Understanding the Curriculum

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What is the purpose of a curriculum?

At a national level, the purpose of a curriculum is to set out an entitlement for all pupils to the knowledge and learning that our society determines is the most powerful and important for a well-rounded education. As we move to think about curriculum at a school and classroom level, a curriculum provides coherence (how the content, assessment, pedagogy and teaching materials align and reinforce each other). This is important because when curriculum lacks coherence, it is both harder to teach and harder for children to locate and place their new knowledge (Myatt, 2018). Only a well-designed curriculum enables successful learning.

In order to understand your role in curriculum design, let us look at the differences between the National Curriculum and the curriculum at a school and classroom level more closely. The National Curriculum provides programmes of study and attainment targets for each national curriculum subject, setting out the knowledge and skills to be taught at each key stage. A school’s curriculum enables it to set out its vision for the knowledge, skills and values that its pupils will learn, encompassing the National Curriculum within a coherent wider vision for successful learning. At the classroom level, the curriculum will also include pedagogy (how the curriculum will be taught) and how pupils will be assessed.

A roadmap is a helpful metaphor when thinking about designing a curriculum: a roadmap shows the destination (the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the content to be taught) and the route to get there (the teaching practices most likely to lead to successful learning). When good schemes of work are in place, they can therefore reduce teacher workload and give teachers autonomy to adjust the ‘route’ as the scheme unfolds, lesson by lesson (Myatt 2018)

What is the purpose of a curriculum?

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