What is the role of the CORE subject coordinator in Primary Schools? (2)

Following on from yesterdays post we are going to try to find a way through the “minefield” that is being a CORE subject coordinator.

But instead of plunging headlong into the complicated and difficult, lets today start with the easy and hopefully straightforward stuff!

The new curriculum format has been in schools for a short time and as we all know it has some pretty major changes. Not only in the way it is set out but also in its expectations. This is translated most markedly in both the core subjects of Maths and Literacy where the knowledge and application expectations have been moved backwards almost 2 years in some cases! Now it is not the purpose of this article to look at the rights and wrongs of this – however it does pose significant problems for both teachers and schools as they try to adjust the teaching and  learning environment to achieve success.

As a coordinator the first question I want to ask you is – how did your school react to the changes?

  • In your school was there sufficient professional development for staff to both understand and manage the new expectations?
  • Are all staff confident in personally understanding the mechanics of the new changes in order to be able to teach them successfully?
  • Did the school have or need to supplement equipment needed to deliver the new curriculum?
  • Have any text books been replaced or upgraded to be fully up to date?

In other words – did the school respond to the new changes and expectations in the curriculum (which are pretty significant) to give staff the best possible support, information and equipment – or are the staff in your school struggling without some or all of these factors?!

The next question you need to be reviewing is curriculum coverage – is the new curriculum being taught in its entirety across the school and are year groups managing to successfully get through what is allocated to them?

As the coordinator you must be able to guarantee curriculum coverage in your school – so that means you have to be involved at the planning stages for each term. You should have copies of both the long term and medium term plans for each class and for the sake of argument be able to lay them out and see your curriculum in its entirety….you won’t do this of course but you get the analogy!

Hopefully, as core subject coordinator you can reflect on your subject and the answer to the above on both fronts is YES. However if the answer is no or only partly, then it is a matter of urgency that you address the failings.

These 2 things are your starting point for tackling the curriculum…

  1. Everybody knows what to do and how to do it.
  2. We have all the necessary equipment and books to use in its delivery.

Its the basic requirement and its what you need.

Now we have to look at successful delivery and how you as a coordinator monitor this.

There are only 2 ways that this can be done

  • As coordinator you have to get into classes and observe
  • Ongoing assessment and testing.

Lesson observations, I have to say, are becoming a bit of a mania at the moment as schools panic to monitor and record staff assessments. So as a coordinator you have to use your professional judgement and approach this gently! Speak to the Teachers concerned and explain what you need to do and what you will be observing (this is important – it is not enough to just say “I am coming in”….say what you are coming to see and why). Request that the teacher provides a lesson plan for you to follow. Make your observation low key but collect all the facts you need relating to your objective. Feedback should not be on any professional issues that you observed just on the reason you carried out the observation and you should always finish with an encouraging and positive comment. I would not observe teachers more than once a term.

Ongoing assessment: This has 2 features to it – the first I have to say I cannot help you with – I can only comment. Ongoing assessment comprises the daily assessments of teachers on the work that children do. This will involve marking and feedback (see my articles on marking for sensible approaches!) – I have no idea how your school approaches marking nor how it functions…but my comments would be “teachers need a grading system (could be simply a mark out of 10) to assess and RECORD each piece of work done (use of mark books is not the norm nowadays) By recording achievement levels against learning objectives the teacher can see instantly (and more importantly retrospectively) where every child succeeds and fails within a taught area. This simple system is, in my opinion a vital element that can be used to achieve success in the new curriculum.

Let me put this in the form of an example – Lets say that you have 4 children in your class who are struggling with fractions. If you were asked why – how would you answer? In a busy class can you remember how they fared in the different taught elements? By having a mark book it is simplicity itself to look back and Identify those learning objectives that they scored poorly and as such target any support work. (I used to colour low marks in red crayon so they were easily spotted)

The example given above was for maths but works just as well for literacy and any other subject – the alternative is to teach and mark with just comments and then “see how they do when they are tested”.

Your school may have a completely different approach which is of course fine – or you may decide that you can implement this easily within the current school system – whichever way it needs to record current achievement and inform future planning (which is then of course based on evidence)

Book monitoring and  reviews can be a useful tool to inform progress and development. Samples of books from lower/middle/higher achievers in a class can give you as coordinator an overall picture of not only the achievement and levels of pupils but also a glimpse of the approach and methods of teachers. By recording and collating whole school reviews it provides you with a snapshot or window in time  of both standards and progression. Notes and observations should be briefly recorded and dated along with any action or follow up implemented.

The other feature of Ongoing assessment is testing – and as its a pretty major area we will look at that in the next article

Hope your day is going well..

Charles

 

 

 

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