The challenge with having a curriculum that’s fit for purpose is knowing whose purpose it’s fit for.
Is yours? Answer these 3 questions to find out:
- Does it anticipate the kind of knowledge, skills and qualities that your students will need in order to be successful citizens and global contributors, not now, not 10 years ago, but in 2030?
- Is it flexible, responsive, dynamic and evolving?
- Do your students authentically enjoy it?
Curriculum is an arena where opinions, biases, preferences and specialisms do battle for minds. If you’re as old as I am (52) you’ll remember the very first drafts of the National Curriculum and the reviews and revisions that followed. You’ll recall the struggles and the strife as we wrestled it into a workable format. You’ll also know that from 1999 (I think? I am 52 after all) we didn’t have to follow it any more. With a sigh and an eye roll we wondered what all the fuss had been about.
Science had started out with 17 attainment targets, each one broken down lovingly and accurately into sub-targets and descriptions of finely tuned academic success. It was a work of art (how ironic) – broad and balanced coverage, interesting and relevant content. And created with no regard whatsoever for the other curriculum areas – whose authors also believed that their subject deserved a big slice of the learning pie.
Eventually (Dearing Review) some sense of order prevailed and we had a workable document. Until the national literacy strategy hoved in to view. Urban myth has it that visiting Russian educators gasped in awe at the hierarchical rigor with which it was disseminated, noting that not even in Stalin’s hey day would a national requirement be delivered with such mechanistic precision.
And herein lies a problem: everyone wants a say. Everybody feels they deserve a piece of YOUR curriculum, because everybody knows how powerful a document the curriculum is and everybody knows what’s best for (y)our children. It tells the next generation what to know, what to do, how to be, and, ultimately what to think.
So with Ofsted’s re-polish of their inspection lens to look at what is taught and how (and why if ‘intent’ means what we think in means) we see a scrabble. Companies are betting on the curriculum content with new resources, consultants and trainers are reworking old material in anticipation of a scramble for curriculum help, and schools are wondering if what remains in their long term planning is enough, after the data driven content famine which laid their provision bare.
Is your curriculum fit for purpose? Is it fit for your children’s purposes? If not, how might you redesign it?