What underpins everything we do as teachers?
The structure, delivery and assessment of a school’s curriculum is arguably the foundation of schooling. Given the pandemic, how can government balance a recovery curriculum, the attainment gap and accountability?
The likely truth is that no school has the perfect curriculum (at least not for every subject, in every year group). Believing that your school’s curriculum is perfectly packaged and tied up with a ribbon could be naive. The same message should be shared with the government…
It’s an ever-revolving project that must respond to a wide range of factors. Not least, a global pandemic.
No school sets out to provide an incoherent, narrow or weak curriculum. Timetables are tight, exam pressure is real and budgets are decimated; most schools have been doing what they believe to be useful, with the benchmark for curriculum thinking recently redefined across the various UK jurisdictions.
All school leaders will tell you that the curriculum underpins everything we do in our schools. After all, if we get curriculum design right, this informs assessment (not the other way around), improves behaviour and supports teachers to unlock learning in the classroom. The examination system undermines our pedagogy.
Give teachers a little more time and money?
Teachers need to spend more time with one another to plan better lessons, adapt and deliver content to meet the needs of pupils. Therefore, they can develop meaningful relationships with our pupils to help where help is most needed.
In my career leading whole school teaching and learning, you can have the best curriculum plans on paper, but if you haven’t got the teachers that can bring this content to life, schools can still remain stuck.
In my Just Great Teaching research, 61 per cent still consider the curriculum a challenging area of practice with 24 per cent believing it is a weakness in their school. The global pandemic and lockdown will only make this much harder for many as we continue to future-proof the curriculum in a fast-changing world…
In smarter-working schools, I have seen curriculum leaders produce some great collaborative planning, thinking and professional development. However, they are few and far between due to a wide-range of factors.
So, with COVID, lockdown and learning lost, what now for education?
We know that the curriculum defines what students should be learning.
We know that from an epistemological perspective, it’s important to define what it means to know.
In terms of cognitive science, we are better at understanding what happens when learning shapes long-term memory.
As a result, our teachers are better equipped to know how to get pupils to learn.
Supporting all pupils in a recovery curriculum
From the outset of the pandemic, I’ve tried hard to support teachers and quash homeschooling myths about learning. That rather than pupils being given endless ‘new activities’ to do at home, our schools should have been helping parents to help their children recap on ‘prior knowledge’ to retain knowledge and learning lost. However, we know teaching is a unique role and that not all of our families are equipped with the resources to be able to do this at home. That pipedream is unrealistic!
So, what can we hope for in the months that lay ahead?
Moving into the latter half of this academic year, it is sensible that schools design their curriculum provision according to their unique circumstances. We know that reteaching is a necessary part of any curriculum – all teachers must do it – but what do we do if we have missed so much time?
Teaching is a relationship-based profession. We should focus on this first, then evaluate what needs to be taught.
The more time we have to understand and support our young people, the more opportunity teachers have to develop their metacognitive learning. If our government choose to help the recovery curriculum, they’ll put their hands deeper into their pockets…