The Guidance for full opening: schools published by the DfE on 2nd July and updated on 17 September 2020, outlines a number of expectations that schools must meet when revising their curriculum offer to address the impact of extended partial school closure:
‘Up to and including key stage 3, prioritisation within subjects of the most important components for progression is likely to be more effective than removing subjects…’
The HfL Back on Track: English offer reflects this understanding. ‘Prioritisation’ of core skills forms the backbone of the teaching plans within the suite. Our Focused English Plans ensure that in each year group, the children are directed towards a focus on core skills: those which will pave the way for later learning. By their nature, these skills are without doubt the hardest to teach via remote methods. As such, not only do they skills deserve focus because of their importance in forming a foundation for later skill development, but they may also have featured less as part of a school’s remote teaching offer.
‘Substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by no later than summer term 2021’.
Having worked with numerous SLs over the last few years with a focus on evaluating and re-shaping their curriculum offer, it is galling indeed to consider that a school’s existing offer may not meet the new needs of the children at this point in time. Although we recognise there are differing views on this matter, at HfL we believe that the significant disruption to pupils’ schooling will in some way be reflected in their progress through certain learning milestones. In turn, we believe that significant curriculum modification is a sensible response to address the significant disruption that most pupils have experienced to their learning. That is not to say that the well-laid plans put in place by school leaders pre-lockdown are obsolete. In line with the government guidance, we anticipate that by following a revised and reprioritised curriculum, schools should be able to reinstate their curriculum plans no later than summer 2021. Until that point, however, we believe that the children will benefit from working through a curriculum that prioritises key learning and ensures that core concepts and skills are reviewed, addressed and embedded without delay.
The Back on Track: English resource suite provides plans to cover a maximum 23 week period, meaning that by summer 2021, pupils will have worked through the key components of their year groups Programme of Study and will be well-placed to expand to a wider set of curriculum objectives as presented through school’s pre-existing curriculum plans. It is worth noting that there is scope within the Back on Track suite to reduce the delivery period to a minimum of 16 weeks meaning that schools embarking on the programme even as late as November 2020 will still be able to resume their school’s normal curriculum plans by the summer 2021 deadline.
In summary, the priority for the HFL English team has been to ensure that school leaders have the resources and guidance they need to offer a re-prioritised English curriculum to pupils returning to full time school after the extended period of partial school closure and disruption. Whether you have chosen to undertake the task of reprioritising the curriculum by utilising skills from within your school team, or by accessing the HfL Back on Track resources, we believe that by focusing on aspects of the curriculum that were hardest to teach via remote methods and that represent core learning, we can provide pupils with the best possible chance of developing proficiency in the areas that will bring most benefit. We are pleased that so many of you have chosen to access the Back on Track suite and we are reassured by the positive responses that we have received from so many. With many thanks to the teachers and leaders below who have offered us their feedback on the Back on Track: English resources. Please do keep the feedback coming.
Sophie O'Leary - Phase Leader and English Subject Leader
"We have just managed to get access to our Back on Track resources and I just wanted to say thank you to you and your team! All the resources are amazing, so detailed and so clear."
Amanda Webb - English Subject Leader
"Your team has worked so hard to support us all, thank you so much, feel very lucky to have your guidance and expert knowledge."
Joanne Evans - Deputy Headteacher
"The BoT suite is great - I'm so excited about it and appreciate all the hard work the team have put into it."
Lorraine Hemmens - Deputy Head Teacher
"I thought I'd just let you know that our teachers are thrilled with the English plans - so clear, accessible, focussed and exciting, and the right approach for the children."
Nicola O’Brien - Assistant Headteacher
"Just looking through the subject leader section - its brilliant. Thank you to you and your team for all your hard work. You have all done a fab job and these resources are going to be such a great help to schools."
If you would like to find out more about our Back on Track: English offer, please visit our Back on Track site.
Within this site, you can also explore Back on Track support packages from other HfL teams, including: mathematics, early years, assessment, wellbeing, science & languages.