I have been a teacher for 31 years, a head teacher for 16 years and, at the age of 55, this much I know about providing direction for my Subject Leader colleagues for September.
This is the letter I wrote to my Subject Leaders this week…
Dear Subject Leaders
What might our curriculum look like when we reopen school in September? Well, like most things lately, no-one knows. It. All. Depends.
The first thing we need to know is what will be the social distancing rules when the new academic year begins. And that depends upon how Covid-19 develops over the summer.
During SLT meetings we have been working on four scenarios for September. Each scenario is quite possible, and each needs a different plan. Importantly, when we talk about the curriculum, each one requires a different approach to planning what we are going to teach, how we are going to teach it and how we are going to assess what the students have learnt of what we have taught them. The table below illustrates, in very general terms, how each scenario affects our curriculum planning:
The scenario in September determines almost everything about curriculum content, pedagogy and assessment. Until we make some decisions about the practical arrangements for September, we cannot reshape our curriculum, pedagogy and assessments. And the practical arrangements will be determined by the Covid-19 scenario that confronts us on 7 September.
But we do not know what which scenario will face us in September. No-one in government has made a decision about next year’s A levels and GCSEs. And whether all students will be returning to school in September is uncertain; for instance, the Oak National Academy seems to be planning lessons online for the whole of next year.
The thing is, we may not have the time to plan for the scenario that eventually confronts us, because most teachers will be enjoying a well-earned rest. Our teachers and support staff, many of whom have been managing their working lives simultaneously with running a young family, need a break.
So, what do we do?
I want to give Subject Leaders as much certainty as I can. Before we break for the summer holidays, over the next five weeks I want you and your team to plan for three scenarios for the first half of the autumn term, assuming that, if it is still in force, social distancing has been reduced to one-metre (scenario 2):
- School closed (curriculum delivery completely online);
- School open to 50% of the students per week, with the other 50% of students working at home, alternating weekly (delivering the normal timetable to half your students one week, half your students the next week, and when they are not in school, students working independently on work set online which has been prepared before we break up);
- School open to all students (pretty much life as normal).
This plan minimises disruption to school structures, keeps things understandable to students, staff and parents, and gives you as much time as I can to complete the work before we break up for summer.
Here are some tips to help you plan:
- Unpick your current schemes of learning – which threshold concepts will allow you to develop lessons for the different scenarios?
- Use your Subject Associations. Many organisations and associations are producing free materials. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
- Think carefully about the assessment method you will use for each lesson/piece of work – we may not be able to collect work in.
- Consider the resources required: the use of textbooks might not be possible, so consider the production of booklets etc.
- Use subject training sessions over the next few weeks to draft a plan for each year group and delegate the workload throughout the department.
- Join subject Facebook groups: teachers from around the country are posting resources and videos to aid lesson planning.
The Food and Science departments have experimented with drafting a three-scenario scheme of learning. They are very much early drafts, but may be useful to get you thinking (see Appendix 1).
I hope this has helped give you some clear direction. If we can complete this planning for the first half of the autumn term before we end this academic year, we can all relax a little over the summer, knowing that when we return in September, we will be ready for whatever faces us.
Thanks so much for all you are doing. I appreciate it beyond measure.
And here is our wider thinking about the challenges we will face in September, covering all four scenarios: