September 23, 2021

Teaching a broad and balanced curriculum for education recovery in primary schools: Part 1

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.

The guiding principle of this document is that schools should continue to teach a broad and balanced curriculum in all subjects. This includes what pupils learn from wider experiences such as educational visits and visitors to the school. During lockdown and isolation periods, children missed out on these experiences. These experiences underpin the essence of a broad and balanced curriculum.

The document also encourages schools to take their intended/planned curriculum as a starting point and prioritise missed teaching content that will allow pupils to make sense of later work in the curriculum. This is not just about gap-filling but making the learning appropriate for children.

The document states that you may need to modify your curriculum substantially and, if necessary, update the information you are required to publish on your website. It is an opportunity to re-look at your curriculum offer and ask: Is it appropriate for the children in your school?

In terms of assessment, the document emphasises the importance of formative assessment. The need to identify what pupils do and do not know or can and cannot do. To use this information to make adjustments to teaching. Summative assessment to be used to measure pupils’ performance at the end of a term, year or programme of study.

In identifying gaps, the document recommends that using focused assessments that target specific components in core subjects (know that, know how), are likely to be more effective than a summative test. We know and understand that identifying gaps and teaching necessary content is going to be key to maximising success.

The government guidance goes onto state that in subjects such as art and humanities, remedying what has been missed is likely to be most effective by adjusting the curriculum in future year groups. It is important that where topics/areas of learning have not been covered, the prior learning which impacts on future teaching is identified and that future teaching takes account of this gap. We know that for learning to be ‘sticky’, knowledge needs to be connected to what we already know and that any gaps in understanding/or misconceptions will result in a weak schema. This surely emphasises even more, the need to revisit prior learning and check that it is secure, before embarking on new topics/areas of learning.

This is a useful diagram to consider before beginning a unit:

The DfE document encourages the use of evidence-based curriculum design to support the implementation of a school’s curriculum. It signposts the work of John Hattie (2009) Visible Learning; EEF (2013) Teaching and Learning Toolkit, Coe et al (2014) What makes great teaching? Rosenshine, Principles of Instruction. With so many evidenced-based practices to choose from, as a school leader we need to decide which of these evidence-based practices we are going to focus on within our own schools.

The document makes the following comment about interventions “While time spent on interventions might suggest an increased workload, time spent on them, making sure that children catch up, can be a good investment of effort.”

The document also states that it is important that any additional interventions are explicitly linked to the content of daily lessons and that systems for feedback are effective, so that pupils experience the curriculum as a coherent whole. Through this document, schools are encouraged to think about the use of the catch-up premium and using this to target individual children.

Any curriculum adjustments should be informed by an understanding of the critical content for progression in each subject.

Click here to read part 2

Emma Adcock
Director of Training and Research
September 2021

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