The Power of Authenticity

Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash
We think of the National Curriculum as a collection of learning objectives summarising the knowledge, skills and understanding relating to a number of different subjects.  These are then plotted out over medium and long-term plans to achieve coverage and the necessary benchmarking for assessment.  As the weeks proceed, activities are designed to teach the planned objectives with teachers often spending hours trawling the internet for ideas.

The ‘Purpose of Study’ statements in the National Curriculum are brief summaries of the real games.  Some read almost as sales pitches; encouraging us to think with ambition about the scope of each subject and its application beyond school.  Scientists are invited to ‘recognise the power of rational explanation and develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena’, designers to ‘take risks, becoming resourceful, innovative, enterprising and capable citizens’.

Letting children do things for real is a bit like letting them playing junior scrabble – it’s not the adult game but it offers just as satisfying an experience for the younger player.  A junior writer won’t have a novel accepted by Penguin but they might publish a short story through the class publishing company where everyone takes a turn as editor, proof reader or marketer.  Children love the idea that they are doing what adults do and demonstrate strong engagement and determination to work to the highest possible standard.  Teachers save the hours they would have spent trawling for ideas and learn instead to facilitate an on-going process that has its own momentum and meaning. 

As a headteacher I wanted my children to wake up in the morning and a feel a sense of needing and wanting to learn.  At the same time I wanted my teachers to ensure high attainment across a broad and genuinely rich curriculum.  Authentic learning has the potential to achieve just that.   Whilst the child’s focus is on the excitement of the project in hand the teacher is able to teach the necessary objectives in ways that are ambitious, memorable and the best possible preparation for the complex lives our children will go on to lead.


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