Putting the pupil at the heart of the curriculum

Jo Campbell

Jo Campbell, executive headteacher of Shaw Wood Academy has had a long and varied career as both headteacher and advisor to schools. Passionate about ensuring the curriculum meets the needs of children, Jo continues to work with a brilliant team who support her with equal enthusiasm to challenge perceptions and constantly improve.

Follow @shawwood1

Website: www.shawwoodacademy.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Image credit: Flickr // niexecutive. Image credit: Flickr // niexecutive.

I wholeheartedly agree with her majesty’s chief inspector of schools. That’s a sentence I never believed I would write. When, however, Amanda Spielman expressed the view that Primary schools who scrap most of the curriculum in Year 6 to focus just on English and maths could be accused of “putting the interests of schools ahead of the interests of the children in them”, it is difficult to see how any education professional could disagree.

Nor does present wisdom, which will hopefully be sustained, cause myself or the staff at our school - Shaw Wood Academy in Doncaster - any level of anxiety. Why? Simply because, like many others, we have been working to develop a truly broad curriculum for years. We now have plans in place to widen and deepen it beyond anything we have developed so far – but which hopefully will come to be commonplace.


Working to ensure rich, practically-based learning for our children has long been a focus for our school and many others. We believe that, after years of revisiting, revising and reconstructing “We now have in place a high quality and vibrant series of learning modules for each year group.”our present curriculum, we now have in place a high quality and vibrant series of learning modules for each year group. Excellent teaching of the Arts, Humanities, Science and Technology support our children to excel in subjects much wider than those of the core curriculum, but also enables them to read and write for purpose. Introduction of growth mindset teaching is now being further developed though, to be honest, the additionality this brings is proving hard to quantify. So – are we happy? Have we cracked it? Absolutely not.


In 2016, working with a particularly challenging Year 6 group at our annual outdoor challenge residential weekend gave us a true lightbulb moment. A likeable cohort of individuals with masses of spark, these young people had challenged teachers for years with their inability to ‘gel’. Their tendency to squabble, sulk, pick at each other’s faults was well known. All too often their lack of ability to be supportive of each other and their tendency to criticise peers in public resulted in low levels of attainment as many were reluctant to take a risk for fear of public embarrassment.


Away from their familiar environment and immersed in four days of intensive challenge and problem solving activities, where the only way to succeed was to support each other, was a true turning point for this group. Skilled instructors, trained to identify personality strengths, individual vulnerabilities, coordination skills, and the ability to think logically and laterally – or not – provided tasks and challenges for groups through which the children truly blossomed. With very few exceptions we watched as a true metamorphosis took place. This group of fractious individuals became a cohesive team who were keen to support each other to succeed. New leadership skills emerged. Those with a tendency to overpower became more self-aware. Our only regret – we didn’t take them at the beginning of the year.


Translating our observations into a vision for school that could be communicated has taken time. Senior staff have said, understandably, that it’s hard to unscramble ideas so that they can be put into practice. After a year of consideration and contemplation, however, we are embarking in 2017/18 on the next phase of curriculum development. “Higher levels of challenge underpin themes.”Programmes of study have been revised so that higher levels of challenge underpin themes, school has employed a ‘challenge coach’ who will work with children both within and outside class activities to develop a range of identified skills and behaviours. Working with external partners we aim to develop simple ways in which children, staff and parents can evaluate skills linked to mental toughness at key points throughout the year.


This school year will be a challenge. We know that some staff will find it difficult to see that working in this way does not necessitate finding more time in the day; we know that we won’t always have activities ready to develop those skills and attitudes needed; we know that communication will be an issue at times and that some staff will feel far less confident than others. We are also determined that, whatever the challenges, we will learn together, support each other, openly address fears, differences and successes. Would we want it any other way? Absolutely not. Our journey will mirror that of our children and together we will learn to aspire and succeed.


How will you be tackling the curriculum this year? Let us know below.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"