It’s your curriculum- Own it! Part 2

“Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model.” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam- Former President of India

The result of the last post was a shared vision and a great start but at this point in the story that’s all we had- some great minds thinking alike and we now needed more. As a leader I now needed to lead and this is always the scary part, where my mind fills with doubts in my abilities to make this work. I needed to actually manage this change and make the Primary department a different, improved place to learn and work within. Rather than jumping head first in and shouting- “Yeah, we all think the same so off we go let’s be creative!” I wanted to convey an air of caution and approach this change in a reasoned step by step manner. I strongly believe all change should be able to be evaluated for impact. It’s crucial that participants see what their efforts to effect change have achieved, after all change is not easy.  Our next step was to make a baseline of where we were in relation to our school curriculum. Again I turned to my current favourite guru Will Ryan, I used his analysis table for looking at various aspects of curriculum and where we felt the primary department was, in one column and the significance that we felt each aspect should have in another. A score of one to five was given in each column for each area. I plan to use this, alongside the success criteria from the school development plan, to revisit the successes and development points for curriculum provision in June 2015. When I collected the group sheets I looked for the areas where the staff had scored what was currently happening in our school low alongside rating it as highly significant in their personal belief column.

So where are we?

From the completed analysis forms I ascertained that the following areas needed to be addressed to ensure real curriculum change took place.

  • School leadership needs  to provide a passionate, dynamic and imaginative lead on the curriculum
  • The curriculum needs to be a source of enquiry rather than a content of knowledge
  • The children need to be taught how to become enterprising
  • The children need to be taught how to become emotionally intelligent
  • The curriculum needs to help children to become socially responsible
  • A range of ICT opportunities need to be used across the curriculum
  • Classroom accommodation and learning environments need to better support the curriculum

I’ll admit it looks bad but there were many areas we scored well on and now we have clear measureable areas in which to improve that link directly with our shared vision.

Put 30 teachers and teaching assistants in a room for 3 hours, with tea and biscuits and as well as some great professional dialogue you get A VISION and A DIRECTION. Not bad for a day’s work. I don’t mind saying I was feeling pretty pleased. I felt like a leader. Like I had motivated a group of people to run a marathon, we’d survived the training schedule, crossed the start line and completed a few miles. Then someone said BUT and I knew we’d hit the runners wall! A BUT wasn’t part of my plan so I had to think on my feet after all as Anne Bronte said “There’s always a but in this imperfect world.”

What did we learn from this session?

  • That a BUT can change the mood of the room!
  • That BUTs cannot and should not be ignored
  • That staff have to get things off their chests before they can move forward
  • That  meaningful change is not possible until you break down the barriers

In my next post I’ll address the buts and the barriers to curriculum change. I will  also share my opinions on why schools might shy away from adopting a more enquiry based, creative curriculum that embraces values and life skills.



It’s YOUR curriculum. Own it! Part 1

Gonna change my way of thinking

Make myself a different set of rules

Gonna put my good foot forward

And stop being influenced by fools

Wise words from Bob Dylan- although I doubt he realised their relevance to English Primary Education

As I touched upon in my last post our staff meetings constantly came back to – BUT this doesn’t work for our children in this setting. We always had lots of ideas about what would work and some we implemented but in honesty we were not an inside out school. In most cases we kept on doing what we’d done as UK teachers. After I’d had my awakening or refocusing (I’m not sure how best to describe it!)  I now wanted to use the new curriculum development meetings as a way to share this with staff.  I knew that all of them would support more enquiry based learning and more creative approaches to teaching and planning because I am privileged to work with a group of extremely talented and openminded people. The downside of working in a British School abroad is the long school day and the lack of time for real discussion on educational issues. Once again this was our chance to start having these discussions.

When researching how best to present the new curriculum at an initial meeting. I found these two websites useful:

Twinkl –

Oxford Owl website

However in the end the first taste that staff had of the new currciulum was a presentation using Michael Tidd’s work and links from this booklet

In our initial meeting we simply looked at the language of the curriculum and what would change and stay the same.

