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Why you should read: The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to coherence by Mary Myatt

Written By: Tom Sherrington
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A comprehensive guide to the fundamental principles you need to plan a coherent curriculum.

Each task, each bit of knowledge, each experience should add up to more than the sum of the parts.

What is it about?

Myatt explores a number of important concepts in curriculum design through a series of short, punchy chapters. The concepts are organised to allow teachers and school leaders to clarify their thinking around the purpose of their curriculum. This then guides the many choices you need to make to create a whole-school curriculum that has coherence over time, and within and between subject disciplines.

There is a strong emphasis on the role of ‘powerful knowledge’ and how this is selected, sequenced and assessed. This feeds into a wide range of considerations, aka the ‘fundamentals’. These include: the products of the curriculum (what students make and do); beautiful work; pace; expertise; the nature of assessment and feedback; and challenge and differentiation.

Section 4 gives a superb overview of what the author calls ‘curriculum instruments’(i.e. The activities and resources that teachers use). These include: great questions; approaches to mastery; the use of knowledge organisers; the importance of vocabulary; etymology; and the value of visits and visitors. Each of these elements is worth exploring and planning to gain overall coherence – the elements should create a whole curriculum that hangs together, not one that is a collection of disconnected events and bits of work.

Sections 5 and 6 examine a range of themes that span across the curriculum – such as reading, writing, speaking, numeracy and social, moral, spiritual and cultural education – and the practical steps leaders can take to shape the whole curriculum in their school or trust. Finally, the author looks at some specifics with a whistle-stop tour through all the main subjects, suggesting lines of enquiry and highlighting useful sources.

What are the main messages for teachers?

The main thrust of the book is to engage with the academic traditions of each subject and to plan your curriculum with the big picture in mind. Each task, each bit of knowledge, each experience should add up to more than the sum of the parts.

There are many opportunities for doing this well, but it requires thinking about the underlying principles and giving time to the planning process. If we leave it to chance we end up with a gallimaufry – a confused jumble!

Top Tip

Rather than making choices based on your own preferences, think of the purpose of a knowledge-rich curriculum as inducting our students into the tradition of our subjects so that they can take part in ‘the great educated conversations’.

Want to know more?

Myatt, M (2018) The Curriculum, From Gallimaufry to Coherence. John Catt Ltd.

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