Speed read: The curriculum and behaviour expectations for schools in September

The Department for Education has published its guidance for getting all pupils back in school in September.

Here’s your trusty Schools Week summary of everything you need to know about what the guidance says on curriculum and behaviour.

(Our speed read on the government’s safety plans is here, and the full DfE guidance is here).


1. Curriculum should remain ‘broad and ambitious’ …

The government has made clear that schools will be expected to continue offering a “broad and ambitious” curriculum. It followed concerns about non-core subjects being dropped following a report based on a leaked draft version of the guidance.


2. … But, subjects can be suspended

The government says schools can make use of existing flexibilities to create time to cover the most important missed content, with the aim for a normal curriculum to be back up and running “no later than summer term 2021”.

As Schools Week revealed, the guidance has confirmed that for primaries – prioritisation of content within subjects is preferred over removing subjects.

However, schools may “consider it appropriate” to suspend subjects for some pupils “in exceptional circumstances”.

For key stage 1 and 2 pupils, school leaders are expected to prioritise the “essentials” (phonics and reading, increasing vocabulary, writing and maths). But the curriculum should “remain broad so that the majority of pupils are taught a full range of subjects over the year, including sciences, humanities, the arts, PE/sport, RE and RHE”.

For pupils in year 7, it may be “necessary to address gaps in English and maths by teaching essential knowledge and skills from the key stage 2 curriculum”.


3. As expected, ditching GCSEs only for ‘exceptional circumstances’

The guidance states in “exceptional circumstances, it may be in the best interests of a year 11 pupil to discontinue an examined subject because the school judges that, for example, they would achieve significantly better in their remaining subjects as a result, especially in GCSE English and mathematics”.

The decision will be down to school leaders to make in discussion with pupils and parents.

Schools are also expected to review any plans for early entry among year 10 pupils in summer 2021, as it may now be better for them to take exams in year 11.


4. Play your instruments outside

Schools have been advised there “may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments or shouting. This applies even if individuals are at a distance.”

For these activities, the advice is to keep physical distancing, playing outside wherever possible, limiting group sizes to no more than 15, positioning pupils back-to-back or side-to-side, avoiding sharing of instruments, and ensuring good ventilation.

“Singing, wind and brass playing should not take place in larger groups such as school choirs and ensembles, or school assemblies. Further more detailed DfE guidance will be published shortly.”

Schools have the flexibility to decide how PE should be provided – but outdoor sports “should be prioritised”.


5. Update behaviour policies for distancing rule-breaking

Schools should consider updating behaviour policies, including setting out “clearly at the earliest opportunity the consequences for poor behaviour and deliberately breaking the rules and how they will enforce those rules including any sanctions”. That includes taking into account “individual needs and should also consider how to build “new expectations into their rewards system”.

This is “particularly the case” for restrictions on movement within schools and hygiene rules.

Exclusions powers will remain in place, and Ofsted will continue to “consider exclusions, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion and to look for any evidence of off-rolling. Off-rolling is never acceptable.”

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