We are very excited to launch our new five-year secondary curriculum plans.  There has been a great response already to the pre-release material, and lots of thoughtful questions.  The statements below are designed to explain our thinking and to let you know what the next steps are.

Why change the scheme of learning?

We are always working closely with our partner schools, and have been listening carefully to their feedback.  This new scheme takes on board ideas from the teachers who have been using our old scheme for the last few years.  Many features will stay the same – such as spending longer on topics and keeping number at the heart of the curriculum – but we will also be incorporating what we have learned.

What are the main changes?

  • Using the current scheme, some teachers have found it difficult to cater for the differences in attainment in their schools when students start in Year 7. This new scheme aims to be a curriculum that works for all, taking into account the prior learning at primary school and that much of the KS3 national curriculum is not “new” to many students.  The scheme aims to build on this prior learning, recognising that some will be able to move faster through the content than others.
  • The new scheme also covers all five years of secondary schooling right up to the end of GCSE.
  • Calculators and estimation will be explicitly embedded throughout, alongside other technologies.
  • Interleaving of topics already studied to aid revision/recall/spaced learning will be heavily emphasised and exemplified. We will not be returning to a “spiral” curriculum, but we do acknowledge the need for revisiting key concepts regularly.
  • To aid this, units will be less strictly defined as “number” or “data” – for example, Year 7s will first meet the median and range when looking at ordering numbers.

So will there be different schemes for different levels of attainment?

The scheme will be formed of two closely related overlapping strands, carefully designed both to maximise progression and allow flexibility. These will be:

Foundation – by the end of Year 11, the Foundation strand will cover all of the content in the Foundation GCSE, allowing students to attain a grade 5.

Higher – all of the Higher level GCSE content is covered, allowing access for students all the way to Grade 9.

Some content will inevitably be met in the Higher strand earlier than in the Foundation strand.  For those students not yet attaining as highly as their peers, there will be more time for consolidating and revisiting concepts before rushing on to new content.

Can a student move between strands?

Absolutely – we don’t want to put a limit on any student or any class.  We expect that many students working on Foundation in some areas may well access the Higher objectives in others and encourage teachers to be flexible in choosing how and what they cover with each class.  In the longer term, we hope to create intervention packages to help students who may have been following one strand for a long time to move onto another.

Many of our Year 7 students enter with scaled scores just over 100.  Which strand should we start them on?

We will not be making recommendations as to who should follow each strand.  We believe that almost all students will be able to access the vast majority of the first few units of work and from that, teachers will respond to their students’ needs to decide how far to take each new topic.

Why start with algebra?

We felt that rather than the traditional starting with number, algebra would be something relatively new for students to launch their secondary careers as there is not much algebra in Key Stage 2.  Our focus is on algebraic thinking, starting with an exploration of sequences, both diagrams and numbers, that should engage and excite students.  We also want calculators to be available throughout this unit so that maths teachers teach them calculator skills and everyone can access e.g. substitution, inverse operations and sequences whatever their previous attainment in number.

When will the full detailed scheme be available?

The outline plans for all five years are available now, alongside the “small steps” for the Autumn term of Year 7 and detailed guidance for the “small steps” for the first week. More materials for the Autumn term will be published next week, with the rest of Year 7 released in October.  Year 8 will follow towards the end of next year.  Years 8 and 9 will be fully available in 2019/20 with Years 10 and 11 following in 2020/21.

What is a “small step”?

Our “small steps” are designed to provide some brief guidance to help teachers understand the key points leading towards National Curriculum objectives.  This has been written by teachers for teachers and includes key vocabulary, key questions, and exemplar questions, that integrate reasoning and problem solving throughout.

How much does it cost?

The schemes of learning and small steps guidance are entirely free of charge.

What supporting resources will be available?

We will also provide some exemplar lessons free of charge.  In time we will be offering CPD and resource packages for those schools wanting additional material and support.  These will be available at a reasonable price to ensure they are accessible to all that want or need them.

Could we start the Key Stage 4 version with our new Year 10 in September?

The Year 10 and 11 schemes cover the whole of the Key Stage 4 content, with Key Stage 3 content as assumed knowledge.  However, much of the Key Stage 3 content will be revisited as the basis for new material, especially so in the Foundation strand – so yes this is possible, although the supporting material will not be available for some time yet – see above.

Will it all change again next year, and the year after, and the year after?!

We believe that schemes of learning should be living, responsive documents and we expect that as this goes through its first live run-through there will be a need to make tweaks here and there as we continue to learn and improve.  We are all practising teachers and will use our findings and feedback to keep developing the scheme.  That being said, this is version 2.0 and we expect any future changes to be minor – more like 2.0s rather than 3.0…if you’d like to think of it as a well-known phone!

I have more questions!  Who do I contact with these?

Please do pass your queries on to us via support@whiterosemaths.com and although we can’t promise to reply to everyone individually (as we’re busy developing more and more material for the scheme) we will produce another FAQs blog as soon as is practical in response to your questions.