Let’s talk about the fact that the curriculum is so much more than the timetable.
There are many strategic decisions to be made in schools but none more so than the curriculum on offer. Schools are judged and compared on the outcomes of their courses, with performance in and across these courses being used to measure the impact the implemented curriculum has had on realising the original curriculum intent. Those of us who work in schools recognise that the impact of the curriculum is on so much more than just performance data. However, if it is performance data against which a school is judged to be effective, then the reality is that performance data is a major steer for the curriculum choices that are made by schools. The EBacc provides a case in point.
There are many other steers including the feeling that schools are told what the curriculum has to include and expectations of what the curriculum has to include – this extends to the extracurricular offer. An effective curriculum, however, is one where senior leaders really understand the purpose behind the curriculum they offer and take on the responsibility to control what can be controlled. They are ultimately accountable for the quality of education so need to have mechanisms in place to support the connectivity between curriculum intent, implementation and impact across the entire school. The value of the overall curriculum needs to be greater than the sum of its individual parts: subjects needs to know the distinct contribution they make to the curriculum as a whole yet show greater coherence with each other to present a united front. For this to happen systems need to be in place and managed, maintaining the precedent that it is each individual child’s curriculum experience that remains paramount. It is possible to do this, to have a curriculum that impacts on so much more than performance outcomes alone. It is possible to have a curriculum set up so that all contributors are autonomous in the part they have to play whilst working towards a shared goal. Whole school curriculum leaders need to be able, and brave enough, to strike and maintain this balance. The minimum requirement to lead on the whole school curriculum is to understand that the curriculum is the school.