Tag Archives: curriculum

Primary Curriculum Jigsaws – editable template

templateSeveral people have asked me for these, and I’ve finally managed to get around to a serviceable version that I can share.

The original jigsaws were to highlight key strands of the curriculum in each year group, and gave a brief overview of content. However, understandably many schools now want to adapt that model to match their own curriculum, or to use the same approach for sharing curriculum structures with parents.

I’ve therefore put together a single-page blank version of the original jigsaws. This is slightly easier to manage than the original version of the whole document and so easier to share. I have placed text placeholders where the main body text goes so that schools can simply use the template to create their own model, or copy and paste text from the original PDF files as they wish.

I would be grateful if schools who use the template – particularly if they’re likely to share it – keep the footer on the page to reference the source, or at the very least keep the link somewhere on their document. Other than that, I am not precious about its use – although I always love to see and hear about what schools have done with my resources, so please do let me know (@michaelt1979)

Download the document from here:

Curriculum Overview template


New Primary Curriculum: Collected Articles

Download the booklet and please share freely

Download the booklet and
please share freely

Over the last year I have put together several posts on this blog which have hopefully supported some schools in preparing for the new curriculum. However, I’m becoming increasingly aware of how many schools and school leaders are not yet at all engaged with Twitter and blogging and so are not really accessing such things.

In an effort to reach that wider audience (and maybe bring a few more teachers & leaders online) I have compiled a short booklet containing four of what I think are the most useful blogs I’ve written about the new primary curriculum, and some signposts for other information.

Please, do encourage people to share the link to this page, or to download the booklet and email it on to others, or even to print out copies to share if it’s convenient!

You can download by clicking the image, or directly from this link:

Preparing for the new curriculum booklet

Mastery Maths in KS2

Around this time last year I started reading about the work of the Ark group and Mathematics Mastery. So it was that as I moved to KS2 in September, I set about leading my year team – and an adjoining one – on a mastery maths journey. We’ve not reached the end-point yet, but it seems to be a hot topic at the moment, and following on from Bruno Reddy’s great blog about how he’d tackled mastery maths at Secondary, I thought it would be worth sharing what we’d done in KS2.

My initial thinking was led by what I’d read about the Ark scheme, and then built on by what I read in Dan Willingham’s excellent “Why don’t students like school?” about how children learn. It was soon put into context by my early experience in KS2. Having moved from KS3 I had previously taught maths sets; now I would be teaching a mixed ability group at a very different level. In KS3 I had previously moved towards what I’d considered to be longer blocks of two or sometimes three weeks on a unit. That had worked quite well for the high ability groups, but it had become clear for others it had still been too much too fast. I hadn’t previously been dealing with the need to teach and learn tables, or introduce area, but it felt like this was a good way of getting it right!

As the new curriculum was on the horizon, it was a useful starting point, and seemed to fit rather well with the mastery approach anyway. I began by mapping out broad units, using a model based very loosely on the Mathematics Mastery secondary curriculum map. It has’t held fast all year, but it provided a perfectly good starting point.

Year 5 Mastery Overview draft

Year 5 Mastery Overview draft

It meant that the first half term of the academic year was spent almost exclusively on place value and addition/subtraction. Within that we drew in elements which related to those skills. So, it seemed a sensible time to tackle in aspects like calculating perimeter, or finding missing angles on a straight line. Interestingly, there are plenty of similarities between our plan and that of KSA, particularly in that first term. See also what it says about separating minimally-different concepts (such as area & perimeter!)

In the Spring term, we took the step of spending a whole half-term on fractions. I’ll be honest, I was nervous about it. It’s never been my favourite area to teach, and rarely is it students favourite area to study. However, the system seems to have paid off. Knowing that we had weeks to spend on it meant that we weren’t afraid to take the time to secure the basics before launching into the higher level skills suitable to their age. And we weren’t abandoning it for another topic just as they were getting into things.

thinkingblocksWhat’s more, I drew on the things I’d seen of the Singapore bar method to really secure understanding of fractional calculations. We’d been using thinkingblocks.com in school as a general problem-solving tool, but it seems that for fractions this approach really comes into its own. It allowed the children clearly to visualise the problems we were tackling, and to secure a much clearer understanding of why mathematical approaches worked. I cannot speak highly enough of the bar model in the context of mastery!

