Intent & Impact
At Altmore and Lathom School’s Federation, we have always been pleased to offer our children a rich and varied provision, currently based on the requirements of the 2014 National Curriculum. As part of our ongoing discussion around the raising of standards in the academic year 2017-2018, however, it became clear to us that we were ready to expand our vision of curricular entitlement. As ever, our discussion centered around the impact on our children, their readiness to enter the next phase of learning, and their understanding and awareness of their world. Crucially, we considered whether what we taught them matched what the children learned… and if these two did not align, what could we do to ensure our classrooms were knowledge-rich spaces where children were given the opportunity to apply functional and transferable life skills across a range of sometimes surprising contexts?
All this was taking place in the context of Ofsted’s changing conversation around Curriculum. Amanda Spielman, writing in September 2018, noted the following:
‘The research underpinning that commentary showed that there was a dearth of understanding about the curriculum in some schools. Too many teachers and leaders have not been trained to think deeply about what they want their pupils to learn and how they are going to teach it. We saw curriculum narrowing, especially in upper key stage 2, with lessons disproportionately focused on English and mathematics… Those of us who work in education should be clear that these practices do not represent a substantial education. The curriculum is not the timetable. ..We all have to ask ourselves how we have created a situation where second-guessing the test can trump the pursuit of real, deep knowledge and understanding of subjects.’
Real, deep knowledge and understanding of subjects...these words resonated, echoing as they did the discourse in our FLT. What did we want from our curriculum, and how were we going to do it?
Implementation - Curriculum
Our curriculum is based on Cornerstones, an online resource, providing schools with a full menu of theme-based curriculum topics. These integrate a range of curriculum subjects, as well as ensuring that core skills from English and Maths are applied within these knowledge-based units, known as Imaginative Learning Projects (ILPs). SMSC and British Values are also integrated. Each unit follows a four-step learning journey, from engagement to development, to innovation to expression. Assessment for the unit is done through a series of projects, through which knowledge-based learning are expressed through the application of appropriate skills. Most importantly, all of this is fun. Children relish immersion in a topic, and Cornerstones allows for this.
Whilst this is a bought-in scheme, it is in no way proscriptive. Teachers must still plan the teaching sequence from the Cornerstones material. This was important to us: our teaching must meet the specific needs of our East Ham community. Cornerstones allows us to ensure our coverage is thorough, meeting the requirements of the National Curriculum whilst at the same time delivering a curriculum that is relevant to us.
Implementation – Timeline For Change
As part of our discussion, we have purposely taken a measured approach. Teachers have had access to the Cornerstones material since September 2018. However, the official launch of our new creative curriculum is September 2019. Why this measured approach?
The bolded sentence, above, is our driver through this change. We want to make sure our staff has time to sit with the material, examine it, work with it, adapt it. In Autumn Term 1, staff training was delivered by Janet Carroll from Cornerstones, familiarizing all staff with the website and its contents. Year Groups were then asked to look at their topics for the rest of the year. Was there one that could instead come from Cornerstones? If possible, it was suggested that each year group pull at least some material from an appropriate topic at some point in this academic year. Once trialed, full and frank feedback can be given. Their evaluation and experience will help leadership identify issues – and solutions! - before full implementation.
Furthermore, our curriculum design must be purposeful, ensuring both coverage and progression. Cornerstones comes with a curriculum design tool, allowing subject leaders to check that curriculum provision meets the national expectation, as well as monitoring for progress across the key stages. This means they will be able to speak confidently about how their subject looks and grows from year group to year group. Our subject leaders will be meeting in June to use this tool and construct the curriculum. Once they have chosen the topics for the coming academic year, their next job will be to ensure resources and enrichment activities are in place. Year groups for the academic year 2019-2020 will meet through Term 6 to plan and resource the first term’s topic. Information regarding this will be posted on the school website and shared with the parents.