In redesigning our new curriculum for 2019, we began the process with History; with a long chronology that reaches from 15000 BC to the present day. Next, we overlaid matching geographical concepts, followed by RE and Citizenship, including Values. We aim to design a curriculum which is meaningful.
This was partly in response to Ofsted’s emphasis on Intent; the acknowledgment that “a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners……the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life” (EIF 2019), but mainly because we know it to be true. We firmly believe that teaching the humanities:
· Helps us understand others through histories, beliefs and cultures
· Fosters social justice and equality
· Enables us to make moral, spiritual and intellectual sense of the world
· Fosters empathy, creative thinking and creates critically-informed citizens
Deeply embedded into our curriculum are Values and P4C (Philosophy for Children), which together enable pupils to critically analyse their understanding and response to concepts, ideas, moral and spiritual questions. We aim to prepare our pupils not only for the next stage in their education, but for life; we want them to grow into adults with robust mental health, who are able to make a positive contribution to the world in which they live. Only through a strong humanities-rooted curriculum are we able to give them the necessary cultural capital and informed critical thinking that they need in order to fulfil this.
Our other subjects are interlaced with the Humanities; woven into them. Cognitive psychology and neuroscience inform us that the most effective and embedded learning occurs when new ideas, facts and concepts are laid on top of something we already know. Learning is connected. Knowledge organisers are now considered the norm in schools because we know that the best learning; of facts, ideas, vocabulary and concepts happens when connections are made. Learning English, science, music and art within the context of an historical period or a geographical location makes it more meaningful. We will paint an historical time-line along our corridor walls so that everything is interconnected.
So we are going back to the humanities, at last. We are giving our children the cultural capital and all the enquiry, empathy and critical thinking that they need in order to become informed and useful citizens of tomorrow’s world. We believe it is our moral imperative.
Tracey Smith is Headteacher of New Marston Primary School in Oxford