At the start of this year I took on the role of Vice Principal for a large secondary school. A key priority for the school, which had had several changes in middle leadership, was to help middle leaders develop their curriculum plans, understand them and be able to communicate them with others and their own staff as well as communicating the student journey to students.
Two key books played a phenomenal role in this. Mary Myatt’s (@MaryMyatt) book ‘The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence’ which made me fall in love with curriculum design by carefully explaining its merits and the thought process that needed to go behind each element of planning. Summer Turner’s (@ragazza_inglese) ‘Secondary Curriculum and Assessment Design’ really highlighted the challenging questions I and the leadership team I was joining needed to tackle in order to ensure that curriculum design was being conducted in a coherent way. I will focus on the latter book in this post.
Here is how I used some of their Summer’s within the school this year:
Summer Turner’s Secondary Curriculum and Assessment Design:
If you’re new to curriculum design (and even if you’re not) Summer breaks down everything! Lots of definitions, explanations and lots of clarity of terms we may confuse.
Getting clear about whole school Curriculum Intent
The Self – Assessment in Chapter 2 was brilliant to use with the Leadership team. Not only did it give us some crucial questions to discuss but was a quick way of me learning about the new school I had just joined and also the thinking of the leadership team around curriculum. We had some brilliant, open and honest discussions about the purpose of our curriculum and our ambitions for our students. I honestly believe if this hadn’t happened we would not be singing off the same hymn sheet as we do now when line managing middle leaders.
Some of the questions were really challenging for example:
Should you teach to the test if it means pupils will perform well in exams?
These questions made us question our moral purpose and what we were in education for.
The self-assessment also asks you to assess yourself and your confidence in areas. Which meant we could help each other in area where we felt less confident. Not confident with how assessment data is used? Let another member of the leadership team explain it to you.
Learning from others
The book also introduced me to some great twitter handles to follow and brilliant tweeters!
As well as social media, Summer also makes numerous book recommendations which I will get through one day! Combined these ideas from other thinkers and institutions allowed me to challenge our own ideas in school to have deeper discussions around curriculum.
Summer’s questions around sequencing led to some hot debates. Questions such as:
- Whether we sequence year by year and if not how do we accommodate students who join us at different times.
- How much we want to invest in making connections across subjects, how we do this and whether this is a longer term plan.
- How we would communicate cognitive science and knowledge acquisition and memory to all staff so it would influence their teaching practice and when we would do this.
All of the above were considered but not necessarily given equal weight in the first year. I had to remember that a few well executed changes and initiatives are better that a heap of poorly communicated ones.
Taking this approach with middle leaders
Once leadership was clear about the above questions we started to discuss these questions with middle leaders. Explaining how we had agreed on our whole school curriculum intent and ensuring that we were open to middle leaders opinions and ready to adapt where necessary.
In my next post I will post about what we shared in middle leaders meetings and he discussions we had as well as our curriculum template.
It would be great to hear how other curriculum leaders have led curriculum design in there schools. Curriculum design is an ever changing beast. It is something that we must and should, adapt, tweak and amend year after year to meet the needs of our students so I think the more ideas the better!
Thank you to Summer Turner for the support she has provided our school in doing this.