There are very few teachers who don’t do at least some work during the summer holidays. Some would disagree, of course, but most just accept that a certain amount of planning and preparation needs to be done during the break.

One of the most common work tasks that teachers are faced with over the summer is to produce a new scheme of work. In many ways, the summer is the optimum time to put together a SOW.

The alternatives aren’t very appealing. You could try and snatch half an hour here and there during the school day, sit down and tackle it at the end of a long day at school, or spend an entire weekend on it. The summer break, when things can be taken at your own pace, seems to make a lot more sense.

Writing a good scheme of work takes time, shouldn’t be rushed and is incredibly important. After all, well-designed medium-term plans are the bedrock of any successful and cohesive curriculum.

So, how do you plan an effective scheme of work?

The key principles of planning an effective scheme of work

Although exam specifications are obviously important, they are not a scheme of work. Exams are simply the method of assessment by which students’ knowledge and understanding of the content of a course. An excellent scheme of work doesn’t just focus on content, it is rooted in pedagogy too.

Schemes of work should include guidance on effective and alternative teaching approaches, how to ensure there is an appropriate level of differentiation and challenge, and to make sure that the full range of pupils’ needs are met.

The best schemes of work

The very best schemes of work are working documents. They include a range of guidance about potential approaches, activities and resources, but they are not static. They are regularly discussed and reviewed by the teachers who are delivering the scheme. No lesson plan or scheme of work exists only – or means anything – on paper. It is how it is delivered in the classroom that counts. In practice, new ideas and suggestions will naturally flow from the teaching of it. Over time, additions and tweaks should be made to a scheme of work.

Furthermore, although a scheme of work must have suitable content coverage from the relevant specification and prepare students for whatever terminal assessment will follow at the end of a course, the focus should always be on developing and nurturing pupils’ understanding rather than simply covering content.

A scheme of work should support a department’s vision

A scheme of work should be much more than a route map through a unit of work or a collection of lesson plans. Content and pedagogy aside, a scheme of work should also be seen as a vehicle that delivers the vision and ethos of a department or school.

A scheme of work, ultimately, is never a completed document. It is a working, living document that continues to promote discussion and sharing of ideas. However, if a scheme of work is devised with these principles in mind, it should be set up to be a successful scheme of work for years to come.

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