I have touched on this idea before in a blog entitled “Tribal memory”, where staff loss can be debilitating.
Teaching and Learning and curriculum development have been the bread and butter of my whole career. You decide on a range of “stuff” that you consider children need to know at particular points in their lives, then decide the best approach to making sure that it “sticks”. Knowledge is broad and the accompanying pedagogies are equally broad.
Schools therefore have had to make strategic decisions. Some of these are likely to be general, in that the “knowledge” in different curriculum areas has been relatively consistent throughout my career, in Primary this can be broadly summarised as variations on Maths, English (R,W,S&L), Topic (H,G,Sc lead, Art, DT interpretation), Music, PE, RE, MFL.
In school and curriculum development terms, the key can be the availability of colleagues with appropriate background to be able to, at least, map out curricular development statements, if necessary, drawing on broader collegiate expertise within and outside the school. This may be particularly acute in smaller schools.
One interview raised the question of personal ambition as a potential drag on development. It is conceivable that, after a period of leading development in one subject area, an experienced teacher might be asked to then oversee an area that had received less attention, in so doing relinquishing responsibility to another. Equally, another teacher might be brought into a school and will wish to “make their mark”, with an eye to their own future promotion prospects. In either case, there will be a hiatus, as stock is taken and proposals made for “improvement”. This could be seen as “change”, a regularly used word in education.
Whereas improvement implies a strategy, unless a comprehensive strategy is articulated, change can become distracting; wholesale change can mean abandoning what went before. As a result, nothing gets fully understood or embedded.
This can be as a result of Government decisions. I'd quite like Government to hold back from initiatives, allow teachers to take stock, to be able to plan securely, in order to put in place structures that can stand the test of time, by allowing consideration of improving parts rather than wholesale alterations every few years.
I would still contend that much of the 2014 changes wrought on education were change for change’s sake. After five years, the impact has led to poor implementation in SEND and Ofsted altering their 2019 approach to look at the broader curriculum. Strategy is complex, a bit like a Gaia principle of “wheels within wheels”. Knee-jerk alteration in one area has a knock on into another, often causing unintended, or unforeseen consequences.
School managers need to plan development with care, mapping clearly how different elements work together, seeking to avoid duplication of or wasted teacher effort.
Distraction destroys continuity. Continuity and progression were by-words of my school career; progressively building from one phase of education to the next, within an overall aspiration for all children.
To illustrate this, I now draw on the “Learning and Teaching” policy that was my school’s articulation of purpose. It was set as a central plank that supported developmental colleague dialogue, enabling discussion of detail without distorting the whole, or the proposed learning journeys through a child’s life at the school.
While no statement is perfect, it gave clarity to teachers appointed to the school. Communication is key to development, from overall strategy to the detail of a specific area. If teachers are informed, they can support the strategic direction.
The "class of 1993"; stability supported development, embedding qualities that survived change.
A Statement of School Vision
Everyone involved with the educational process at X School is a partner in progress
This, in terms of children, is encompassed in the motto Thinking, Working, Playing Together.
Educationally making guided progress, through individual and group effort.
A typical child leaving X School will have these attributes
Confidence in themselves, as people and learners.
Awareness of the world around them, locally and wider, showing sensitivity, an enquiring approach, and a developing sense of awareness of themselves as spiritual beings.
Capable of working in many different ways, with different grouping of others, and be able to sustain effort when required.
Solve problems with different, but developing, levels of independence.
Think creatively and reflectively when appropriately challenged, organising their needs, and being able to talk clearly to anyone with an interest in their activities.
Accept guidance to achieve the best they can, with a clear understanding of their strengths and areas for further improvement.
A policy for learning, achieving the vision
Children, their thinking and learning, are our core purpose, within the context of a broad, balanced and relevantly challenging curriculum. They are to become active producers of learning, rather than passive consumers of teaching.
Children will start as information gatherers, capable of clear description.
