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Research School Network: Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders Hydeh Fayaz, Evidence Lead in Education reports on the value of this new book for primary school teachers and leaders.

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Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders

Hydeh Fayaz, Evidence Lead in Education reports on the value of this new book for primary school teachers and leaders.

by St. Matthew's Research School
on the

Don’t think of the perfect curriculum as the goal – think rather of a permanent state of middle leaders deeply engaged with curricular questions, in a state of continuing renewal and ownership of curriculum.

Ruth Ashbee

The wonder of subject disciplines


Huh high res

When Mary Myatt and John Tomsett introduced Huh in a pre-release webinar, I could not wait for it to be delivered. The title in itself intrigued me, and I devoured the book from cover to cover. It’s a timely publication, in my opinion. Ofsted’s subject reviews raised a lot of discussion. As we aim to raise our game and really understand subject disciplines, we need expertise. As leaders of subjects within primary schools, we are on a quest to discover the underlying beauty of subjects that we might not have studied since primary ourselves. The disciplines we lead are disciplines that we may not feel expert in; here lies the power of Huh. It magnifies the wonder that lies within the subject disciplines and makes it explicit.

The book sets out its stall for KS3 and beyond but hearing from experts in the field of secondary education make it a must read for primary colleagues too. How enlightening it is for those of us who are trying to navigate the key concepts with DT, or the way primary art can be a successful precursor for the work to come at KS3. These illuminating interviews shine a light on the subjects from the point of view of experts and allow us to marvel at the hinterland that our subjects have to offer. Huh has empowered me to work with subject leads and open up the dialogue around how can we make our subjects the best for our children.

Key Concepts


At St Matthews, we have half termly meetings to develop our curriculum. We know the process of developing the curriculum is continual but we believe that very process helps improve us as teachers. Providing the relevant reading from Huh alongside Ruth Ashbee’s Curriculum Theory, Culture and the Subject Specialism opened up a dialogue on how to move our curriculum forward as a team. Our starting point has been to carry out careful thinking around our key concepts and the articulation of these. Using Huh enabled us to pause and reflect. Our understanding of our subject was affirmed and deepened, while the schema of our subject grew as any new takeaways from Huh built upon what was already in place.

The key concepts are the deepest layers of our subjects. They are what set our disciplines apart but can also unite specific domains of knowledge. If we were to unpick the key concepts in English, for us at St Matthews, we would choose structure, purpose, audience … No matter the domain of knowledge (suspense, gothic, myth, instructional writing), these key concepts work to unite them. Reading the interview with Amanda Britton on DT was eye opening. Seeing the concepts of Design and Technology so clearly explained (function, aesthetics, sustainability, inclusivity etc) allowed the subject leader to think hard about what diagonal links could be made with other subjects. As a team, we thought about how the concept of critique should progress through the school and how we can use our exemplars in Art, English to exemplify it.

Conclusions


This book opens the door for subject leaders in primary. Developing the curriculum takes hard and careful thinking, incorporating substantive and disciplinary knowledge, diversifying the curriculum, and ensuring it is equitable for all – it’s a lot to handle! A book such as Huh, which gives us an insight into the curriculum subjects is a powerful tool. It is a solution to the age old problem of being too time poor to address the big questions. For our subject leaders, it got the ball rolling. We are aware of the vast expanse of knowledge exemplified on EduTwitter, which, to some, can seem impenetrable. Huh destroys that unease and provides interviews with experts which subject leaders can easily grasp.

The final product and the means of its nurture must be well understood

Ruth Ashbee

Our starter questions


We used these questions to instigate conversations –

Which part of your curriculum do you love?

What is it about that part of your curriculum that is so wonderful?

What is it that taps into the pupils’ enthusiasm/​energy/​potential/​creativity?

What is it that is really helping the pupils learn in that particular unit?

References:

Huh: Curriculum conversations between subject and senior leaders – Mary Myatt and John Tomsett (John Catt, 2021)

Curriculum: Theory, Culture and the Subject Specialisms – Ruth Ashbee (Routledge, 2021)

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