The Osgodby Curriculum
The Genesis of Our Curriculum
When we sat down to write our curriculum we knew that we were doing something which would impact hundreds of children over the next few years. This is no small job and it is also a huge responsibility. Deciding what should and should not be included in a school curriculum puts one in a position of power but it is also a great privilege. Writing a curriculum is a little like building a playground. You have the anticipation of all the fun and enjoyment that you are going to have with it once it has been completed. Although, in all truth, a curriculum is never really finished and we continue to adapt and refine our offer to the children in our school.
When developing our curriculum, we took into account the views of all stakeholders and it was very much a team effort. Our first question was, 'What is the purpose of school?' In answering this question, we were heavily influenced by the work of Sir Ken Robinson. To start our conversation we watched the following TED talk:
The Context and Needs of our Catchment
Our next consideration was how we would respond to the challenges and opportunities inherent in our context. We needed to cutomise our school to local circumstances. We asked ourselves the following questions:
What are the specific needs of our children here in Osgodby?
Which resources do we have locally which would be of benefit to the education of our children?
Why should parents entrust Osgodby School with the education of their children?
Our context is rural and our catchment lacks the cultural diversity which would be inherent in other areas. Our children come from a vast range of socio-economic backgrounds. The towns and villages in which our children live are certainly pleasant places to live and they offer many benefits but they do not have the same cultural facilities available in our cities. One of the responsibilities of our school is to provide what is lacking in our context. We need to bring the wider world into our school. Consider the following quotes:
'To our children, learning is seen as something they do at school. It is, in a way, role play, make believe, it is a distraction from their real lives. When they look beyond the gates, they don't see timetables, subjects, paragraphs and full stops; they see a huge, glistening, confusing world. They do not see how, by engaging in one, you can understand the other. They feel that they leave real life at the gate. It is our job to move schools forward so that they are seen by our children as a development of their real lives.'
Richard Gerver - Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today
'Our children come from the high-definition, digital, on-demand generation, yet some of our teaching and curriculum remains 14 inch, mono-sound and black and white. We have been forcing children to leave their interests and cultures at the gate.'
Richard Gerver - Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today
With this in mind, we knew that we wanted to give our children access to a wide-range of cultures. We wanted to teach our children to be tolerant of the cultures and beliefs of others. We wanted our children to be proud of their own culture. We wanted our children to be exposed to the greatest art, music and literature from around the world. We wanted to teach our children to appreciate beauty in all its forms. We wanted to put memorable experiences which would challenge and delight our children at the heart of our curriculum.
We realised that our curriculum had to be relevant to our children and we wanted them to, not only appreciate cultures and beliefs which are different to their own, but to appreciate their local area. We also wanted to make use of resources local to the school.
While compiling our curriculum, we knew that we had to have one eye on the future into which our children will be entering. The honest truth is that we cannot predict the future completely but we can look at the evidence in hand to ensure that our children are as prepared as they can be:
1. Our children will be need to be team players and they will need to be flexible
'When children starting school now reach retirement age they will have worked in 18-25 different organisations or companies, compared to the four or five companies worked in by those retiring now'
Richard Gerver - Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today
Our children will need to be self-confident, adaptable,emotionally and intellectually self-aware and they will need to be able to build relationships quickly and often 'virtually'.
2. Our children will need to be able to harness technology
'The best way to create value in the 21st century is to connect creativity with technology'
3. Our children will be encountering greater competition from all around the world
'The new flat world means the young people in your classrooms are about to come across people for the emerging BRIC economies head-to-head as they compete for the jobs and opportunities that are out there. How will they fare? Bill Gates has said, 'We are going to tap into the energy and talent of five times as many people as we did before.' That's great if you are an employer. A global pool of talent five times bigger than anything we have had before. But if you are an employee, that's five times the competition. Your children are going into direct competition with the best of the best of the rest of the world. And remember, they are not 'entitled' to the jobs and opportunities that are out there. They have to merit them.'
