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6 Principles of Curriculum Planning for Apprenticeships

Having just finished listening to the excellent Curriculum Design podcast on SecEd I was struck by how the principles that were being discussed for schools' curriculum were equally applicable to apprenticeship curriculum design. In the podcast, Matt Bromley was discussing his 6 principles of curriculum design. These are:

  • Agree on the vision

  • Set the destination

  • Assess the starting points

  • Identify the waypoints

  • Define excellence

  • Diminish disadvantage

Having listened to the explanation for each element of curriculum planning and how it applied to schools, I thought it might be helpful to translate this to demonstrate how it also applies to apprenticeships.

Agree on the Vision

This is not a statement on a website or a document that is hidden away in a desk drawer. The curriculum vision is about deciding what is important in your delivery and what you consider to be the purpose of your training.

For any of your apprenticeship programmes, you need to decide what is the purpose of what you are delivering. It should be focussed on what the learning experiences are for your apprentices. What are your curriculum intentions, and how do you ensure high-quality training programmes?

Set the destination

There are two areas that training providers need to consider when setting the destination. The first is straightforward and is set out in apprenticeship standards. Unlike schools that need to work to a national curriculum, providers have to work to apprenticeship standards which set out the knowledge and skills that apprentices need to be able to demonstrate at End Point Assessment. So we have one clear destination; the End Point Assessment and the knowledge, skill and behaviours that must be demonstrated.

There is, however, a second destination: the development of the individual and their value in the workplace. Whilst there is clear knowledge, skills and behaviours, there are also development requirements that the apprentice and the employer need. What do you want the apprentice to be at the end of your programme? Are you just focussing on getting them through EPA, or have you considered what will make them valued in the workplace and ready for future training, development and career advancement?

Assess the starting points

Any provider that has been through an OfSTED inspection under the new EIF will know only too well that understanding the starting points of an apprenticeship is vital. Training providers need to understand the starting point of their apprentices. I know of apprentices who have left school and started in IT programmes; some had already learned to code in various languages, and clothes hadn’t. How does the curriculum address the two groups of needs of these learners?

Understanding the starting points will help you organise more focused learning. Providers can consider how they apply adaptive learning to personalise modules, assignments and learning paths.

Identify Waypoints

In the podcast, Matt Bromley likens the curriculum to using Google maps. You need to put in the destination and then the starting point. The waypoints are passed on the journey. These are effectively the units, modules, courses and assignments that learners need to complete on their curriculum journey.

This is when in the planning process, you can consider creating assessment plans to set out what learners need to know and why and how you will measure this. It is where you can start to set out the curriculum sequence and mapping, develop schemes of work and begin to develop workshop/lesson plans and delivery material.

Each apprenticeship will be different, and each journey for an apprentice will be different as they will learn different things in their individual workplaces. However, they still need to pass through the waypoints in their journey.

We were asked a few months ago if, when using Stedfast, they could copy a curriculum plan from one that had been created. We advised against this as a curriculum had to be tailored to a training provider and their employers.

As a word of caution, if any training provider is tempted to buy “off the shelf” apprenticeship curriculum plans - don’t!

Define Excellence

What do you consider excellence to be in your delivery? Do your learners get the best classroom training? Have you planned the on-the-job training closely with the employer?

Because of Covid19, many providers have continued delivering to apprentices online and using learning management systems (LMS) during this lockdown period. But how many LMS are actually fit for purpose, and do they provide excellent online learning?

We know many providers have developed Moodle learning sites as it is open source (free), but is the learning experience excellent? Having used Moodle, it would be fair to say not. How many providers have actually developed purposeful online material? Or is their eLearning just a repository of PDF documents and links to YouTube videos?

Diminish Disadvantage

Training providers must ensure that their curriculum is available to all learners. There are some simple considerations - can all apprentices access your training sites? If you offer blended learning, do all your learners have the necessary IT to access it? Again, this Covid19 lockdown has demonstrated that not all learners can access the necessary resources.

How do you ensure that apprentices with learning difficulties or who have English as a second language can benefit from your curriculum?

Bringing this all together

Ultimately, the success of your curriculum lies in the planning. If it is well planned and has buy-in from all staff involved in its delivery, then it will benefit the learners.

We have written numerous articles about the importance of curriculum planning from an inspection perspective. However, we always caveat those articles by stating that curriculum planning is not for OfSTED, it is for your apprentices.

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