John Galloway gets the message that "policy and research rarely agree"

Futurelab innovationLike all Futurelab's handbooks, Curriculum and teaching innovation: Transforming classroom practice and personalisation is well researched, and aims to push at the boundaries of educational conventions.

Here is a necessarily wide ranging examination of the issues and agendas shaping the curriculum and the opportunities for innovation. There are few answers in here, yet it raises many, many questions. The first of which is "What's a curriculum for?"

While acknowledging that this is a contentious question, it is also quickly answered in that  it "establishes a vision of the kind of society we want in the future, and the kind of people we want in it". This is set against the new frameworks, already introduced in secondary, and shortly to arrive in primary, that offer opportunities for teachers to take greater control of what is taught, and how, in their classrooms. So, to innovate...

A useful overview of the policy background, including Every Child Matters, Harnessing Technology, and personalisation, reveals some of the drivers for this innovation and  the debates surrounding them. Several organisations have brought their own perspectives on what a curriculum fit for our age should be. There is much common ground in the emphasis on skills proposed by the likes of the IPPR, the RSA and The Edge, and some case studies are provided to show how these can be put into action.

The impact of new technologies and the ways in which young people respond to them - not so much as passive consumers, but as creators and critics - is discussed, alongside questions of what now constitutes a "Good Childhood", and whether there is too much emphasis on the development of the individual at the expense of wider society. More questions are raised, this time about creativity, and the negative impact schooling has on "learning power", before the ever salient questions of student voice, working in partnerships, and what makes a good teacher are raised.

This is all rounded off by bringing the threads of policy and research together to focus on Personalisation and Curriculum Innovation. However, as the authors say, "The problem, of course, is that policy and research rarely agree."

This is not a book that  provides a road map to radical changes in practice; it is one that prompts purposeful thinking about the fundamental questions schools need to address in order to plan their own routes. It covers a lot of ground in a comparatively short space, pointing out the challenges along the way.


Curriculum and teaching innovation: Transforming classroom practice and personalisation

A4 Futurelab handbook, 67 pages, downloadable free of charge from Futurelab

John GallowayJohn Galloway is advisory teacher for ICT/SEN and Inclusion in Tower Hamlets. He is the author of Harnessing Technology for Every Child Matters and Personalised Learning.