What is curriculum design?
Curriculum design is, broadly speaking, how you interpret a designated curriculum in the context of your pupils.
This means taking the schemes of work and end-of-year expectations and delivering them while taking into account:
- Your local environment
- The expertise of staff
- The traditions of your school
It’s likely that for you, the “designated curriculum” will be the National Curriculum. However, the above principles also apply to academies and international schools that may use a different curriculum as a framework.
3 core principles of curriculum design
1. The curriculum should be developmental
This means it should:
- Reinforce prior learning and increase in cognitive complexity
- Widen out as the child moves through the school, revisiting concepts in greater depth
For example, a child may learn about light and dark in Key Stage 1, but as they move through school they would learn about areas such as how light is created, electricity, and the impact of light and dark on day and night and seasons. They would eventually tie it into more complex concepts such as climate change in later Key Stages.
2. You should consider the order in which concepts are taught
While the National Curriculum, for schools that follow it, sets out some subject content on a year-by-year basis, many subjects are split into Key Stages. Some aspects of the curriculum may only be taught once, while others may be revisited annually or in every Key Stage.
Curriculum design therefore involves (as applicable):
- Choosing how to order subject content
- Choosing where in pupils’ development content will be taught
- Designing your curriculum in a way that reinforces concepts over time
3. Take into account short-, medium- and long-term planning
Think of the relationship between these like a journey on the underground.
- The entire curriculum map for the whole Key Stage would be the underground map
- The year or term of subject content would be the station you get off at
- The short term aim of a lesson would be the place you visit once you get off
Use these resources to help you improve your curriculum design
See examples of curriculum maps from primary schools.
Find out how to improve your curriculum design in:
For some examples from schools:
- See these visual curriculum maps for all subjects from Newman Catholic College in Brent
- See these curriculum maps for all subjects and Key Stages from Carnforth High School in Lancashire. They show where cross-curricular links are made with subjects such as computing, literacy and numeracy