Case study: A one-page curriculum model

Written by: Dave Claricoates | Published:
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Creating a concise and comprehensive curriculum model at Bosworth Academy has had a big impact on curriculum and lesson planning and the quality of education. Dave Claricoates explains


Four years ago we decided to create a whole-school curriculum model structured around Ofsted’s descriptors for the quality of education – the three “I”s.

We did this because it was (rightly) the focus of the new inspection framework, but also because it chimed with our own attempts to broaden the curriculum in previous years.

We were inspired by a book called The Fourth Way (2009) by Professors Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley to instigate a multitude of local and international curricular projects and we felt that we could capture the spirit of this work well within a three “I” model.

Our aim then became to distill all of our best educational practice into one succinct, yet comprehensive document that curriculum designers could refer to when planning their schemes of learning.

This would ensure that they were aligning their thinking with our whole-school vision and learning from best practice around the school. It would also give us a shared understanding of what we meant by high-quality education and a shared vocabulary with which to discuss it.

We also wanted a document that could coordinate and add value to the entire planned learning experience – including tutor times, assemblies, educational visits, and co-curricular activities.

Getting everyone “singing from the same hymn sheet” and synchronising their efforts would increase the cohesion, quality and impact of the education we were providing, and harness our “collective genius”.


Create your curriculum collaboratively

I say “we” but this has mostly been a personal project – and that was my biggest mistake! In hindsight, I should have involved staff, students, and the community more closely as this would have achieved more instant buy-in.

That is not to say I have done this work in isolation – I have kept staff informed at every opportunity and we hosted an excellent curriculum development session, but if the process is as important as the outcome then this was a missed opportunity.

Luckily, we have been working on this model for so long that most staff have bought into it over time.


Model students: Bosworth Academy’s one-page curriculum model is a working document that distils the school’s curriculum vision and supports teachers’ curriculum and lesson planning. Readers can download a pdf of this model by clicking the download button at the top of this page (illustration supplied)


Intent

I started with the intent. We already had a clear idea about the things we wanted students to learn and the type of student we wanted to develop because of our work on the OECD 2030 Learning Framework.

This framework was designed to produce multiple educational outcomes but its underlying construct was agency. We had already taken this as our own curricular end-point and so it was just a case of building the other intended outcomes around this core attribute.

We had also previously adopted the 6Cs (Fullan & Scott, 2014) so we made these the main vehicle for developing student agency. These 21st-century global competencies are communication, collaboration, citizenship, creativity, critical thinking, and character, and we measure these using a bronze, silver, gold passport and reward system.

After that, I built up other competencies and attributes that seemed most likely to help students take control of their own lives and go on to make the world a better place, which Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman has said is the ultimate aim of education (Ofsted, 2021).

The most difficult part of devising the intent was deciding what to exclude. The number of competencies students need to thrive in the adult world are far too numerous to include in such a succinct model so I had to prioritise as best I could.

It is worth noting that this model only lists the end-points of our curriculum. Behind these sits 100s of schemes of learning, tutor activities, assemblies etc. Our curriculum enquiry process (Bosworth’s non-threatening version of a deep-dive) looks into how logical and well-sequenced these are – but that is another story.



Curriculum Design: Further reading & listening from SecEd

SecEd Podcast: Don’t miss our three-part conversation with our resident curriculum design expert Matt Bromley. We talk the six steps of effective curriculum design in part one (https://bit.ly/3cl68fY) and part 2 (https://bit.ly/2Y7JPXl) before tackling curriculum implementation and how evaluation in part 3 (https://bit.ly/3oVWycK).

Best Practice Focus: Four steps to help schools design an effective, broad and balanced curriculum: An eight-page SecEd Best Practice Focus (free pdf download): http://bit.ly/36RliHs



Implementation

Implementation was more difficult. We have had a healthy debate in our school around the merits or otherwise of teacher and student-led pedagogy for many years.

In the end, I decided to include both and leave the best approach to the teachers’ judgement – depending on the learning and the students involved.

For example, most teachers would choose direct instruction to introduce subject knowledge (this is on the left-hand side of the model) whereas creativity and responsibility are generally developed through active learning (on the right). However teachers must be trusted to have the professional capital to make these choices themselves – coercion leads to subversion!

