Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Before reading this, make sure you've caught up on the first blog post in the series:
Getting Implementation Right By...
The good news is, that you as head teachers will already be doing everything that you need to do in order for your curriculum implementation to be successful. You are already providing training to staff on a variety of matters. You are already giving staff planning time. You are already supporting in the development of teachers, most likely through various evaluation and monitoring processes. It is this manner of activity which is necessary for your intended curriculum to become a reality in the classroom.
Use the drop down arrows to read more around each point.
...Communicating The Intent To Staff By...
Let’s think first about getting buy-in and understanding from the staff members who are going to be implementing your new curriculum. It’s likely that very few of those class teachers are going to have been involved heavily in the development of that curriculum – one or two maybe, those who are subject leaders.
Buy-in means that someone is invested in something – they have an interest in it because it matters to them. Better results are gained from teachers when they have bought into something, and they feel like that thing is important to them.
And how is this buy-in gained? Well it is gained best, and most deeply, through understanding. Do teachers know what this new curriculum is all about? Do they understand why it has undergone a revamp? Can they see how perhaps the old one was actually substandard?
As a headteacher, you will need to present this new curriculum to your staff very carefully. Mindful of the plates that they’re spinning and in a way that really sells it to them as something which is to everyone’s benefit. In a way that acknowledges and is already thankful for the hard work that they will inevitably have to put in as they implement it.
...Providing Training On The Contents
Once you have got buy-in from your staff, and they understand the reasons for the redevelopment of your curriculum as well as the reasoning behind the creation of the new curriculum, they need to know and understand the content of the new curriculum.
Depending on the scope of the new curriculum i.e. which subjects have been redeveloped, for example, geography, history, art, and so on, you will need to train them on the content. It is probably not enough to simply hand over the documents, expecting teachers to find the time in their busy days to do the learning for themselves. Time must be given over to teachers where they are provided with CPD about the new curriculum.
This CPD should go beyond an introduction to the contents of the curriculum, and should go some way towards how they are going to use this curriculum. A teacher’s use of the curriculum begins at the planning stage. So, before they even get to the classroom they need to know how they are going to use the curriculum documents to be able to teach from them.
It will depend on the levels of depth that your curriculum documentation goes into, as to how much work the teachers will have to do for themselves, for example, during a PPA session.
If your curriculum only stipulates objectives, then teachers will have to spend PPA learning new content first of all, finding that information from sources, most likely the internet.
If your curriculum also provides information about what the content should be, for example via a list of key facts, or even a more expanded paragraph of information outlining the key knowledge that needs to be taught, then teachers have to do less work.
If your curriculum documentation goes as far as stipulating what tasks children should complete, what resources teachers should use, how they should explain a concept, and so on, then teachers will have far less to do. However, the more prescriptive a curriculum is, the more you run the risk of teachers depending too much on the curriculum, and not enough on their own professional judgments.
That being said, the main point remains, that teachers must be trained on the contents of the new curriculum, and what your expectations are of how it is implemented. You are not going to get your intended curriculum implemented in the way that you want it to be implemented, if you have not explained this to staff.
It is also worth noting that we have talked largely about teachers here, many other members of staff in schools are also involved in the delivery of our curriculum, therefore they need to receive the training too.
...Enabling your staff to implement the intended curriculum by...
...Giving Them Time To Plan
When staff understand the why and the what of your curriculum - and therefore understand the intent - it is probably wise to give them time to be able to put this new learning into practise at the planning stage. Normal amounts of PPA time, and staff meeting time, probably won’t be enough, if you want a strong start in the implementation of your curriculum. Even the most willing and experienced of teachers will need more time to plan and deliver brand new content.
For example, can you use staff training days, or cover members of teaching staff for the whole day, or for an afternoon, to provide additional time? Do you have the resources and people power to allow members of staff to plan alongside school leaders, the ones who actually developed the curriculum, so that further knowledge of the intent can be passed on to the teachers who will be implementing the curriculum?
...Providing Them With The Resources They Need
Even if your curriculum isn’t overly prescriptive in its suggestions of resources, for example, websites and books that teachers could use to plan and teach with, it is probably a good idea to have your leaders of subjects put together a bank of resources to go with each unit of the new curriculum. These could be suggested rather than mandated. Obviously, there are time implications here too: if you want your leaders to do such a piece of work, then they are going to need time to do it - time which is protected. Once in the hands of the teachers, these resources can support their implementation and delivery of the curriculum that you have in place.
