Browse Issue

The breakthrough in my thinking about the curriculum came when I tried to answer the question that I now think every generation should ask: ‘what are schools for?’ (Young, 2011). I was deeply dissatisfied with most of the answers that my discipline, the sociology of education, gave; they were almost invariably trapped by one kind [...]
Curriculum is all about power. Decisions about what knowledge to teach are an exercise of power and therefore a weighty ethical responsibility. What we choose to teach confers or denies power. To say that pupils should learn ‘the best that has been thought and said’ is never adequate. Start the conversation, and questions abound: ‘Whose [...]
Michael Young and colleagues’ principle of ‘powerful knowledge’ (Young et al., 2014) reignited debate about how the school curriculum can be a tool for social justice. Based on my experience as a primary school teacher in a disadvantaged area, I reflect on what powerful knowledge is, why it is an important curriculum principle and how [...]
England’s National Curriculum states, in an echo of Matthew Arnold’s words from his book Culture and Anarchy (Arnold, 1869), that teachers should provide ‘pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens. [And] introduce pupils to the best that has been thought and said, [engendering] an appreciation of human creativity [...]
Public debate across the West is often polarised, angry and hysterical. Social media amplifies extreme and strident views. People tend to think the worst of their opponents and often believe or disbelieve things because it suits their preconceived ideas…’ This is the introduction to the BBC radio series Sweet Reason. Unfortunately, this description is all [...]
In the last few years, there has been a fascinating debate developing around the concept of a ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’. Sometimes this is referred to as knowledge-led or knowledge-based. The debate has been informed by discussions from cognitive science, such as the role of knowledge in underpinning reading and understanding (Willingham, 2010). It has also been [...]
Cottenham Primary School’s (CPS) 2015 Ofsted inspection resulted in a ‘requires improvement’ rating, necessarily leading towards a refocused vision for the school. In 2016, James was invited to a series of meetings that encouraged his focus on the school’s curriculum, specifically on building a knowledge-rich curriculum. With much of the conversation around knowledge-rich curricula largely [...]
Who we are Sir Christopher Hatton is a mixed state comprehensive school in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. We are the lead school in a small multi-academy trust and a base for the Hatton Teaching School Alliance. We are proud of the external recognition our school has received, having been graded ‘outstanding’ in 2015 and during a subsequent [...]
Over the years, we have worked hard to make sure that our curriculum delivered authentic learning opportunities for our children, but partnerships with other organisations within our locality have made us rethink how this might be achieved. The Royal Society of Art’s idea of an ‘area-based curriculum’ suggests how organisations in the same locality can [...]
This article discusses curriculum content and structure for pupils with a distinctive profile: those who have a learning disability, whose learning attainments do not match expectations for their chronological age, and who face additional challenges in expressive communication, so that it is difficult for them to demonstrate (and for education staff to assess) knowledge and [...]
Long before the current Chief Inspector for Schools, Amanda Spielman, emphasised the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum, the Cambridge Primary Review (CPR) (Alexander, 2010) recommended that the primary curriculum reflect schools’ contexts and communities – that it should be designed carefully and with consideration of its local setting. The University of Cambridge Primary [...]
What is the purpose of education?   If a button were pressed, and you found yourself with a blank slate for deciding what would be educationally worthwhile to teach, how would you go about deciding?  The essential place to start would be through gaining clarity on exactly what the ‘purpose of education’ is. However, once you start researching such a thing, you rapidly realise that there is wide disagreement [...]
Gloucester Road Primary School in Cheltenham has been on a considerable journey over the last 10 years. In 2008, it was in special measures. A new head and senior leadership team took up their posts four years ago, and in July 2017 the school received its very first Ofsted ‘outstanding’. The reasons for this success are many and varied, and include [...]
Purposeful Curricula Purposeful school curricula try to accommodate national experience and culture, philosophical approaches to learning that flow from the school’s identity, local factors (including the geography and history of the community served) and a clear view of what constitutes the common good. Ethically vibrant curricula include a reasoned view of human flourishing and what [...]
