Everywhere you look in the education world currently, it seems that discussion is centred around the forthcoming new Ofsted Framework. For many (including myself), the framework is a welcome change – an opportunity to put the what and why back at the heart of our teaching discussions and decisions. With the framework clearly centred on curriculum, it will be expected that subject leaders have a clear rationale for what they’re teaching and why they’re teaching it.
What do you think it’ll mean for your department?
At a department level, we’ve embraced the new framework as an opportunity to critically reflect on what we do and why we do it. For us, this began with the task of articulating the vision of our department. We sat together and answered some challenging (yet fundamental) questions:
- At the end of their time spent studying Geography, what did we want our Geography students to know?
- What did we want our geographers to be able to do?
- What evidence will we look for to know that we’ve been successful in exposing them to a rigorous, engaging and effective Geography curriculum?
Once we’d settled on our vision, we could ‘zoom-in’ to our individual topics and schemes of work. Again, key questions had to be addressed:
- What content do we select for our Key Stage 3 curriculum and why?
- Which key concepts underpin our Key Stage 3 curriculum and why?
- How have we sequenced our Key Stage 3 curriculum and why?
For now, these questions are answered. Yet, for our curriculum to be effective it needs to be flexible and dynamic: what we teach needs to respond to the changing world around us and be responsive to the needs of students. For that reason, as a department, we recognise that our curriculum will never be finished. This time next year, we will need to sit and reflect upon what we’ve taught and make further tweaks. However, rather than seeing that as a threat, that’s an opportunity – an opportunity to know that we are constantly working towards teaching the very best geography that we can!
What do you think the benefits will be?
Having had these conservations and decided on the structure, content and sequencing of our Key Stage 3 curriculum, I can already recognise the numerous benefits that this renewed thinking about curriculum will have.
The new Ofsted framework will (in my opinion!) ensure that everyone is working to the same goal of a well-intentioned, well implemented and impactful curriculum. With that in mind, I think this can, and will, lead to increased departmental consistency. The whole team has worked together to plan our Geography curriculum and thus we have all agreed on the fundamental knowledge required for success in our subject. In mapping our curriculum so carefully, we have made many of our formerly implicit decisions and opinions explicit, sharing them with each other to mean that we are all aligned regarding what we’re teaching and why.
One of the greatest opportunities of this focus, and particularly in a subject like Geography, is the embedding of synoptic links between topics. If you have answered the questions of ‘what’ and ‘why’ to teach certain topics, then this allows for careful consideration of ‘when’.
- What previous knowledge can students build upon when studying this topic?
- What knowledge can students take forward from this topic to inform another?
- Which key concepts underpin this topic? When will students further develop their understanding of this concept?
How do you plan to adapt your Key Stage 3 curriculum in light if the new framework?
As is probably apparent by now, I am inspired, motivated and encouraged by these changes and the opportunities that they present. What is not required is a complete re-write of our Key Stage 3 curriculum. After all, lots of what we teach is already effective and rigorous- change for change’s sake is not required or desired. However, in light of the new framework, our department does need to continue our journey and continue to improve our curriculum. I plan to do this through taking the following steps:
1. Continuing to engage with the subject community
There is a wealth of material and resources out there to help us achieve curriculum coherence. To avoid re-inventing the wheel and to avoid hugely increasing our workload, I plan to take advantage of this!
2. Explicitly mapping out our synoptic links
Part of our departmental vision is that as many geographers as possible go on to study the subject at A-Level. Thus, our curriculum is not a journey through a key stage or a journey to GCSE but a 7-year journey from Year 7 to Year 13. As part of our curriculum work, I plan to map out where links can be made between topics and how we are going to make these links.
3. Further embedding an enquiry approach throughout Key Stage 3
Perhaps the largest of these steps, and the most ambitious in terms of workload, is the plan to further embed an enquiry approach throughout Key Stage 3 Geography. It is widely recognised by the Geographical Association, teachers and academics alike that an enquiry approach to teaching geography is a powerful and effective way to engage students in their learning. More than this, however, it equips students with the skills required to be successful geographers. Whilst in some of our KS3 topics enquiry is at the fore, this is not the case for all and thus to improve our curriculum, this is a priority.