Primary Curriculum-Models and Design

In my last post I talked about the need for a curriculum that helps prepare children for the future.   There are some key qualities I believe should be at the heart of a new curriculum rather than left to chance outside of it.   These qualities are not easy to measure in any tangible form and this may go some way to explaining their absence from many classrooms.  In his book ‘Building Learning Power‘ Guy Claxton explores some different reform models from around the world that are helping children develop their ‘learning power’.

The Golden Key Schools in Russia operate along the lines of extended families.   They follow Vygotsky‘s philosophy and an understanding of the process of interaction is implemented within the Zone of Proximal Development by placing children from 3 – 10 years in family units of 15 – 25 rather than traditional, age grouped, classes. Staff attend training to develop a ‘community of learning’ and parents are also active in school events with the emphasis placed on learning as a community.   Amongst the other examples Claxton looks at as models for developing collaboration and communication are Ann Brown‘s Communities of Inquiry in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the PEEL project in Victoria, Australia.  Bellaire Primary School in Victoria allows older pupils to take a more active role in planning their learning by running skills workshops which the children attend before taking part in application classes where they put the skills they have learned to practical use.  The children very quickly learn to plan their own timetable and learning, making it relevant to their own interests.  This brave approach develops independence and lifelong learning skills that can only help the children as they move into secondary education and beyond.

Others, such as Ralph Pirozzo and Lane Clarke have explored curriculum design and come up with practical ways of using Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gardner’s Mutiple Intelligences to create active learning experiences.   INSET training with both these educators and  research into other curriculum models such as the International Primary Curriculum and the International Primary Baccalaureate informed our own work on curriculum development.  Our own design has also been influenced by the work of Chris Quigley who has developed a progressive skills based approach that puts key learner qualities centre stage.  Chris takes his lead from the work of Claxton but he breaks down ‘Learning to Learn‘ skills into Bronze, Silver and Gold stages to help plan for progression.   The children easily understand the breakdown of Learning to Learn skills and Chris goes into detail, creating ‘I can’ statements for each of the following key learner qualities:

Reflective – planing, revising, reviewing

Relationships – collaboration, empathy, listening

Resilient – managing distractions, ‘stickability’

Resourceful – questioning, imagining, making links

Risk Taking – have a go, not scared of being wrong

The Skills Based Curriculum developed by Chris Quiqley not only gives pupils more ownership over their own learning but helps with planning for progression.  It would be great to see the work of these and other educators such as Sir Ken Robinson and Mick Waters, being considered by government as they look at the Primary Curriculum.


About smichael920

Headteacher of a large primary school in North West England. Helping me to blur the distinction between work and home, I am also father of five, covering most phases of education thus giving me the lowdown from within and without. Education is about enjoying today and preparing for tomorrow. This can't be done using the tools of the past. View all posts by smichael920

5 responses to “Primary Curriculum-Models and Design

  • Angus Willson

    This is interesting on skills and learner qualitities but makes no reference to knowledge. However contested, we must declare what we expect children to know and understand – and why it is important. Learning is most effective with real contexts investigated with conceptual frameworks. This starts from where they are, not just with external prescription. They can’t learn everything nor should they learn a vague collection of ‘stuff’. So, *what* they learn remains as crucial as ever.

    • smichael920

      Many thanks for your comments Angus. The purpose of the post was to flag up where learner qualities and skills are being developed in different settings. I agree, there needs to be a balance between the ‘how’ and ‘what’ they learn. It isn’t one or the other but a marriage of the two.

  • topteacherast


    My primary school, located in West London, is re-designing its curriculum to incorporate more creative themes. We have decided we want a skills-based model showing progression in subject areas. My view is that, in terms of knowledge, the curriculum has been over-loaded in the past, leading to a lack of depth in some subjects. I think schools should be able to choose the knowledge they wish to teach in subjects like History, Geography and Art as they know which areas will appeal to their children.

    I will share the Chris Quigley work with staff at school.

    • smichael920

      Many thanks for the feedback Paul. We found the Chris Quigley stuff really useful as it gave us a clear progression of skills, something staff were keen to have.

  • mahendra kumar

    Gooooodevenig with sunset It’s not sunset It’s sun rise for futur.


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