The Third Pillar of Principled Curriculum Design: Delivery

SSAT’s ‘Four Pillars of Principled Curriculum Design’ now has versions for mainstream primary, secondary and special schools. Over the coming weeks, SSAT’s senior education leads, Alex Galvin and Colin Logan, will be looking at each of the four pillars in turn. Today, Alex and Colin consider the third pillar: Delivery.

The third pillar explores how all of the curriculum planning becomes a reality. Having decided what you want your curriculum to include and how that translates into content decisions, the focus shifts to the day-to-day experience of young people. Classroom practice is obviously key here, but if we accept the definition of curriculum as being everything that we plan for our pupils, consideration of delivery needs to go further. 

Often, thinking about delivery is about joining up existing practice – reviewing different aspects of practice through a curriculum lens. It is essential that leadership of curriculum and leadership of teaching and learning are closely intertwined. The pedagogical approaches which are championed should support the successful delivery of your curriculum intent and the curriculum choices that are made should reflect the fundamental beliefs your team has about effective teaching and learning. It is not necessarily that everything should be dictated by your curriculum intent statements, more that if what those statements say are at odds with the reality of pupils’ experiences and the preferred approaches of teachers a conversation needs to be had about what kind of learning you want. 

In some cases, curriculum intent statements give a particular steer when it comes to delivery. For example if you say that you develop independent learners, you’d expect to see planned opportunities to learn independently in curriculum plans and this ambition reflected in classroom practice. Where intent statements are less immediate, further work is needed to ensure that there is a clear shared understanding of how your curriculum intent translates into practical action. Or to put it another way, everyone needs to have a shared understanding of what it will look like if your curriculum intent is achieved. 

Key to effective delivery is sequencing of content. As has been much quoted, the aim is to be less The Simpsons, more Game of Thrones (@claresealey) – in other words you are looking to develop a coherent narrative over time rather than standalone episodes (no matter how entertaining!). This means starting with the knowledge and skills that you want to develop and mapping those out across key stages rather than structuring schemes of learning around particular activities. Christine Counsell has done much interesting work focusing on curriculum as narrative: 

Once plans are mapped out at subject level, many schools are then undertaking the task of looking at the wider narrative across the school, considering where there may be links between subjects and where there may be a logic to aligning the sequencing of curriculum plans across departments. There are obvious areas where there may be duplication and possibly a lack of consistency – for example the teaching of graphs. There may also be opportunities to deepen understanding and highlight links – for example by aligning the timing of content in English and history to reinforce the historical context of a novel. 

Consideration of curriculum delivery also requires careful thought about accessibility. Is the curriculum being delivered successfully to all pupils? Are the learning needs of all pupils being addressed? The last Ofsted framework shifted the emphasis by asking whether the curriculum is sufficiently ambitious for all pupils rather than focusing on the support that is provided and it is important to consider whether the curriculum is narrower for some students than others. 

Delivery of the curriculum will always be a work in progress, requiring the skill of teachers to find the most appropriate and effective ways to deliver content. And of course, what is right will always be dependent on the needs of pupils in any given class or year group. Effective formative assessment is essential to this ongoing process of review and adjustment. If formative assessment is a current development priority for you, make sure you have a look at SSAT’s Embedding Formative Assessment programme There is currently funding available to support schools in the North of England, East Midlands and the Humber, and West Midlands to engage with the programme. 


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