Ian Gilbert - Why do I Need a Teacher When I have Google?
Equinox Blueprint: Learning 2030
In October 2013 a group of around 30 young people from all around the world explored, with the help of some experts, what the school of 2030 ought to look like. Here is one of the lists of 21st century competences which they came up with:
- Self-protection - how to look after yourself, e.g. in strange or threatening situations
- inter-cultural - how to get along with people different from yourself e.g. tolerance, empathy
- finance - how to manage money, budgeting
- manual / practical - how to use basic hand and power tools safely and appropriately
- science - how to engage with scientific discoveries, controversies and abuses, how to tell valid from bogus scientific claims, assessing evidence
- statistics - how to weigh up probabilities
- scepticism - how to spot sophistry in all areas of life
- Talking - how to explain yourself clearly and confidently in all kinds of situations
- Writing - how to write effectively in a avriety of different 'voices' e.g. a business email, a journal
- reading - how to read in different ways and at different rates for different practical purposes and for pleasure
- navigation - how to orient yourself in space by using wind, compass, maps, geo positioning technology etc.
- cookery - how to plan and make healthy meals from scratch
- horticulture - how to grow plants and plan a garden
- care - how to care for all kinds and sizes, especially animals, babies and the elderly
- religion - how to find a non-exploitative setting for exploring deep questions and expressing honest experience
- relationships - how to behave graciously in company; how to help make collective decisions, how to deal with intimate relationships and sexual health
- morality - how to behave well with other people , e.g. showing honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, moral courage, appreciation, generosity, forgiveness.
- self-presentation - how to dress and groom yourself to achieve different purposes (e.g. for an interview) and for satisfying self-expression
- driving - how to drive and look after a bicycle, a car, a motorbike etc.
- leisure - how to amuse yourself and find humour in situations
- fitness - how to choose and pursue forms of exercise that are fun and keep you fit
- relaxation - how to unwind after stress and release tension
- attention - how to stay focused and concentrated when needs be, and how to detect cues in your world such as other people's non-verbal signals.
- craftsmanship - how to be careful and accurate; how to produce your 'best work'.
We agreed that these skills and competencies would need to have a place in our new curriculum.
Links to our Mission Statement and staff aspirations for our pupils
As well as looking to experts and thinkers in the field of education, we also needed to consider how our curriculum would help us to achieve the aspirations laid out in our mission statement. As part of this process, parents and staff were given the opportunity to have their say. They were asked to imaging our ideal Osgodby 'Graduate'. Which skills and attributes would they hope to see in a child leaving our school:
Out of our staff and parent consultation we uncovered more competencies and life skills which we deemed to be important enough to include in our curriculum (e.g. first aid and awareness of ecological issues). While keeping The National Curriculum in mind, we also decided upon essential knowledge which would be included in our revised curriculum. We analysed the following clip of Greta Thunberg and we asked ourselves, 'Which skills and attributes did she need to acquire in order to present this speech?'
The Seven Cs
After considering all that we wished to include all the knowledge and skills that we wished to include in our curriculum, we realised that this could all become a little unruly and that we needed to crystallise our curriculum objectives into a few key concepts (or competencies) which would run like threads through our entire curriculum. We call these 'The Seven Cs':
This is the ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly and confidently in a range of media and forms. Children should be able to talk about their feelings, display fluency in reading, writing and maths. They should be able to debate issues and present effectively to a room of people. They should be able to generate questions. They should be able to harness technology to achieve this.
This is the ability to work (and play) constructively with others. This could be on the sports filed or in the classroom. Children should develop the ability to work towards a common goal with teammates and they should be able to offer and receive feedback appropriately.
This is the ability to generate new ideas and to apply them in practice. We want to give our children the opportunities to develop their individual skills and talents to help them to discover their ' element'. We recognise that helping children to discover their talents leads to a greater quality of life, fulfilling work and greater wellbeing. We recognise that creativity can be achieved in all parts of the curriculum.
