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Planning for learning success

Q

Every class teacher in this school writes detailed termly plans for every area of the curriculum. What other levels and kinds of planning will be acceptable to inspectors as good practice - weekly. half-termly or any others?

A

In order to illuminate their teaching and the children's learning, teachers will want to make their planning available to inspectors. However, the essential purpose of planning is, of course, to ensure that the lessons taught enable children to learn successfully.

Planning will bear a teacher's personal stamp and be done in ways that suit individuals, but, increasingly, schools are adopting common formats and styles - a good example of collegial practice.

In view of the extensive range of subjects that individual primary teachers have to teach, planning has to be economical and purposeful, free of superfluous detail and description.

The Office for Standards in Education has provided detailed advice on planning in its publication Well Managed Classes in Primary Schools, and the vital features of effective planning are set out in Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools (The Three Wise Men's Report). The suggestions that follow take account of both.

Planning should take place over a range of timescales: long, medium and short term, or more precisely, yearly, termly, half-termly, weekly and daily, all complementary to each other. Schools may be selective, choosing between the termly and half-termly, for example. Nevertheless, the yearly concept as the starting point for planning is a vital one; it will be part of a school-wide system, designed to ensure coherence, continuity and progression across the key stages and to cover the national curriculum.

Where there are other classes in the year group, planning will benefit from being done in collaboration with colleagues.

Planning will obviously be based on whatever curriculum model is followed by the school: topic, theme or subject basis, and will reflect that. Planning will establish the subjects incorporated within the theme or topic, their order of priority and emphasis, and the balance of time devoted to them.

Termly or half-termly planning will obviously translate broad annual programmes into more detailed practical plans. Teachers then wishing to plan individual lessons based on such a termly programme would need to consider the following: * The purpose and duration of the lesson; what it is intended the children should learn, in what way this would be related to the national curriculum, to previous work and how it would be developed thereafter.

* The practical part the teacher would play and where the focus of her main effort would be - the whole class, groups or individuals.

* What the children would be expected to do, how differentiation would be provided for, the resources needed to support the learning, and whether formal assessment would take place.

Such lesson components would be carefully planned to ensure effective practical outcomes, but in fact each would require little more than a few lines of written description.

On occasions when individual lessons or small clusters of lessons exist apart from the national curriculum programmes of study or from large topics , teachers' planning notes are likely to be minimal.

I am sure the termly planning you refer to takes account of what has been described here and is likely to make for successful teaching and to be informative for inspectors.

Bill Laar is a registered inspector. Questions may be addressed to him co The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

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