Rethinking the Curriculum, the Learning Challenge Curriculum
How introducing pre-learning activities can spark life into stale lesson plans
Anfield Road Primary School in Liverpool is a recently amalgamated school, combined in September 2014 from the infant and junior schools of the same name.
Eighteen months ago, Anfield Road Primary saw themselves at the point of change, finding themselves struggling with originality after National Curriculum changes implemented by the QCA. Rather than teaching, staff were delivering activities – and the true learning objectives had been decidedly dumbed down.
Wendy Beaumont, Deputy Headteacher at Anfield Primary School, explains how a total curriculum re-think helped to turn the school around: keeping children engaged, parents pleased, and staff comfortable and on track.
“When designing a new school curriculum, I attended several training courses for a new curriculum. We were aware of the need to create something that would bring the objectives back to learning – ensuring that we’re delivering lessons that help children to progress through and thoroughly master their learning objectives.”
“During these training courses, we became increasingly determined to change our ways of working at Anfield Primary, so that as a newly formed school we could provide the best standards of teaching from the outset. We began searching for a curriculum that we could launch for our then Year 1 pupils, so that these children would maintain this new way of learning throughout their school journey.
After researching and sampling a variety of curriculums, Anfield Primary settled on the ‘Learning Challenge Curriculum’, which was introduced to them by Clive Davies, founder of Focus Education, whom they met at a course. Built around the principle of greater pupil autonomy in their learning, the Learning Challenge Curriculum encourages pupils to learn using a question as a starting point. This promotes working a great depth and developing a deeper level of understanding.
“The Learning Challenge Curriculum struck us immediately as the right way to progress! The curriculum uses pre-learning tasks, to ensure that children are directly involved in the planning process – which in its turn allows teachers to gauge exactly where the learning need lies.”
These pre-learning tasks help to bring out what pupils already know – as well as what misconceptions they might already have. The idea is to create powerful interest in the learning topic from the outset – perhaps by introducing a visitor to the classroom, taking the pupils outside, or introducing a new object or activity to the classroom. Learners should be immediately ‘hooked’ by the topic being studied, therefore allowing teachers more insight into the learning process.
Having benefited from the external training, where teachers were trained on weaving knowledge into the new curriculum, Wendy also added that it was possible for Anfield Primary to implement the New Curriculum, eighteen months before it was compulsory.
Commenting on the effect this new way of working had on the school’s performance, Wendy said:
“As planned, we worked with Clive to launch the curriculum for our Year 1 students; these children are now our current Year 6 cohort. The effects have been really noticeable – parents who had children in the junior school prior to the amalgamation commented on how much more engaged their children were at school. Lessons are now child centered, as they should be, with prior knowledge and pupil voice having a greater impetus in the planning of lessons. I don’t envision we’ll be working to another curriculum in the foreseeable future.”
Focus Education is a family-run organisation providing advice and educational support to primary schools and academies. We’re a family company and are committed to enabling schools and academies to be the best that they can be.