This is the ability to engage constructively with our global society and to participate in the processes that sustain it. Citizenship is about championing the need for equal rights, the value of dissent and the need to balance personal freedoms with the rights of others. Children should understand how to live in a democracy. Citizenship also includes eco-awareness.
This is the ability to empathise with others and to act accordingly. Empathy is the key here. Bullying, violence, emotional abuse, social exclusion, and prejudices based on ethnicity, culture or sexuality are all fuelled by failures of empathy. We want to prepare our children for life in Modern Britain.
We realise that our children are 'culturally poor' when compared to children living in more diverse communities. It is our job to bring the world into our school. We have developed our own 'Osgodby Cultural Canon' in which we outline the texts, music, artists etc. to which our children should be exposed during their time with us. We want out children to be able to celebrate their own culture but also understand the cultures of others. We want our children to have the ability to appreciate beauty in all its forms.
Being 'craftsmanlike' requires us to show pride, learn from our mistakes, work on practicing difficult skills and displaying a growth mindset in order to make something the best it can be. It also requires us to work hard and focus on the task in hand.
The Implementation of our Curriculum
While designing our curriculum, we looked at other curriculum models. We knew that we wanted our curriculum to be delivered in a way that would appeal to the senses and the imagination. We want children to be awed by a outstanding piece of art, a strange and exotic new taste, a beautiful piece of music or by exposure to some of the best literature from around the world. These are the parts of our culture which Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton refer to as 'treasures':
'These are the things which we all agree may not be directly useful in a rather utilitarian sense, but which, we all agree, form such a part of our (however we define 'our') cultural heritage that everyone who lives here should have encountered them.'
Exposure to these 'treasures' which make up our 'Osgodby Canon' would ensure that learning would be fun but also that ideas would 'stick'. To help us to deliver our curriculum, we compiled a list of essential experiences which every child should have before they leave our school. These experiences were peppered throughout our curriculum maps.
When choosing our projects, we not only considered the skills and knowledge which were had to cover but also the resources available in our locality e.g. studying The Romans due to our close proximity to Lincoln.
Reading as a gateway to learning
During our discussions around curriculum, we made the decision that reading should be at the heart of our new curriculum. Without acquiring the skills associated with reading, the rest of the curriculum remains largely out of reach. We are also mindful that books are facing increasing competition from a range of other media which is vying for our children's attention and time. With this in mind, we identified quality texts which linked to out chosen projects. We also identified texts which we believe every child should be exposed to during their primary education. You will find these detailed in our curriculum maps.
Engagement with the 'Mobilise' Project
As well as undertaking our own reading and research, the school has also been a part of a curriculum design project through the 'Mobilise' scheme run by Lincolnshire Teaching Schools Together. Our work with our partner schools led to some further considerations:
We began to make use of 'knowledge organisers' for all of our topics. Read on for an excellent explanation of how these can be used taken from the Cornerstones Curriculum blog:
What is a knowledge organiser, and what should it include?
A knowledge organiser is a document, usually no more than two sides of A4, that contains key facts and information that children need to have a basic knowledge and understanding of a topic.
Most knowledge organisers will include:
- the essential facts about the topic, usually laid out in easily digestible chunks
- key vocabulary or technical terms and their meanings
- images such as maps or diagrams
- famous quotations, if relevant.
What a knowledge organiser includes will depend on the subject. For example, a ‘Second World War’ knowledge organiser and a ‘Rivers’ knowledge organiser would both include maps, but the former would also include a timeline, and the latter would need diagrams.
How do you decide what information goes on a knowledge organiser?
We all want children to gain specific knowledge in each curriculum subject that builds up over time. Knowledge organisers play a useful role here, as they focus on one subject or topic and grow in complexity across year groups.
