Raising standards and improving pupil progress are at the heart of every school’s work, and the renewed Secondary Frameworks are aimed at helping headteachers and their staff and schools do just that, says Clive Bus, National Strategies National Director, Secondary

The renewed Secondary Frameworks developed by the National Strategies build on the existing frameworks for teaching English, mathematics, science and ICT but reflect the emphasis in the new programmes of study on key concepts, processes and skills. They are modelled on effective pedagogy and good use of assessment for learning.

What do they offer headteachers?
The frameworks provide a powerful CPD and operational tool to enable headteachers to lead and manage a strategic, planned approach to progression, assessment and curriculum redesign. They will also help them to address – in a positive and supportive way – issues of weaker departments and, through heads of departments, weaker teachers. This will help minimise in-school variation and inconsistency.

Related to this, the renewed frameworks have a new, interactive website that offers a wealth of support for headteachers and all their staff. For subject leaders, this includes materials and guidance on:

  • planning for progression across Key Stages 3 and 4, with examples of long-, medium- and short-term planning using the framework of learning objectives
  • effective pedagogy and intervention support
  • assessment for learning.

The online tools and resources create the opportunity for collaborative working by enabling all members of a department to be involved in curriculum redesign, developing modules or schemes of work, assessment, standards and level agreement, and future planning.

Where expectation of framework use is established as school policy, it can also be an effective tool in ongoing performance monitoring and support of heads of departments and teachers.

What is new in the frameworks?
The website contains a wealth of supporting materials and resources. These are being introduced in a phased way during 2008-09, with the aim of making all National Strategies materials easily accessible.

  • In English, there are 10 strands of progression from Years 7-11, to support tailored teaching and learning. Word- and sentence-level work are integrated with reading and writing, and language study is an explicit component. There are direct links to Assessing Pupils’ Progress (APP) guidance and materials, and guidance on implementing functional skills in English.
  • In mathematics, pupils will learn to use processes and applications in each strand of the subject, and teaching will be supported by planning handbooks and National Strategies resources. The framework also provides guidance for a teaching and learning review to support phased implementation of the new curriculum. Here, too, links are made with APP and guidance given on implementing functional skills.
  • In science, there are five strands of progression, including ‘How science works’, and four strands that cover all the key science content from Years 7-11. There will be guidance on using the frameworks to support teaching and learning, initially through the long- and medium-term planning stages.
  • In ICT, they support the development of more personalised learning and teaching by providing clear lines of progression from Year 7 to Year 11 and by exemplifying new areas of study such as sequencing instructions and e-safety. There will also be guidance on implementing functional skills in ICT.

In the autumn, there will be additional examples of planning, ideas for teaching activities, plus further support materials and links to other resources, to help teachers plan interesting, engaging lessons.

A popular initiativeThe frameworks are already proving popular with teachers who have seen and trialled them.

Dave Bones, from William Howard School, in Brampton, Cumbria, said: ‘My overall impression is that they strike a nice balance between statutory requirements and freedom to create, with some excellent support, suggestions and advice, without being too prescriptive.

Maura Williamson, from St Gregory’s Catholic High School, Warrington, said she believed the revised documentation was ‘clearer, reduced and more user-friendly’ than the previous version. ‘We can see the bigger picture – this makes good sense,’ she added.

I believe the frameworks represent the kind of step change in support for school improvement that headteachers have long been seeking. They are not prescriptive –  indeed, they rely on the creativity and energy of good teachers to work properly – but they do provide a coherent model for progression that assumes collaborative and structured planning among teachers and curriculum leaders. In so doing they also provide headteachers, as the leaders of learning in their schools, with a means of monitoring and evaluating that planning and delivery.