The school curriculum

In England and Wales, planning at a whole-school level seems to have gone through three phases. An adaption phase when the National Curriculum was new, characterised by the key strategy of 'mediation' of the initial, over-loaded and incoherent National Curriculum - see Croll. An adoption phase only became fully possible after 1995 with the availability of the revised National Curriculum following a holistic review - see Dearing. An extension phase can be identified incorporating curricular initiatives such as the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and the Qualification and Curriculum Authority's Schemes of Work.

In 1995, the now superseded School Curriculum and Assessment Authority provided very useful advice on curriculum planning across the primary school. This analysis of long-, medium- and short-term planning was taken up by OFSTED and still provides professionals with a clear review of the different levels of planning. Historically, an important decision in any consideration of the organisation of the primary curriculum has been when to use an integrated or semi-integrated topic-based approach and when to plan by subjects. In the early years of the National Curriculum, Alexander, Rose and Woodhead challenged primary school teams to confront this issue directly. The evolution of this debate has meant that planning by subjects has become increasingly the norm, at least in England and Wales, as the National Curriculum has moved through successive phases of development.

A degree of consensus has emerged about key features of high quality whole-school planning. Many of these originated in early work by HMI (Reading 10.1) and some have been heavily promoted in the UK by government. Principally, these are progression and continuity, breadth and balance and coherence. The importance of such ideas is re-inforced by many authors, including Haste, who provides an important psychological perspective, and Riley & Prentice.