has been much focus on the need for programming at both key stages, and mention of technical sounding words & phrases such as algorithms, debugging & decomposing, the actual teaching is not necessarily wholly different from what is already in place. For example, schools using Beebots or Roamers in KS1 will easily cover several of the statements. Equally, KS2 classes who have used Logo, Flowol or Scratch will soon find themselves able to meet the criteria.

Naturally there will be a move towards increasing the focus on programming elements, but that is something schools can include in their CPD programmes and curriculum development programmes over the coming years. It doesn’t all need to be in place by September.

Design & Technology

After a dreadful initial draft, the final result for the D&T curriculum could be argued to be something of a rearranging of the deckchairs! The changes in expectations are limited to additional detail on presentation & design methods in KS2. The chances are that existing units will still work, with minor tweaks to meet the new criteria.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at https://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/category/foundation-subjects/design-technology/

English

The changes in English are substantial, but perhaps not as significant as first appears. There is definitely a noticeable shift towards an increased knowledge of grammatical terms and structures, as well as a renewed focus on Spelling. However, these are mostly changes of detail of prescription rather than of requirements themselves, since much of the content was already required in old curriculum (if a little under-noticed).

The core strands of Reading and Writing have a reduced specificity in some respects, but maintain their broad direction, with an increased focus on reading for pleasure.

Documents to compare the new curriculum with the old Literacy units from the 2006 framework are available at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support.

Geography

There is a definite change of emphasis in the Geography programmes of study that schools will need to bear in mind when updating their planning. However, that’s not to say that existing units of work and resources need be discarded

For example, in Key Stage 1 schools will still need to complete a local study, and a comparison study with another area of the United Kingdom. The main changes are in the increased knowledge requirements such as knowing the names of continents and oceans which can often be covered in existing topics such as studies of far-away places, or of the sea/water in general. Equally, the introduction of compass skills can easily be covered in existing schemes of work.

In KS2 the focus is further on detailed recall of countries, cities, etc. but again there is lots of scope for maintaining existing units. For example, schools will need to study a region of Europe, which matches with the existing requirement to study an EU country. Similarly, schools currently studying Brazil, Tocuaro or St Lucia will be able to maintain these units under the new ‘region of the Americas’ requirement. The old units on Bangladesh or Chembakolli won’t match requirements as well, but still have scope for covering aspects of the human and physical geography requirements.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at:
KS1: https://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/geography-comparing-c2000-c2014-ks-1/
KS2: https://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/geography-comparing-c2000-c2014-ks-2/

History

The changes to the History curriculum got some of the greatest press coverage, the greatest claims of disappointment, and eventually the greatest overhaul. The final result was statutory content of a fairly limited volume  (just 68 words at KS1, fewer than 200 words at KS2) accompanied by lengthier, but non-statutory, examples.

It means that at KS1, very little has changed about the new curriculum. Existing requirements to study famous people, some key events and to use language about passing time remain. Emma Hardy (@emmaannhardy) has written an excellent article about the opportunities presented in the UKED magazine’s January issue.)

The changes at KS2, which were initially vast, are significantly less noticeable than had been proposed. There is a move towards chronological teaching, with KS2 responsible for history up to 1065, and KS3 from 1066 onwards, but there is still scope for maintaining and adapting existing work, rather than starting from scratch.

Some units can remain with relatively little adaptation: Romans/Anglo-Saxons/Vikings remains a mainstay of the KS2 curriculum (although the requirement now is to cover all 3, rather than to select from the periods). Similarly, Local History, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece are all existing topics which are maintained.

Some units of work, such as Tudors, Victorians and post-1930 Britain cease to be part of the statutory curriculum. However, in schools where one of these periods has a local significance, these could be merged with a local history unit. Equally, there remains the requirement to cover one unit which covers “an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066”. This could easily be developed from an existing Victorians or WWII theme.

The main change for all schools will be the new World Study which should cover 10th Century history of either Benin, Mayan civilization, or an Islamic civilization such as Baghdad. Expect resources leaflets through your schools magazines any time soon!

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at: https://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/history-comparing-curriculum-2000-and-curriculum-2014/

Languages

It’s hard to generalise about changes needed for languages programmes of study. In schools where very little language teaching has taken place, or where “taster” sessions have been the main focus, then a more concerted programme will be required. However, where schools have already begun teaching of a modern language across KS2, it is quite likely that they are covering much of the programme of study already.

Mathematics

The changes to mathematics have been widely discussed and are in some ways substantial. That said, much of the material will be familiar to teachers at both key stages. The change in emphasis is from a broader range of skills to an increased focus on the knowledge and application of number, and particularly on recall of number facts. Schools will need to look at what content is expected at an earlier age, with some requirements being dropped or left until later, particularly in terms of data handling.

The most substantial area of change for many schools will be in the expectations in fractions.

Documents to compare the new curriculum with the old Mathematics units from the 2006 framework are available at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support.

Music

As with Art, the changes to the new curriculum seem to have been largely confined to the removal of detail from the programmes of study. As such, any existing plans will probably serve the new curriculum well. The only key area of difference that schools will need to consider is the expectation that students begin to use standard staff notation by the end of KS2.

Physical Education

The new requirements for PE are again very limited. The focus tips slightly from individual health and wellbeing to team sports and games, but much of what is already happening in schools will match the new requirements. Similarly, the requirement to be able to swim 25m unaided by the end of KS2 remains unchanged.

Science

The Science changes were limited in scope and largely involve either the moving of content (e.g. the removal of light, sound, electricity & forces from KS1), or small new introductions (evolution at Year 6).

At KS1 schools will be able to make more use of outdoor space and learning through studies of nature that are now required.