...Supporting Them In Developing Their Subject Knowledge
It is not enough just to talk about the content, or to provide resources: what is really important is that teachers are growing in their own subject knowledge. Primary teachers are generalists and do not have 12 different subject specialisms. Most are exceptional in their ability to internalise huge amounts of information from a wide range of disciplines, however with the best will in the world, there are always subjects where teachers feel weaker in their subject knowledge. And this is where a more tailored approach might need to be taken. For example, one teacher may be strong in their geography knowledge but not their art skills, where as another teacher might exhibit the exact opposite strengths and weaknesses. These two teachers could be paired with each other, or with other teachers who do have better subject knowledge, or they simply could be identified, and given the time they need to work on the subject knowledge that they will need to teach that half term, that term or even during that year. Again a range of suggested resources might be useful here.
...Providing Guidance on Desired and Optimal Pedagogical Approaches To Teaching
Teachers also need to know how you want the material in the curriculum to be delivered. We are talking here about pedagogical choices which impact on teaching and learning. For example, if you have introduced a list of key facts and maybe a list of key vocabulary, do you want the teachers to use retrieval practice in order for those children to learn those facts by heart? If this is the case do teachers understand what retrieval practice is, how to carry it out, how not to carry it out, and so on? Have they had training in that particular pedagogical approach? If not, they will need it. This could mean that they are pointed towards online training, or given CPD within the normal in-house methods of staff training.
It might not be retrieval practice that you are expecting staff to use, however the same applies to any pedagogical approach. If you want your staff to provide continuous provision in a way that allows child-led learning around the objectives specified on your curriculum, then they will need training in how to do this. It may be the case that teachers who use retrieval practice or child-led learning in continuous provision in other subjects such as maths and English where they are more confident, might not know how to translate this practice into other areas of the curriculum.
It might be the case that they just need more time to spend on thinking and preparing in the translation of these techniques. Whatever the case, teachers will need training and time in order to make sure that the desired pedagogical approaches can be seen in the classroom.
...Ensuring That Planning Is Of A High Quality...
It’s all very well giving teachers time to plan, but in order for curriculum implementation to be successful it is crucial that the planning is done well. Without good planning it is difficult for most teachers to teach a good lesson.
Although teachers are used to planning week in, week out, this planning practice is not always optimal, and even where it is, is not always transferred to planning of the foundation subjects, mainly because planning time is spent largely on maths and English, therefore history, geography, art and so on don’t always get the planning time they need.
Teachers, even more experienced ones, may benefit from being guided through the process of planning a unit of work from scratch. One useful model for effective planning is the concept of backwards planning where a teacher begins with the end of the process and works logically to break down the teaching and learning process.
... By Beginning With The End In Mind
Teachers need to ensure that this process begins with teachers identifying the objectives that they would like a child to achieve and then deciding on the final outcome that they would like children to produce in order to show they have learned those objectives. You should encourage teachers to consider the audience and purpose for this piece of work, providing motivation for children to carry out the whole sequence of learning. Teachers can also consider the dispositions to learning that they would like to work on with children during the completion of this unit, for example, resilience, being reflective, or providing feedback to their peers and acting on feedback they themselves receive.
An important, but often missed, activity for teachers at this point in the process is to have a go at completing the outcome that they expect the children to complete for themselves. This is useful for several reasons. Teachers experience the process of making, creating or writing and discover what the difficult parts are, what the easy parts are, and in doing so have to think about all the necessary steps towards creating that outcome.
The experience of completing all of the necessary steps informs them of the steps they need to plan for children, enabling them to break down objectives in a much more effective way than if they had just imagined carrying out the task themselves. It also gives them an example to use in class of what they expect the children to do. Are your teachers doing this?
... By Considering Prior Knowledge
Secondly, you should guide teachers towards considering the prior knowledge that children have. In the case of the implementation of a new curriculum, it may be the case that children don't have the base knowledge to build on, simply because the curriculum has only just been put in place. For example, a child in year 4 has not experienced the previous three, four or five years of that curriculum and therefore may have necessary foundational knowledge missing, especially where the new curriculum is substantially different to the previous one.
...By Breaking Down Teaching Into Small Steps
Once prior knowledge has been considered, teachers should then think about how the objectives of the overall unit can be broken down into smaller steps. These smaller steps should form the basis for each step of the teaching and learning sequence. Teachers should plan to review previous material and should spend some time thinking about how they will explain and model the new content. Explanation and modelling should form part of the ‘I’ part of the ‘I, we, you’ process. Shared teaching and learning opportunities can also be planned for at this stage.