However, it can be hard to know what to include about a topic on two sides of A4 – and what to leave out. This quandary can be a blessing in disguise as it forces us to think about what we actually want children to learn. As Mary Myatt explains in her book, The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence: ‘The real power of knowledge organisers is that they make us think hard about what we are going to teach.’
How can we use them in the classroom?
There are countless ways to use knowledge organisers, but here are ways in which they may be used:
- Give the knowledge organiser to the children before the start of a topic to encourage discussion and prior research. You may also choose to send a copy home.
- Talk through the knowledge organiser at the beginning of the topic, asking the children what information has sparked their interest, and if they have any questions.
- Use the knowledge organiser as a regular retrieval tool. Mix up practice using short, low stakes quizzes, games, partner discussion, and so on, rather than constant formal testing. Do the children know more than is included on the knowledge organiser? Ask higher-level ‘why’ questions to stretch the children’s understanding and add detail. This is the ideal scenario, as it means they have deepened their knowledge beyond the baseline outlined on the knowledge organiser and have formed stronger schemata.
- Use the knowledge organiser to identify knowledge gaps throughout the topic.
- Display an enlarged copy of the knowledge organiser on a working wall, encouraging children to add information around it during the topic.
- Use knowledge organisers to strengthen teacher knowledge in a subject area.
- Glue the knowledge organisers into the children’s topic books for regular reference or cut up the sections to focus the children and deepen their knowledge in a particular area.
- Make links between knowledge organisers to help children understand how their learning connects. For example, remind the children of a previous year’s knowledge organiser and discuss how their new knowledge links and builds upon it.
- Use the knowledge organiser as a handy spelling and vocabulary reminder. Keep it visible at all times and expect the children to use the proper vocabulary correctly.
- Use the knowledge organisers as guided reading texts. This way, you can help children read the information and check they understand it.
What are the benefits?
The main benefit of knowledge organisers is that they give children and teachers the ‘bigger picture’ of a topic or subject area. Some topics can be complicated, so having the essential knowledge, clear diagrams, explanations and key terms on one document can be really helpful.
Research shows that our brains remember things more efficiently when we know the ‘bigger picture’ and can see the way that nuggets of knowledge within that subject area link, forming schemata. Making links, essentially, helps information move into our long-term memory. And, as Ofsted’s Sean Harford recently remarked, knowledge becomes ‘sticky’ – the more you know, the more you learn – which helps children gain deeper understanding over time.
Another key benefit is their use for retrieval practice. Regular retrieval of knowledge helps us remember more effectively (Roediger et al, 2011). Again, it helps us store knowledge in, and recall it from, the long-term memory and frees up space in the working memory to take on new knowledge (Hirsch, Why Knowledge Matters (2016).
The other benefit is that they make the knowledge explicit. So, even if a child misses a lesson, they have a constant point of reference. They give a class a ‘level playing field’ of knowledge, with more children having a general awareness and set of knowledge about a topic, rather than just a handful of children who did hours of research over half term!
For a teacher, the knowledge organiser supports or directs what you’re teaching in each lesson. You can shape your teaching around it to ensure that you cover the key information over a sequence of lessons and that you assess knowledge-based outcomes based on it. As mentioned before, I think it helps teachers work out the overarching themes of a topic and the pared-down essential knowledge they want children to learn.
An example of one of our own knowledge organisers:
The Importance of Vocabulary and 'Remembering'
As part of the Mobilise project, we were exposed to the work of Alex Quigley, in particular, 'Closing the Vocabulary Gap'. We also considered Isabel Beck's work on tier vocabulary. We realise that specific teaching of vocabulary is required throughout the curriculum. With this in mind, we have added ' key vocabulary' to all of our curriculum documents.
When compiling our curriculum, we also considered our previous work on retrieval practice and ways in which knowledge can be revisited for maximum 'remembering'. We produced progression documents for each subject to ensure coverage but also to ensure that our curriculum was progressive and that the order of teaching was logical.