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Navigating curriculum design in EYFS/KS1: progression, planning & practicalities

May 18, 2023, 19:57 GMT+1
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Navigating curriculum design in EYFS/KS1: progression, planning & practicalities
  • If we want children to become lifelong learners, we must consider both what and how we're teaching them, explains Early Excellence...
Navigating curriculum design in EYFS/KS1: progression, planning & practicalities

Are you currently reviewing your early years curriculum? Wondering if it is progressive? Perhaps you’re even in a spin with where to start!

Curriculum planning can often feel as if you are falling down a rabbit hole of knowledge and skills, and you can wonder how you will ever dig yourself out. One thing to always bear in mind is that curriculum development is an ongoing process, a journey with bends and twists in the road.

But there are some core aspects that you should consider to help you navigate the unique landscape of curriculum development within the EYFS and how to ensure there is progression through to Key Stage 1.

Here are some key questions to consider:

  • Does your curriculum meet the needs of ‘your’ children and reflect the ‘local context’ of your school or setting?
  • Is your curriculum underpinned by a secure understanding of how children learn and the unique development of young children?
  • Does your curriculum set out the knowledge and skills that your children will gain? Is it ambitious for all pupils?
  • What is underpinning your curriculum to ensure children with lower starting points are supported to access a highly engaging and ambitious curriculum?
  • Is your curriculum sequentially planned so that it builds upon new knowledge and skills and helps children to connect the dots?

Let’s dive into this a little further. If we want to design a curriculum for our own unique school landscape and children, then we need to have a firm understanding of what we are aiming to achieve.

A good starting point in this journey of creating your curriculum roadmap is to define what is meant by ‘curriculum’.

What is your definition of curriculum? How is it defined in your school curriculum policy and materials?

Here is a thought to ponder on: ‘curriculum’ comes from the Latin word for ‘race course’ – ‘running’, which is ironic when we think about how teachers and leaders may currently be feeling about the curriculum they are trying to deliver. It can sometimes feel like we rush through so much content, similar to a fast-paced race, to ensure we have full coverage.

However, now might be the time to slow things down, take time to reflect, review, and refine your curriculum. Time to ask the question: Is our curriculum still serving our purpose?

E. Silva’s (2009) understanding of curriculum may really resonate with what we are trying to achieve. “An emphasis on what students can do with knowledge, rather than what units of knowledge they have, is the essence of 21st-century skills.”

Often, curriculum designs in recent years have become rooted in getting children to ‘know’ knowledge and retain it, rather than developing the concept of acquiring knowledge and understanding, developing skills, and an understanding of how skills develop as well as the application of skills through engaging experiences.

It’s about connecting those dots for children. If we really want them to have great success and become lifelong learners, we need to think about not only what we are trying to teach (curriculum) but also pedagogy – how we are going to teach.

We need to consider how we can ensure that what we are teaching is underpinned by secure knowledge of how children learn and ensure that we ignite that learning spark that will continue throughout the child’s learning journey.

If you scroll through social media groups, you’ll see many ideas and resources shared. These are often activity-led, and we should remember to question what is the learning? How is it being taught?

Here is an example that often pops up: teaching children capacity. The children are provided with a sheet with a variety of different-sized containers and are directed to colour in the water level to show more or less!

Is this ‘how’ we want children to learn, but more importantly, do we think this is the ‘best way’ for children to learn new skills, acquire good knowledge and understanding of capacity? Is this rooted in our understanding of ‘how’ children learn?

There is so much more to curriculum planning than choosing an activity. If you are on this journey to reviewing and reviving your curriculum and wish to unpick this further, delving deeper into curriculum design, then why not work collaboratively with like-minded practitioners?

We can work together to support you with developing your curriculum that meets the needs of your children and ensure that it is truly brought to life. We will look at ways to meaningfully connect your early years curriculum with the rest of the school and the national curriculum, exploring the key knowledge, skills, and understanding children develop as they move along their journey of learning.

At Early Excellence, we understand the challenges and complexities of curriculum planning in the early years. We are here to provide guidance, resources, and support to early years headteachers and leaders like you.

Let’s embark on this journey together and create a curriculum that ignites curiosity, fosters creativity, and promotes meaningful learning experiences for our young learners.

Book a consultation and speak to our experienced curriculum consultants at Early Excellence today – visit