Before moving on to think about the activities that the children will complete at each point of the sequence, it can be more productive for teachers to first think about what they are going to do at each step of the way.
...By Planning The Practice Activities And Assessment Opportunities
Once the teachers have worked out all of the small step objectives and how they will explain and model each of these steps, then they can plan in the activities that the children are going to do in order to practise the objectives that have been taught. Here, teachers should also consider what assessment opportunities they are going to provide in order to gather the necessary information about how well the children are learning the new content, thus providing them and you with information about the impact of the new curriculum.
...By Adjusting The Learning To Meet Specific Needs
After this step has been completed there is one more main thing to consider, which is to adjust the learning that has just been planned for the specific needs of children in the class.
Some children may need some pre-teaching, others may need more adult support, still others may need to be provided with additional work in order to provide depth.
This planning process may sound familiar to many, but in reality it is often rushed, and the main focus becomes on the activities that the children will do as these need the most preparation. However these are not necessarily the things that really need the most thought put into them - usually it is the modelling and explanation of objectives that are broken down into small steps that need majoring upon. Without good teaching, a good practise activity is useless.
You may find that planning effectively is an area which requires further staff training in order for your curriculum to be implemented well.
...Ensuring Nothing Is Interfering With The Delivery
Now that teachers know what's in the curriculum and how to teach it and why they’re teaching it anyway, have been given time to plan how they are going to teach the new curriculum and you are sure that they are planning it well, the time will have come for them to deliver that curriculum in the classrooms.
This is where our other key players are introduced: the children. It probably will be the case that, during PPA and during planning for the new curriculum delivery, teachers will have considered the children and their needs, for example their prior knowledge, but this is the first time that the children are a part of the process of implementing the new curriculum (although they may have been engaged in the process of planning it).
As teachers step into the classroom, with their lesson plan firmly in mind, ready to teach this new content, the children are the next potential barrier, like it or not, as to whether the curriculum will be enacted in the way that you want it to be.
Perhaps, for example, in all the clamour to develop curriculum, time and resources have focused on that, and have not focused on other aspects of school life such as routines and behaviour management. If these are not strong and in place in the classrooms the potential is that the delivery of the new curriculum is going to be very difficult. This won’t always be the case however it will be important for you to assess exactly what, if anything, is hindering the delivery of the curriculum because it may be factors outside of the curriculum, its roll out and delivery.
...Keeping In Touch With What’s Happening In Classrooms
Once your curriculum is definitely off the paper and into practice in the classroom, you, alongside other leaders, will need to be on hand to see how things are going.
You will, of course, want to make sure that anything you do is seen as supportive, developmental, and kind, rather than judgmental. This is a fine line to walk, however it is much more easily traversed when other aspects of the school culture support this developmental approach. For example if teachers have been given the freedom to try new things, and have not been penalised in performance management meetings or in lesson feedback, then they will know that your presence means that you are there to help them.
...Providing Developmental Feedback
Lesson drop-ins rather than formal lesson observations can help here, as long as the feedback from these drop-ins is given in a developmental way and ideally is followed up by something like coaching. Coaching is one of the best tools in the box for helping teachers to develop, and therefore ensuring that your new curriculum is delivered well.
From my experience of being a school leader, the temptation quite often can be to go and watch a lesson, or a few lessons across the school, and to then go back to your office and have a panic about how unhappy you are with how things are going. This doesn’t help anyone - not the teachers and not you. On these occasions the best thing to do is to separate your observation points into feedback that you will give to teachers and feedback that you will take for yourself.
Feedback to teachers should be concise and actionable - small steps which they can act upon in a short amount of time which aren't going to overwhelm them. Actions steps that are too large and impossible to work on in the time frame are no good for anyone’s development. Your feedback to teachers should also be accompanied with bespoke development, perhaps through a coaching-style meeting.
The feedback that you take for yourself needs to inform your future actions with regards to CPD. It is also feedback about yourself and your leadership team as to how well the roll out of the new curriculum is going. If many teachers are struggling with the implementation, then perhaps this is down to the roll-out, rather than the ability, commitment or will of the teachers. Sometimes as leaders we do have to put our hands up and say “Yes, this is on me”, and that’s no bad thing: we learn from mis-implementation (I’m avoiding the word ‘mistake’ on purpose) and then we move on.
That's been a hefty blog post so it's best to finish there. In the third part of this blog series we look at learning from mis-implementation and the constancy of curriculum development: read it here: https://www.aidansevers.com/post/from-paper-to-practice-beyond-curriculum-intent-and-into-implementation-part-3