Why does Curriculum Enhancement matter?

What is Curriculum Enhancement?

After years of working with schools on efficiency, affordability and recovery I found myself asking a common question when reviewing and analysing a school’s curriculum planning: “Is this curriculum plan the right size for the children that are currently in the building?” For many years schools have used a set of metrics to describe the provision but these alone don’t seem to be having the impact intended in terms of understanding the size of curriculum provision and by consequence the amount of teaching staff that’s bought to service the curriculum that is designed. The result of this is many school’s experiencing deficit budgets, a confused conversation about class size and no real determined strategy about learning relative to class size and an inequity of provision across the school system that could be resolved with clearer understanding. 

It seems to me important to find a narrative that is easily accessible and describes what the metrics are showing in a simple form. If we consider the English education system as being built around classes of 30 (we refer to ‘forms of entry’ with an embedded understanding that this refers to 30 learners) then a single unit of provision is a class of thirty. Classes across a year group have a target average size meaning that some will vary with specific needed e.g. Design Technology in KS3 and 4 or where the roll is fluctuating. With this target class size we can quantify a minimum number of teaching sessions in any school at any point of its organisation by dividing the total population by this target size. If we multiply this by the teaching hours across a teaching cycle (one week or two) then we can set a baseline provision for the organisation.

This baseline provision and additions were first described by T.I. Davies analysing Welsh schools in the 1960’s he used the terms ‘Basic’ and ‘Bonus’ in his book School Organisation [ref 1]. This calculation of a baseline provision allows us to consider the base from which enhancement or investment in learning is placed for strategic purpose. I will use the terms Baseline and Enhancement as a more strategic focus on how and where to invest as opposed to achieving metric compliance. 

An interesting aside is the narrative around reducing class sizes in Key Stage 1 and 2 where this understanding of 30 as a common form of entry is challenged is where schools are following current research suggesting that younger learners would benefit from smaller class sizes. Schools are trying to create smaller classes and the impact of funding is a significant hurdle to negotiate becoming prohibitive for the school in many cases. Where the research suggests that dropping class sizes by small amounts has little evidentiary impact a strategic investment of resources or reorientation of funding toward the younger years might go a long way to alleviate this challenge. [ref 2] EEF Teacher Toolkit: Reducing Class Size

If we start with the calculation that if every class in the school achieves an agreed target average size then we can assume there is no additional investment and therefore enhancement is zero. Where the classes are larger than the target class size then enhancement will be below zero. Where the classes are smaller than the target then enhancement is positive.

What influences the measure?

Curriculum Enhancement will be impacted by:

  • the planned delivery time. The more time planned the smaller the classes become, reducing planned time increases class size.
  • the number of pupils on roll. A small year group with a baseline delivery will have an increased enhancement as learners experience a lower pupil teacher ratio. A larger year group with a baseline delivery curriculum will have a reduced enhancement as learners experience a higher pupil to teacher ratio.

So Curriculum Enhancement has a direct relationship to the class size and the number of learners in the organisation. If we plan for more teacher-led class provision then the class size will drop but also if the pupil roll is below capacity then the class size will be correspondingly lower. Therefore, Curriculum Enhancement is a product of the amount of planned curriculum and the number of pupils that fill the classes. It is a way of communicating our investment intentions related to the resulting class size by considering the quantity of planned teaching time within one measure and is directly related to the level of staffing required to service the planned curriculum and so also the proportion of spend on teachers relative to total expenditure.

In the primary phase the target average class size is normally 30 although in schools with nurseries this phase typically aims for 26 apart from the in ratio proportions of the youngest children at 1 adult to three children but this will also be supported by lower cost support professionals. At Key Stage 3 and 4 the target average size is 27 or 28, reduced because of health and safety recommendations for elements of the curriculum like Design Technology. At Key Stage 5 it is unusual for classes to be this size. The OECD Research [ref 3] and the recent DfE report [ref 4] suggests that the national average class size has been increasing over recent years. Where post 16 education is included a target average size of 17 to 17.6 is a good measure to assume for this stage. Within SMARTcurriculum we use this figure of 17 as the target for Key Stage 5 delivery, although you can vary it for your needs. We stress this is a target average not a threshold, so you would be able to sustain some smaller classes provided that the main provision is well populated.

Why does it matter?

Being able to articulate a measure of planned curriculum time as it relates to the number of learners in an organisational framework relates this provision to the funding that is attracted by those same learners. This applies to state educated children benefitting from government grant, independently educated children benefiting from pupil fees, children receiving additional government grants within a special school or alternative provisions. In all of these cases being able to map the provision at a strategic level that shows how and where additional investment of teacher time is being applied is significantly important and will change the narrative from achieving comparative metrics to a conversation about strategic investment and impact. I would suggest it is really important to be able to profile the curriculum to show how the design of curriculum provision follows specific learning needs and that the curriculum is agile enough to respond to changing circumstances.

Here is an example of a school where the curriculum was heavily invested at Key Stage 4 and they have determined to invest more strategically at Key Stage 3. They remain within the 8% threshold but the schools time and resources are being focussed in a different orientation. The profile you will see here is changing. The cost of this provision over and above the baseline structure is costing a significant amount, however this may be Pupil Premium or catch-up focussed this can be defined and articulated.

How can you change it?

Curriculum Enhancement is therefore a measure of investment of planned teaching time for learning. There must be a limit of how much you can plan, depending on the resources available. We would suggest that there is a threshold to work within which in most cases is an additional 8% from your baseline provision. The baseline provision is where every class is at its target size. Making the decision to reduce class size is within your ability but should be focussed on a return for this investment and should be agile enough to follow learners who need it.

You may also be interested in reading our previous blogs on Curriculum Enhancement, The Magnificent Seven  and Return on investment.

You can also check out our video introduction to Curriculum Enhancement below.

If you would like to talk further about the profiling of your curriculum or would be interested to talk further about what we do with schools please contact us through any of the links at https://smartcurriculum.net/contact/


  1. T.I.Davies School Organisation, Elsevier (1 Mar. 1969) ISBN-10 0080134203
  2. EEF Teacher Toolkit Reducing Class Size
  3. OECD Research 
  4. DfE Schools, pupils and their characteristics:
    January 2019 Link