Reduce your 11-16 Science Curriculum to 4 years

If you put KS3 and GCSE together and removed all the material that is duplicated, you would end up with a curriculum for Combined Science that could be completed in 4 years. But freeing up time is only one of the benefits of turning two Key Stages into a more coherent plan.

I asked ENGAGE followers whether they would like an 11-16 curriculum where each topic build upon the conceptual foundations of the last, and if so why. There was a resounding ‘yes’, and teachers listed six major benefits:

squashed curriculum

  1. Help students achieve more progress by focusing on Big Ideas
  2. Save curriculum time by removing material repeated at GCSE
  3. Build up skills for Working Scientifically and maths systematically
  4. Better knowledge retention if students revisit the Big Ideas yearly
  5. One assessment system for measuring progress in understanding across 5 years
  6. Focussed Y11 revision, if you have been tracking students’ understanding

So what would a 11-16 curriculum for understanding look like? We had a go at mapping it out for Combined Science, using the new Science Syllabus from AQA (which we co-designed) and AQA’s Trilogy GCSE specification (though it would not look so different for other specs). The result is below.

5-year curriculum biology

5-year curriculum chemistry

What’s most interesting, I think, is that it’s a curriculum in 4 parts, not 5, so you could cover everything in 4 years, leaving loads of time for revision.

All the GCSE content can be fitted into the 10 Big Ideas introduced at KS3, as a more advanced set of 40 topics. Students would be able to consolidate their understanding every year,  look at the Big Ideas from a different angle, with new phenomena and contexts, so it doesn’t feel like ‘we’ve already done this’.

If you’re using the Mastery approach having a birds-eye view allows you to use curriculum time flexibly and monitor your pacing. So you could take more time in Year 7 so students all grasp the foundational ideas, knowing that you can make it up later, when they’re quicker at building on that understanding.

Of course the map is just the beginning. In a real curriculum for understanding, topics are designed not just for delivering the content that is made explicit in the specification, AO1 which is 40% of the marks, but also of the other 60% of the marks for AO2 and AO3. In other words, to lay out learning expectations in the form Know (AO1), Apply (AO2) and Analyse (AO3) like we did for the KS3 Science Syllabus. This would provide more clarity for what understanding really looks like and help teachers prepare students for what will be challenging examinations.

Question: How are you creating your 11-16 curriculum for understanding? Or what support would you need in order to build one?  Leave a comment and we’ll have a conversation (you don’t need to login).