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Why are Teachers Having to Ask Online for Curriculum Planning Help?

Some teachers are resorting to begging on social media for planning help, when this is surely better served in school, says Andrew Percival...

  • Why are Teachers Having to Ask Online for Curriculum Planning Help?

Anyone who spends their time browsing education social media will know that alongside the many pictures of classrooms and displays, there are a large number of requests from teachers looking for support with their curricular planning.

Of course, it’s great that people are willing to generously share their work on social media, and I’m sure it’s a huge help for busy teachers. However, these posts often leave me feeling a little worried.

I wonder why these teachers end up having to reach out on Facebook or Twitter to plan their curriculum. Surely this type of planning is best done within schools, working collaboratively with colleagues on shared aims? Requests for help tend to fall into the following three categories…

Request 1: Help! I’ve got too much freedom

“I can’t decide whether to teach Ancient Egypt or the Shang Dynasty for my next topic. Can anyone help?”

Giving teachers autonomy to pick and choose topics might seem attractive at first glance, but it means that important curriculum decisions are probably being made with little oversight from subject leaders.

A strong curriculum should build on previous learning. For example, the work done on the monarchy in KS1, when children might learn about Queen Elizabeth II, can be developed in LKS2 during the study of Vikings by finding out how Athelstan became the first king of England.

In UKS2, you could study the changing power of monarchs by looking at John, Anne and Victoria. How can big ideas like the monarchy be understood when there is such freedom to pick and choose topics?

Request 2: Help! I don’t have enough detail

“We’re doing volcanoes next half term but I’m not sure what to teach. Does anyone have any planning they can share?”

It’s one of the delights of social media that teachers are so happy to share their hard work. This can provide a good starting point for planning your own sequence of learning, but these types of requests indicate a lack of detailed guidance available to teachers within their own schools.

It’s unlikely that bits of planning shared on social media will fit seamlessly together to form a coherent whole-school curriculum.

The national curriculum provides us with the bare bones of what is to be taught and it’s up to schools to flesh this out in a meaningful way.

Schools that set out in meticulous detail what children in each year group should learn can feel more confident that they are building a solid foundation for future learning.

The alternative is to metaphorically cross your fingers and hope something logical emerges from planning that has been stitched together from multiple sources.

Request 3: Help! I need some activities

“Has anyone got any good activities to use for teaching forces?”

Of course, busy teachers appreciate a good activity recommendation, but if focusing on the activity comes before thinking about the content then we all know that learning can suffer.

A shift in thinking away from envisaging lesson planning in terms of one-hour blocks to thinking of it as a sequence of learning over time can be a more effective way to do things.

Thinking in this way helps free us from the pressure of feeling like we have to constantly move on to new content and gives us permission (if needed) to revisit and review learning regularly.

The more detail schools can include in their curricular planning, the better.

A curriculum plan which goes beyond the broad strokes of who is ‘doing’ the Romans and instead sets out the specific knowledge children should acquire, what they are going to do with this knowledge and how the learning will build from year to year will help schools design a more cohesive programme of learning.

Social media sharing can be a real lifesaver but hopefully, as schools look in depth at their curriculum, these requests for help might not be quite so prevalent.

It’s a huge undertaking to specify a curriculum in such detail, but if we don’t, teachers will continue to seek support on social media and schools will be left with little choice but to stitch together a patchwork curriculum from multiple sources that may not give children the best possible chance to succeed.

Andrew Percival is deputy headteacher and curriculum lead at Stanley Road Primary in Oldham. Find him on his website at primarypercival.weebly.com and follow him on Twitter at @primarypercival.

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