First among those methods is standardisation of processes across schools. So, a large MAT will employ a Director of Curriculum and subject specialists. They design and write the curriculum for, say, History, or Science, and how it is to be taught in the MATs schools.
In the old days, Local Education Authorities kept a stable of such folks, and schools used or adapted the materials according to need, inclination or diktat. When the funding went, the Advisors and Inspectors disappeared from County Hall. Once performance tables became the only measure of the system, curriculum design merged with the GCSE syllabus.
This didn’t do anyone any good because exams measure knowledge, they don’t define it. That’s a different rant, however, and my point is that we are now in interesting times If by interesting you mean ‘things that make me chew off my fingerends’. The big MATS (I said MATs, not Macs, do pay attention) don’t just appoint the expert and issue the curriculum, but they also give teachers scripts. Scripts, like in a play.
What kind of news is this? It might help the workload crisis that we face: teachers don’t have to prepare the teaching materials or write or adapt the curriculum. They just have a script and then can concentrate on making sure that children are progressing, intervening when they need to. Given that for the third successive year we’ve nationally failed to meet teacher training recruitment targets by a mile, we could perhaps do with some scripts. And someone to read them out.
Or it might be terrible. Pundits luurrve to say ‘we don’t want teachers reinventing the wheel’ which is head-bangingly obvious, but it doesn’t cover it. The best teachers burn with a love of their subject and take intense satisfaction in devising new and interesting ways to teach it. They create, experiment and refine. They recycle stuff that works and ditch stuff that doesn’t. They tinker and tune, and get the results. They use their learning and their own habits to lead and support the little learner in front of them. They share and steal, they revel in the stuff. Some of them take over the department and write their own curricula and give it away to others. Some take over schools, and put knowledge and creative learning at their heart
All of that takes time, which, in a horrifically underfunded system, is beyond rubies. So the big MATs with their Curriculum Directors work one way, and we try to do it the old way: good schemes of work, good shared resources and planning, freedom in the classroom to adapt and adopt, as long as it works. Would workload be reduced if we handed everyone a script? I don’t know. What would that cost? What kind of people would we become?
Which takes me back to last Wednesday when I went to a gig for my dear chum Prof Michael Young, to celebrate his 50 years at the Institute of Education. He’s see a lot, and he’s worried about the future for schools when teachers don’t have to think it through for themselves from first principles. Worried about the scripts.
Another Prof, our school chum Bill Lucas, has been namechecking us this month, thank you kindly. He’s worked with us for years on our habits and dispositions, on our creativity and love of learning. Now he’s working with PISA to get that into the international measures. I’m pretty sure there won’t be a script for it.
Anyway, we had Community Day this week, thinking about our futures with lots of career-friendly activities: planning, debating, collaborating, thinking. Year 11 did yoga and spacehoppers as well as thinking about their Tallis legacy and revision timetables. Everyone branched out a bit, and thought expansively.
I walk out into a snow flurry at break and everyone was ridiculously squealing and shrieking. Teachers who get them into class afterwards need to use all their skills to dial down the excitement and turn their minds to thinking hard. Would you have a special script, for a snowy day in London?
I don’t know where this curriculum path will lead us all and I might be worrying about nothing. The MATs are dominant, though, and big enough to sit an elephant on. And you know what happens when they get into the room.