Gove Week

Gove Week: I reckon the requirements for the foundation subjects in the new primary curriculum (2014) can be taught in just one week. Find out how I’ve got to this by reading on…

I’ve begun a process of curriculum planning with my staff this week. Two things have coincided to make this happen. Firstly there is a new curriculum which is mandatory for all state schools, commencing in 2014. Secondly we were getting a little tired of some of our old topics – they needed freshening up: both to maintain engagement for the children and the teachers.

I’ve seen a lot written about the new curriculum, some for and much against. But one of the things that can be said for it, is there is hardly anything to it – it is quite literally paper thin in some areas. Art and design, for example, has only 2 pages describing what must be taught for both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 – six years of a child’s education.

The consequence of this is that there are loads of gaps to fill in – you certainly can’t expect the National Curriculum 2014 to define everything that should be taught within a school, and in fact the National Curriculum says this itself in its preamble (2.2):

The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils. The national curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum.

I’ll be writing more about the curriculum planning process we are using in my school over the next few weeks, but one idea that I’ve come across is the idea of Gove Week. It was first mentioned to me by a HMI whom we use as our school improvement advisor. She said she had come across a school who were going to teach Gove’s whole history curriculum in just one week.

But I would go further. I reckon you could teach the whole thing in just one week.

When I say the whole thing I mean history, geography, art and design, design technology, music and computing. You see, the language in the curriculum is all about what pupils shall be taught – there is no expectation to what standard they might achieve. This means you could run a focused week on those 6 subjects and get the whole thing done. Taught. Covered.

The impact on schools right now is that rather than going through a convoluted process of curriculum design (like I am doing), or indeed an expensive purchasing program of buying loads of schemes and materials to fill the gaps, schools could stick with what they are already doing and aim to cover the Gove Curriculum in a single week: Gove Week.

Urination at Weoley Castle

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My belief is that making the most of local resources will become more and more important for schools over the next few years.

 

So it is with this belief in mind that I am delighted to discover a scheduled Ancient monument on the doorstep of our school and not only that, but an enthusiastic and knowledgeable development officer who is happy to use ancient urination devices as a tool for hooking children into history. You can see the devices in question in the picture – but can you guess which is for men and which is for women?

 

The Weoley Castle, which gives its name to the suburb in Birmingham in which my school (Paganel Primary School) is based, rather lets itself down if you go there expecting towers, drawbridges and arrow-slit windows. However is you go there expecting a pile of stones, it’s really rather impressive. One of its PR problems is that it is not (and has never been) a castle, but is instead a moated manor house. Not only that, but the lack of inhabitants for the last 500 years has made it incredibly easy for nearby residents to steal the stones for their farmhouses, boundary walls, canals and, most recently, rockeries. So let’s call it the ‘Weoley Manor House Ruins’ and we can go there expecting little but getting loads out of it.

 

There’s:

  • Maths – measuring, scale drawing and the kind of problem solving that comes from role-play (if all 30 guests in the Great hall require 3 pints of small beer each, how many litres need to be brewed in the beer house)
  • English – drama and roleplay / all manor of writing outcomes from associated drama.
  • History – how people used to live (including urinate…) and that really hard to teach stuff on sources of information
  • Geography – what features of the terrain meant that it should be built in a hollow (not a dip like ‘proper’ castles / map use with the link to Dudley Castle (where the owners of Weoley Castle live).

There’s also the important community cohesion work that we can do using the site. The development officer, Kirsty Nichol, is working hard to develop community groups that will inspire local pride in the site – since 1996 the site has been closed to the public and the inevaitable damage to the site has increased. Our role as a school is vital in this – if we can teach our children to respect their local ancient monument then not only will it last longer, but it will also provided something other than the school to be a focus for us being more cohesive as a community.

 

This brings me on to why I think this sort of local resource is vital for schools at the moment. Unless some kind of financial miracle occurs in next 6 months, 2011 will be a hard year for all public services, including schools, and I can’t imagine subsequent years being much better. It is imperative that we are prepared to enrich and broaden our curriculum with local resources that are free or at least cheap.

 

And now that the purpose built classroom is on site (in place of the transport container that Kirsty used to use) it makes it so much easier for us to visit the site, make the most of all the opportunities there and even contribute to development of the site…