We haven’t been working on this approach for anything like as long as Bruno Reddy’s school, but initial results look positive. We’ve trialled the approach in Years 4 and 5 and seen a substantial improvement in ability to master the key methods, as well as spending more time to drive a focus on number bonds and tables. It seems that the approach will likely be even more successful in data terms once the new KS2 tests begin with the additional arithmetic paper!

Although it’s early days for us, some of the most significant evidence of success has come from the teams teaching the curriculum. Not all were sold on the idea at the beginning, but it has garnered the support and enthusiasm of those involved because it’s working! You can see it in the progress made by groups who traditionally do well, but perhaps more importantly in the successes of those learners who might traditionally have found making progress more challenging!

There’s still plenty to iron out and tweaks to be made over the coming years as different cohorts come up with different experiences. I still don’t think I’ve spent enough time and effort on securing number bond and tables knowledge – despite finding myself in every week’s work saying at some point “Now, can you see why it helps to know your tables?”. I still think we can do more to incorporate the important stages of concrete and representational development before the abstract. It’s not perfect yet.

But I can no longer imagine teaching any other way. Five years ago I was arguing that we needed to move away from week-long planning for maths; now I’d argue that anything less than six weeks is probably doing our students a disservice!

Ask me next summer how it’s paying off in terms of KS2 results!

Useful Assessment in the primary school

I love the theory of themed chats on Twitter, but I’m hopeless at the practice of them. I never remember when they are, I’m often not available, I still haven’t mastered using Tweetdeck without getting very frustrated by the pace, and often find too much noise and not enough coherence. And of course, I usually feel I have too much to say, as is my way. But I know they’re very fruitful for others, so I genuinely hope that the #primedchat on Wednesday evenings (makes mental note) continues to thrive. I will try to contribute during, but I’ve also decided to put down some thoughts here in advance on the theme of How do you make assessment useful without it taking over your life?

Assessment is such an important part of the job that we do, but I do fear that too often we end up prioritising assessment for assessment’s sake, or for other reasons, rather than focussing on the key purpose of assessment: improving learning. My main bugbear in this respect is the dreaded needed for tracking. Tracking is really important, and vital for schools if they are to be able to ensure that students make good progress over longer periods of time. However, tracking is of very little use to me as a class teacher. I have no interest in whether Abigail is now a 3a or a 4c in Writing. What matters to me is exactly what she can and can’t do – and those numbers don’t tell me that! I’ve written more about getting this balance right here: Tracking ≠ Assessment.

What is useful to me as a classroom teacher is a knowledge of what children in my class can do, and what they need to do next. In some respects – and I say this with many caveats, only a fraction of which I’ll discuss here – the APP materials were useful. The breakdown of progression in Reading and Writing particularly was made quite explicit by those materials, and in lots of cases my knowledge of that content has helped to improve my teaching. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say that until I became familiar with the content of AFs 4-7 on the Reading APP grid, I was probably a pretty poor teacher of reading. But I still don’t find it useful as an assessment tool. The idea that somehow quality of writing, or capability in reading can be simplified to a process of highlighting statements and then working through a flowchart to allocate a number strikes me as laughable. In most schools I have seen, the experience of APP is a means to an end: a way of turning a teacher’s knowledge of his/her students into a computable number.

Let me be clear, then: APP is not a solution. Staff discussions about whether an individual child has “sustained an awareness of the reader” in his writing, or what the difference is between “basic features of organisation” and “various features of organisation” are not helpful for teaching and learning. The attempt to break down very complex processes into a measurable number of small steps has not worked. It may have allowed us to claim a sense of accuracy when deciding whether to stick a 3b or 3a label into a spreadsheet, but that is an illusion. And it doesn’t move learning on.

So if not that, then what?

I have said before, and will argue again that we need to separate the processes of teacher-led assessment from larger scale tracking and reporting. That’s not to say that the former won’t feed into the latter; but it is important that the tracking/reporting need doesn’t drive the assessment. Some children need to focus on skills, or be taught things, which do not appear on an APP grid. They might be steps that do not affect their ‘level’, but which are essential to their ability to move on. Maths is a classic example: The Level 4 APP statement that children need to know their tables up to 10×10 is of no use to the child who needs a target to learn their 5x table. The steps pretend to be small and manageable, but the reality is otherwise.

