A Broader and more balanced Curriculum

A school’s aim should be to provide its pupils with a substantial, broad curriculum, ensuring that they are fully immersed in knowledge, vocabulary and experiences relevant to the world in which we live. Such a curriculum should include, across all its subjects, a breadth of reading, writing, language and maths skills and the school should fully recognise the benefits of creating direct links to enrich pupils’ subject learning and increased interest in and enjoyment of those subjects.

By Sarah Dean on 27 Feb 2019

What is your school’s intention?

We are all aware that Ofsted are consulting on the new EIF, this includes reconsidering ‘pupil outcomes’ as a measurement and applying a sharper focus on the ‘quality’ of what and how pupils are taught.

A school’s aim should be to provide its pupils with a substantial, broad curriculum, ensuring that they are fully immersed in knowledge, vocabulary and experiences relevant to the world in which we live. Such a curriculum should include, across all its subjects, a breadth of reading, writing, language and maths skills and the school should fully recognise the benefits of creating direct links to enrich pupils’ subject learning and increased interest in and enjoyment of those subjects.

A broad and balanced curriculum should be formed with our pupils at the centre. There is no such thing as 'one size fits all' when it comes to a curriculum. It should be carefully planned with the children at the heart. What is it we want them to learn? What skills, knowledge, experiences and understanding do they need to develop into well-rounded and informed citizens? We need to ask ourselves how can we support them to be life long learners? A broad curriculum should provide children with the opportunities to learn about themselves, their community, their values and the wider world to ensure they can make the most of it.

How can such a curriculum be implemented?

To successfully implement a high quality curriculum that promotes a love of learning whilst also appropriately challenging pupils, a school should carefully consider what its pupils need to learn and how they learn. A school needs to fully understand its pupils – What are their backgrounds? Where they are from? What do they understand about the world in which they live?

These questions should be considered when implementing a whole school curriculum. Schools are advised to plan and sequence learning and topics throughout the year groups, so that accumulated knowledge can be revisited, consolidated and enhanced as the pupils develop – the curriculum needs to be progressive. Within this, a focus on English is of utmost importance.

Through such topics, pupils should be exposed to wider reading to help improve their understanding, improve their vocabulary, but also develop their enjoyment in the process of reading. Teaching essential reading skills through substantial and purposeful topics can enable this, as pupils will learn to retrieve information and gain transferable skills for use within wider reading, such as inferring, comparing and summarising.

The One Education ‘Reading Domains’ blog presents all of the domains in a child-friendly manner which helps pupils understand the meaning of the material they read.

It is well known that Ofsted encourage schools to promote a love of reading, however if pupils are not taught how to read and understand, they may not reach this level of enjoyment. Psychologist Jane Oakhill, states that a pupil who is good at comprehension tends to enjoy reading and so reads widely, therefore it is essential that the skills are taught thoroughly. The EEF statistics show that, on average, comprehension initiatives deliver an additional six months reading progress to pupils.

It is only relatively recently that research has begun to look more closely at comprehension and to recognise the importance of skills such as inference in the improvement of understanding any given text. It is essential that comprehension skills are taught well for children to be good readers and, importantly, to develop their enjoyment of reading.

How can learning be relevant, interesting and challenging?

It is essential to identify what is important to your pupils.

For example: If a primary school with a high percentage of Black African pupils recognised that it was important for the pupils to understand both the history of their culture and significant people within it, teachers could ensure that their English curriculum provides a range of examples covering important aspects of Black History and shows progression throughout the school.

In literacy lessons, children could explore texts and other stimuli that expose them to fiction, non-fiction, poetry, real events, newspaper cuttings, famous speeches, diaries, lyrics, art and autobiographies. This could be a project in which the whole school is involved, improving pupils’ responses, understanding and outcomes.

The older children might go on to study how contemporary newspaper articles covering the Rosa Parks arrest might have been biased, using their comparison skills to contrast different articles and perspectives on the event. Relevant to them as individuals, they would learn more about their heritage. Their reading skills would improve, they would understand the text and therefore be better able to answer questions about it and enjoy it.

How could this work in KS1 and EYFS?

