The anti-brainache plan
Schools are now expected to produce schemes of work for each subject. This is new territory, and many are struggling. What exactly is a scheme of work? What format should it take? How do you ensure year-by-year coverage of the voluminous national curriculum, while giving sufficient opportunities for reinforcement? How can the curriculum be broken down into manageable chunks? What about children with special needs - at both ends of the spectrum? How do commercial maths schemes fit in? Where's the best place to start?
As a maths co-ordinator, who has attended a variety of courses, consulted at length with colleagues in other schools and invested a great deal of personal brainache, I have developed a realistic step-by-step approach. It is not the definitive guide, but it does provide a starting point.
The sheer complexity of planning the volume of the national curriculum means the scheme will not be perfect. It is important to focus on how supportive this document will be rather than being hijacked by frustrating detail. As long as you clearly set out your objectives at each stage of the process, and can justify your approach then all will be well in the land of the Office for Standards in Education.
The scheme of work is a nuts-and-bolts document, setting out what is to be taught and when, with a view to ensuring continuity, progression and full national curriculum coverage. It must be immensely practical in order to fulfil its intended role as a powerful planning tool.
There is much confusion over whether the scheme of work should specify when to teach things as well as what to teach. It can be argued that to specify a timing is to disregard children operating at either end of the spectrum of ability. But without such guidance, a scheme of work might not get used.
It must be practical. As you write it, ask yourself, "Would I reach for this document during a planning meeting?" If the answer is no, then you need to go back to the drawing board. If there are no timings, teachers using the scheme will have no clear indication of where to take children next; duplications and omissions would become commonplace.
What of those with special needs? Since the scheme is geared to the majority, the onus is upon each class teacher to differentiate work according to pupils' individual attainments.
This will need to be spelt out in the introduction, with the words "differentiation" and "work set according to ability", so that you have made your justification. The scheme will still prove supportive in planning differentiated work, by outlining the developmental stages of each area of maths and some associated activities.
Although some specialists believe that each half-term's maths coverage should be specified, this could tie the school to an inflexible topic plan. It's best to give colleagues leeway to use their professional judgment over the year.