What should everybody know?

The school I’m going to be moving to in September is changing from a 2 year, 1 lesson a week key stage 3, to a 3 year, 2 lesson a week version. As a result, the contact time with each class has increased dramatically and the current schemes of work need expanding, rewriting, etc. It’s a wonderful opportunity to think about and plan for a history curriculum that all students will receive, before the GCSE choices kick in.

So I’ve had the chance to begin to think: what should all students have the opportunity to learn about?

The one area I know I want to devote time to, that isn’t currently taught, is the fight for Women’s Suffrage. I’ve taught it this year and really enjoyed it, and it was received well by students too, but it was quite brief and surface level. The chance to explore the different groups and campaigns, the questions arising from them about , for example, use of violence, are interesting. So that’s a lock.

If you had curriculum control, or even if you do – what would you make sure your students learned about, even if not taking history to GCSE? What are the things everyone has a right to study?

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Signposts

When it comes to where to work, there are certain things that signpost what sort of school you’re in – what it believes in, how it handles behaviour, etc. Good and bad.

For example, getting into a discussion with the head during an interview about cultural capital and the importance of a knowledge rich curriculum encourages me that they value it as much as I do.

Or telling the interview panel that you think a lot can be said about a school for how it treats KS3, and the head reply that, as it goes, they’re increasing the number of history lessons at KS3 and moving back to 3 years rather than 2.

Or the interview panel discussing things like improvements seen at schools such as Michaela and how to learn from them, and sharing good practice across a trust, and giving subject specific CPD.

All of these, to me, are signposts of a school I want to be part of. And then the most unexpected part – the following question:

“Without any jargon or buzzwords, and without thinking that you’re talking to Ofsted and just saying what you think they might want to hear, what to you makes an outstanding lesson? Be completely honest.”

So I did, and said I think lessons need a strong, teacher-led presence that knows how to properly be involved, how to help students reach their next step, and that I do not consider myself a ‘facilitator’ in any way, and that I dislike observation-friendly ‘gimmicks’ (poor word perhaps but the only one I could think of) that serve to show off to an observer but do nothing for any learning, and that the building of literacy and good, extended written work should be the primary objective that other activities build towards.

And now I’m thrilled to say I’ll be working there from September (on the satisfactory completion of NQT and references, etc). Not naming where, or for who, etc. – but I couldn’t be happier. The staff and direction feel completely in sync with how I want to approach my teaching and the head and SLT were enormously impressive. I can’t wait to get started.