Primary Huh 2: Primary leadership curriculum conversations

Huh is the Egyptian god of endlessness, creativity, fertility and regeneration. He is the deity Mary Myatt and John Tomsett have adopted as their god of the school curriculum. Their first book in the Huh series focused upon how school practitioners design the Key Stage 3 curriculum. Its popularity prompted calls from many quarters for a similar book on the primary curriculum. 

Supported by their primary colleagues, Rachel Higginson, Lekha Sharma & Emma Turner, Mary and John interviewed over 30 primary practitioners about how they design the primary curriculum. Considering the diverse nature of primary schools in this country, it’s not surprising that they were soon confronted with numerous context-dependent curriculum complexities. Designing the curriculum for small primary schools, for instance, means solving the conundrum of teaching the same subject at the same time to three different year groups in one class. The conversations confirmed that shaping a primary school curriculum is a tricky business! 

The wisdom gleaned from the genuine experts Mary and John interviewed was limitless.  The material was so important it meant that they had too much for a single volume. Twenty-one of those thirty-plus conversations comprise the book Primary Huh, which focused upon the curriculum of each individual subject from EYFS to Year 6. In this companion book, Primary Huh 2, Mary and John give a platform to practitioners who lead on the broader issues of primary curriculum design, including, amongst other things: shaping the curriculum for mixed-age classes; designing and implementing a cross-MAT curriculum; building the “cradle to career” curriculum; timetabling; assessment; transition, and diversity. 

Primary Huh 2 is riven through with authentic voices grappling with the endless challenge of providing our children with a rich, challenging, ambitious, beautiful curriculum.

Primary Huh: Curriculum conversations with subject leaders in primary schools

There’s plenty to do when planning the curriculum in primary schools. If it feels daunting, then one of the most helpful things is to talk to other people about how they have developed the curriculum for their particular subject or key stage.

This is what John Tomsett and Mary Myatt have done. After the secondary ‘Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders’ was published, they were flooded with requests to produce a primary version.

They enlisted the help of renowned primary specialists, Rachel Higginson, Lekha Sharma and Emma Turner to have conversations with primary teachers and key stage co-ordinators who are doing great curriculum development work.

Each chapter provides insights into the importance of individual subjects and the unique contribution each makes to pupils’ cognitive and personal development.

The subject chapters discuss the steps colleagues take to ensure that there is a coherent thread across the year groups, as the discrete subjects deliver, collectively, the primary curriculum.

These conversations show how the craft of creating a rich, challenging curriculum for every subject is not a quick fix. This is a nuanced piece of work, and there are many ways of approaching it. Each chapter also contains links to subject associations and helpful resources.

Primary Huh has been written for subject leaders and key stage co-ordinators; it has also been written for senior leaders, as they prepare to have supportive conversations with their colleagues who are responsible for curriculum development.

Primary Huh is offered as a prompt rather than the last word. Informed debate is, as they say, the fuel of curriculum development.

And why have John and Mary called it ‘Huh’? Well, John discovered that Huh is the Egyptian god of endlessness, creativity, fertility and regeneration, and they thought that was a pretty good metaphor for their work on the curriculum!

Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders

Schools need to have purchase on the curriculum: why they teach the subjects beyond preparation for examinations, what they are intending to achieve with the curriculum, how well it is planned and enacted in classrooms and how they know whether it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

Fundamental to this understanding are the conversations between subject leaders and their line managers. However, there is sometimes a mismatch between the subject specialisms of senior leaders and those they line manage. If I don’t know the terrain and the importance of a particular subject, how can I talk intelligently with colleagues who are specialists?

This book sets out to offer some tentative answers to these questions. Each of the national curriculum subjects is discussed with a subject leader and provides an insight into what they view as the importance of the subject, how they go about ensuring that knowledge, understanding and skills are developed over time, how they talk about the quality of the schemes in their departments and what they would welcome from senior leaders by way of support.

Putting Staff First: A blueprint for revitalising our schools

“Putting staff first” presents the most complete and compelling vision that I have seen for a school that places teacher learning at the heart of its endeavours, rather than being bolted on as an afterthought. From selection and preservice education through to support for the most experienced teachers, John Tomsett and Jonny Utley provide a clear template that any school leader can adapt for their own context, making it one of the very few books that I would recommend that every single school leader should read. — Dylan Wiliam

This Much I Know About Love Over Fear …: Creating a culture for truly great teaching

This Much I Know about Love Over Fear is a compelling account of leading a values-driven school where people matter above all else. Weaving autobiography with an account of his experience of headship, John Tomsett explains how, in an increasingly pressurised education system, he creates the conditions in which staff and students can thrive. 

This Much I Know About Mind Over Matter …: Improving Mental Health in Our Schools

In This Much I Know about Mind Over Matter John Tomsett addresses, with refreshing honesty, the growing problem of the mental health issues experienced by children and young people, offering up a plan for averting a mental health crisis in our schools. Tomsett interweaves his formative and professional experience with strategies for addressing students’ mental health issues and insights from his interviews with high profile thinkers on the subject including Professor Tanya Byron, Natasha Devon, Norman Lamb, Tom Bennett, Claire Fox and Dr Ken McLaughlin.

Cognitive Apprenticeship in Action

In 1991, Allan Collins, John Seely Brown and Ann Holum published ‘Cognitive Apprenticeship: Making Thinking Visible’. Nearly a quarter of a century later John Tomsett encountered their paper and, since then, it has influenced his teaching immeasurably.

An Angler’s Journal: A lifetime’s fishing told in 52 tales

How many of your fishing trips can you recall in any real detail? How often do you wish you had kept a note of what you caught, when you caught it and exactly how much that huge carp weighed on the scales?