The last 6 years has been a developmental curriculum journey at Victoria Academies Trust. We progressed from creating a new and innovative approach to learning within a single academy, to using the developed approach to undertake school improvement for schools in special measures. Originally designed by a team of senior and middle leaders within Victoria [...]
The educational system in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is experiencing significant change. To sustain the country’s prosperity, the UAE government has plans to move the basis of its economy from oil to knowledge and is investing significantly to develop a first-rate education system as set out in its National Agenda 2021 (Zaatari, 2017). This [...]
At Egerton primary school, we viewed the release of the new curriculum in 2014 as the perfect time to review our vision, curriculum design and learning culture. Governors and all stakeholders were involved in the development of the vision:  Through dynamic teaching, a highly creative curriculum and supportive environment, every Egerton child gains a passion for learning. When combined with the knowledge, [...]
Childhood is a special time in our lives and as educators we recognise that we are very privileged. Our curriculum is thoughtfully crafted in order to stimulate, inspire and raise standards for every child as well as to give them lifelong literacies, competencies and qualities so that they are happy, sociable and fulfilled today as well as in [...]
Designing a new curriculum involves striking a crucial balance between subject knowledge, core skills and how children actually learn. In our Hackney primary school, that is precisely what we are doing, along with developing teacher’s understanding and application of cognitive science so that we are building ‘a school within a school’.   Excellence for Students To attempt to achieve this balance, we decided to [...]
When the curriculum lacks coherence, it is both harder to teach and harder for students to locate and place their new knowledge. The notion of curriculum coherence can be considered at three levels: the national level, the school level and the classroom level. Although all three have a profound impact on pupils’ learning, it is [...]
Not  all pupils  arrive in the  music classroom as  novices, and some bring  expert knowledge of a variety  of musical traditions. This has  important implications for debates  around the place of knowledge and skills  in the curriculum. Knowledge and skills are  often proposed to exist as opposites, or one  is considered to be more important [...]
When the new specifications for GCSE English were published, the focus was on how to cover the content of the course in two years and how the skills of analysis, evaluation and comparison could be taught in a way that met the exam board requirements. The next question was how to embed these skills in [...]
Religious education (RE) has been described as ‘an uneasy coalition of several disciplines in undisciplined competition with each other’ (Chater and Erricker, 2012). It has been criticised in recent years for a lack of clear purpose, for confused and confusing curriculum design, and for a student experience identifiable by its lack of parity across the [...]
The context of modern languages teaching It is easy to argue that modern language teaching in English-speaking countries is in crisis. In England, the supply of advanced-level linguists has dwindled rapidly since the 1990s, university language departments have closed and less than half of all secondary students take a language at GCSE (Tinsley and Doležal, [...]
The Religious Education Council has warned that without good religious education (RE) teachers, religious discrimination could rise. Yet, 2017–18 saw a third of training places for initial teacher training in RE unfilled (Sellgren, 2018). This is perhaps symptomatic of one of the deeper problems with RE: a lack of clarity about the purpose, disciplinary methods [...]
In the primary curriculum, geography is referred to, unsurprisingly, as the ‘umbrella’ subject because of its capacity to make tangible and effective connections across subjects. Geography’s fundamental role lies in helping children to understand the world, its environments and places near and far, and the processes that create and affect them. It encourages a holistic [...]
Designing a deep and durable primary mathematics curriculum By KEVIN HUBBARD Following a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2014) into the findings of the 2012 PISA tests, it was suggested that 15-year-old students from education systems such as Shanghai and Singapore are, on average, up to three years ahead of 15-year-old [...]
“Nature is written in mathematical language.” Galileo Galilei Background In 2015, biology teachers began teaching a new A level curriculum, which whilst not greatly different in terms of content, did have a few notable changes: Introduction of the practical endorsement The loss of assessed practical work and the implementation of a ‘practical endorsement’ award, achieved [...]
“As teacher training in the UK becomes increasingly school-based, largely as a result of government requirements, the question of whether and in what sense there is a useful place for ‘theory’ in initial teacher education remains a source of tension and confusion.” Although this observation could have been made in response to the introduction and [...]
