Our resident deputy headteacher discusses how best to use cross-curricular products in the classroom, like Discovery Education Espresso and Cornerstones Curriculum. These products and more are listed on our directory of cross-curricular learning resources for primary schools.
There is an ever-diminishing pool of teachers who refer to the 2014 overhaul of taught content in the UK as the “new curriculum”. It was, at the time, a huge change – but it wasn’t until 2016 that the shockwave of new assessments created a great deal of controversy.
In some subject areas the quality of teaching and learning did improve, especially when schools realised that the standards of the assessments were going to remain at that level of challenge. However, my belief is that the quality of delivery in foundation subjects suffered temporarily. This was the case for two reasons; the first being the huge amount of new attention demanded by the delivery of core subjects, the second being a combination of some quite obscure content choices and then simply the resulting lack of age-appropriate material. History suffered in particular, more so than many other subjects, because quality learning experiences depend so much upon sources – and these sources just were not there.
Times have clearly moved on, and there is now a great deal more information out there, including numerous cross curricular schemes of work and resource libraries, for example: London Grid for Learning, Pixl, Espresso, Dimensions etc. There are two types of curriculum support these organisations provide:
1. Compulsory curriculum frameworks
2. Non-compulsory resource libraries
This list focuses on the second of these: resource libraries which are not compulsory – but they do cost money and schools need to make sure that they are securing as much pupil engagement and progress as possible.
If you are lucky enough to have one of these resource libraries to hand – I guarantee that there is a stubborn percentage of teachers who are not using it.
Sow can we increase uptake?
Pace of change is cited as one of the top reasons why teachers are unhappy in the profession. Because so many things are demanded of teachers at once, many can be reluctant to change their habits, or introduce something else into their routine simply because it is new and different.
So how can we increase uptake?
1. The path of least resistance
The easiest option is the one 99% of people are going to take. You need to find a way to make it easier to use these resources than not to. This can take many forms: think about how to inventorise the content you have available; how to match-make medium term plans and particular resources. Ensure that you have the capacity for this by devolving responsibility to subject leaders.
2. Subject leader devolution
Ensure that subject leaders are fully briefed on the expectations for usage within their subject area. Plan in after school demonstrations for each subject area so that teachers hear the same message from all subject leaders. Prioritise certain subjects with more time, knowing which subject area needs the most engagement enables you to prepare CPD time that is more effective
3. Identify where there is low pick up
Which subjects are not using the resources? Which phase? Which teachers? Monitoring this can be done through learning walks, formal observations – but the most reliable way to get the true picture (and not the one rolled out especially for a learning walk) is to ask your pupils.
4. Pupil Voice – actual feedback from pupils
If you are newly implanting a resource library, why not select a group of observant pupils and pre-brief them? Tell them what to look out for in lessons and provide an easy metric to track, such as a simple tally card that they can give you weekly. If you are looking to make improvements, think about asking your pupils to “tally” for a couple of weeks to provide a “baseline” and evidence the increase your input results in.
5. Quality demonstration
There is no substitute for seeing a great lesson taught well. When I witness a superbly taught lesson, it will put me in a great mood all day, and I’ll want to try out things I’ve seen myself. Think about who in your school would be best placed to demonstrate how best to put your resources to use.
Scheme Support lists a variety of schemes and resource banks which over multiple curriculum areas. Check them out here.