Considerations when crafting a curriculum
1. Know your school, context, students and stakeholders.
2. Everyone must be on board
3. Research, read and craft as a team
4. Plan, re-draft, edit, revise and re-visit.
5. Measure the impact - results, engagement, pupil, staff and parental opinion.
Want to find out more?References
‘The Souls of White Folk’ by W.E.B. Du Bois (1920)
Thinking beyond boundaries: Todd, J. (2019)
The Runnymede Trust: Race and Racism in Education: https://www.runnymedetrust.org/our-work/publications
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Teacher Talk: History, Crafting a Curriculum
Welcome to our educational blog. Here we explore all things pertinent to education, discuss current topics and provide tips, from research and educational experts, to aid practice.
What students are taught within our classrooms has the ability to open minds, influence and create powerful opinions. It can be provocative, positive but also, the potential for possible detrimental impact upon them; As a result, what we teach and how we teach it is vital. As W.E.B Dubois noted: ‘‘How easy, then, by emphasis and omission to make children believe that every great soul the world ever saw was a white man’s soul; that every great thought the world ever knew was a white man’s thought; that every great deed the world ever did was a white man’s deed; that every great dream the world ever sang was a white man’s dream’ (2020).
Henry Cross and Samir Richards from Challney High School for Boys realised the vital importance their History curriculum was having upon their students and as a result, spent an extensive amount of time to re-create it, with research, student and parental voice and collaboration as a team to ensure it was crafted and carefully considered for their school, context students and wider environment.
Challney High School for boys in Luton, the ward of Challney, is one of the most deprived areas of an already deprived town.
Almost all pupils are of Asian or Asian British heritage. It sits around 94% of students. The proportion of pupils who speak English as an additional language is in the highest 20% of schools nationally. The proportion of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) with an education, health and care (EHC) plan is above average, as is the proportion of pupils who are eligible for free school meals. The proportion of pupils with SEND who are not in receipt of an EHC plan is in line with the national average. The school became an academy in April 2011 and is part of the Chiltern Learning Trust. The school is part of the Chiltern Training Group and Chiltern Teaching School Alliance, which provide training and initial teacher education across Luton, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
Struck by the comments from pupils regarding history being: an ‘old white man’s thing’, whilst others felt embarrassed by the content like slavery or questioned why Samir and a colleague, Mr Shafi, (both of them from South Asian heritage) taught history when it's just ‘boring white old men’, they realised a drastic change needed to occur. Samir also expressed how his primary school education was marred by 9/11 and the Iraq War, where his name, Samir Hussain, led to taunting. He recalls wishing that the school had taken the opportunity to counter some of the narratives surrounding Pakistani people and present other, positive representations, rather than just the media influx. Results were also poor and so was behaviour as the students couldn’t see the worth in the subject. As a result, Samir realised he and the team had the power, opportunity and drive to change their curriculum and it was of utmost importance to do so.
Firstly, the team informed Senior Leadership that they planned to revamp the KS3 curriculum, in turn their attention and effort outside of school hours would be spent on this rather than KS4. A bold strategy and statement that could have gone badly was however met with praise and the belief that this was the right thing to do. It was a reasonable assumption that academic performance would improve if the students felt involved in the lessons and history was for them.
Secondly, stakeholders. To ensure the changes were for the students and had the most positive impact possible, it is important to get all stakeholders involved. Samir and Henry proposed some of the curriculum changes they wanted to implement and 98% (243 respondents) said the changes would be 'better' or 'much better'. They then asked parents their thoughts - 100% responded that they felt the changes would be ‘positive’ or ‘significantly positive’'significantly positive'. They had conversations and the opportunity for parents to complete a Google Form at Parents, Open and Futures Evenings. A common, emerging theme was the opinion that the History content was still the same as what they were taught when in school but Parents were delighted that changes to what they teach students and the conscious decision to portray communities, who have often been portrayed negatively, in a better light - Not through bias or favouritism but through representative history - was met with emotion. As Todd notes in his text, ‘Thinking beyond boundaries’ in Teaching History -‘The choices or emphases we make, in relation to the curriculum, are related to the exercise of power – perhaps unconsciously – in replicating our own histories, but with possible detrimental impacts for both the subject and those pupils who may see themselves excluded from this national story.’
Thirdly, teamwork. They divided the work between them as a team of three, with their colleague Haris Shafi. It was long hours, time after school and all of their holidays for the first two years were given to the project. They mapped out the ideas and divided the units - research, planning, scholarship, lesson making and modelling sheets were created for each lesson. Furthermore, retrieval and quizzes were made for each and they used Teaching History (History Association) articles to determine how they would ensure students would learn the necessary substantive and disciplinary knowledge. History teachers as a whole also benefit from an incredible network on Twitter.
The Royal Historical Society (2018) said diversification of the curriculum must include revision both of the content and of the scholarship used to inform that content so we wanted to make sure we used good scholarly history - for the Empire unit we use Sathnam Sanghera's book 'Empireland', thus introducing students to authors, historians from a diverse background. Others used include David Olosuga, Shashi Tharoor, Miranda Kauffman, Anthony Beevor, Stephen Bourne, Ritu Menon, Richard Gott, Emily Mayhew, Julie Boyd, William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, Selma van de Perre, Wendy Moore, among others.
