For a transformational uplift

Reclaiming the Curriculum, Bill Laar & Jackie Holderness (Crown House;Pb £16.99), reviewed by Dr Katy Smart.

SATs results and Ofsted judgements have been the cause for many schools, including nursery schools, of a narrowing curriculum focus. Teaching has perhaps become less creative and innovative. For me, as someone who has always tried to swim against this tide and employ a wider and more imaginative approach to learning, it was so refreshing to read examples of a more creative whole-school teaching ethos, ones that will enthuse the reader and hopefully encourage them in their own practice.

Reclaiming the Curriculum shares 18 case studies where educational settings and teachers have challenged the temptation to teach to SATs and Ofsted, and have instead developed children’s curiosity by creating inventive and fun ways to discover and explore new concepts and ideas. Schools should be a place where children find learning exciting and enjoyable, promoting a desire to want to discover more. Each of these stories has been shared by contributors from the settings, providing illustrations of how their approach has developed more stimulating ways to learn. Ten of the case studies are from educational settings in Oxfordshire, which is of no great surprise considering one of the authors, Bill Laar, was an inspector in Oxfordshire and the other, Jackie Holderness, was a senior lecturer in education at Oxford Brookes University.

This book is easy to read and provides clear examples of how you can engage children in learning in a more exciting way. Cases include: a nursery school that operates outdoors for 85 per cent of the day, regardless of the weather; a curriculum that promotes children’s understanding of the world by partnering with schools worldwide and offering international residential visits; building and driving Goblin cars; developing a topic by more than the requisite single annual school trip; encouraging the whole school to learn the skills of playing chess; maximising the use of stories, art, drama, dance and singing to enthuse children in their learning across the curriculum.

This book is a valuable resource to inspire schools and teachers who need a transformational uplift to a rigid and restricted attitude to the curriculum.

- Reviewed by Dr Katy Smart, Senior Associate Teacher at the University of Bristol

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