To be honest no one found the new curriculum that daunting, we recognised that there were some more demanding aspects to the maths expectations and that in English more emphasis should be paid to the Spelling, Grammar and punctuation. Unsurprisingly as a school teaching the English curriculum in English to Spanish speaking children, in Spain, spelling and grammar was a constant battle for us so we weren’t against this. As for other the subjects, well this was the point where we adopted the language of the curriculum document:

Pay particular attention here. The curriulum document states;

“Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, andprepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.”

 “The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils. The national curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum.”

“The national curriculum is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications.”

“The national curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum.”

Concentrate on this language and the world is your oyster regarding curriculum design, whether you are an International school or based in England. In most cases there is no prescribed amount of time to teach objectives.  We have the freedom to choose what suits our children. No more QCA Schemes or alike it’s up to us not the publishers!  If we have fallen into the trap of spending half a term on electricity in last few years and every year we’ve felt we were delivering filler lessons now is the time to change because the new curriculum document can be our catalyst for change.

I wasn’t worried about deciding on the teaching objectives for each subject in each year BUT I was worried about making sure that we made our curriculum OUR CURRICULUM and not the same as a school in Leicester or Gloucestershire. We were going to own this curriculum! Before we started curriculum planning the staff, both teachers and teaching assistants, needed to know what our school curriculum vision was and it needed to be a shared vision which started from inside all of us.

This is where I called once more on the wisdom of Will Ryan and I used a resource at the beginning of his book that I had already completed as I read it.  I asked every member of staff to complete this statement Education in the 21st Century must…… The results, which I’ve included below, made interesting and very reassuring reading.

Education in the 21st Century must…..

Prepare children as independent individuals who can make a difference

Be fun, engaging and diverse

Teach children they can do whatever they set their minds to

Give children essential personal and  life skills

Be relevant to the needs of the children in our school

Teach skills not facts. Facts can be found on the internet/ your smart phone!

Teach children how to analyse

Teach how to form positive relationships with others

Allow children to be creative, imaginative and independent

Enable children to become confident learners

Give enthusiasm and motivation

Address the needs of the whole child not just from the head up


Create independent thinkers

Be active and creative

Provide links between subjects and reasons for learning

Build resilience

Teach respect for people, things and the environment

Be innovative and creative

Inspire children

Value effort and determination

Teach values

Allow time for play and celebration of childhood

Embrace the world outside of school

Educate the whole child and not just the head up

Be fun

Be flexible and adaptable to meet all needs

Incorporate technology but not rely on it

Use relevant technology

Create socially aware children

Celebrate success

Be individualized

Develop global awareness and understanding

Include outdoor experiences

Be physical as well as academic

Create confident cooperative life- long learners

Should recognize talents

Reflect the needs of the modern world

What did we learn from this activity?

With their comments each member of staff helped us move towards forming our curriculum vision and a final curriculum statement (this is to be agreed in a staff meeting in September. I will share the final version once we have all agreed it.) Reading through our statements also helped us collectively see that when designing our new curriculum we MUST incorperate enquiry based learning, creative teaching, values based education and life skills because that’s what we believe in and that’s what our children need. We were on our way and beginning to turn ourselves inside out!

I’d love to hear from other people how they would  have completed the statement Education in the 21st century must ……

Don’t be shy- leave a reply.

Our vision summarised



All Change

The benefits and headaches of introducing the 2014 curriculum and the unexpected journey travelled by a  Primary school team.


“nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all the needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before” Del Amitri

Or at least that’s what I thought would happen!

It’s been a challenging school year which is why I’m only just getting round to fulfilling number 46 on my to do list – start a blog!  The new primary curriculum formed a major part of the school development plan but preparation for our British Schools Overseas  inspection and a member of staff leaving, without notice, in October, leaving me to teach the class, took a great deal of our teams physical and emotional energy. I made a decision after the February inspection not to push the new curriculum, it could wait and at this point after speaking with friends working in the UK I received a resounding not a lot” when I asked what was being done in their schools to introduce the new curriculum. I began to get that Del Amitri feeling that nothing was going to really change and I convinced myself this new curriculum could be dodged for a while given our successful BSO inspection, geographical location and the lack of energy and commitment in the UK. The Easter holidays finally arrived and after a much needed break I returned to school rejuvenated and and ready to put my heart and soul back into it. I’d also had more time to research curriculum 2014 and the blogger Michael Tidd and his new curriculum 2014 site,  made introducing the new curriculum seem less daunting. I also became hooked on Twitter at this point and it’s been so invaluable in helping me to own my vision.

