The new curriculum for 2014

I have been through the new English curriculum over and over and over again - forwards, backwards, sideways and upside down. I have put it all on a spreadsheet and painstakingly matched it up with objectives in Letters and Sounds, Support for Spelling, The Year 2 and Year 3 Planning Exemplification and Spelling Programme and Spelling Bank. I have colour coded, cross-referenced, sorted, categorised and generally investigated. Having done all that, I have come to the following conclusions:

Firstly, don't panic about the phonics!

There is a huge amount for teachers to be stressed about at the moment. Phonics doesn't need to be one of those things. Actual phonics teaching (the bits covered in Phases 1 -5) hasn't really changed. Phonics is what it is - the phonemes and the graphemes are the same as they ever were. The new curriculum doesn't identify a precise order of what should be taught when. In statutory terms, it simply sets out what we must have taught by the end of KS1. Since the expectation has always been that phonics would be completed well before the end of KS1 there should be no need for big changes.

The new curriculum does give suggestions for what could be taught in Y1 and Y2 but please be aware that these are only suggested programmes of study. Even where it has given suggestions for teaching things within specific year groups, the suggestions have the flexibility to accommodate the fact that different schools are following different approved phonics programmes (e.g. Letters and Sounds which is the programme that PhonicsPlay aims to support). It acknowledges in various places that the precise order in which things are taught will vary according to the phonics programme that is followed.

If you are following an approved phonics programme such as Letters and Sounds and it is working well for you, there doesn't appear to be anything in the new curriculum that would mean that you should change what you are doing.

The spelling has changed a bit

There are new (very detailed) statutory requirements for the teaching of spelling (rather than simply phonics) in both the Y1 and Y2 programmes of study as well as on into Key Stage 2. There are a few (honestly, only a few) spelling elements included in the Y1 programme of study. There are also many detailed aspects of spelling included in the Y2 programme of study. As stated above, these don't actually have to be taught in those year groups, as long as they are covered at some point in KS1. Unfortunately though, there is a lot of spelling to fit in and if you leave all the spelling until Y2, it might be difficult to squeeze it all in.

To be perfectly honest, none of these spelling objectives are dramatically different from what we have taught in the past. It is therefore possible to find ideas, subject knowledge, words and guidance for all of these aspects within many of the documents that will already be in use in school e.g. Phase 6 of Letters and Sounds, the Support for Spelling Programme, The Year 2 and Year 3 Planning Exemplification and Spelling Programme, Spelling Bank etc. Unfortunately though, none of these materials matches up neatly with the new curriculum for Y2 (or for KS2 for that matter).

In the new curriculum, some bits of learning have been moved lower down the school (as expected), other bits (unexpectedly) have been moved higher up the school, still more aspects are kept in the same year groups but divided up a little differently (which may make it difficult to use older resources exactly as they are). It can be a little frustrating to try and track down specific objectives in documents like Spelling Bank (most of them don't have an index - sigh!) but it is reassuring to know that the help is there (somewhere) within these documents if needed.

There will be some new planning and resources from PhonicsPlay

Phase 5d

To cover the new spelling elements of the Year 1 programme of study, there will be a new short unit (Phase 5d) with planning very similar to the existing PhonicsPlay plans and interactive games to support that planning. This unit is intended to tackle the very beginnings of spelling in a familiar, gentle way with lots of repetition and phonics revision built in. These plans and resources have already been created. They need testing and proof reading but hopefully will be uploaded to the site before too long.

A new website for spelling

The new elements of the Year 2 programme of study are very much spelling based rather than phonics based and therefore lend themselves to being planned, taught and generally tackled in a different way. As a result, the planning and resources don't fit neatly into the format of the PhonicsPlay website. They will therefore become part of a new website to support the teaching of spelling. The learning has been split into half termly units and for each unit there will be example planning, subject knowledge, interactive resources and printables. I am currently in the thick of creating these materials and as you can probably imagine, it is a huge undertaking. It is my aim to get a range of useful materials up by September and then to continue to grow and add to these over time. This new website will be completely free for at least the first six months of its life as it develops and grows. We will announce on the PhonicsPlay website when this new website goes live. To begin with this website will just tackle spelling in Y2. It may grow to tackle KS2 at some point in the future.

The Phase 6 page on PhonicsPlay will remain, as will the existing games on that page. However, it will be made clear that Phase 6 (as it is set out in Letters and Sounds) doesn't quite tie up tightly enough with the new curriculum and links will be made to the new website - as soon as it is launched.

It is very much my hope, that these new resources will prove useful and save some precious teacher time at this horribly demanding time. If not, then I'm sure (at least, I sincerely hope) that many other publishers and individuals will be releasing resources to address this need and I wish you the very best of luck in finding (or creating) resources that really make a difference for you and your children.

A few key things to note about the new curriculum

This has been mentioned above but this is how the curriculum itself puts it:

'The programmes of study for English are set out year-by-year for key stage 1 and two-yearly for key stage 2. The single year blocks at key stage 1 reflect the rapid pace of development in word reading during these two years. Schools are, however, only required to teach the relevant programme of study by the end of the key stage. Within each key stage, schools therefore have the flexibility to introduce content earlier or later than set out in the programme of study. In addition, schools can introduce key stage content during an earlier key stage if appropriate. All schools are also required to set out their school curriculum for English on a year-by-year basis and make this information available online.' English programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2 National curriculum in England p6.

The curriculum is clear that where children don't have solid enough word level or spelling skills, they may need to track back to learning from earlier year groups in these areas. However, it is equally clear that when this happens, children should be supported to access other areas of the English curriculum at an age-appropriate level. For example, for Y1 it states:

'Pupils entering year 1 who have not yet met the early learning goals for literacy should continue to follow their school's curriculum for the Early Years Foundation Stage to develop their word reading, spelling and language skills. However, these pupils should follow the year 1 programme of study in terms of the books they listen to and discuss, so that they develop their vocabulary and understanding of grammar, as well as their knowledge more generally across the curriculum. If they are still struggling to decode and spell, they need to be taught to do this urgently through a rigorous and systematic phonics programme so that they catch up rapidly.'English programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2 National curriculum in England p9.

Not everything in the new curriculum is statutory. Pay attention to which bits have to be taught and which bits are suggestions.

Disclaimer

Please note: I don't have any more knowledge about the new curriculum than any other teacher. Similarly, I have been assured by local authority colleagues that they have not been given (and are not expecting to be given) any additional information, guidance or resources to support the implementation of the new curriculum. As I understand it, the massive changes in education mean that there are quite simply no longer any teams of people at either a national or a local level whose role it is to create additional guidance or resources. Therefore all that any of us have to go on is the curriculum document itself. The opinions on this page and the resources that I am creating are based solely on my interpretation of the curriculum document. As always, please rely on your own professional judgement at all times.

Hang on in there!