Consciously crafting Schemes of Learning was vital in ensuring content for the students. Wilkinson suggested the integration of powerful knowledge of the Islamic Golden age would ‘begin to provide to all children in schools a history education that enables them to engage knowledgeably with themselves, their classmates, their country and the rest of the world’. Samir’s own personal experience corresponds with this research.
Equally aware of the work of Sherrington and Ashbee, they also mapped knowledge sequencing deliberately and coherently throughout their curriculum. Cognitive Science shows us that we draw on knowledge whenever we read, think or solve problems, and that the more and better knowledge we have, the better equipped we are for cognitive work. If they can give students an education rich with well chosen knowledge, we can help them to become better thinkers, problem solvers and future leaders, with all the benefits these attributes bring. If they sequence appropriately knowledge will act, as Ashbee puts it, a ‘mental velcro’.
This led to extensive conversations and consideration as to the structure of their map - what comes first, second, fourth and why. For example, they decided to teach African Kingdoms before the British Empire because without it, it would be so easy to believe the idea that the British civilised Africa when we know that isn’t true. They also teach the Mughals before the British Empire for that same reason, we can only help children understand the impact of the British on India and its indigenous people by studying India before.
They also decided to include a small case study on Partition and its impact on people. Partition is one of the most important events of the 20th century but does not tend to appear in many curriculums across the United Kingdom. The wounds of partition are unhealed to this day and have shaped the consciousness of both India and Pakistan in the modern day. With areas such as Kashmir still unresolved and many students in Luton and Britain descending specifically from Kashmir, it would be remiss not to include Partition’s story. Again, they made sure to use modelling and deliberate practice to help students understand both the substantive and disciplinary knowledge needed to access the curriculum.
Ashbee also discusses the idea around delivering the same theme in a number of ways to build students comprehension and analysis of said theme. Ashbee uses the example of Aristotle’s ‘tragic hero’ in English literature and studies it through the lens of Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth. We applied the same in history. Learning about migration, empire and war in Year 8 through the Mughals, British Empire, World War One and Two, The Holocaust, Local history study and a thematic unit on black people’s experience of Britain. Thus ensuring all students comprehend and can analyse these key themes in a number of ways. Themes are met habitually.
One final area they made sure to include reading for pleasure as a key strategy and knew to succeed we must embed history into daily school life. Girls outperform boys educationally across the country. There is also a strong correlation between those who read for pleasure doing well educationally. They had to make reading for pleasure accessible and enjoyable for boys at our school. In turn, we started the Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World readings. Teachers, Senior Leadership and Trust leadership would take a chapter, record themselves reading it and share it with the student body. Next, they would make a quiz on one of the chapters beautifully written by Burhana Islam. With no reward for engaging, around 500 students (out of a possible 700) were engaging weekly with the reading and quiz. We received emails and praise from parents, students, ex students and teachers for the use in form time.
Samir noted how he felt that the end of 2018 results were pitiable at KS3. In 2018, thirty-two per cent of Pupil Premium made no progress and twenty-nine per cent of Non Pupil Premium made no progress. Twenty-nine per cent of Pupil Premium children were making 6+ levels of progress whereas thirty-five per cent of Non Pupil Premium children made this level of progress.
The KS4 2019 data was abysmal and the KS3 results were worrying. The KS4 results in 2019 saw progress data sit at -0.15 and fifty per cent of students getting a grade 4 and above, thirty-five per cent with 5 and above, fourteen per cent getting 7 and above and two per cent achieving a grade 9. With this in mind and looking at the KS3 results, we felt that if we did not make these changes we were setting up our KS3 students to have similar or even worse results than the 2019 GCSE results. The overall trend concerning the gap between Pupil Premium and non-Pupil Premium was also troubling.
In contrast, by 2022, results were encouraging. They had managed to go from one of the worst performing history departments in their town to one of the best in the country, according to progress data. The 9-4 data increased by nearly thirty-four per cent, the 9-5 data more than doubling, the 9-7 data more than trebling and the grade 9 data increasing by six times.
The Key Stage 3 data dramatically improved and importantly so did the Pupil Premium data. In 2021, only two per cent of Pupil Premium students made no progress.
Seventy-four per cent of Pupil Premium students now made 6+ levels of progress whereas sixty-six per cent of non-Pupil Premium did. students did. They saw a momentous change in comparison to 2018. Students were doing significantly better. Interestingly, Pupil Premium students were now outperforming those who were not economically disadvantaged. In history, socio-economic disadvantage no longer had to mean lower attainment. There is no obvious explanation to this but Daniel Willingham has written about the idea of humans being curious. Samir suggests curiosity can play a role in creating a bridge from socio-economic disadvantage. ‘When we are curious, we have an intrinsic motivation to want to find out more’.
Samir states: ‘We now proudly display our curriculum maps in the corridors, in the classroom, on the website. The certificates we send home for the hardest working students correspond with these same maps. All of this is purposeful. The deliberate use of diverse faces is to show parents what we are doing as soon as they enter our school or see the certificates from history. It encourages conversations and engagement from parents and siblings. It shows the school is working in unison with the community. Our students know history is a subject for them, history is a tool for social justice and history can make them feel proud.’ An incredible achievement for all as a result of the careful consideration, crafting and conscious changes to their curriculum.
CSTH ‘Together towards excellence, ambition and inspiration’