Curriculum planning

1 September 2023

How to design a subject curriculum

Chris Fountain

Subject Lead (English)

Everyone's approach to designing a subject curriculum is different. It can be helpful to see examples from others, but they're often hard to come by. That's why we're sharing the steps we take, to help inspire and guide your thinking. Watch our video and download our quick guide to kick start your planning.

Video guide

We’ve broken down the approach we take into seven steps. Watch Chris Fountain from our Education team guide you through what you should consider at each stage of the process in this short seven minute video.

Follow these seven steps to plan a subject curriculum:

  1. Decide the time frame, outcome and requirements of your curriculum
    Decide what you want students to know and be able to do by the end of the curriculum.
  2. Identify the most important content
    Select the core content that students will need to study, considering the national curriculum and relevant exam board specifications.
  3. Organise your content into overarching concepts or big idea
    Arrange the core content into ‘big ideas’ or concepts that will run throughout the whole curriculum.
  4. Decide on the units and sequence them
    Break down the core content into manageable units. Put the units into a logical sequence and distribute them across the year groups.
  5. Audit the breadth and diversity of your curriculum
    Stop and take some time to review your curriculum to check it covers a wide range of topics and where applicable, cultures.
  6. Design your units
    It’s best to start by designing the units for the first year group, working through to the final year group. Read our guidance on how to design a unit.
  7. Review and iterate
    After each year of teaching, gather feedback from all your teachers and tweak the sequence, unit content or organisation principles.

Download our free quick guide

Access our free quick guide and use it to inspire your planning. The guide includes prompt questions for each of the seven steps to help guide your thinking.

Save the document to your Google Drive by clicking on File > Make a copy. Or download a copy by clicking on File > Download.

Download our quick guide

Looking for more support?

Take a look at our guidance on designing a unit of study and on refreshing your curriculum using Oak resources.

For more inspiration, explore our curriculum maps to learn about the six curriculum principles that guide our lesson and curriculum design. You can also search our thousands of free, adaptable lesson resources to use for your planning.