We need to be realistic about this. We need to admit that assessable steps are necessarily larger than the tiny incremental changes that happen in classrooms. The tiny steps are the grit of daily teaching, but to attempt to make such tiny measures into a recordable and reportable system is an error. We need to be realistic about what can be achieved at each level.

A school has a responsibility to move its children from the expected level on entry to Year 1 to the expected level on exit at Year 6. Within that, you might reasonably set key marker points at which judgements can be made against progress towards those goals. The original levels statements were intended to do this. The new year-based National Curriculum allows us to do something similar. It might be reasonable to judge whether a child has met a majority of the expected intended learning targets for a given year. Anything smaller than that will depend on the structuring of the curriculum. If I hammer the teaching of speech marks in term one of Y3 then it would perfectly reasonable to expect most children to be able to use them by Christmas. If I choose to leave it until summer then the outcomes will be different – but doubtless children will have learned something else in the meantime. The sequence is not – indeed cannot – be fixed.

If we really want assessment to be useful, then we need to consider its many different stages. I like the comparison to planning. Most schools are happy to follow a nationally-agreed curriculum for each key stage; many are even happy for it to be broken down into year groups. But the QCA unit plans showed us how central planning at the smaller scale was disappointing to say the least. At that level, teachers who know their children need to take the lead. The same is true of assessment. Here is a model I have referred to before:

Linking Planning and Assessment

Linking Planning and Assessment

At the national level, it’s perfectly reasonable for the central government to set expectations. Indeed, even at school level, schools may happily adopt the yearly expectations of the new programmes of study – at least for maths and science. But below this level, schools must drive both planning and assessment in tandem.

At the medium term level, it makes sense to me that schools devise their own medium-term plans and that the assessment outcomes are explicit at that stage. Many (most?) schools plan half-termly units of work, and it seems to me that this is sufficiently long a period of time to also set some expected outcomes. Teachers can devise a plan with some key expected outcomes and use these to assess progress at the end of the unit. It is assessment like that that can be shared with parents – a clear-to-see map of what a child can and cannot do. It is assessment like that that can help teachers to track children’s progress towards expected outcomes at the end of the key stage, and more importantly to highlight at a relatively early stage those who are at risk of falling behind expectations.

The short-term level is probably the most important both for teaching and assessment. A teacher who is clear about expected outcomes for the term and the year can plan appropriate lessons, and more importantly set appropriate short-term targets for the children that he/she knows well. The targets can be meaningful for individual children, easily monitored as part of the unit’s work (particularly if schools adopt a mastery type approach) and significantly can focus on the small steps needed for the children in that class. Significantly, though, these short-term plans and assessment outcomes are unlikely to be useful for tracking. There is no sense in attempting to record every detail of them, any more than there is in insisting on individual lesson plans for every lesson.

So how does this answer the question of making assessment manageable? There are a few key things that help to achieve this, in my opinion:

  • Separate tracking from class-level assessment
  • Link assessment expectations directly to medium term planning
  • Don’t expect recorded assessment in the short term

If this is the model schools use, then assessment can comfortably be carried out half-termly in most areas, by focussing on the key progress made. Not by creating new sub-levels or scores, but by actually reviewing what the children can and cannot do! (You might even want to do a test!)

Pedagoo London 2014 Presentation

London is a long way from the Sussex coast*. Especially by train. And believe me, the peace and quiet of Sussex countryside has nothing on the silence of a London tube station lift!

But these facts aside, I ventured up to @hgaldinoshea‘s excellent Pedagoo London event to offer my two’penneth on the new National Curriculum. I was also hugely relieved to find that others had made similar journeys in an effort to come and listen! I won’t blog about the whole thing in detail, as much of what I said can be better illustrated by other posts, but I thought I’d throw up a few words.

I spoke about three main areas:

  • Key changes for the new curriculum
  • Planning for Progress
  • Assessment without levels

The PowerPoint from the presentation is at the end of the blog if you’re particularly interested.

