Henry Sauntson

“The teacher, like the artist, the philosopher and the man of letters, can only perform his work adequately if he feels himself to be an individual directed by an inner creative impulse, not dominated and fettered by an outside authority.”

Bertrand Russell

Curriculum portrayal is not dissimilar to the work of the actor on the stage. What is written in the script is subject to a number of interpretative factors in performance – actor’s perceptions and beliefs, audience reaction, directorial vision, performance space, production costs and values. The written curriculum is indeed the intended script.

But it is the performance of it in the classroom that makes it come alive, and that performance will change from teacher to teacher and be received differently from student to student.

You see, it is the teacher that enacts the curriculum, portrays it. It is the teacher too who judges the reactions to the curriculum, monitors the progress through it and guides students as they experience with it. More of a promenade performance than a traditional proscenium arch theatrical production, but a production just the same.

Teachers are the beating heart of curriculum – they facilitate it, they portray it, they design it. Yes, often these curricula are written in the ‘cold’ environment of the department meeting or office but they are enacted in the ‘hot’ environment of the classroom, with its many spinning plates and responsive decision requirements.

To teach effectively and efficiently you must know the curriculum model on which the teaching is based. You must understand how the content has been chosen, organised and presented; you must know the assessment points that validate the taught curriculum and ascertain its effectiveness; you must know your students and their needs.

As a teacher you must also have the power of agency and autonomy. The written curriculum is not a set of ties that bind, but a set of guidelines that inform – without the additional artistic layer of unique pedagogy then the curriculum is dormant, abstract, and theoretical.

As a teacher also you will not only teach what you know, but subconsciously teach who you are (Hamachek, 1999). How do your beliefs, views and values translate into the production and performance of the curriculum portrayal? How do you know when to strengthen the core, and when to point to the sunlit uplands of the Hinterland?

There is a language associated with curriculum design and development, and an understanding of this language is essential to ensure that, as a teacher in the classroom, you are not just compliant. Compliance is the most unsound of professional defences.

You must not only know what, but why. That’s where your agency comes from, and that is why knowing your role in the design and implementation of curriculum is so vital. When you know the terms, know the processes and know the skills, you can understand the impact and you can be reflective, critical and, above all, valued.

In my forthcoming book for NASBTT, we explore the topics surrounding curriculum that those in training or ECT induction are likely to encounter and need to understand, and offer a range of practical and critical strategies and approaches to curriculum design. This begins with examining the history of the core ideas around curriculum, including educational philosophy and concepts, before moving on to planning, reflection and principled intent and implementation. It also delves into the various roles of those involved in curriculum design.

With curriculum as a key aspect of the Core Content and Early Career Frameworks, we draw on real-life enactments and models to help those in their early stages understand their role in curriculum implementation, especially in relation to the Ofsted focus on the quality of education and the role of all teachers as professionals.

Most importantly, this book recognises curriculum as the beating heart of any strong educational offer.

Henry Sauntson is Director at Teach East. His book in the Essential Guides for Early Career Teachers series, Understanding Your Role in Curriculum Design and Implementation, edited by NASBTT Executive Director Emma Hollis and to be published by Critical Publishing on 28th April, is available for pre-order. 

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