October 6, 2021

Teaching a broad and balanced curriculum for education recovery in primary schools: Part 2

The aim of this two part blog is to give an overview of the DfE document ‘Teaching a broad and balanced curriculum for education recovery’ and to put into perspective what this means for provision and delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum in practical terms for early years and primary phases.

In this second blog, we will consider the DfE’s advice on ‘Implementing a broad and balanced curriculum for education recovery.’

Whilst we know that questioning and discussion can reveal children’s gaps, misconceptions and insecure knowledge, there is also the emotional and mental wellbeing side of learning that we simply cannot push to the side at this time. 

Evidence from Young Minds identified that one in six, 5–16-year-olds, had a mental health issue in July 2020, which is a huge increase from 2017, where one in nine, 5–16-year-olds, were diagnosed as having a mental health issue. This figure equates to five children in every classroom! It is important to remember that there will be pupils in our classrooms who have mental health needs that may not be that obvious.

With this sobering statistic in mind, when we are designing our teaching programme, it is key that we are starting from the child. Work by Barry Carpenter, who spoke to our member schools last year, emphasises five levers that will help pupils settle back into school routines. The five levers are: relationships, community, transparent curriculum, metacognition, and space.

Emotion and cognition are supported by interdependent neural processes.

There are a series of subject focuses and case studies within the DfE document. Each subject focus contains advice which pertains to each subject area. 

Many of the case studies are by academies and relate to older children in KS3, which may not be helpful if you are wondering how to support your reception class in a small village school. My suggestion is that you work with your subject leaders and think very carefully about the children in you school and consider what is right for them. I would recommend every subject leader to read the subject overview for their subject or subjects. 

Each subject overview will be discussed during the first session of each of our Professional Communities. Each professional community leader will lead a discussion on the implications of this document for EYFS, English, Mathematics and Science.

The guidance recommends that schools take a subject-specific approach in prioritising what to teach, and here there are a couple of points to make about teaching wider subject areas. The first is that subject specificity does not necessarily mean teaching subjects in isolation. We must return to interdisciplinary nature about having breadth and balance in the curriculum.

Through the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum, the focus surely needs to be on making learning irresistible, on enabling environments, and making learning purposeful in all subjects or areas of learning. 

It is essential that our teaching is being driven by what I as the teacher want the children to learn, and this is followed by choosing an appropriate activity that will ensure that this is learned. There is a huge buy in from the DfE and Ofsted 2019 on the science of learning and the acquisition of high-leverage teaching which leads to children ‘knowing more and remembering more’.

Any kind of review of the curriculum needs to be tempered with teacher workload and avoid workforce stress. It is important that as school leaders, we use the expertise of our subject leaders. Subject Associations have a rich wealth of knowledge and resources to offer our schools. 

Let’s end this blog with a quotation from Loris Malaguzzi, “Please nothing without joy!” 

This, I think, would be a great headline for your school’s curriculum. It is important to keep the vision of the child in our mind as we are developing our curriculum, particularly when we are thinking about our broad and balanced curriculum. 

Photo of Emma Adcock – VNET EDUCATION CIC
Emma Adcock

Director of Training and Research
October 2021

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