CJ Learning Ltd

Once you have considered the Curriculum Enhancement value, we then need to consider how much curriculum is too much; how we can control it; and what influences the amount that we plan in?

In the example used in the recent blog Return on Investment, we showed that the basic curriculum design is based on the principles described of optimised class sizes and efficient delivery. Curriculum Enhancement is the decision to add teaching hours for a variety of reasons. How much can we add? This is a question that is open to proof of impact and conjecture about appropriateness. Within existing models, the quantity of Curriculum Enhancement within trusts and teaching organisations advice generally has a maximum threshold assessed to be an 8% maximum to remain affordable within current funding. This enables investment across all year groups to support curriculum growth, deep learning, population variation and the breadth of subjects curriculum offers. 
Our analysis of the new national benchmarking data leads us to a suggest that the average Secondary school has a curriculum structure that is typically enhanced to 50% above that Basic Provision, this translates into a 4 form entry school offering a curriculum fit for 6 forms of entry (Primary schools enhance their curriculum far less, but still often over the 8%.) Based on the work we have done in on-the-ground curriculum analysis this is not far from the actual practice we find.
Once designed, the job of appointing a staff team to deliver this is begun. A staffing profile and leadership structure are often the first steps new heads take on in a new school. Staff teaching allocations are set to provide capacity to do the job and we end with a teaching requirement for the collective staff body and a teacher availability that will resource the curriculum. Here a level of enhancement or headroom is also allowed for; often an amount of bought teaching time above the required. 
Let me describe a journey. A basic curriculum is designed and delivered, staff are employed and modest surplus is engaged. Leaders see this surplus and a convenient extra set of classes is planned ‘because we have the staff.’ Next year the extra class is left in place because it has become ‘essential practice’, new staff are appointed, and a similar surplus is engaged. We now have an enhanced curriculum and the staffing surplus looks no larger than previously appointed. The capacity for adding more groups is accepted as possible, repeating practice undertaken previously. The third year the further enhanced curriculum remains and a further set of appointments are made and an identical surplus is employed. So, the cycle continues: the curriculum grows, the practice becomes common and accepted, but with no comparison to a Basic Provision and the staffing budget becomes unsustainable but the curriculum provision is embedded and accepted as normal.
What is acceptable enhancement? At this time the understanding is that 8% curriculum enhancement is an acceptable threshold. My experience tells me this is generous  and is likely to drop to 5% over coming years unless there is more money in the system, or there is a review of the structures of staff remuneration. What is acceptable staffing surplus? I believe this should be measured according to the size of the school. From experience, schools up to 6 forms of entry can cope with 5-8% surplus staffing with a controlled curriculum size; schools above 6 forms of entry will manage with 3-5% surplus staffing. 
Many Primary schools work with 0-3% surplus staffing, but we really need to understand the curriculum provision and the leadership structure to ensure what accommodations have been embedded from previous surplus time. The impact of less surplus in a secondary school is the same, although they also have the dimension of teacher deployment to groups where the surplus gives the Timetabler the capacity to place groups of lessons and reduce the number of groups taught by multiple teachers. All of these impacts are focused on great teaching and quality of provision.
Hopefully it is now clear why both a comparison with Basic Curriculum and measuring Enhancement are important. The depth of understanding of these factors is not widely held and links to budget and staffing profiling are sadly lacking. So, before you make the next likeforlike appointment, make sure you have a clear indication of what the provision is and what enhancement this will bring to your organisation. 
Again, great reading: EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit on Reducing Class Size (verdict: modest impact at high cost.) Consider the comparative cost and impact of One to One tuition (verdict: modest impact at high cost) and Mentoring (verdict: low or no impact for moderate cost.) In each case it’s worth noting the research base for each element. As Prof. Coe suggests there is often poor basis for the axioms discussed across the education sector. At least this is improving with the drive to evidence based education.
Please contact us for more information of SMARTcurriculum and the analysis it can provide info@cj-learning.com