I think I missed read an article this week, thinking that there was going to be a new curriculum by 2021. What I failed to read was that this was going to be in Wales…ooops. Throughout my practice I have survived several curriculums which have been brought in by new and existing governments. I remember when the science curriculum had 15 (?) attainment targets and when mathematics had data handling and shape rather than statistics and geometry. Seeing the start of the new curriculum in WALES I was interested to hear the phrases, ‘fit for the 21st century’, ‘creative’ and ‘driven by latest national and international thinking’. It got me thinking, if I was to create or suggest a new curriculum what would it be – hence the title of this week’s waffle.
Our third years are currently writing an assignment detailing and discussing their philosophy of education. When considering how I would create a new curriculum I think it would be based on what I consider my own philosophy of education and maybe, more broadly, learning itself. I don’t want to necessarily focus on content in all the areas, apart from making this waffle extremely long it would also make it dreadfully dull. What I want to focus more on are the aims and philosophy of my new curriculum which could then be applied to all areas of learning…and I chose that last statement carefully.
Let’s be more balanced -As we progress through the education system, we are forced to become more and more specialised. Education should allow us all to experience a range of subjects and contexts in order to find that part of the curriculum in which we excel. If child have never played table tennis, you will never see their possible potential. In my new curriculum there would be no core subjects and the amount of content would be reduced. By reducing the content, even to the essential skills, the ‘rush’ through the curriculum would be reduced allowing more time for the children to explore and maybe even ‘enjoy’ all curriculum subjects. Releasing the requirement of most mornings to teach mathematics and English, will allow other subjects to flourish including the creative subjects and subjects which currently have a small amount of time allocated to them, e.g. science and geography. Before you dive down to the comments section to type your concerns about the removal of core subjects, let me explain. Mathematics, language, writing and scientific thinking, in my view, are core skills. They exist and are used in a range of different subjects and situations. This is why I consider them ‘core’. The current curriculum is too packed. Each subject is written by specialists within that area, all wanting to get as much of ‘their subject’ into the curriculum. The time spent on English and mathematical skills throughout the week would still be more than the other subjects, but it would be achieved more through application rather than just completing sheets or calculations or letters to imaginary people/beings – allowing other subjects to rise their heads above the core battlements and become more substantial members of the curriculum army.
Let’s get real! – As I sit writing this, it is foggy and autumnal day. If this was a school day (and I am not suggesting that we have school on a Sunday!) then it would be a perfect opportunity to get outside and experience the foggy day and talk, explore, explain and communicate about it. When I was growing up, I remember lessons like this. Mr Bowman, telling me that when he rode in on his bike, he got frost on his beard on a very cold morning…where had it come from? I know I am a bit of a geek, but I was really motivated and inspired to find out the answer to this question. It seemed somehow ‘real’ and had purpose. I often feel that opportunities like this are sometimes missed due to established planning, or literacy/numeracy hours or assessment. Learning is supported by application. What is the purpose of a mathematical concept/process if there is no apparent application for it? Learning is not about being taught, learning is about application. The more learners apply the skills they have learnt the more those skills are consolidated and embedded. You only need to look at skills you have learnt at a training day and not used for a month, week or even a weekend! They soon go, unless used and practised and probably the best way to practise these skills is through application.
Make it personal – I have always been a champion of the EYFS curriculum. Although I could never teach full time in the foundation stage, I consider the ethos of the curriculum there very suitable for purpose. Its main focus appears to be the children and their interests. There is a strong link between being interested in something and your motivation to learn it. If the curriculum has a focus on skills, it has the advantage that these skills can be applied to any situation. Although I would still encourage the children exploring different areas/topics which they are not currently interested in (you never know what might spark their interest) allowing them to focus on what currently interests them would promote engagement and motivation of the learning. In third year juniors – I used to have a teacher called Miss Parker. One of the memories from her class I still have to this day, apart from the hamster escaping and the shock of her breaking a ruler when ‘discipling’ a lad (yes I did go to school when you could still do that) was the afternoon’s of topic work. When I say topic work, I mean a topic you were interested in. You chose the topic, how you were going to research it and how you were going to present it. Although I did a few, my favourites were ‘Lifeboats’ and ‘Butterflies’ (eclectic mix I know!). I still remember the booklets I created and learnt so much about both subjects – much of which I still remember today! I’m not sure what the teacher was doing when I was doing the research, and maybe I was the only child really engaged in the topic work, but I did remember it and enjoyed completing it. If the whole curriculum presented the opportunity to have this sense of achievement and enjoyment, then surely that would not be a bad thing?
I often get asked if I miss teaching children. I enjoy teaching in the broadest sense of the word and would definitely miss teaching, although who or what I am teaching is less missable. Teaching is probably the only thing that I hope I am good at – although some might disagree. I’m not a very creative person at all and when discussing my ideas with others or expressing them on this blog, I often get accused of being completely naive about the practicalities of education, learning and research. It might be that my ideas for a ‘new curriculum’ would be classed as ‘blue sky’ thinking – perfect and impossible to touch. Some people might smile at them and return to their planning, hoping for the day to come and others might just scoff and continue to add another calculation to their next worksheet. But I wonder if someone, somewhere agrees with the philosophy of this personalised curriculum which centres on children and their learning and, since we can not change the current curriculum, are begining to think of ways to adapt and manipulate the current curriculum to achieve some of my ambitious ideals. Maybe in some classrooms it even already exists. And those are the classrooms in which I would like to be learning.
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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