Ofsted emphasise that phonics and the transition into early reading in Key Stage 1 should remain the priority in KS1 and schools should encourage older children to read widely and in depth. However, in the KS1 assessment framework for reading, changes have been made that broaden these statements – ‘pupils should be able to answer questions and make some inferences in books they can read fluently’. The EEF states the importance of the ability to infer in comprehension and, in particular, the ability to apply background knowledge in such inference. Bearing this in mind, there should be no reason why Year 2 children cannot access relevant books and Year 1 and EYFS look at images that relate to them and their surroundings, through which they could practice simple retrieval skills.

What is the impact?

Creating a curriculum that inspires pupils and teaches them about themselves and the world around them should not mean a decline in data. It is not necessary for curriculum subjects to be replaced by exam preparation as teachers can use a multitude of useful materials which will prepare pupils for their tests as well as prepare them for real life situations.

One of our fantastic schools, Carlton Infants and Juniors, teach a creative curriculum which has reading at its core. A key subject chosen was civilisations through the ages and the children of the school were involved in choosing which civilisation they wanted to study. The children opted for the ‘Golden Islamic Age’ which aligned the learning process to the children’s own culture and because they were involved from the outset, fully engaged them. Tapestries were created, plays performed and there was also wider reading and writing around the topic which helped to fully embed the knowledge and improve vocabulary across the school.

Because reading is a key theme in their curriculum, pupils are inspired to read widely, not only to develop a better understanding of the world, but as an activity they enjoy. It is not a ‘chore’.

Any displays within the school refer to books relating to that specific topic, encouraging the children to read further around the subject. Displays showcase the children’s writing and emphasise the importance of their achievements. The results of their work are displayed on Link.

The wider picture - OFSTED Personal Development, Mental Health and Wellbeing

According to Ofsted, under the new “personal development” category, schools can now be marked on whether or not they adequately support the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils. Primary schools are increasingly aware that pupils need guidance and help on dealing with their emotions. There are many support resources available including support from our own ETS team

Schools are also aware that pupil’s upils understanding of their emotions can be further developed through reading and writing.

In Years 1 and 2 teachers may decide that a particular focus for their pupils is to understand their emotions and associated physical feelings. Texts which include pertinent new vocabulary and which could support this include ‘The Good Mood Hunt’ (Wilfred Gorden & Macdonald Partridge) and ‘The Colour Monster’ (Llenas).

In LKS2 pupils could focus on deeper emotions such as jealousy, anger and trust. Texts that could support this include ‘Inside Out’ (Disney).

Within UKS2, children could study bullying and its associated feelings. They could focus particularly on understanding empathy for others. Texts that could support this include ‘Wonder’ (R.J. Palacio) and ‘Red’ (Michael Hall).

Knowledge and vocabulary learnt within a topic through reading and writing is known to facilitate pupils’ understanding and comprehension of topics and, in this instance, would allow them to make connections between their new knowledge and vocabulary and real life. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing, which would then further help pupils to express their feelings and discuss them in more depth, recognising their emotions and talk about their own personal wellbeing.

Does this mean we have to abandon our existing curriculum?

Absolutely not.

Schools are not expected to ‘reinvent the wheel’ - adapting what already works well to ensure that it is relevant for all their children, exposing them to a wide range of texts and topics is most beneficial. It should still include high quality texts that you already use but the curriculum can be enhanced with further texts that ensure progression in knowledge, vocabulary and skills across the curriculum.

Need assistance in creating a broader curriculum?

The challenge for teachers is how to teach to the raised standards whilst instilling a love of English in to children. One Education can assist you reviewing your current curriculum to ensure that it is progressive, purposeful and enables reading and writing to be built in across the school to ensure exposure to a depth of knowledge and vocabulary within topics. We can assist in making your curriculum the heart of your teaching and learning and make it relevant for your school setting and pupils.

Alternatively, book onto our upcoming English curriculum training on either the 21st March or 11th July.

For more detail about creating a broad and balanced curriculum, read our last blog on ‘A curriculum for all

World Book Day

With World Book Day approaching fast, why not use this opportunity to engage your whole school with an exciting text to inspire learning throughout all curriculum areas. Hook your children in and explore the possibilities through a fantastic picture book, or choose one of the latest most popular children’s novels.

If you have a particular theme in mind, but need some inspiration on quality novels or picture books, get in contact with us for support choosing the right stimulus for your pupils.


Please get in touch or visit this page for more information.

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