Best Practice

Coherence and concepts in the primary English curriculum

English is a messy subject with a tangled web of concepts, knowledge, and processes. Robbie Burns describes how his school has tried to bring coherence to their English curriculum

English is a vast subject in the primary curriculum. More than this, it could be seen as conceptually “messy” and not as easy to structure as a subject like maths or possibly science.

We must find a way through this tangled web of concepts, knowledge and processes to find some sort of clarity. In this article, I want to outline some of the research in this area and how we have used this to coherently organise both first-order concepts and sub-concepts for our curriculum.


High hopes and minimal time

The national curriculum for primary English states (p13) that it aims to: “Promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment.” (DfE, 2013.) It then breaks this broader aim into seven things that the curriculum should enable students to be able to “do”. I have condensed these down to four:

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