The 6 steps of curriculum implementation: Step 6

In my book, School and College Curriculum Design 1: Intent, I articulated a six-step process for curriculum planning…

You can read about each step here.

In the second book in the series, School and College Curriculum Design 2: Implementation, I have also set out a six-step process as follows…

Below, I will summarise Step 6. If you haven’t already done so, you can read summaries of Step 1, Steps 2, 3 and 4, and Step 5.

Creating the culture for implementation

Senior leaders in schools and colleges have five key roles in terms of creating the right culture to implement an effective curriculum: firstly, they need to agree the vision for their whole school or college curriculum which involves defining what is meant by the term ‘curriculum’ and making decisions about the national, basic, local and hidden curriculums; secondly, they are key to determining how broad and balanced the whole school or college curriculum will be and why; thirdly, they need to articulate the purpose of education in their school or college – and therefore guide middle leaders in determining the broad ‘end-points’ (schools) or ‘body of knowledge’ (FE) to be taught; fourthly, they need to create the culture in which a curriculum can flourish; finally, they need to be the gatekeepers and defenders of staff skills and time.

The fourth and fifth roles are critical to our current purposes because, if we are not careful, curriculum intent and implementation are in danger of becoming a fad to which a considerable amount of time is dedicated. I am not suggesting improving curriculum design and ensuring teaching leads to long-term learning are not important endeavours and deserving of more of our time – I think they are – but I am saying that, if we decide we need colleagues to dedicate more time to these important processes, then we must also decide what they can stop doing in order that their overall workload does not increase; rather, that they focus their time on doing the things that will have the biggest impact on pupils.

As well as protecting our colleagues’ workloads, we need to ensure they are helped to develop the knowledge and skills required to engage in effective curriculum thinking, design and delivery. This includes designing programmes of CPD that perform a dual function: firstly, that they help teachers and middle leaders to develop their pedagogical content knowledge so that they know more about effective teaching strategies and approaches; and secondly, that they help teachers and middle leaders to develop their subject-specific knowledge so that they know more about their chosen disciplines.

Creating the systems for implementation

A school also needs to attend to the following systems if their curriculum is to be effectively implemented: performance management and quality assurance.

Designing an effective performance management system might start by agreeing a set of expectations or standards against which teachers can be measured for the purposes of performance management. One solution is the professional portfolio approach, not to be confused with a tick-box approach which mandates teachers to self-assess against a fixed set of criteria, but rather about teachers taking genuine responsibility for their own development and taking their professional practice seriously. Another possible solution is the ‘balanced scorecard’ approach – this works when criteria are quantifiable rather than qualitative – which is a means of aggregating a range of data.

Designing a quality assurance system might start by consulting upon, agreeing and communicating a vision for the quality of education in your school or college. This vision is unique because it reflects your local context. The next stage might be to write a short mission statement which articulates how that vision will be realised. The third stage might be to set the priorities for the next one to three years. These priorities should help focus the school or college on the actions it needs to take in order to achieve its vision and mission. Next might come the ‘quality standards’, the everyday behaviours and values you need your school or college to embody.

The purpose of quality assurance is to critically reflect on past performance in order to improve future performance. Self-evaluation requires subject leaders to state their position at the end of each academic year, the actions they took in the previous year to get there, the positive impact of those actions on pupils, each with supporting evidence, and the areas for improvement that remain and that they therefore need to focus on in the year ahead. The areas for improvement contained within the self-evaluation document should then be carried forward to the curriculum improvement plan and form the objectives for the year ahead. The curriculum improvement plan should be a live document used to record the actions required in-year in order to improve the quality of education each subject discipline provides. Each action taken to improve the quality of provision should be added to the plan alongside emerging evidence of its impact on pupils.

To quality assure each subject’s provision and to support their improvements, subject leaders might receive around three curriculum reviews during the academic year, roughly one per term. Each curriculum review should be a professional process used to support and challenge leaders. The process should begin and end with a curriculum improvement plan. The plan should be used to determine the nature of the review and to identify key areas of focus for the review. The outcome of the review process should, in turn, be an updated plan.

Our systems also need to promote classroom consistency – to help pupils avoid cognitive overload – and collective autonomy – whereby teachers plan together.

We also need to address the issues of teacher recruitment and retention if we are to have qualified subject specialists teaching pupils. In addition to dealing with the issue of workload, we could start to do this by:

• Addressing the nature of teachers’ workloads
• Providing more opportunities for flexible working
• Improving pay and rewards
• Improving the quality of school facilities
• Improving the support leaders give to staff
• Providing more encouragement to teachers and make expectations clearer
• Improving the quality of initial teacher training
• Improving the availability of continuing professional development
• Improving the quality and relevance of CPD
• Tailoring the support offered to new teachers
• Providing opportunities for career progression including into leadership positions
• Improving the professional recognition and social standing of teachers

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