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Adjusting the curriculum for use in school and at home

An all-through school with a higher than average level of pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL) shares their approach to adjusting the curriculum for use in school and at home:

Our school has found that when it comes to adapting the curriculum for this context, the best approach has been to apply the same principles we would typically use when planning a curriculum, but to apply them to a more limited time frame. This makes decisions about what to teach (what to cut, and what to keep) even more important.

Curriculum planning

In school we will focus on phonics and reading in key stages 1 and 2 and, if necessary, lower key stage 3. If pupils can’t read, they can’t access other learning, so this must be a priority for intervention. This may mean less time for other subjects, which is not what we would want in an ideal world, but feels necessary to prioritise in this context (if pupils are then able to access subsequent learning as a result).

There are some content areas that provide better opportunities for work that can be done at home. For example, our English department decided not to teach poetry remotely as we felt that would be better served in face-to-face teaching, whereas review of literature texts already taught, and extended writing based on these, were suitable for home learning. This means we have reviewed the order of teaching in some subjects and will have to cover removed content when more students are in school, based on what has been taught as well as how secure students’ grasp of the content has been.

We’ve not made decisions about this yet, but depending on the formative assessment we do, we anticipate it will mean different amounts of contact time for different subjects (with, for example, practical subjects requiring more on site contact time with teachers). In planning for a wider school opening, we are finding that hierarchical subjects with a logical sequence of learning are somewhat easier to review and plan a way forward. In cumulative subjects some difficult decisions need to be made about what content is most useful to emphasise, however the subject leaders are already used to making these difficult decisions.

Breadth and enrichment

It is difficult planning for breadth and enrichment when we can’t be sure what pupils will be able to do come September (for example, learn an instrument or work in a group). It is possible that there are aspects of a broad curriculum pupils won’t be able to access for a while yet. Because of this uncertainty, we are thinking creatively about what we can deliver remotely so that pupils still receive as broad an education as possible.

Assessment for learning

We have carried out an audit of our pupils’ learning at home, which has revealed a lot of disparity, so it’s important for us to establish an effective cycle of feedback.

Departments are looking at curriculum maps to make sure the essentials will be covered in class (where teachers can use their questioning and assessment for learning techniques to establish what feedback pupils need) and that there are enough opportunities to practice at home.

We won’t do a big baseline assessment because the gap analysis would be too complex. Instead, teachers use low-stakes, formative assessment to identify gaps or misconceptions (for example, questioning or quizzes), and feed those findings back to the Head of Department.

Middle and senior leaders then look for patterns, which become mini-objectives for departmental teams to address whenever pupils return to the classroom, and form a central part of the wider curriculum plan.

Making the most of time with the teacher

It may be that pupils are in and out of school on a rota timetable, which will mean we need (even more than usual) to optimise time they have with the teacher. The most crucial things a teacher does in terms of curriculum are:

  • giving expert instruction or explanation
  • modelling
  • feedback

Additionally, most pupils are unable to independently structure their at-home study time, and so will need explicit help with that. They should then be set work to do at home that gives them opportunities to practice what has been modelled for them in the classroom.

A large multi-academy trust (MAT) made up of primary and secondary schools shares its approach for their primary schools

At our primary schools, we don’t want to replace the curriculum we’ve worked hard on, and that we know works for our children. Instead, we think adjusting the focus of the curriculum will be necessary.

Curriculum planning

Our focus while pupils have been learning at home has been reading (and this will continue as we reopen). We know more dedicated work, and more time on the timetable, will be needed for English and Maths. But we will do that without losing our broad and balanced curriculum by re-planning and stripping our curriculum back to its fundamentals.

It will also be important for us to make links between subjects and do more cross-curricular teaching. For example, we will:

  • integrate aspects of the humanities into English where we can
  • have a greater weekly emphasis on PSHE
  • go over good learning behaviours in the first weeks of reopening

Maintaining relationships

The effort we have made to maintain relationships between teachers and pupils have made the biggest difference to us in terms of remote learning engagement. Children have been doing the work because they know their teachers care about them, so we will continue to focus on these relationships as pupils return to the school site. Quality feedback is a huge part of that.

Breadth and enrichment

We have begun and will continue to run weekly, Trust-wide competitions, for example in writing, art exhibition or maths investigations. These are open to all year groups and are celebrated at the end of each week. Children look forward to those challenges and they have become opportunities for breadth and enrichment.

Organising teaching staff for curriculum planning

We have divided teaching staff into ‘now’ and ‘next’ teams, and are planning a mirrored curriculum so that learning at school aligns with learning at home, and pupils can move as seamlessly as possible between the two.

This means designing them in tandem. We are also hopeful that this will keep the additional planning workload to a minimum. It will involve sharing detailed, weekly plans (all aligned with our medium-term plans) and asking teachers or subject teams to plan their individual lessons according to those weekly plans.

Management’s support for teachers has been and will continue to be central to making our approach work. Subject leadership teams are now planning more than in the past, with individual teachers doing less of their own planning. For example, our maths lead has been uploading weekly maths plans for all year groups, including FAQs and notes for parents. This will continue as pupils return, with teachers then tweaking those resources for use in their classrooms instead of online.

Pupils with additional needs

We are considering whether we will need to conduct reviews of all education, health and care (EHC) plans so we can make sure we are meeting the needs of all our pupils. But schools would need significant support with resources from us as a trust to be able to do that. We are hoping to put that support in place so that this can be done in a pupil’s first month back at the school site.

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