The Learning Challenge - overview

18 Nov 2014

What are the main principles?

  • The Learning Challenge concept is built around the principle of giving children greater learner involvement in their work. It requires deep thinking and encourages learners to work using a question as the starting point.
  • In designing the curriculum, teachers and learners are using a prime learning challenge, expressed as a question, as the suggested starting point. Using the information gained from pre-learning tasks and the school's context a series of subsidiary challenges is then planned. Each subsidiary learning challenge is also expressed as a question. Importantly the learning challenges need to make sense to the learners and be something that is within their immediate understanding.
  • Pre-learning tasks ensure that learners are directly involve in the planning process.  Well planned pre-learning tasks should help to bring out what learners already know; what misconceptions they may have and what really interests them.  Teachers should take account of the outcomes from the pre-learning tasks to plan the subsidiary learning challenges for each major area of study. 
  • Continuity and progression in the curriculum will be built around a set of matrices known as essential knowledge, understanding and key skills within subject disciplines.  These are broken into year group expectations and have additional challenges for able learners.  The 'Essential Knowledge, Skills and Understanding' matrices within the Learning Challenge Curriculum will allow school to guarantee that the learners' essential skills are being developed, alongside National Curriculum requirements (where appropriate), whilst allowing individual schools to have a great deal of autonomy with their methodology.
  • In addition, there is an expectation that teachers apply English, mathematics and ICT skills where it is appropriate to do so. The main idea is to use the knowledge, skills and understanding matrices for each subject to bring to teachers' attention the level of work expected around each learning challenge.  In addition there should be careful consideration given to the quality of work produced by learners in the core subject areas.
  • Time for learners to reflect or review their learning is central to the whole process.  This is in keeping with the 'Learning to Learn' principles where reflection is seen as a very important part of individuals' learning programme.  Within the Learning Challenge Curriculum it is suggested that the final subsidiary learning challenge is handed over for learners to reflect on their learning.  The idea is that learners present their learning back to the rest of the class making the most of their oracy and ICT skills to do so.  Initially learners may require a great deal of direction so the reflection time may need to be presented in the form of a question which helps them to review their work.

The Learning Challenge ™ approach is now being used in over 1000 primary schools in England and has received exceptionally positive praise during inspections. Feedback from staff, parents and pupils demonstrate that it has helped a great many schools bring some life into their curriculum. The key to its success is (i) getting it right for your context, and (ii) keeping it under review to ensure it does not become routine.

Our most recent  OFSTED report (January 2015) included the following comments about our curriculum:

"The curriculum provides well for the pupils ... it is broad and balanced... (and) provision for pupils' social, moral, spiritual and cultural development is strong."

In order to ensure this continues with the new changes to the National Curriculum, our Learning Challenge Curriculum was reviewed in Summer 2014 to ensure coverage of the new National Curriculum (to be implemented from September 2014).

Our whole school Geography and History Learning Challenge Curriculum aims to bring these subjects to life by taking starting points from the children's context.  In this way it is hoped that history and geography will be viewed as exciting and interesting as well as fun. Curriculum maps for each year group are uploaded to provide you with an overview of this outstanding curriculum delivered at Brady. 

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