I have some personal news. After 5 years of full time classroom teaching, I’ll be moving out of primary next year. I’ve been lucky enough to teach years 2, 3, 4 and 6 over the last few years, and I know that one day I’ll come back and collect the remaining year groups – but for now, something different calls*.
I feel tremendously lucky to work at Reach Academy Feltham, an all-through school that doesn’t mind doing things a little differently. Although innovation for innovation’s sake is obviously foolish, we don’t mind taking risks where the benefits are likely to lead to excellent student outcomes and more efficient ways of working. It’s the reason, for example, that we embraced Comparative Judgement a few years ago to assess writing across our primary school.
Over the last few years we have had several secondary trained teachers come down to key stage 2 to teach some of our children in years 4 and 5. Next year, I’ll be the first primary trained teacher taking the trek upstairs to teach in year 12. I’ll be delivering an A Level in Religious Studies, and couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity. My undergraduate degree was philosophy, and I did well, but I’m aware that I have a tremendous amount to learn. Luckily, I’ve already received incredible welcome from our Director of Humanities and sixth form team, and am sure that I will be very well supported as I learn the ropes.
My teaching workload will obviously be dramatically reduced, and so I’ll have a lot more time to develop high-quality, knowledge-rich curriculum materials which reduce teachers workload. I think it’s bananas that nationally we’ve arrived at a place where teachers are expected to more or less plan every lesson from scratch. It’s completely unsustainable, and leaves the kids with a raw deal as we spend all our time trying to throw a powerpoint together instead of thinking about how to deliver a precise explanation or facilitate a rich class discussion.
We’re keen to share all of the resources that we develop, and I’ll now have the time to be able to focus on doing that in an easy way. I’ve emailed out our knowledge organisers and odd units to hundreds of teachers and headteachers on request, but the demand is only growing and we need a more systematic and efficient way of sharing what we have. We applied for a recent DfE fund to support us in this work and ensure that it was free for all teachers, but unfortunately this was unsuccessful.
We’re still committed to share everything for free, and so will have to find another way to be able to save other schools the job of having to develop high quality foundation curriculum materials in primary. It’s insane for us all to invent the wheel concurrently, and it’s unfair on schools who don’t have the capacity or expertise to do it themselves. We want to level the playing field in terms of access to curriculum, ensure all children receive content rich lessons, and empower teachers by removing unnecessary workload so that they can focus on their teaching.
Alongside this curriculum development, I’ll also, very excitingly, be doing some work for the Institute for Teaching. Those of you already aware of this wonderful organisation will know that it features literally all of my edu-nerd heroes from whom I’ve learnt so much over the years. I’m going to be fanboy-ing hard whilst there, but will also look forward to thinking deeply about education and how we can support all teachers to become masters of their craft.
To finish, I need to make a request. Over the last few years I’ve curated a wonderful network of primary practitioners, but as I move into A Level and religious studies, I’m not sure who the go-to professionals are? If you teach A Level, or RS, or know someone who does, I’d be very grateful for any advice or guidance you can give me.
In the meantime, we hope to be sharing our curriculum work with you very soon!
*I will actually still have one year 6 class. Couldn’t go cold turkey!