Embracing the International Primary Curriculum

Karl Templeman, Headteacher at Somerset Progressive School, discusses with QA Education the benefits that the International Primary Curriculum can deliver for teachers looking to increase flexibility and deliver more for their pupils.

International Primary Curriculum Q&A

1. What is the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and how many UK schools use it?

The IPC is a thematic and creative curriculum devised by educational consultancy Fieldwork Education. The IPC is used worldwide and is typically suitable for children aged 5 - 11 years old, however it is suited to the needs of those older children with additional learning needs and those who have disengaged from learning. These students can also move onto the International Middle Years Curriculum in KS3.  Over 1,000 UK schools use the IPC – amounting to around 6 per cent of primary schools. The IPC can be integrated with other curricula to ensure statutory requirements are met, whilst working on the belief that keeping children engaged is paramount, as they learn best when they want to learn.

2. How does the IPC compare to the Governments KS1 and KS2 curriculum?

The IPC doesnt use the traditional, segregated model of different subjects as we see in the Governments KS1 and KS2 curricula. It instead looks to explore different skills and learning areas through thematic units. The IPC uses over 130 different thematic units which look to employ role-play techniques and gamify education, as part of their efforts to keep children engaged.

These themed units help children to see how subjects are both independent and interdependent, helping them to make connections across different subjects and talk about a topic from multiple perspectives. One example is the €œchocolate unit€, which studies the history, geography, science and art behind the trade, production and sale of chocolate.

The IPC also differentiates between subject goals and personal goals – the subject goals include foundation subjects not including English and maths, and the personal goals look at soft skills like cooperation, resilience and morality. 

curriculum expert Karl Templeman3. Teachers often feel restricted by the Governments curriculum and find foundation subjects take a back seat – especially around SATs time. How does the IPC address this issue?

Many teachers feel that skills cannot be assessed accurately by single tests, and children should be encouraged to learn and develop consistently throughout the year. This is the method taken by the IPCs Assessment for Learning Programme.

The Assessment for Learning Programme assess nine subjects, not including English and maths as they can be kept as part of the national curriculum. IPC assessments occur at each milepost: 5-7 years, 7-9 years and 9-11 years. Assessment is made through success criteria aimed at both teachers and pupils.

This more flexible approach to assessing pupils development allows teachers to give extra focus to subjects where its needed and to really build a learning structure that enhances their pupils individual needs.

4. With a STEM skills shortage in the UK, does the IPC ensure these subjects are covered effectively?

As the IPC doesnt use the traditional, segregated model of different subjects but instead looks to explore different skills and learning areas through thematic units, it allows pupils to learn about STEM topics in relation to the real world. This provides children with the opportunity to connect with these topics from a young age, setting them up with an understanding and confidence to learn about, and contribute to these topics. One of the problems facing the STEM sector is that younger children, particularly girls, are discouraged from science subjects if they dont fully engage with them straight away – the IPCs approach to studying subjects holistically minimises this problem.

For example, in 2010 Icelandic pupils shared their first-hand experience of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano with other pupils around the world as part of the IPC, enhancing their understanding of the Active Planet unit. This approach to learning STEM subjects in particular allows children to feel connected to what they are learning in the real world, boosting their interest and understanding.

5. How does Ofsted rate schools which use the IPC?

Recently, Ofsted launched a revised inspection framework which included a shift away from data to a clear focus on curriculum. Fieldwork Education have created a document that seeks to identify how the IPC philosophy, pedagogy and practise meets the criteria of a quality curriculum as defined by Ofsted, enabling IPC member schools to demonstrate the quality of their teaching and learning.

6. What benefit do teachers see from using IPC?

One benefit of the IPC for teachers is the collaborative and role-playing nature of the curriculum, and the focus on developing personal dispositions. This is based on the belief that it is only through the use and consideration of your own and others emotions that you can truly grow. The holistic development of pupils is heavily written into the curriculum and mentioned in the very specific directional notes that the teachers are given with the IPC.

For example, implementing the IPC at Somerset Progressive School has allowed our pupils development to come along leaps and bounds. Not only does the curriculum provide a great balance of structure and flexibility in my pupils learning, but the focus on whole child development has seen a real boost in their confidence. Another Keys Group school, Park House School, has found that the IPC has helped them bridge the gap between wanting to tailor the curriculum to meet their pupils needs whilst also having a firm and extensive structure to support them.

I would encourage any teachers looking for an alternative to the Governments KS1 and KS2 curriculum to consider the IPC, as our pupils have truly embraced it!

Find out more about the International Primary Curriculum at: keys-group.co.uk

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