Since Mary Myatt and I began the HUH project just under a year ago, I have felt increasingly ignorant. I have come to realise that for the duration of my two secondary headships – a full 18 years – I knew little about the content of what was taught in schools. Shameful, I know.
Co-writing the first HUH book, which focused upon the Key Stage 3 curriculum, was a joy. Every subject leader interview significantly extended my very limited knowledge and understanding of the individual national curriculum subjects. As my Zoom-consciousness subsided, I grew increasingly engrossed by what our interviewees had to say, to the point where my ample nose was pressed against the laptop screen.
If the first HUH book was fascinating, this second one – Primary HUH – has been revelatory. The more I heard from our primary experts, the less I realised I knew. I am not sure now how you can lead a secondary school effectively without a thorough understanding of what our pupils experience before they arrive in Year 7. From the first interview to the last, the expertise of our primary school colleagues was remarkable. Our friends Rachel Higginson, Lekha Sharma and Emma Turner have been tremendous co-conspirators on the Primary HUH project, bringing their primary phase expertise to the conversations.
Having begun my career, for selfish reasons, in a sixth form college – if I had to get a job, a job where I talked about Shakespeare with young adults who had chosen to be there seemed a decent way to earn a living – I am now in awe (in the truest sense of the word, “a feeling of great respect sometimes mixed with fear or surprise”) of what Early Years practitioners achieve with a room of seemingly completely autonomous 3 and 4 year olds! The Julian Grenier interview, which kicked off our Primary HUH project, is golden. An Oxford graduate, Julian has dedicated his life to improving the lives of families in the East End of London and his wisdom underpins how we structure the primary curriculum across the country.
When I visited the Cottesmore Primary School in Rutland recently, I sat there in the EYFS classroom bewitched by the expertise of the teacher and the teaching assistants as they swooped upon potential learning moments amongst the seemingly unstructured play. It was genius. It made me reflect that teaching Year 10 GCSE English Literature GCSE is a breeze in comparison.
We have spoken to some remarkable practitioners. Primary HUH will be published in April. I will be talking about some of what Mary and I have learned from the project in this Curriculum Thinking Masterclass – you can book your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/curriculum-thinking-six-masterclasses-tickets-235887645297