However, primary teachers are extremely busy people and, by definition, generalists. In every school, time is the most precious resource, and so it is tempting to simply reach for the latest resources or teaching strategy. Knowledge organisers and retrieval practice have made their way into many primary classrooms, but in many cases these don’t have the impact that was promised.
Part of the reason for such challenges is that to really ensure pupils receive an outstanding curriculum, it is necessary to go beyond the more superficial features. Curriculum leads at primary need an understanding in some of the deeper structures of great curriculum design. At Reach Academy Feltham, we have spent years trying to develop useful resources and curriculum materials, but also ensure that leaders and teachers have the mental models to implement them effectively.
There is no single, straightforward playbook for crafting a great curriculum. The context of a particular school, the teachers, the children and their community will all need to be taken into account. However, we do believe that there are some universal theoretical foundations that all leaders (and teachers) benefit from having a solid grounding in.
We have crystalised these foundations into seven key questions subject leads to answer. Together they
will support leaders in articulating their purpose and intention for each subject, but also make it more likely that these intentions are translated into impact. The questions are:
We will be exploring each of these questions in an upcoming masterclass, taking a deeper look at each in a seven part self-study course. Throughout these sessions we will share real, practical examples of our history and geography curriculum materials, currently used by over a hundred schools across the country. By analysing, for example, the retrieval questions used within one of our history work booklets, we hope to provide a clearer understanding of why and how retrieval practice can be so powerful, as well as its limitations and common pitfalls.
Leading a subject area such as history or geography in a primary school is challenging, for sure. However, it is also deeply rewarding and satisfying, as the role allows you to curate the powerful knowledge that all children are entitled to, as well as plotting out the journey that pupils take to develop increasingly sophisticated mastery of the subject. This can only be achieved with an understanding in both curriculum and subject, which every leader has the right to develop.
Jon has spent five years teaching across both key stages in primary and gained a Masters in Educational Research from the University of Cambridge in 2018. The focus of his studies was on the intersection between educational effectiveness research and school improvement, with his thesis on applying evidence from a wide range of fields in classroom practice. He is an expert advisor to the Department of Education, whilst also writing for The Times Educational Supplement and Teach Primary.
Together with Jon and our overall partnership with Reach Academy Feltham, we’re bringing you a new, whole-school curriculum for Primary History and Geography. These new resources offer a clear progression of learning by adding a comprehensive KS1 offer, to build into KS2: gradually building pupil knowledge, skills and curiosity: ensuring National Curriculum requirements, and supporting the development of confident young geographers and historians.
These will be the first primary courses to be delivered through our new digital platform, ActiveHub, coming September 2021.
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