Key Changes for the New Curriculum

I have written about this previously, and recommend a few blogs if you’ve not already seen them:

panicThe broad message is: don’t panic! Many of the foundation subjects are now so brief in the new National Curriculum that anything schools are doing at the moment can probably continue. The main changes I suggest schools need to tackle are the higher expectations and the matter of progression in English grammar, and fractions in mathematics.

I also mentioned the use of the Singapore Bar Model for teaching of fractions. If you’re not familiar with the model then I strongly recommend looking it up – there are some great YouTube videos – or checking out the materials at www.thinkingblocks.com which show the use of bars model modelling.

Planning for Progress

I have written recently about the importance of curriculum design, and my presentation today built on that. Traditionally, primary school planning has often been based around the topic web design, with a common theme at the centre, and links of various quality drawing in other subjects.

What I propose is a change in emphasis from thematic links to skill-based links. The specific example shown in the presentation is that of a Victorians topic, where the writing activities throughout the unit are all linked by the theme of influencing the reader. The intention is that rather than children relating all their work to the key idea of “Victorians”, they are able to build up a cohesive understanding of a clear aspect of reading and writing. It makes it much easier to focus both teaching and assessment, and also secures a clear hook for children. Often when we want children to think back to previous learning we find ourselves referring to an incidental aspect: for example, we might say that we want children to think about the persuasive writing they did in the Tudors topic. The problem is that the Tudors is what the children remember, not the persuasion. Or worse, they see persuasive techniques taught in the Tudors topic as unique to the Tudor-themed pieces.

By creating topic-led planning, we often think we are creating cohesive links and enabling children to develop learning through a spiral curriculum. We perceive a coherent whole, with each brick slotting into place to build the wall. But what is more likely to happen is that children focus on the commonality (i.e. the over-arching theme) rather than the progression in the learning.


Assessment without levels

One of the challenges facing schools is how to tackle the removal of assessment levels. What I tried to convey in my presentation is the important revelation that actually teachers already know how to assess, levels or not!

I highlighted the fact that the new National Curriculum is pretty explicit in its expected outcomes in some subjects, such as Maths and Geography. Where it is perhaps less clear is in English, where the programme of study is generally quite broad.

I’ve never been a fan of APP, and certainly not of sub-levels, but I can see that people are familiar with them. However, I think that most experienced teachers can assess – even to the point of levelling – without the national criteria. Any half-decent Year 6 teacher can quickly identify the work of a Level 4 writer, with or without an APP grid. One task I set the attendees of my presentation was to quickly discuss what aspects they considered to be key in identifying writing at Level 4.

The APP criteria for Level 4 run to over 300 words. I reckon I could summarise it in barely 20:

• Accurately-demarcated sentences
• Some variety in sentence structure
• Starting to use paragraphs appropriately
• Consistent and accurate tense
• Writing broadly suits its purpose

Evidently it lacks some of the nuance of the APP grid, but it also removes some of the waffle, and demonstrates the key strands of what makes a secure writer in Year 6. If schools draw on the experience of their highly-trained and highly-qualified staff, then they can probably devise their own assessment tools that are far more teacher-friendly, pupil-friendly, and significantly parent-friendly too.

y1koI happily draw anyone’s attention to the excellent materials from the 1999 Numeracy Framework for various reasons, including the exemplification pages, but on this occasion particularly to note the old Key Objectives.

If we can devise something akin to these in our schools and localities, then I think we can manage assessment at the broad level far more usefully than by codes of numbers and letters, without over-burdening teachers with assessment of meaningless minutiae.
Although, I appreciate, that’s a big IF!
The Presentation
*This may not be literally or geographically true, but psychology counts for a lot! That’s a lot of Downs to get through.

The importance of curriculum design

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while, sitting on drafts, deleting sections and re-writing parts. Then, this weekend, a conversation with @ClassroomTruths, @imagineinquiry, @misshorsfall and @rpd1972 among others, led to an impromptu decision for us each to publish blogs on the loosely-linked theme of topic planning.

I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of getting curriculum right for children, focussing particularly on writing, but increasingly I’m coming to feel that we wildly underestimate the importance of curriculum sequencing and design. This is probably partly because for a long time primary schools had that responsibility removed from them and usurped by the national strategies. But I don’t think the strategies got it right.

