It’s time to get a skills based creative curriculum that covers and tracks all the National Curriculum - with the evidence.
Having returned from a course on how to make learning ‘irresistible’ to children, two teachers from Brooklands Infant School, Hertfordshire were convinced. “We have to write our own curriculum,” they told headteacher Debbie Hoy.
“Hang on!” said the enthusiastic, yet practical, head. “Where are we going to find the time to produce our own curriculum from scratch and make sure that it covers everything it’s supposed to?” Which is when Debbie remembered the Creative Learning Journey flyer she’d stored away two years before. Digging the leaflet out, she confirmed that it was just the solution she was looking for: a skills based curriculum that runs from the FS through to Y6 and suggests schools teach themed topics on a termly basis.
A few years later, following its most recent Ofsted inspection, the school has been deemed ‘Outstanding’ with inspectors making specific reference to the fresh teaching framework: “The newly revised curriculum has enthused pupils who report that they thoroughly enjoy lessons and the way they are encouraged to develop their learning further at home.”
The Creative Learning Journey (CLJ) is organised into six areas of learning, which match those identified in the Foundation Stage. This encourages a cross curricular approach, which can be linked to the existing and new curriculums, and provides continuity for children progressing from the Early Years into KS1.
As a curriculum framework, it does not prescribe each lesson in minute detail; which is what, in part, attracted Debbie to the resource. “We didn’t want to be spoon fed,” she explains. “The staff are creative and like to have ownership of what they’re teaching.”
One of the main planning tools provided by the CLJ is a set of wheels. Each wheel is used to structure a different termly topic. The six areas of learning are placed around the outer edge, leaving space in the middle for teachers to note down the activities that will help children to learn these skills.
When you purchase the CLJ, a set of three wheels, complete with suggested topics and activities, are provided for each year group. However, Debbie and the rest of the staff decided to start from scratch using the blank wheels they were able to access by subscribing to the CLJ’s online planning tools. Using this resource, the staff were also able to access 1000s of topic wheels created by other CLJ schools, as well as share their own good practice. One of the first new topics developed at Brooklands Infant School was Emergency 999.
“When we started,” says Debbie, “we looked at the curriculum we had been teaching and identified the parts that we liked best. For example, in Y2 the children had learnt about Grace Darling in history. In D&T they had made emergency vehicles. We pulled these different lessons together and found an umbrella topic that would cover both, as well as provide us with new ideas.”
In terms of planning, having picked the topic – in this case Emergency 999 - staff were able to select the skills they wanted to cover from a list provided by the CLJ. As it was a Y2 unit, the skills were taken from a specific Y2 list, although teachers could also access the Y3 skills to plan for differentiation. Each topic is intended to span a whole term and, over the course of the year, the CLJ enabled staff to put together a creative, skills based approach, and feel confident they were covering the curriculum in its entirety.
Framing the whole CLJ experience is the ‘wow’ event: a single day that introduces each topic in style. For example, Brooklands’ Emergency 999 topic now kicks off with a trip to the local fire station. As Debbie points out, it’s an approach that’s become pivotal to the school’s new curriculum. “The wow event has proved very powerful as it has provided the children with a shared learning experience on which teaching and learning can be based for the rest of the term.”
Could Debbie Hoy and the rest of the staff have planned a successful, vibrant curriculum without the support of the Creative Learning Journey? Probably. However, as Debbie points out, it would have been far more difficult. “To be honest, I am not sure where we would have started. Having the CLJ has helped us to develop a skills based curriculum that both the teachers and children find irresistible.”