Writing about curriculum development in 1975, Lawrence Stenhouse (Stenhouse, 1975) noted that the task of educational institutions is to make ‘available to the young a selection of society’s intellectual, emotional and technical capital’. Educators must introduce students to a series of ‘public traditions’, including knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours. Nearly 50 years later, Stenhouse’s words feel particularly apt for anyone approaching curriculum [...]
I am a confirmed, incurable Bardolator. My first brush with Shakespeare was a striking promenade performance of Macbeth at the Arcola Theatre when I was thirteen. As a teacher, I strive to create similar moments to captivate my students. Thomas (Thomas, 1998) comments that ‘we’ve lost sight of the things that made [Shakespeare] popular with [...]
In most biology departments, a spiral curriculum can be seen in schemes of work (SOW) and in the point order of exam board specifications. For good reason. A subject in which key concepts underpin more complex ideas, such as knowledge of protein structure and function being essential to understanding the selectively permeable nature of cell membranes, requires the teaching sequence to be carefully planned. There should be opportunities to revisit key concepts in different contexts. Typically, biology curricula are [...]
In September 2017, Dom met his first cohort of secondary PGCE students. He was delivering the subject-specific module, Teaching and Learning in Science. James was one of the PGCE trainees on the School Direct route into teaching. This is some of their reflections on the year with a particular focus on the planning of the [...]
It is little surprise that, with so much riding on the recruitment and quality of new teachers, the nature and content of Postgraduate Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes continues to be the source of significant debate and often polarised opinion within the education community. ITE in England has experienced significant change over the last decade, [...]
In recent years, there has been much debate about whether schools should aim to teach students generic learning skills, or whether they should focus instead on teaching subject-specific knowledge. Indeed, some have argued that ‘teaching generic skills does not work’ (Tricot and Sweller, 2014) since, in order to think critically or creatively, the most important thing is to be knowledgeable within that domain. But what [...]
The Rise – the first school to be opened by Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust, a multi-academy trust for students with an EHCP (education, health and care plan) for autism – is not alone in its quest to improve the coherence of our curriculum. However, as an all-through school, with a slightly shorter school day [...]
The when, how and why of assessment are ultimately dependent on what is being assessed, namely the curriculum. Like many schools, we spent a lot of time redesigning Key Stage 3 assessment following the removal of National Curriculum levels. It took us a while to realise, however, that we were approaching things the wrong way [...]
A knowledge organiser (KO) sets out the important, useful and powerful knowledge on a topic on a single page (Kirby, 2015). With the content demands of new courses, and schools adopting a knowledge-based curriculum, these are becoming increasingly popular in schools at secondary and even primary level. With this in mind, what are the key [...]
This article is based on an original research article published in the International Journal of Early Years Education (Boyd, 2014a). The full article can be found here. This paper presents findings from a project completed within a collaborative practitioner research partnership between a nursery school and a primary school, and a university-based educational researcher. The [...]
I don’t need to tell you that teachers face a myriad of problems as they design a curriculum, develop a scheme of work or plan a lesson. The list of requirements is potentially endless, including the need to engage students, to incorporate effective collaboration, to develop mastery of content and subject-specific skills, to give effective feedback, [...]
In the summer of 2010, I spent three weeks in a kindergarten in New Zealand as part of the research for my doctoral thesis. I was there to gain an insight into Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum of New Zealand. At that time, early childhood education in England had been described as having a [...]
Since the introduction of the new National Curriculum in 2014, our school’s aim has been to design a curriculum that meets the needs of the students at our school, is broad and balanced, and is engaging for all. In order to do this we have carried out research by attending courses and reading widely around [...]
The importance of the curriculum in effective teaching Walter Doyle’s seminal paper ‘Effective teaching’, written over thirty years ago (Doyle, 1985), argues that in order to assess the effectiveness of teaching, we have to take into account the curriculum and pedagogy. At a recent conference, Daniel Muijs, Ofsted’s Head of Research, made a similar point and [...]
In 2017, the Department for Education published a report that examined the progress of evidenced-informed teaching in England. The findings suggest that despite limited direct application of research in teachers’ practice, evidence was valued and did inform teacher thinking (Coldwell et al., 2017). Alongside this report, there were other developments that showed that evidence-informed teaching [...]