School and College Curriculum Design

About this page

Welcome to the homepage of School & College Curriculum Design where we will collate blogs, articles and posters of best practice advice on how to design an ambitious, broad and balanced, and planned and sequenced curriculum to which all learners have equal access and which prepares young people for the next stages of their education, employment and lives.

About the 6-step process

Our approach to curriculum design – as outlined in the book School & College Curriculum Design: Intent – follows a six-step process as follows…

Read more about the six steps…

Step 1 – agree the vision

Step 2 – set the destination

Step 3 – assess the starting points

Step 4 – Identify the way-points

Step 5 – Define excellence

Step 6 – diminish disadvantage

NEW! The role of senior leaders in the curriculum design process

NEW! Curriculum is king

About the book

The book – which is Book One in a three-volume series – explores curriculum intent: the ‘why?’ and ‘what?’ of education.

Download a free sample of the book here


Buy the book:

Paperback: Amazon UK | Amazon US

eBook: Not currently available

Free sample: Click here

 


Contents

The contents are as follows…

Introduction
A note on the text
The Ofsted context

Part One: Agree the vision
Chapter One: What is a curriculum?
Chapter Two: What is a broad and balanced curriculum?
Chapter Three: Why does the curriculum matter?
Chapter Four: What is the purpose of education?
Chapter Five: The role of senior leaders
Chapter Six: Creating the culture for curriculum to thrive
Chapter Seven: Improving professional development
Chapter Eight: Protecting teacher workload

Part Two: Set the destination
Chapter Nine: Why knowledge matters
Chapter Ten: What knowledge matters
Chapter Eleven: Identifying key concepts

Part Three: Assess the starting points
Chapter Twelve: The importance of curriculum continuity
Chapter Thirteen: Improving transition arrangements
Chapter Fourteen: The language of – and for – learning
Chapter Fifteen: Identifying curriculum starting points

Part Four: Identify the waypoints
Chapter Sixteen: Plotting a course through the curriculum
Chapter Seventeen: Using waypoints as the progression model

Part Five: Define excellence
Chapter Eighteen: Ensuring equal access to the curriculum
Chapter Nineteen: Teaching to the top
Chapter Twenty: High expectations
Chapter Twenty-One: Pitch perfect

Part Six: Diminish disadvantage
Chapter Twenty-Two: Closing the gap?
Chapter Twenty-Three: Cultural capital
Chapter Twenty-Four: Three waves of intervention
Chapter Twenty-Five: Cross-curricular literacy and numeracy
Chapter Twenty-Six: Metacognition and self-regulation

Conclusion

Preview

Here’s a sneak preview of what you can expect inside… (you can also download a free sample here)

This book is the first of three guides to the school and college curriculum design process.

Taken together, this series will navigate you through the process of redesigning your school or college curriculum, in order to ensure it is broad and balanced, ambitious for all, and prepares pupils and students for the next stages of their education, employment and lives.

Our journey begins here in Book One with curriculum intent – the ‘Why?’ and the ‘What?’ of education. Book Two, meanwhile, tackles curriculum implementation – the ‘How?’ of education. And Book Three concludes with curriculum impact – the ‘How successfully?’ of education.

In Part One of this book on intent, we’ll explore what the term ‘curriculum’ means and argue that a curriculum is a composite of at least four different elements: the national, the basic, the local, and the hidden curriculums. We shall also define the words ‘broad’ and ‘balanced’ and explore what a broad and balanced curriculum looks like in practice.

We will examine the primacy of the curriculum over teaching, learning and assessment, and defend curriculum’s role as the master, rather than the servant, of education.

We will consider the purpose of education and, by so doing, determine the intended outcomes of an effective curriculum.

We will explore the vital role senior leaders must play in the curriculum design process whilst simultaneously defending the rights of middle leaders and teachers – those with subject specialist knowledge – to create their own disciplinary curriculums with freedom and autonomy.

We will also explore the importance of creating a culture of high aspirations where each pupil is challenged to produce excellence. We will consider the centrality of social justice to effective curriculum design – using the curriculum as a means of closing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more advantaged peers.