At KS2, the new evolution unit is new content, and some higher demands are made in some areas. However, for schools following schemes of work based on the old QCA units, there is much consistency between the two programmes, and a continued focus on the applications of Science.

A more detailed comparison of the new and old programmes of study can be found at:
KS1: http://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/science-comparing-curriculum-2000-and-curriculum-2014-key-stage-1/
KS2: http://curriculum2014.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/science-comparing-curriculum-2000-and-curriculum-2014-key-stage-2/

5 steps to introducing the new Primary Curriculum

As schools begin to consider how they will manage the transition to the new curriculum, I’m offering 5 suggested steps to guide you through making the changes without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I may, in the coming weeks, expand on some of these with more detail in a separate blog for each stage, (and will add notes to that effect) but for now the outline:

1. Keep & Tweak

There is always plenty that can be retained from an existing good curriculum to suit the new curriculum. Indeed, despite some of the early hype, there are many whole units of work which will need hardly to be touched. For example, schools teaching topics on Ancient Egypt, Space, the Great Fire of London, volcanoes & earthquakes and Salvador Dalí, have already got plans in place that could easily be retained to suit the new objectives. While the curriculum may at first seem detailed, much of the foundation subject content is actually very brief.

Furthermore, there will be units in place which could easily be adapted for the new curriculum. Currently teaching the Victorians and sorry to see it disappear from the new curriculum? Could you adapt it to become a local history study, with a focus on the Victorian period? Or perhaps an extended chronological study comparing children’s lives in Victorian times with another period? Or inventions?

Also remember that many units could be moved around – or not! If you currently teach Space in Year 4, nobody can force you to move it to Year 5. The year-by-year programmes of study are suggested: the only statutory requirement is that you cover the programme of study by the end of the key stage.

The curriculum jigsaws may help you to get an overview of content to see how it fits with what you are already teaching.

A further blog on what doesn’t need to change for the new curriculum can be found at New Curriculum? What New Curriculum?

2. Identify the key gaps and key changes

Once you’ve worked out what you can keep from your existing work (and which units you’re prepared to say goodbye to, to make room!) you will need to identify where the gaps are in your current provision in preparation for September. For example, very few schools will currently be teaching about a tenth-century non-European civilization at present, and evolution will be new to most primary schools. Some of these areas will be more difficult to plan and resource at the moment, but hopefully new materials will soon be published!

This is also a good stage at which to identify some of the key changes needed in subjects and units of work which might otherwise remain. For example, the demands of some work in mathematics (fractions!) and English (grammatical terms) are higher in the new curriculum, so schools would be wise to identify quickly where they need to adapt planning. Some aspects may also have teacher-training and Inset implications.

The “Changes to the Core Curriculum” documents at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk set out the key changes to English, Maths and Science for each year group, and may be useful for subject leaders and senior leadership teams to consider.

A further blog on key changes for the new curriculum can be found at Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum.

3. Organise your new curriculum

Some schools will find that a few minor changes in each year team will make a substantial leap towards the requirements of the new curriculum. However, in others you may find that some year groups are now overwhelmed with content, while others have been decimated by the aspects dropped from the curriculum. This change gives schools an opportunity to address any current imbalances in the curriculum and to identify opportunities for improvements that they might already have planned. For example, schools who currently teach a Romans topic might decide to move schemes of work around in their school to allow it to run alongside a Geography unit looking at a region of Italy, or to move Maths work about Roman numerals into one year (rather than the suggested repetition across years).

The www.primarycurriculum.me.uk website presents content by year group (core) and key stage (foundation) and so may help schools quickly to identify where links can be made.

4. Plan for Implementation

Despite the rush of central government to push through the new curriculum, not every change in school will need to be rushed through for September. Naturally schools will first want to focus on what will be taught during the autumn term. Significantly, changes to the implementation & assessment timetables mean that the new curriculum will not be statutory in Years 2 or 6 until September 2015. While obviously some changes may happen in these year groups sooner, the focus can be on the other year groups initially – perhaps particularly in Years 1 and 5, where students will be entering the last 5 terms before the new-style Key Stage 1/2 tests. (Details about the implementation programme are in this PDF file.)

Also, some units may not be needed immediately, particularly where units of work are moving around or can be re-used. Perhaps a current Year 5 unit of work will be used in Year 3 in future. That wouldn’t preclude its use in both year groups in the immediate period, giving higher year teams an opportunity to build up towards new units of work. By prioritising in steps 2 and 3, schools can identify what changes need to be made immediately to be ready for the new academic year, and which can be phased in over the followings month (or even years in some cases!)

5. Assessment

[Since writing this blog, further details about assessment have been released, which you can read at: Summary of Primary Assessment changes]

One of the as-yet-unknowns about the new curriculum is quite what form the end-of-key-stage tests will take. However, the DfE has already made clear its intention that the new curriculum assessment arrangements within key stages should be led by schools and should not require the use of the current National Curriculum Levels systems. Schools may want to take the opportunity to expand existing procedures, or to bring in assessment schemes from outside.

Others may wish to adopt a more personalised scheme which closely links assessment outcomes to the curriculum of the school. This could include key objectives set for each year group, or across a phase, which are used to guide teacher assessment as well as pupil and parent feedback. I have blogged previously about an approach I intend to take, based on linking assessment processes closely to the planning and teaching processes of the school. You can read that blog here: Primary Assessment: it’s complicated.

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It is, of course, inevitable that with such major changes presented with such short notice that the period of transition will not be perfectly smooth. However, by keeping much of what is already in place, adapting where necessary, and planning ahead for the changes needed, hopefully schools can continue to develop their curriculum planning cycles, without having to start from scratch every time the Secretary of State has a new idea!

Further blogs about the new curriculum, and assessment, are available at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/home/blogs/

Good luck!