BSF08: Memorandum submitted by Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

(QCA)

 

Introduction

 

Building Schools for the Future is not simply about bricks and mortar; it is about creating a school environment that enables all learners to fulfil their potential. Similarly, creating sustainable schools is not just about sustaining the physical and natural environment of school buildings; it is about creating a curriculum within the school where learning can flourish now and in the future.

 

Chapter 1

 

Environment and the national curriculum

 

1.1 One of QCA's goals is to develop a modern, world-class curriculum that will inspire and challenge all learners and prepare them for the future. The curriculum needs to be living and dynamic, responsive to the needs and interests of young people.

 

1.2 The new secondary curriculum has three statutory aims which are to create:

Successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve

Confident individuals who are able to live a safe, healthy and fulfilling life

Active and responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

 

1.3 The curriculum is the entire planned learning experience, underpinned by a broad set of common values and purposes. It will secure improved attainment, better behaviour and attendance, civic participation, healthy lifestyle choices and further involvement in education, employment or training. The national curriculum has been designed to broaden the scope of education beyond the traditional narrow focus on subjects and to incorporate issues such as globalisation, creativity and sustainability throughout. It allows links to be made between subjects which makes learning relevant to pupils and helps them to see how their experiences are influenced by what goes on around them and how they can influence those processes. This thinking is set out in "the Big Picture of the Curriculum" which is attached at Appendix 1. It is clear that the social and emotional aspects of a child's development are a fundamental part of the curriculum. The Every Child Matters outcomes are embedded in the structure of the curriculum. It provides the framework for the promotion of wellbeing, the construction of protective factors and resilience in the individual and improving employability.

 

1.4 The term environment in the big picture of the curriculum encompasses the physical aspects of the classroom, the school and its immediate surroundings (eg playing fields, playgrounds) and the culture or climate for learning in the school. All of these can have a powerful impact on teachers' and learners' engagement, expectations, attitudes and morale.

 

1.5 For example, schools have found that:

Pupils learn better when they feel comfortable and secure in the physical environment

If pupils have space for physical activity at break times and lunchtimes they are more likely to return to lessons ready to concentrate and learn

Involving pupils in changing the physical environment improves their morale and self-esteem.

Displaying relevant posters and photographs around school can inspire and motivate learners

Developing the school as a learning community, with teachers as lead learners, creates a positive climate for learning.

 

1.6 QCA believes that BSF offers significant opportunity for schools to develop a curriculum which really encourages young people to realise their potential and for teachers to demonstrate their professional expertise and become more creative in how they deliver learning to their pupils.

 

Chapter 2

 

Developing the visioning process

 

2.1 The House of Commons Education and Skills Committee report noted that "a regular theme in our evidence was that people involved in BSF, particularly at the school level, did not have sufficient time to think about what they wanted for their new school. The participation of teachers, other school staff and pupils in the planning process is vital to the success of school redevelopment projects, and this needs to be acknowledged by all those involved."

 

2.2 QCA has is engaged with local authorities including Knowsley and Sheffield who are embarking on the BSF process. These two local authorities are the first 'innovation zones' for BSF and the QCA is engaging with them alongside other agencies including Becta, TDA, NCSL and Partnerships for Schools (PfS) to shape the rebuilding of secondary schools in their areas. This engagement will help all of those involved in the planning process consider how they want to create spaces for learning that can fully exploit the opportunities provided by BSF.

 

2.3 In November 2007, two QCA staff and nine teachers from Knowsley attended a 'PAL Lab'. The purpose of this 5 day immersive event was to challenge thinking about how teachers teach and explore new approaches to the planning and development of learning particularly in terms of space and time. It explored creative collaborations across disciplines and uncovered new way of working for the participants. The outcome was that the teachers had developed a vision of how they could work within the new set up which was being planned in Knowsley.

 

2.4 Knowsley has recently published a document on Teaching and Learning in the Borough which builds on that experience and QCA continues to work with Knowsley staff both to help them and to identify good practice and lessons learned which can be passed on to others. QCA are also supporting Sheffield in its BSF programme. They are, however, at a much earlier stage in visioning process. The experience of these local authorities and their schools in the BSF process will be written up as an innovation project in January 2009 and be available to all BSF areas.

