It’s not long until September when the new primary curriculum is launched. Some schools, like mine, are getting ahead of the game and giving their curriculum a spring clean, ready for a trial run straight after Easter.
Unlike changes to the curriculum under the previous Government, which were introduced with a hefty to pile of detailed guidance, this curriculum stands pretty much alone – it is what it is and it’s up to schools to make sense of it and to make the best of it.
No-one who has worked in schools would say this is an entirely bad thing. Wading through all the materials accompanying the Primary National Strategies, introduced in 2003 and quickly jettisoned by the current government, was rarely pleasurable and not altogether useful. Similarly, the QCA Schemes of Work, became increasingly preposterous as schools slavishly and unthinkingly followed the guidance (I worked in one school where the DT scheme of work was replicated precisely, resulting in each year 4 child making a single slipper. Children love to hop, but really – one slipper!).
Now this has all gone and we start with a clean slate – or at least a clean slate of sorts. Most schools are finding plenty in the new curriculum that can be worked in to current planning and topics. Where there is new material, the challenge is either to find time to squeeze it all in (a perennial problem), developing teacher subject knowledge (programming in the computing curriculum, anyone?) and looking again at well-loved but possibly irrelevant resources (all that slipper felt needs to go!).
This is not to say implementing the new curriculum is easy or straightforward. The absence of guidance from the centre tips the weight of responsibility back towards schools, or groups of schools, to consider how to plan and organise their curriculum. This is particularly hard for schools, also like mine, who are under a monstrous amount of pressure to raise results for literacy and maths at the end of Year 6.
The reality for us is simple. We’re planning for the future, looking to teach a broad, balanced and exciting curriculum – numeracy and literacy at the core, enriched with the experience and knowledge from other subject and based on the belief that there is, ultimately, more to life and more to living than colons, compound sentences and calculations.
But, if our 11 year-olds don’t come good in a few weeks time, we’re doomed. If they don’t get those one or two marks in their SATs that will tip them from Level 3 to the golden ticket of ‘secondary ready’ then all the DT, the computing, the science, the art won’t matter a jot. The pressure is on. The clock is ticking.