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Why Choose a Scheme of Work?

Our resident Deputy Headteacher advises on the reasons schools choose a scheme of work, and how they can help teaching and learning.




With school budgets becoming increasingly strained, the principal question you need to consider as a subject lead or SLT member is: “what benefits can a scheme of work bring, that a well-organised subject lead cannot?” New levels of accountability demanded of subject leads from OFSTED’s latest framework mean that fewer teachers are willing to lead foundation subjects without a TLR, so it is perfectly reasonable to question whether schemes are justifiable.


It’s only a matter of time...


In an ideal world, every subject lead would have ample time to be fully conversant with the latest developments in their field; they would be experienced curriculum planners and designers; and they would have an endless organised library of age-appropriate content white-board ready. You may have come across some of those unicorns out there, but they are few and far between. It’s an issue of time availability, and after all the other duties of a subject lead are done, there is precious little left over for that big curriculum over-haul that’s been on the back burner.


The levelling factor...


Your school will employ teaching and support staff with a range of different skills and experience levels. You might have someone with a maths degree and someone who has had to retake their maths GCSE teaching within the same year group. Regardless of this, pupils still have the right to the same quality of teaching. For an inexperienced teacher, one of the greatest challenges is resourcing. If we continue with maths as the example, without a scheme of work, a teacher has to establish the lesson objective and outcome, select the resourcing for the independent tasks, and only then begin to think about the intricacies of lesson delivery and teaching input. A scheme of work guarantees that the task challenges will be age-appropriate and that over time arithmetic and reasoning objectives are met in a manner that makes pedagogical sense. It is therefore far more likely that pupils taught by the inexperienced teacher will make the same progress as those taught by the senior practitioner.


CPD on the job...


You may have heard the argument that schemes of work de-skill teachers. I don’t believe that effective teaching need be an originality competition. I am sure you are familiar with that time-consuming hunt for online resources, or “patchwork” lessons drawn from resource books that are often purchased with teachers’ personal income. This is certainly no guarantee of a good or better lesson. Nor are personally authored resources, the quality of which are entirely contingent on the skill and experience of the teacher. A scheme of work can certainly be poorly used – and there is no excuse for turning up to a lesson having not carefully checked through the content of the lesson – but poor preparation will out regardless of whether a school is using a scheme of work or not.


At their best, schemes of work can serve as highly-effective “on-the-job” CPD. Following a scheme carefully can educate a teacher in a tried and tested manner of delivering a complex curriculum over the course of a year. They will see how breadth and depth can be balanced, and how progress can be assured in tricky curriculum areas.


Delivery delivery delivery...


Ultimately you will find that schemes of work enable teachers to concentrate on the delivery of their lessons. Two teachers can have exactly the same content in front of them and one could go on to teach an outstanding lesson, the other failing to secure good pupil progress. This is where the subject lead comes in – and ensuring good or better progress from all groups of pupils across an entire school is no mean feat. Pupil achievement must come first, and if a scheme of work is the best way for your subject to secure that, then don’t hesitate to see what’s out there.