What’s more, I think the arguments are more subtle and more pressing than the choice between cross-curricular and subject-specific approaches. There are arguments on either side about the benefits of each approach, but I’m coming to feel that it’s rather like the choice between cooking on electric and gas. Personally, I prefer a gas hob and electric oven, but I don’t have any evidence to suggest that these lead to better cooking; just that I have a preference. Similarly, I’m yet to be persuaded by any argument that topic-led or discrete subject-led teaching is inherently better for learning.

So if it’s not that the bothers me, then what? I’m increasingly concerned about the choices we make to bind together the various elements of the curriculum, both within and across subjects. I’m certainly not against cross-curricular work. In fact, as a middle school teacher, I was always astounded how students in secondary schools would find a History department teaching medieval history in Year 7, but English departments keeping Chaucer back for Year 9; or Science departments trying to get children to interpret graphs without first checking whether it had been covered in maths! There is much to be said for an ‘inter-disciplinary’ relationship, whether taught by a common teacher or different ones. However, I’m not convinced that cross-curricular teaching is automatically a Good Thing.

Tim Taylor’s blog already covers some of the challenges of topic-based teaching. What I particularly want to consider is an issue that is significant even when subjects are taught discretely. After all, in many schools mathematics is taught discretely from most topics, and yet this is one of the areas I feel needs most attention. For too long the decisions about teaching of core subjects have been taken out of teachers’ hands and handed over to folders from the department. While the National Numeracy Strategy file had its strengths (the exemplification particularly), the centralised directing of objectives on a micro level absolved teachers of the responsibility for designing the curriculum other than in the narrowest sense. In both English and Maths, teachers have been told what to teach, and when to teach it, and so have given relatively little thought to sequencing the curriculum for their own students.

In some ways, teachers have attempted to develop cohesion through topic-led teaching, but the coherence that this offers can be illusory. While planning out a whole unit on the theme of Chocolate might seem attractive, does the content we incorporate provide the best possible teaching sequence for the children to learn? It’s common to jump from genre to genre as we find writing opportunities and reading texts that suit the topic, rather than finding topics that support the gradual progression of teaching. To return to the kitchen analogy, this seems to me rather like taking the ingredients of a good cake recipe, throwing it all in a bowl and hoping. Teachers need to take on the role of chef and cultivate the best combination of those ingredients, in the right order, and combined with the right techniques to create the most effect outcome.

Dan Willingham and others have explained how focussing on context can sometimes distract from content. We need to ensure that what our children are thinking about is the material we’re hoping they’ll learn. By building our focus entirely round a single idea, do we sometimes risk elevating the importance of the topic above that of the learning context.

But as I’ve said, the problem is not unique to topic-led curricula. At present our maths curriculum seems to be largely built around short blocks of content before skipping on to something else. As with other things, we find ourselves facing children who cannot remember things taught earlier in the same year, when we attempt to revisit in the second half of the year.

But as we move towards the new curriculum, teachers are going to have to take back some ownership for designing the curriculum. The old frameworks won’t cut it, not least because of the new content in areas such as fractions. What’s more, the old approach of a few weeks on fractions  each year, simply hasn’t proven enough to get children to really grasp their use. If we are to be able to raise children’s understanding and knowledge about fractions, then we need to have a clear pathway through that allows children to progress by embedding learning at each stage.

So, what am I proposing?

Well, firstly, not necessarily the scrapping of topics. After all, some humanities themes lend themselves to teaching particular genres of writing, or other aspects of the curriculum. However, I am suggesting that the starting point for all of our planning, at every level, should be the key learning objectives. And I don’t mean, selecting them from an annual list to tie into a topic, but selecting, grouping and sequencing the objectives first, and then seeing if their is any scope for linking ideas together across subjects. If a school gets its long-term plan right, then it can select themes which complement the central learning, rather than lead it.

I have shown in my previous post how I’ve used the Victorians theme to support the teaching of certain techniques in Writing. I can also see how many well-planned topics can lead to effective learning. But I also see many topic titles set out for a 6-week block (or longer!), with the topic acting as the main form of cohesion. That can’t be right? If we are planning in long blocks, then there ought to be a reason for that, and one which links to the core objectives we’re aiming to teach, not to the over-arching label which provides a title for displays.

