Over the past 10 years of reviewing curriculum design, I have tried to make a clear distinction between curriculum design in terms of the elements that make a broad and balanced curriculum, teaching and learning strategies and structural analysis. All are important but each should not be confused with the other. SMARTcurriculum® focuses on is the structural elements that so often prevent the theory and content from being effectively delivered. In discussing the approach I often refer to the ‘Three Es’ of curriculum design, concepts around which all schools are built. Recent experience reinforces this belief across Grammar, Comprehensive, Primary, Secondary, State and Independent sector schools. The education world is amazingly similar in this regard.
Efficient curriculum design concerns the capacity to employ the quantity and quality of staff to deliver a high-quality curriculum, alongside being able to resource it so that learners can get the best out of the process that you take them through given the resource available. The question in the balance is whether it is affordable to increase the number of classes, this reducing the class size, and then have reduced funds to invest in the basic provisions (paper pencils text book) at one extreme and visitors, IT resource, the ‘whizz-bang’ stuff that you would love your learners to have access to at the other.
We seem to be at the moment in a flat spin conversation around the basic provision with schools announcing that they can’t afford pencils and pens and rubbers (the basic provision) where others are exploring some really well invested classrooms. We have to explore where that is possible when the funding proportional to the number of learners. Efficient curriculum design concerns an understanding of how we can resource the classroom to make the experience the best that it can be.
I see again curriculum experts sharing numerous models of delivery. In my humble opinion this conversation really only deals with one dimension of curriculum model design- How many elements fit within the cycle that has been selected? Further analysis is required to really understand the impact for sharing. It is patently obvious that proportional elements and distribution within a 15 lesson cycle (3 periods per day over one week) are vastly different from a 50 lesson cycle (5 periods per day over a 2 week cycle.) The decisions about the proportions of subjects will also vary due to the context of the school, prior attainment of the learners and the nature of the building in which the logistics are to run. What this simple sharing doesn’t consider is the class size decisions being made and the use of teacher time to deliver the plan. It also presupposes a delivery methodology- a lesson name determines what is taught with no capacity for cross discipline planning, if desired or determined. Neither does it respect what I would refer to as ‘Adapted Curriculum’- curriculum that varies through a year dependent on prior attainment. Effectively used by some schools to allow for high prior attainment or low prior attainment and breaks the one size fits all modelling.
Effective curriculum design is to ensure that the outcomes for students, whether that be examinations or purely a more purposeful education process than just outcomes, is effective so that students learn engage and achieve, relative to start points at a high level The classic conversation that is ongoing in many schools that we work with is the high ideal of having a broader balanced curriculum means that they have lots of subjects at key stage 4, but the outcomes don’t reflect the quality of learning. Smaller classes might be achieved because of the breadth provided. But open bucket subjects do not perform well. This is not an effective curriculum.
An ethical curriculum is one that provides within the structures of our state funded education system a curriculum that is right for the children not just right for the performance tables. One example of this are schools that are fitting the subjects that they deliver are just those that are included in the performance tables.
The net effect of this process often is to diminish the creative subjects and the technical subjects in favour of English back subjects but also there is a question of whether children should be doing PE or taking subjects like PSHE which are often squeezed out as they are not seen as achieving exam goals. Is this ethical? it might be right for the school to put the money into exam subjects but is this right for children whose opportunity to learning in a societal situation is then squandered.
I have discussed the three Es of curriculum modelling previously, see the blog post A balance of three where I discussed the necessity to balance these elements to achieve good curriculum modelling.
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