I grouped the implementation strategies into OECD 2030 categories as this seemed to be the best way to organise such a complex process succinctly. This, I think, is the main innovation of the model and the nearest thing I experienced to a “Eureka” moment during the whole process. I felt it would allow us to have a shared understanding of what teaching and learning is at Bosworth and a shared terminology when discussing our collective pedagogy.

The broad competencies on the left of the model are best remembered as ASK – attitudes, skills and knowledge (mirroring the OECD’s framework) – and I have grouped the transformational competencies on the right into creativity, problem-solving and responsibility (CPR).

Our motto is “bring the learning to life” – so this seemed like an appropriate acronym to use.

The 3D acronym in the model is our own and stands for deep, demanding and developed learning. I also added “truly personalised learning” and “co-agency” to encourage curriculum designers to devise the most exciting learning journeys they could.


Impact

Devising the impact category was simply a case of recording all the different ways we measure student achievement in our school.

The 6Cs remain our main mechanism for measuring whether we are increasing student agency but the sheer range of practices surprised me. Capturing achievement is very important to student self-esteem and so it is right that the mechanisms for doing this should be as varied as the talents of the young people we are assessing.


Continuous research and development

Those are my main recollections of the process. I should, however, point out that a lot of research and reading went into this work as well. I have also been very fortunate that academics such as Professors Andy Hargreaves, Mick Waters, and Michael Fullan have been so generous with their time and provided me with invaluable support and guidance throughout.

And what I haven’t described is how many drafts I went through – this was truly an iterative process. I must have tinkered with the model 100 times over the years before I was happy that it represented Bosworth at its best. I am still not entirely satisfied, however, and there are at least two changes I would like to make – but I’ll leave them till next year. A curriculum is a living document that should keep changing with the world around it.


The result

What we are left with is an unashamedly broad and balanced model – blending knowledge, skills, attitudes and transformational competencies holistically.

Ofsted has talked about the narrowing of the curriculum but I think this also goes for teaching and assessment as well. If we want to get the best out of every student we need to encourage teachers to adopt a variety of approaches to educating them and measuring their achievements. We don’t just want “PowerPoint by the hour-point” and high-stakes testing.


Has it worked?

It is still early days but the model is already having an impact. The intent section has helped us to articulate clearly the sort of students we are trying to develop and has focused us on the whole child. This is invaluable when it comes to planning but also in the everyday interactions we have with students.

When it comes to behaviour management it is important to focus on future attitudes when correcting the present ones.

As Professor Waters and Sir Tim Brighouse say in their new book About Our Schools (2022): “The best teachers treat children as they might become rather than as they (sometimes infuriatingly) are.”

The implementation section also encourages professional dialogue by demonstrating that there are many ways to approach teaching and learning. It helps us to frame and interrogate the choices we make in every lesson – as well as giving us a shared vocabulary with which to discuss them.

The impact section reminds us that there is more than one way to measure success and encourages innovation in assessment rather than just testing as usual. The model has also certainly helped curriculum designers to plan their schemes of learning and frame their curriculum plots (what is being learned and when?) and narratives (why?). It is even being used to plan broader and more dynamic individual lessons – objectives become intent, outcomes are impact, and implementation is what happens in between.

Crucially, the model has provided a clear focus for our enquiry process. This has already led to significant improvements in the planning, provision and practice of the faculties we have looked at so far. It has also tied our disparate subjects more closely to a shared school vision – including our PSHE curriculum. This deepens the learning through constant reinforcement and means we are all working for each other.

Having everything in one model also allows us to audit our curriculum coverage easily and then focus on areas that are less developed. Pleasingly, however, the number of students completing their 6C passports is increasing dramatically – which suggests they really are developing their agency as planned.

But, most of all, I think the model has achieved its original objective of succinctly capturing Bosworth at its best, while also providing us with a blueprint for the future. By distilling and sharing all the great work going on around the school we learn from one another and improve our own practice accordingly.

  • Dave Claricoates is head of teaching and learning at Bosworth Academy in Leicester.


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