The new curriculum provides an exciting opportunity for schools to really think deeply about how they organise their curriculum across the whole school, ensuring progression and cohesion through the core subjects as a priority. Go and grab it!


Other blogs on the matter of planning and topics are listed at http://primaryblogger1.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/blogs-on-topic-planning-for-and-against/

FAQ: New Primary Curriculum

As lots of schools start to prepare for the introduction of the new curriculum, the re-drafts and rushed implementation have left some questions. This post attempts to answer some of the most frequently-asked. If your question isn’t answered here, then Twitter is always a good place to ask!

When do you have to start teaching the new curriculum?

The curriculum becomes statutory from September 2014 for all primary year groups except for the core subjects in Years 2 and 6. In Years 2 and 6 the old (1999) curriculum remains statutory for one more year to allow for assessment using the current style of KS2 tests in the Summer of 2016.

Does everything need to change?

The whole of the National Curriculum will be replaced from September 2014. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that all plans need changing. PSHE and Citizenship lessons are not statutory, and so are not affected. Similarly, RE falls outside the scope of the National Curriculum, so schools should continue to use plans matched to the locally-agreed syllabus.

Not all subjects will require drastic change. See the following blogs about what does, and does not, need to change:

Is there any scheme like the National Strategies to support schools?

The government has been clear that it does not intend to roll out a national support scheme. However, some curriculum organisations have taken a lead on providing resources for the new curriculum to support schools. The DfE also suggests that schools liaise with a nearby Teaching School Alliance.

The www.primarycurriculum.me.uk website contains a page with links to subject organisations that provide support for the new curriculum.

Do teachers have to follow the year-by-year programmes of study?

Many sections of the new primary curriculum are set out by year group, or paired year groups. However, the statutory basis of the National Curriculum (under the Education Act 2002 and subsequent legislation) does not permit the government to specify curriculum content other than by key stage. Therefore, the new curriculum allows schools to move content around within each key stage. Thus any content set out by year group can be considered ‘advisory’ sequencing.

What about mixed age classes?

No specific guidance has been provided by the DfE or its agencies for covering the curriculum with mixed age classes. Some specific advice has been provided by Leadership organisation The Key and can be accessed from their website at http://www.usethekey.org.uk/curriculum-and-learning/curriculum-post-2014/primary-curriculum-post-2014/draft-primary-curriculum-managing-mixed-age-classes (free no obligation trial available)

How much time should each subject be taught for?

No amount of time is specified in the curriculum or its accompanying guidance. The legislation does not permit the Secretary of State to make such specifications. It is for schools to decide what time should be given to each subject, or how it should be organised. Schools can continue to use cross-curricular teaching, so long as they cover the Programmes of Study specified for each key stage.

What will KS2 National Curriculum tests be like in 2014 and 2015?

There have been some changes to National Curriculum tests at KS2 for 2014. This includes a change to the structure of the Reading Paper, and the change to the combination of papers for Mathematics.  The Reading paper will no longer follow a theme, but will have three separate texts of increasing difficulty to be tackled in order. In mathematics, there will no longer be a calculator paper, although there will continue to be two papers. There is more detail about all the KS2 tests on the DfE website.

Tests in 2015 will be broadly similar to those in 2014, based on the 1999 National Curriculum.

Will children have to sit a calculator paper, just without a calculator?

Despite much confusion around this area, the DfE appeared to confirm earlier this year that the new test papers for 2014 have been written since the decision was made to remove the calculator paper. Therefore, children will not be faced with questions intended for calculator use.

[tweet 425233604289916928 hide_thread=”true”]

What’s happening to levels?

As since the National Curriculum was introduced, levels have only been part of statutory assessment at the end of each key stage. This will continue until the summer of 2015, when KS1 and KS2 results will be recorded using levels for the final time. There is no requirement to use National Curriculum levels to assess in any other year group or at any other time.

Under the new rules, schools are free to choose their own approaches to assessment for the curriculum, although a new system of outcomes will be in place for Y2/Y6 from Summer 2016.

What will replace levels at the end of the Key Stage?

The government consulted on assessment and accountability for primary schools in the autumn of 2013. This included proposals for assessment in Early Years, and a system of scaled scores at the end of KS2, with a possibility of ranking students in deciles. The results are of the consultation are expected in the spring of 2014. Until these are known, we cannot be certain of the new assessment processes.

