Neil Bates and I have been working together from afar for many years. However, we are lucky enough to have been working together in the same school recently. We have used our frees carefully and have met once a week in the late Spring and early in the summer term, to re-design the Key Stage 3 curriculum map. After all, this kind of discussion is joyful work.
Sticking to our principles
After lots of head scratching and debate, scribbling and crossings out, we managed to create what we think is coherent, well balanced and rich curriculum. We have stuck to our principles too. We want to develop the big picture, develop personal stories, develop the unique historical skills that we hold so dear, teach through enquiry and ensure that as well as rigour, we are having a good time! You can download our curriculum maps at the end of this page.
The problem of marking and workload
Another important issue we wanted to address was that of assessment and marking. Like many schools, there seems to be an over emphasis at the moment on marking everything that is written and then, getting students to respond to it. We can probably thank Hattie and OFSTED reports for this. Thanks guys, you have increased our workload massively! And, if we do the ‘read and response time’ too often we won’t have any time to teach the flippin curriculum! There won’t be anything to assess, apart from students responses to our our comments…
Whilst it is undoubtedly important to provide students with decent written feedback to their work, it needs to be done well. We shouldn’t respond to every written word a student makes in their books. This is madness.
But the tail is now wagging the dog. We are spending a disproportionate amount of time marking, when we could spend this time planning fab lessons. Having done the maths, I have worked out the hours we are now spending marking is disproportionate to the amount of progress our students are making. If this kind of read and response time marking was as effective as we are led to believe then we should have seen a massive increase in pupil progress. We haven’t!
We might be doing something wrong, but I don’t think so. We teach enquiries that build to an end product. Success criteria is shared, and writing is modelled. Students know what they need to do to succeed. The problem is, writing is hard for many, particularly those with weak literacy.
Planning and teaching
I firmly believe that pupil progress will accelerate if teachers have planned really decent lessons, and thought how they will help students develop in their thinking and in their writing, at the planning stage. By spending hours and hours and hours marking each word Johnny and Annabelle produce, we are exhausted and have no time to think how best to actually teach them.
In our new curriculum we aim to control the ever increasing marking and feedback ‘drift’. We have identified our minimum expectations of when detailed marking must happen and when students are required to respond to this. We think this is manageable once a half term.
If anyone of our dept want to do more than this, then that is fine. But once a half term for each Key Stage 3 group is enough. This, coupled with Key Stage 4 marking is more than enough. By the way, we do expect to see books marked regularly, once every two weeks, but we don’t expect detailed comments and annotations from the teacher every two weeks.
To download our new curriculum, just click: