What Does A Scheme of Work Mean?

What comes to mind when you hear the expression ‘scheme of work’? In this post Scheme Support’s founder talks about what ‘scheme of work’ means for him, as well as how the term is applied across the primary education world.

We’ve talked before about the advantages of using a scheme of work and how to apply schemes to particular subjects (see the great guest blogs on our site about PE, for example). However it’s important to understand what a scheme of work actually is, as the meaning can vary and have different connotations.

Let’s start with a definition from Twinkl’s helpful teaching wiki;

...a kind of plan that outlines all the learning to be covered over a given period of time (usually a term or a whole school year).”

This definition encapsulates the long-term aspect of a scheme of work, which I believe is the most important aspect when we try to define the term. A good scheme signposts staff and students about what is being taught - the beginning and end points of the learning journey. The word ‘plan’ is also significant. A quality scheme also informs the teacher and, as we’ll discuss in a separate post, can for the most part upskill the teacher’s subject knowledge.

When it comes to planning, the breadth of variety in approaches available across the 30 or so different subject pages on Scheme Support illustrates the different interpretations from educational publishers on the ways this can be done. On the wellbeing page, for example, there are almost 25 different schemes of work tackling health and wellbeing, but each has their own pedagogical approach.

I’ll also add a third crucial element - which isn’t included in the definition above - resources. To my mind the term ‘scheme of work’ usually involves offering resources (as well as planning) for the teacher. These might include interactive whiteboard presentations, textbooks, workbooks and/or physical resources (see our maths interventions page for some great examples of the latter).

There are additional elements too. Many schemes of work will come with their own assessment materials and mapping documents to the curriculum they’re serving. Others will be larger whole-school packages which contain essential CPD to teach that subject (again many of the publishers on our maths page come to mind). And that’s not to mention the often high level of ongoing support from the publisher for the school that has made the decision to use that scheme.

So there you have it. A brief summary on what you can expect from a scheme of work when you’re browsing on Scheme Support - they are almost 450 to choose from!