How can schools support our teachers to meet the curriculum challenges of today?
92 per cent of teachers and school leaders feel confident or very confident with their day-to-day work around curriculum. However, 61 per cent still consider it a challenging area of practice and 24 per cent believe it is a weakness in their school, Just Great Teaching, 2019.
Curriculum issues pre and post-COVID
Prior to COVID-19, my research revealed the challenges our schools faced with new curriculum. Post-pandemic with learning lost, significant mental health and now with the emergence of a vaccine, school improvement and the curriculum challenges that lay ahead for all schools will be arduous to say the least.
Other than marking, teachers spend the vast majority of working hours planning their curriculum. My question for you here is, what benefit does collaborative planning have on a) workload b) standards and c) pupils’ knowledge?
The vast majority of schools regularly revisit their curriculum, but how many schools do you know set aside time for teachers to actually do this together, on a regular basis? How often should regular be? Once a year, once a term or once every half term?
We should also ask what this looks like in a primary, secondary or a further education setting? Then let’s throw into the mix ‘What subject, age and time of year?’, suddenly, just a small set of questions reveals thousands of possibilities.
Collaborative curriculum planning
When we think about intent, implementation and impact, how far off is your school creating an overview of everything that is happening in all pockets of the school at any given time? Although the curriculum should be a whole-school discussion for all, I only managed to see a whole-school overview in one of the 6 schools I worked in…
In Just Great Teaching, I outline how schools can facilitate teachers to work collectively.
Productive schools allow teachers to organise their planning and preparation more efficiently and clearly, so they can get on with the job, allowing them to plan what the students need in an easy-to-create planning format.
This could be online, and it’s certainly not a Powerpoint. These schools encourage and enable collaboration, organisation and prioritisation in professional development sessions that are frequent and support teacher autonomy.
In smarter-working schools, I have seen curriculum leaders also in charge of teacher professional development, so they are equally aligned to one another and inform each other. This is a fabulous school strategy. This is hard to achieve, particularly in a challenging context or under the pressures of external scrutiny, but these 7 tips may help you make collaborative lesson planning a reality in your school.
7 Curriculum Planning Tips
- Provide weekly or termly planning sessions for all teaching staff in your department or school.
- Pair up year teams and subject specialists to prepare schemes for teachers who are delivering the content.
- Reduce the burden on teachers by no longer asking for detailed lesson plans and scripts.
- Spend more time on creating resources that will actually aid the teacher and support students in the lesson.
- Map all teaching and learning content to a key stage curriculum map using free mind-mapping tools, or use Google Sheets or Microsoft Teams to create a curriculum overview. Grant teachers various editing rights to be able to comment, tag and share details as and when required.
- Use Google Forms to create questionnaires and tick sheets for collating responses and data that can be automatically analysed.
- Most multi-academy trusts share their resources on an industrial scale. If you find yourself in an isolated school, simply connect with a nearby school that is working within a similar context and arrange a time to visit and swap schemes of work. Of course, you could use social media, but you’ll gain more from seeing the content ‘come to life’ in the school itself and being able to talk to other teachers.
In my monthly webinar with website members, I share a whole-school overview of what curriculum mapping looks like in a large secondary school. I posed curriculum planning questions that should be asked when supporting teachers to think more deeply about their curriculum and how it aligns with other teachers and subject teaching across the school.
Shared planning reduces the burden on individual teachers and ensures a consistent, joined-up approach that will benefit students. In the long-term, this also reduces teacher workload!