English @ primary

The revised National Curriculum was published in 2013 and has been taught live in schools since 2014. Two years on from this, have we understood how to deliver core requirements, while taking the opportunity to design learning journeys that will add value to our pupils’ lives, not just to their skills as readers, writers and talkers?

Thinktalk curriculum development puts the power of talk to develop thinking at the core of the English curriculum, using texts that puzzle and enrich, designing writing tasks that have purpose and viewpoint.

GCSE new era: a curriculum not a specification

Very few secondary English specialists have embarked on teaching the 2014 specifications with experience of preparing for a linear, terminal exam. The central aim of the course is to design irresistible learning journeys that develop the knowledge and skills essential to the revised GCSE. A modular approach to design, used for a Controlled Assessment based specification, is not the ideal approach to develop independent application of concepts and skills for the unseen Language exam and for the Literature essay and extract questions.

The first, essential elements for effective GCSE curriculum design is to understand the core Assessment Objectives for Language and Literature and how they interrelate. The next step is to draw conceptual and thematic links between set texts and enrich these with a richer, broader diet. The challenge then is to design learning sequences that:

  • plan, promote and assess clear progress in the AOs
  • make both direct and analogous links to students’ own experiences and events in the wider world
  • develop cultural currency: the context, literary and linguistic knowledge that support higher order comprehension and critical reading skills.
  • promote comparison and evaluation by juxtaposing texts
  • support memory and deepen understanding over time by
  • spacing and interleaving practice,
  • encouraging elaboration,
  • encouraging effective revision techniques

Making the most of life without levels

There are two clear opportunities to seize in an era beyond National Curriculum levels.

  1. Ensuring that we assess what we value and record what is useful. A learning progression needs clear strands that can inform planning, teaching and intervention. This assessment architecture that sits like a backbone behind the scheme of work, must be valid, reliable and manageable.
  1. Returning to the principles of formative assessment means admitting that the most effective assessment will happen minute-to-minute, day-to-day and largely through live interactions: teacher to pupil, pupil to pupil and eventually, within the pupil’s own thinking. For many schools this means revisiting feedback in all its forms (not just teacher comment marking) to secure an effective, consistent and manageable repertoire.

In the primary and secondary phase, Leah can support you with a learning progression in English and to develop the effectiveness of live formative assessment.

A purpose for KS3

A facilitated workshop that supports English departments to define, design and enact a KS3 curriculum that is more than a preparation for GCSE.

The National Curriculum framework document (DfE 2014) makes it clear that the school curriculum ‘comprises all learning and experiences that each school plans for its pupils,’ and that the national curriculum forms only one part of this. Ofsted’s ‘Excellence in English’ review (Ofsted 2011) cited the quality of the curriculum as the strongest indicator of outstanding provision in English.

Curriculum design, then is key to the wider purpose of education and must deliver a statutory national core and be mindful of the demands of the revised GCSE, as this sits on the horizon. No easy feat.

The sessions will explore:

  • Key changes in the KS3 programme of study and their implications
  • Aspects of English teaching that are no longer statutory but can have an impact on engagement and progress
  • The centrality of talk to develop critical reading and a ‘wardrobe’ of spoken and written discourse styles
  • How text choices and pedagogy can be both challenging and engaging
  • How values, aims and formative assessment principles can be enacted in the design of learning journeys

The workshop is most effective over a series of events, so that teachers can start with their core aims and values, reflect on their school context and over time build the content and the structure of learning journeys in service to these.