A broad and balanced curriculum drives up standards. Way back in 1990 one of the imperatives for the newly formed independent state schools (CTCs) was a compulsory Enrichment Activity Programme to deliver variety and breadth. Every teacher and student was required to lead or take part in a weekly activity throughout the academic year. The Head of Enrichment was a senior post on the senior management team.
The momentum has continued and what we are seeing now is curriculum innovation nationwide geared to local communities and their pupils under the heading of the Co-Curriculum. You have only to look in the jobs section of the TES to see a growing number of Director of Co-Curricular posts advertised and on the leadership teams.
The reasoning behind this is, what good heads know very well, that the breadth of the co-curriculum is integral to delivering a successful aspirational core curriculum.
The students at Bohunt Academy in Hampshire will enthuse that their “Bohunt Baccalaureate” for years 7-9 lays essential foundations for their success in their core GCSEs and beyond.
Alongside this sit other initiatives, such as a student leadership programme and outdoor programme, all of which help to create students who are outstanding in all areas, not simply the academic.
Business and universities of course applaud the co-curriculum and initiatives such as those adopted at Bohunt as they need evidence of so much more than pure academic results; they need the skills, knowledge and experience which come out of the co-curriculum.
The escalating importance of the co-curriculum goes across the educational sectors too. Take the independent Forest School in east London and their “Forest Portfolio” for years 7 and 8 for example.
There are many other examples of innovation in schools where the co-curriculum is concerned; one is Wellington College’s well trialled “well being curriculum”.
Always a fan of delivering both breadth and depth and teaching around and beyond the test as well as to it, I look forward to celebrating more and more creative schemes of work by schools. Heads are designing their curriculum based on the “3 Cs” namely character, canon and curriculum (ref “The School of Freedom” O’Hear and M. Sidwell, 2009”). The co-curriculum is an excellent example of how, by allowing professionals to lead and design learning children benefit and the bar is raised.