Children will progressively become problem solvers, applying a range of relevant skills, able to articulate clearly in speech and then writing, the detail of their learning, and to have a developing repertoire of presentational skills through which they can show their ideas.
Careful consideration of information, and logical thinking, together with the ability to explain their thoughts, using 2-D or 3-D models, will lead to secure links in learning.
Learning processes will be clearly articulated to children, who should be able to explain what they are doing, and why.
The processes through which the children will be challenged will be known to teachers, parents, support staff or any other assisting adult.
The potential for learning across and between different abilities needs to be maintained, to ensure that children derive learning from as many sources as possible.
The taught curriculum will be well taught, with teachers working to improve their personal skills and practice across the curriculum.
ICT in all its forms will be a central tool of development.
The school and each of its constituent parts, will see itself as part of a wider learning community, deriving information and good practice from sources that complement our own developing practice.
Putting the vision into practice
Teachers at X School plan to ensure that the vision and aims are put into practice, employing methodologies outlined in the policy for learning, through an approach summarized as Analyse, Plan, Do, Review, Record, Report.
Analyse… Teachers will receive information from a range of sources about the prior attainment of each child. This will provide a framework upon which to base decisions about working arrangements, suitable objectives for learning and tasks to achieve these.
Plan… Teachers plan over different timescales, annual, based upon allocated topic specifications. It is for individual teachers to use these specs creatively to provide a dynamic approach to learning.
Contributing to school level Planning Detail; see blog on “Planning”
Whole of National Curriculum interpreted through School-based Topic Specifications for each topic within each subject.
Literacy and numeracy frameworks.
Planning at different levels (teachers)
Space, timescales and resources
Do… Tasks given to children will be creative, challenging and engaging, leading to anticipated progress.
Task design. Tasks will have a definite purpose in progressing an aspect of a child’s progress, known to the child and any assisting adult.
Activity presentation. All activity will be clearly presented and understood by children before being active.
Independence levels, skill, knowledge and attitude will all be considered when devising the task parameters, as the different learning attributes of individuals and groups should be encompassed in the task challenges.
Children as learners
Understanding task… Children will have a clear grasp of what they are being challenged to achieve, be able to discuss and articulate purposes when asked.
Task behaviours… Children will be expected to demonstrate appropriate approaches to tasks, developing persistence to achieve.
Team working… Children will be challenged to operate as collaborative, independent learners on tasks specifically created to allow for qualities of cooperation to be developed.
Oral skill…Children will develop appropriate descriptive, analytical, exploratory languages to communicate clearly to a peer or interested adult.
Recording skill, written, pictorial, mathematical…Within any learning experience there will be opportunities for children to use different forms of recording to help them to remember sequences of events within an activity.
Evaluation… Children learn about learning by doing, by reflecting on the process and activity, and evaluating changes to approaches for future reference.
Review… Children will develop as primary evaluators of their drafts. Peer reviews will be developed over time, with the teacher giving informative feedback to help with the next phase of development.
By being given tasks that they will need to discuss, decide on action, carry out, review, re-evaluate and repeat, they will develop an insight into the ways in which adults work and solve problems.
Teacher as reviewer and quality controller…Any piece of work from a child is the current draft capable of being reviewed and improved. Ongoing oral feedback should support the child within the learning process. Marking should provide opportunities for advice, and an overview of quality.
Feedback to children…should enable each child to review their own needs in learning for subsequent pieces of activity.
Room for improvement… advice on areas for development.
Objective and subjective…Correcting spelling or an aspect of grammar may be clearly objective, whereas a commentary starting “I liked…..” would be subjective.
Moderation…At intervals it is clearly good practice to share views on achievement. Moderation allows a consensus view about a discrete piece of produced work.
Record… Teachers will keep records which assist them in progressing learning for individual children.
Report… At half year and year end, teachers will write reports to inform parents about achievements and room for improvement.
Review, Recording and Reporting, especially individual needs