Ask any teacher what the foundation of schooling is and chances are they’ll say the curriculum. It underpins nearly everything a teacher does – structuring lessons, delivering content and assessing how well students are performing.
So when schools and the wider education world emerges from the pandemic, will the curriculum save the day in terms of the attainment gap and accountability?
Recovering from the pandemic; adjusting to a new normal
It’s safe to say that no school has the ideal curriculum. Some may have perfected it for certain subjects and certain year groups, but even then it must be able to change with the times and keep evolving to meet the needs of students.
This is something the government must recognise given where education currently sits within the pandemic. Sure, nobody knew that this time last year the curriculum would be near impossible to deliver, but a slow response and little support hasn’t exactly helped teachers on the frontline.
The vast majority of schools are doing what they believe to be useful, especially since the benchmark for curriculum thinking was recently redefined across various UK jurisdictions. But its difficult to avoid a narrow or weak curriculum in the face of tight timetables, exam pressures and non-existent budgets.
Therefore, getting curriculum design right is crucial moving forward – it informs assessment, improves behaviour and supports teachers.
Is more time and money for teachers really too much to ask?
In order to plan better lessons and adapt content for efficient classroom delivery, teachers need more time with one another. This will lead to more meaningful relationships not just with fellow teachers but more importantly their students, where help is needed the most.
The importance of trusting, encouraging and empowering teachers to be the best versions of themselves is often overlooked. After all, even the best curriculums won’t work if they can’t be delivered by confident and competent teachers.
Research shows that 61 per cent of teachers still consider the curriculum a challenging area of practice. A further 24 per cent say it is a weakness in their school. When coupled with the global pandemic and extended lockdown, these metrics are bound to get worse as schools desperately try to future-proof their curriculums.
Putting a ‘recovery’ curriculum centre stage
As schools move into the latter half of the academic year, it makes sense for them to design their curriculum provision according to their unique position and individual circumstances.
For example, activities like reteaching could be incredibly difficult as there is no tangible way of knowing what went on behind closed doors during lockdown. How many activities did students manage to complete and what is their level of comprehension?
Any recovery curriculum should start with ways in which teachers can repair their relationship with students, as this will help evaluate what needs to be taught. The more time schools have to understand and support their students, the more opportunity teachers will have to develop metacognitive learning.