How to write a new curriculum!

New GCSE lessons for many subjects are only half a term away. English and Maths teachers have bravely forged ahead, setting an example for many to follow. Subject leaders are dealing with changes to subject content, assessment techniques and ideological focus. Some subject leaders will have been working on this new syllabus for the past year, and others may only have just received the necessary materials from their awarding body. For all those subject leaders who find themselves without a syllabus for September Y10 lessons this is my guide to subject planning.

Having spent the majority of my teaching years as a subject leader for Religious Studies I am used to creating new syllabuses and schemes of work. I have found ways to teach whole GCSEs on one lesson a week and ways to teach three separate courses in one classroom. I feel that I have had many more successes than not (otherwise I’m sure management wouldn’t have put up with it for so long) so here is my advice to anyone creating their new curriculum during their summer term.

First of all you need to work out the non-negotiables - the parameters you work within set by your school and your awarding body. If you work on wrong assumptions here then later down the line you can find yourself stuck for time. You don’t want to use up your holiday study sessions and subject study days just in order to get through the course on time.

Questions that I would ask

Of the school:

-          How many sessions do you have allotted to you per cycle?

-          What planned ‘extras’ are there? Some schools send Y7-9 out on trips for a day and let Y10+ have all the resources available to complete deeper studies.

-          What revision skill support will there be? This helps you know how much you need to include and whether there will be skills they have from the beginning of the year.

-          Are there planned mock exam seasons? Can you organise some for your subject alone?

Of the awarding board:

-          What skills do you need to include (structures for answers, question selection, revision)?

-          What weighting is given to each part of the curriculum?

-          What order should modules be taught in?

-          What will the assessments be like?

-          How will the new grading system be applied?

Of your team:

-          What questions do you want the curriculum to answer?

-          What can be learnt outside of the classroom? Are there relevant trips or visitors that can enrich learning?

-          What types of revision skills need to be taught?

-          What assessment skills need to be learnt?

-          Do you need to change any of your KS3 curriculum to meet a knowledge/skill gap?


Now that you have your non-negotiables you need to fill in the rest. This can be a very big task and one that should be shared among your team. Where you work with a team I would map out an initial scheme of work for the first meeting. This takes the immediate pressure off as the first teaching is provided for. It also gives your discussion a starting point. What do they like about the structure you have given? What would they change? As a team agree a structure and level of depth that is required. This will vary depending on the make-up of your team. As a subject leader I usually worked with non-specialists so most of my lessons had to be planned completely in order that anyone could teach them. My schemes of work included key questions, titles, key words, activities, resources, homework and subject links for each lesson. When it came to making the power points for everyone to use I had already done most of the thinking and all I had to do was put it into a pupil-friendly format. Your department probably has to run much less prescriptively although many teachers don’t mind having some of the planning pressure taken off them.

Next I would divide the rest of the work proportionally as works best for your team.  Provide them with resources such as the syllabus, new textbooks and useful websites. Give them a clear deadline of a week or two before the end of term (watch out for clashes with scheduled reporting sessions).

Finally, at your end of term party give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back You are now ready to take on the new school year and all the challenges it brings with it!

Frances Thapen