In October, the well-respected Grattan Institute published a report which argued that students are suffering because teachers are not well-supported in their curriculum planning roles. They claimed that only 15% of the teachers they surveyed are able to access a “common bank of high-quality curriculum materials for all their classes.”
The Grattan Report authors described this as a “lesson lottery” and argued that it “undermines student learning and adds to the workload of our over-stretched teachers.”
Grattan Institute – Ending the Lesson Lottery: How to Improve Curriculum Planning in Schools
Hyperbole aside, they raise an excellent point. If teachers are not supported in this work, they will have to spend many hours each week planning their lessons and finding the necessary resources. This does run the very real risk of poor-quality planning and teacher burnout.
There appears to be two ways to address this problem – schools building their own banks of common curriculum materials and/or such materials becoming widely available to teachers through sources like websites.
School-based curriculum planning
Like all Independent schools in NSW, Newcastle Grammar is required to go through a registration and accreditation process, overseen by New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA), every five years. A significant part of this is demonstrating that the school has detailed teaching programmes for every year level of every course. And, that these are ‘live’ documents which teachers are referring to and improving regularly. Furthermore, the NESA inspectors triangulate the programmes against the published scope & sequence documents, the assessment tasks which students have sat, and samples of work from students. Therefore, in a very real sense, NGS already has common curriculum documents developed by its staff, with resources and suggested approaches to teaching.
Publishing of curriculum resources
We are already seeing the development, albeit slowly, of websites which contain free curriculum materials. For example, Ochre Education – www.ochre.org.au – which is partnered by the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) and now backed by Atlassian, contains materials for Primary-level English, Maths and Science courses. Such websites may make a powerful difference; however, this will vary depending on the quality of their work and on developing a much larger bank of courses and year levels.
The development of websites which offer quality support to teachers, backed by AERO and Atlassian, is an exciting development and has much potential. Coupled with the work that is already undertaken within NGS, we believe that our parents should feel confident about the quality of curriculum planning that is being done and the quality learning that their children receive.
Head of School - Erica Thomas