What is an algorithm?

There has been much discussion of the major changes in the Computing (ICT) curriculum. However, many of these changes are less significant than first appears. One teachers are familiar with the language of the Programme of Study they will come to recognise familiar content from the curriculum. For example, an algorithm is simply a sequence of instructions for carrying out a particularly task, such as programming a simple Roamer or Beebot device. There is some excellent advice and support available on understanding the new Computing curriculum from various subject associations.

Must we teach History in chronological order?

The draft proposals for the National Curriculum originally indicated that history must be taught chronologically. This requirement was relaxed in the final version. Primary Schools must now cover history up to 1066, but it is for schools to decide how this is organised. The Programme of Study states that children should “continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history” during Key Stage 2.

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/


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/


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.


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/


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/


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

The future of primary assessment

This post is in part in response to Alison Peacock’s blog on Developing primary assessment systems.

Primary teachers today are only too aware of the need for assessment, feedback, tracking and data. However, the current system of levels, tests, APP and teacher assessment have become something of a jumble that could easily mislead one into thinking that they were all part of one and the same thing. This blog is my call for those involved in designing the primary assessment systems to go alongside the new curriculum to recognise that this is not the case.

Assessments take place in schools all the time, but for different reasons. The KS2 tests in primary schools serve relatively little purpose to the schools (or students) themselves. They have uses for accountability and for secondary colleagues to some extent, but limited use in the schools they are taken in. But this is only the extreme. There are other assessments too which we undertake which are important, but different from those which really matter.

There is a great deal of evidence to support the value of formative feedback for students. Teachers recognise this and the past few years have seen an increasing focus on providing this in schools. At the same time there has also been in increasing focus on tracking the attainment of students. There is some overlap between these tasks, but not as much as some would have us believe.

The government sponsored approach arrived in the form of APP. The theory is comforting. We can set targets in numbers, and then use breakdown statements to set targets for individuals in meaningful terms. The theory being that the formative feedback process becomes united with the tracking process and all are happy. However, the reality – as so often with education – is rather more complicated.

For example, one of the assessment criteria in English writing on APP is the use of speech punctuation. It would be very easy to review several pieces of a child’s work, highlight several criteria, and then identify that speech punctuation remained unhighlighted and set a target accordingly. However, what if the curriculum had provided no opportunities for speech punctuation in the period covered? Or more concerningly, what if the next period of teaching did not provide them. A child is left with a target on which he has no opportunity to work.

We must divorce the need for tracking students’ progress in numerical terms, from the process of setting targets for the short- and medium-term. Targets that we give to children should be firmly based on the curriculum covered, and the curriculum to come.

Of course we need to track progress towards end-of-key-stage outcomes (whatever they might look like in the future), but there needs to be a sensible way of doing this. In recent years too many Ofsted reports have either praised or requested systems which include tracking at 3- or 6-weekly intervals. No requirement that these processes are formative, but merely that scores are collected. The task is purposeless.

If we are to make the most of this new-found freedom for assessment in the primary phase, then teachers must take ownership of the target-setting and assessment at classroom level. Clear objectives set out in the medium-term planning should then be assessed at appropriate intervals (e.g. half-termly). Where students are set targets, it is important that these are linked to knowledge & skills that they will have the opportunity to practise in the coming weeks. Students should not have targets in the form of “To reach Level 5 I need to…”, but rather statements such as “To improve my use of punctuation, I need to…”, or “To improve my number work I need to…”

Of course teachers will have an eye on the longer-term goals, but that is their burden to bear, not that of their students. If we are to make feedback a meaningful process, it must be personalised not only to the child, but to the school, the classroom and its curriculum. The only way we can achieve that is to divorce it from the numerical key-stage measures.

That’s not to say that tracking towards end-of-key-stage outcomes can’t happen. Merely that it ought not take precedence over the important process of personalised target-setting. I see no reason why an annual assessment of progress towards KS outcomes should not suffice, if a sufficiently effective process of teacher assessment and feedback is in place throughout the year.

The new curriculum & assessment regime opens up new opportunities for school’s to personalise their processes. Let this be our opportunity to separate out the personal from the school-level targets once and for all.