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!)
[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.
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/