Now is the time to devour the National Curriculum and work cross-phase!

With the news that September will see the full time return to school for all pupils there is a lot of work to be done to prepare the curriculum for year 7 students. The offer currently in place assumes that the children have completed the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum. Even with the greatest home learning provided, this will simply not be the case for students. Of course all schools and school staff have done an absolutely sterling job of providing quality work for students to complete at home but I honestly believe that nothing beats the face to face contact and the flow of conversation that you have with (now) traditional teaching.

When it comes to ensuring the best curriculum coverage in year 7 subject leads will have to have a much deeper understanding of the Key Stage 2 curriculum than they have ever had before. If you have ever taken a good look at the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum documents, you will see that they are huge! For some, simply too big. Who has time to dive so deep into a document that doesn’t relate to your teaching? Apart from the fact that I would always argue that it does affect your teaching, I do see how it can be quite a daunting task. So lets start simply! Lets start with the Key Stage 3 Programmes of Study. I can imagine at this point some of you reading it will be of the mindset that, working in an academy means that you don’t need to follow the NC and so you don’t! How many of you have created your KS3 curriculum based on the exam specifications that will be following in KS4? My answer here is always, go back to the National Curriculum! Exam boards use this statutory coverage to develop the specifications. The assumption that all of the learning has been covered to ensure a smooth transition to Key Stage 4. The hard work has been done for you!

So, we have got the KS3 Programmes of Study in front of us. Now what? Now is the time to get your highlighters out! This would be may favourite bit. Start simply, what order in the school year do you cover each part of this curriculum? Unfortunately, now is the time to dive into the document that is KS2. This is easier than you think though! You can access each of the documents by subject here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum#programmes-of-study-by-subject

Making sure you go direct to the individual subjects means that it is a much less daunting task. The best and easiest thing to do now is cross reference what you teach, when you teach it and how you can ensure deeper coverage of the learning the children may have missed out on. The curriculum is very cleverly designed to be a spiral, we all know that repetition helps our learners. If you are able to reference something they may have covered in earlier years it helps the children find the right memory, or knowledge. As teachers we often reference prior learning for the children but because we know our own curriculum really well it is easy to do. ‘You remember this, we did it in year 9’ contextualising the prior learning supports the youngsters more than you would think. I clearly remember teaching Greek Theatre to a class of year 8’s. The blank looks I got from children when I started to talk about Ancient Greece made me realise I needed to jog their memory. Luckily in a previous life I had been a year 4 teacher so, as soon as I was able to remind them that they had probably studied Ancient Greece in year 4 it was a real light bulb moment. With cries of ‘oh yeah I remember doing that with Mrs X’ or ‘Is that when we made the vases/learned about the Olympics’ I could go on! In the space of a 10 minute conversation the children had remembered more than I needed to teach them and the work they then created was incredible. It also helped the relationships I had with this group of students because they believed I was invested in them. I had gone to the effort of knowing what they had learned before starting secondary school, it wasn’t wasted learning!

By now you should have a much clearer idea of what the children will have been taught from year 1-5 and what they will need some support to develop based on what they may not have covered in year 6. Remember the children are not empty vessels, they have had 6 years of quality teaching and learning before they even step foot through your door. For years I have tried to persuade staff to assume that all the learning and been done, and done well! You will soon see if there are gaps, you do not need to go back any more steps than necessary. You may not have any assessment data available this year but if you start with the assumption that they have covered and understood the curriculum up to year 5 and just need some support to complete year 6 through some adaptations of your current year 7 plans you are onto a winner. As a good friend of mine and a hugely respected colleague, Louise from http://challengingeducation.co.uk/ has suggested, ‘now is the time to assume every child would have achieved 120’. And with your new found understanding of the curriculum the child has covered, this is much easier to achieve.

Is reading and highlighting enough? I don’t think so! For many years there have been cross-phase meetings at this time of year. Secondary staff heading to primary schools to meet the children and talk to staff. One of the positives that has come from the closure (not closure) of schools, is that we have all adapted to a live with virtual meetings. If you can arrange such a meeting with local primary school staff to talk about the curriculum as well as the pupils, just imagine how much better you can develop your curriculum. If you can find out, not only what would have been taught but HOW it would have been delivered. In order to fully support the pupils when they join you in September could you slightly adapt your teaching methods to reflect some of their experiences in year 6? Of course in future years this can work both ways but more on that in a future post!

I hope that this post has provided a little more food for thought when you begin/continue to develop your Key Stage 3 curriculum offer.

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