I became focussed on the language of the curriculum and the emphasis on the school curriculum and I was reminded of numerous staff meetings where discussions quickly moved to aspects of the national curriculum that didn’t fit in our context. I started to see a potential opportunity rather than the headache that I had previously envisaged. It was at this time I finally ordered a copy of Leadership with a moral purpose by Will Ryan. I’d experienced a real crisis of confidence in the first half of the year, work was overwhelming and I doubted my abilities to do either my leadership role or that of a class teacher well. I needed some guidance and this book seemed like it fitted the bill. Despite being written before the curriculum change reading it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was completely hooked and found myself scribbling ideas on every page. I even bored members of the SLT with my new enthusiasm and ideas for school improvement.  I became commiited to being an inside out school. Will’s book and Michael’s work on making the curriculum. change accessible and approachable changed everything. I now had a vision and a direction. I’d got my mojo back!

I’d always made it clear as a leader I was confident in each teacher’s professionalism and that they should feel free to be creative to teach topics in a cross curricular manner wherever possible and not to feel tied by the discrete literacy and numeracy lesson models that we were encouraged to teach. Moments of this teaching existed in my school but still we were largely institutionalised from our previous experiences in the UK to teach safe discrete lessons. As a leader I’d permitted and was myself guilty of this despite my deeply held beliefs. I now needed to be stronger and I saw the new curriculum implementation as my catalyst for change and in Will’s book I had a blue print for this change. I knew that we needed more enquiry based learning and to teach creatively to not only encourage more talk and vocabulary acquisition, crucial in a school with 98% of students being Spanish, but the prepare our children for real life. I also knew that the new curriculum was billed as a knowledge based document but for me this wasn’t aproblem as knowledge comes from all the skills learnt in enquiry based learning. And failing that there’s Google!!!

Just this week several moments with my daughter brought home the reality of the power of enquiry and creative thinking. She is 3 years old but receives good opportunities to act enquiringly and be creative at school and at home. We have a charmed life in the middle of the Andalucian countryside where she is free to explore, observe and question whatever and whenever she wants. It’s hot here and our a back door is always open on this particular morning she comes running into the kitchen from the living room to tell me she thinks we’ve had a visitor in our house during the night. I ask why. She continues to tell me that yesterday she wiped the dust off the unit and now there’s some special marks and she thinks they are foot marks! Why I ask again. Well they’re all the same and in a line. Someone’s been walking on our unit she says.She tells me she thinks it’s a bird but she’s not sure. Her next question shall we look on the internet and find out? All this from a 3 year old!

Yesterday afternoon while playing by the pool in the back garden she picked up a plastic cup and a small ball. I watched her staring at these items and then fill the cup with water from the pool. She put them down and stood back, still staring. Two minutes later she was at my side with the description of 3 games that we could now play using the ball and a cup. They were well thought through and fun games each with only one winner and a reason for that win.

My daughter is not gifted, she can’t write her name or read any words but she is wiredtoenquire and I’m determined that her schooling will only encourage her voyages of discovery and keep her motivated.

So here I am at the start of an exciting journey the impact of which I believe will be a rejection of the widely perceived intention of the new curriculum, a wake up call to us all to stand by and act on our beliefs and do what works for our children.

Over the coming weeks I intend to share the process we have been through to ready ourselves for the new term.

I have divided the journey so far into 6 bitesize  installments, including this post, and I intend to update over the coming weeks. The next installment will be sponsored by Mr Bob Dylan

Gonna change my way of thinking

Make myself a different set of rules

Gonna put my good foot forward

And stop being influenced by fools

A work in progress

This blog is my new project and I don’t mind admitting I’m terrified. I was never a good writer at school and I don’t think I’ve made any real progress since so don’t expect slick journalist style writing from me. I do however like to think A LOT and experiment with new ideas and so this blog will be a record of these ideas and the people and organisations that inspire them.

Please be sure to read the about tab to get a real picture of where I’m coming from with my posts.