Heaton Manor Curriculum Project

 

On 18th September 2018 Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, published a commentary which discussed findings from recent curriculum research, ideas about curriculum design and the new education inspection framework, which will be in place for September 2019. This linked to earlier indications from Ofsted that there would be increasing focus on the curriculum in its broadest sense in their inspections and an expectations that senior and middle leaders could articulate the school’s vision and rationale behind the curriculum model they have in place. This vision should then manifest itself visibly in the classroom.

Curriculum means more than just the subjects that pupils are taught. It also means the values and purpose the school has regarding education, the topics taught within each subject area, the pedagogical methods used to enable pupils to learn and the ways in which pupils are assessed.

Ofsted is carrying out an ongoing curriculum survey and the findings from phase two are outlined in Spielman’s commentary. In the commentary, Spielman asks, ‘What do we understand to be the real substance of education? She also suggests that evidence points towards the importance of leadership, and particularly forms of distributed leadership, when developing and implementing a curriculum.

It is refreshing that Ofsted’s focus seems to be about educational matters and the big questions, rather than just the data. It is up to individual schools to take up this challenge and respond to it.

Currently, much of the information on Heaton Manor’s website about our curriculum is about the nuts and bolts of our curriculum: what is studied, how and when we organise pupils into different groups and how they are assessed. Only the very brief opening paragraph can be seen to present anything like an educational philosophy and there is little to be gleaned about how we teach and what goes on in the classroom. This is also the case by and large in the separate faculty areas. Visitors to our website, including Ofsted, current and prospective parents and applicants for jobs here, probably glean very little about what actually goes on in our classrooms from the information we currently display.

As a school we intend to develop a philosophy around our curriculum, which then shapes the firmer detail of what, when, why and how pupils are taught and assessed. This vision will be based not only on the values we hold dear to us as educators but also be based in a practical sense on current research about education, learning and progress. The vision then will be played out within faculties, subject areas, key stages and classrooms, again with the decisions we make about the nature of our curriculum, teaching, learning, organisation of pupils and assessment, based on evidence and valid research, whether that is external research or our own internal findings.

This project will unfold over the course of this academic year, with a view to implementing any changes that we think we need to make beginning in September 2019. It may even be that we don’t need to make any changes at all, beyond articulating more clearly what we do and why we do it and justifying our approach, based on sound evidence.

A Curriculum Project Group has been set up, led by Richard Faraday, Director of Teaching and Learning. The group will meet regularly in order to address the key questions we should answer, basing their response on sound research, such as reading educational theorists, active research in their own classroom, engaging with Ofsted and DfE publications or learning from the practice of other schools. A staff library has been set up in order to enable some of this research to take place.

The Curriculum Project Group (CPG) will report back to the senior team and cascade their findings to the wider staff. Faculties will respond by shaping their own practice to align it with the direction that we take as a whole school.

Some of the key questions that the group, the leadership team and faculties will be addressing include:

  1. Why do we have the children in the building and what do we want them to leave the building with?
  2. Who do we serve? Children, community, parents, society in general?
  3. What do we value pupils learning? Is it knowledge, skills, both? Why?
  4. What evidence do we need to build all our ideas on? Is there a hierarchy of research?
  5. Why do we teach discrete subjects and should we teach the subjects we teach?
  6. What texts / topics / themes do we teach in each subject area and why do we teach them? 
  7. What do we want pupils to learn in our subject areas - what learning do we want them to leave our classrooms with at the end of a lesson / unit / year / key stage / school?
  8. How important are learning facts, memory, recall and the development of knowledge?
  9. To what extent do we believe in and facilitate the blurring of boundaries between subjects / have cross curricular links and projects / have lessons that are not subject specific, such as learning to learn? Are skills transferrable?
  10. What is the role of the teacher in the classroom? Lecturer, facilitator, discussion leader, 'sage on the stage', 'guide on the side'?
  11. How important /effective is teacher talk / questioning /differentiation / group work / pair work / pupils learning from each other?
  12. How can we integrate learn, recall, recall, recall (assuming we think this is a good thing to do)?
  13. If we have an end goal for a unit (e.g. an essay in English or History, a painting in Art...) how do we reach that goal? Is it though practising essays and paintings, or is it through breaking down these things into their constituent micro skills and teaching those, before bringing everything together as a whole?
  14. What are the most effective and efficient assessment methods to ensure pupil progress?

If you are interested in the development to this project, keep an eye out on our website for regular updates throughout the course of the school year.

 

Contact Us

Heaton Manor School & Sixth Form
Jesmond Park West
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE7 7DP

Tel: +44(0)191 2818486
Fax: +44(0)191 2810381

Email Admin (Mrs Burn):-admin@heatonmanor.newcastle.sch.uk

Finance:-finance@heatonmanor.net
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