There’s something about Mary…

There are very few books I’ve read about education which I haven’t been able to put down, Seven Myths by Daisy Christodoulou (which I’ve written about here) is the most notable exception to the rule. Today I add to my very exclusive list with the latest offering from Mary Myatt, The Curriculum (available through Amazon here). I started it Friday evening and enjoyed delving into its last chapters this morning over breakfast.

I’m not the most efficient reader, I know digesting the contents of a book or article will take a significant amount of effort on my behalf. As a rule of thumb I always ask myself:

  • What time have I got right now and how much attention will I need to read x?
  • Will the time it takes to read x be worth the impact on other aspects of my life at this time?
  • Who will benefit from me reading this book?

When I consider anything from Mary I always know that reading her words will be enjoyable and feel relatively effortless. Furthermore, many people around me will benefit from her wisdom. All things considered, setting time aside in my life to get go grips with her work is a very worthwhile pursuit.

The Curriculum is, in my opinion, Mary’s best offering yet. Why? Well for a start, it is concise. She explains concepts clearly and succinctly, in an intelligent and well-thought out approach she navigates the reader through the various aspects of curriculum in a joined up way.

The best communicators can explain the most difficult concepts in such a manner that everyone can understand, Mary not only does this consistently through all of her written work but is also as an accomplished orator. This book does that so expertly that anyone could read it and engage, from head teacher to trainee, even people not in education would get it. There’s a real skill in that. Mary only ever writes about issues in which she is well-read and where she is passionate, she never jumps on a bandwagon, the end result being beautiful products written in earnest. As with all of her work, Mary is a light-bringer. She showcases the best of what’s out there whether that be research or practice, The Curriculum does this brilliantly whilst melding with her own personal beliefs about the development of a worthwhile content for students. I’ve absolutely loved Mary’s two previous books, her style of writing seems to lead you in a journey that feels both a personal and passionate crusade on their subject matter. The Curriculum is no different – you know this matters deeply on so many levels.

My takeaways

I dont think i can do this book justice in a few bullet points and urge you to read it but here are a few gems I’ve taken away:

  • A clear vision and purpose for a curriculum is an absolute must.
  • Curriculums should focus on excellence for everyone.
  • Content should be considered and justified.
  • It’s about the macro and the micro.
  • Cognitive challenge, assessment and the drive towards beautiful work should be integral.
  • Literacy is vital – reading, writing and spoken language.
  • A curriculum needs to be lived and breathed not just a document I’m a shelf.

For me though, my biggest takeaway is that Mary has whet my appetite, she’s encouraged me to go away, look differently at our own practice and learn more. She’s shone a light on other avenues that I’m excited to explore, in particular the work of Clare Sealy, Andrew Percival and Tom Boulter, as well as Michael Young, Christine Counsell and Peter Hyman. Mary’s signposting to research, practice and resources make the book a useful road map which is worth the purchase price alone.

In the final part of the book, Mary goes beyond research, practice and her own thoughts to offer practical approaches to building a purposeful and cohesive curriculum. This looks across specific subject areas and spans both primary and secondary phases, offering great starting points for discussion as well as tools for support. I honestly don’t know how Mary has packed so much into this book but she’s certainly pulled off great substance with style.

Lastly, I like to consider how useful a book would be to a teacher at any stage in their career. I would recommend this to be part of the canon that all teachers read and revisit at some point. I’ll be adding it to the list for our next cohort of trainees first thing tomorrow morning and recommending it to a friend. If you’re looking for some summer (or at any time) reading that will be enjoyable, useful and have an impact you can’t go wrong with this brilliant book!