 

Chapter 3

 

Enabling personalisation and other educational strategies

 

3.1 There are a number of different concepts of personalised learning but the Gilbert Review "2020 Vision: Report of the Teaching and Learning in 2020 Review Group" gave a broad definition in the introduction to the report:

 

3.2 "Put simply, personalising learning and teaching means taking a highly structured and responsive approach to each child's and young person's learning in order that all are able to progress, achieve and participate. It means strengthening the link between learning and teaching by engaging pupils - and their parents - as partners in learning." Personalisation needs to take account of the diversity of society as a whole and of pupils. Pupils might be newly arrived, SEN, gifted and talented, disabled and so on. Moreover, they may be in more than one 'category'.

 

3.3 A pupil for example may be gifted and talented, disabled and a traveller. A personalised system is a responsive one which rises to the challenge of making entitlement work in the best interest of the pupil. For learning to be maximised, the learning offer needs to be personalised so that all children can learn and develop to achieve their full potential. This entails teachers having a good knowledge of individual children, and allowing them to be stretched where necessary and supported where the child faces more of a challenge. Sound and relevant information for each child needs to be collected through assessment methods which are sound and well understood by pupils, teachers and others and passed not only between institutions as the child moves between the key stages of education but also within each institution as the child moves from one year group to another.

 

3.4 Schools in the 21st century need to recognise the value and contribution of children and young people to society and the different "roles" they play, including:

 

As drivers of the economy

As potential earners

As citizens, both now and in the future, who make decisions and choices about their own lives

As carers

As consumers of goods and services (including education health and social services)

As members of communities virtual, physical and social

As a force for change

As learners and teachers

As drivers of popular culture

As custodians of the future

As a diverse group of citizens with diverse cultural and social wants, requirements and expectations both of society and of their own lives

 

3.5 These may apply to some or all children and young people at different stages in their lives and many have more than one "role" at any one time. There are many others. QCA tries to structure its work around this view of those we serve and believes that the BSF programme offers an opportunity to take advantage of the flexibilities afforded by the new secondary curriculum to address these different facets of young peoples lives.

 

3.6 In developing its pedagogical framework for its BSF schools Knowsley has taken the concepts of the big picture of the curriculum, together with the Every Child Matters outcomes and personalised learning to enable all young people to fulfil their potential as learners. Knowsley defines pedagogy as having four components: subject and curriculum knowledge; teaching and learning models; teaching repertoire of skills and techniques and conditions for learning. In the framework the role of assessment for learning is seen as pivotal in developing a personalised education and the education professionals need to be flexible enough to respond to the outcomes of formative assessment as well as the student voice.

 

3.7 The way in which personalisation and other educational strategies are taken account of in the BSF process is also of interest to QCA. This is because it is important to know what learning looks like in order to design the spaces in which learning takes place. Learning spaces can be designed in order to facilitate a learning experience, and to maximise the ability of learning activities to inspire and engage learners. For example, learning experiences in schools of the 21st century may not be suited to a traditional classroom where thirty desks face a teacher. Does space need to be flexible to enable it to be changed as pedagogy evolves during the life of the building? Are small rooms needed to enable independent learning? What does learning look like in terms of the technology used (such as libraries)? What does the structure of the school in itself give to the learning experience (such as carbon footprint, the harvesting of sunlight and water)?

 

3.8 The QCA is working with the DCSF capital division to undertake joint presentations on curriculum and school design. For example Devon Headteachers and will explore how the big picture of the curriculum can be integrated with building design advice from DCSF. A group of head teachers in the North East will be receiving a similar presentation.

 

3.9 QCA is also engaged with "Leading Learning in London" (the BSF partnership across London) helping them look at how the curriculum is evolving and the different spaces needed to achieve the aims of the curriculum (for example, ensuring that specialist facilities are provided).

 

3.10 BSF will fundamentally shape the way in which learners are educated in the 21st century, and QCA is engaged with the process in order to ensure that not only the physical aspects of the classroom, the school and its immediate surroundings are considered when planning new schools, but also how opportunities to create compelling learning experiences can be exploited. QCA will continue to engage with BSF to assist schools in the delivery of a modern world class curriculum that will inspire and challenge all learners and prepare them for the future.

 

 

July 2008

Appendix 1