In Part Two of this book, we will examine why designing a knowledge-rich curriculum matters because, contrary to popular opinion, pupils can’t ‘just Google it’. We will then discuss what knowledge matters most to our pupils’ future successes and how to identify the ‘clear end-points’ or ‘body of knowledge’ of our whole-school or college – and indeed subject-specific – curriculums.

We will discuss ways of ensuring our curriculum is ambitious for all, including through a mastery approach whereby we set the same destination for all pupils and students, irrespective of their starting points and backgrounds, rather than reducing the curriculum offer or ‘dumbing down’ for some. We will talk, too, of modelling the same high expectations of all, albeit accepting that some pupils will need additional and different support to reach that destination.

In Part Three of this book, we will discuss how to assess the starting points of our curriculum, both in terms of what has already been taught (the previous curriculum) and what has actually been learnt (our pupils’ starting points – their prior knowledge, and their knowledge gaps and misconceptions).

We will explore the importance of curriculum continuity, too, and consider the features of an effective transition process. And we shall look at ways of instilling a consistent language of and for learning.

In Part Four of this book, once we have identified both our destination and our starting point, we shall plot a course between the two, identifying useful waypoints at which to stop along the way – what we might term ‘threshold concepts’ – through which pupils must travel because their acquisition of these concepts (be they knowledge or skills) is contingent on them being able to access and succeed at the next stage.

We will explore the importance of having a planned and sequenced curriculum, ensuring we revisit key concepts several times as pupils travel through our education system but, each time, doing so with increasing complexity, like carving a delicate statue from an alabaster block, each application of hammer and chisel revealing finer details and, in the case of curriculum sequencing, more – and more complex – connections to prior learning (or schema) that, in turn, will help pupils to learn more and cheat the limitations of their working memories in order to move from novice and towards expert.

We will explore how these ‘waypoints’ or threshold concepts may be used as a means of assessment so that curriculum knowledge – rather than something arbitrary such as scaled scores, national curriculum levels, GCSE grades or passes/merits/distinctions – is what we assess, by means of a progression model.

In Parts Five and Six of this book, we will turn to the subject of differentiation – arguing (as I say above) that all pupils deserve access to the same ambitious curriculum, no matter their starting points and backgrounds, and no matter the opportunities and challenges they face in life.

Of course, as I also say above, some pupils will need more support and will need more time in order to reach the designated end-points of our curriculum, and not all will do so, but we should not ‘dumb down’ or reduce our curriculum offer for disadvantaged, vulnerable or SEND pupils because by so doing we only perpetuate the achievement gap and double their disadvantage. Rather, we should ensure that every pupil is set on course for the same destination, albeit the means of transport and journey time may differ.

First, in Part Five, we will define excellence and explore the importance of ‘teaching to the top’. We will look at how to model high expectations of all pupils. And we will look at ways of ‘pitching’ learning in pupils’ ‘struggle zones’ (delicately positioned between their comfort zones and their panic zones where work is hard but achievable).

Then, in Part Six, we will look at ways of diminishing disadvantage – accepting that if we want to offer all pupils the same ambitious curriculum, we must also identify any gaps in their prior knowledge and skills, and support those pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities to access our curriculum and have a fair – if not equal – chance of academic success.

We will look at the role of cultural capital in closing the gap, arguing that vocabulary instruction (particularly of Tier 2 words) is a useful means of helping disadvantaged pupils to access our curriculum, but that this, in and of itself, not enough. Rather, we will assert that cultural capital takes myriad forms and, as such, we should also plan to explicitly teach pupils how to speak, read and write in each subject discipline, and fill gaps in their world knowledge.

We will also look at how to make a success of in-class differentiation and additional interventions and support. And we will look at how to develop pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills in order to help disadvantaged learners to access our curriculum. Finally, we will examine ways of developing pupils’ metacognition and self-regulation skills to help them to become increasingly independent, resilient learners.

About the course

We also offer this content as a training course to run in your school or college. For more information, click here.