This article draws on an inquiry into the design and implementation of the curriculum in a case study urban primary school in the north of England. In response to the introduction of the revised National Curriculum in September 2014, teachers and the school head engaged in a critical discourse around their perceptions of students’ attainment and engagement across the curriculum, and explored alternative curriculum design and pedagogies. Supported by ‘academic partners’ (Beckett, 2011, 2016; Beckett and Wrigley, 2014), teachers were introduced to the ‘Storyline’ approach (Bell et al, 2007) and encouraged to consider a shift from a rigid and functional curriculum towards more flexible approaches which emphasise problem solving, critical literacy and communication in multiple form. The argument presented here is twofold: firstly, it is suggested that moving towards more ‘open architectures’ (Wrigley, 2007) improves students’ engagement with learning by reducing teaching to the test and creating more socially responsive and real-life learning experiences; this is then contrasted with current ‘top-down’ models of prescriptive curriculum design tied to a raft of high-stakes standardised tests which constrains teachers’ efforts to engage in this process.
- Curriculum reform