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Core Knowledge in the UK

year 1 girls reading

Core Knowledge promotes content knowledge as a way of achieving 'cultural literacy.'

The Core Knowledge curriculum is highly successful in schools housed within some of America's toughest neighbourhoods. They boast higher literacy rates, greater pupil and parent engagement and make a significant contribution to closing educational inequality gaps.

Just as in America, for decades there has been no consensus about how or what to teach children in Britain. There's been a focus on skill-based learning, in lieu of knowledge, which is often dismissed as 'rote learning' and irrelevant. E.D. Hirsch, who inspired the Core Knowledge curriculum, was among the first to see that the retreat from knowledge was misguided. Above all, he showed that to compare 'knowledge' with 'thinking skills' was to make a false contrast. They are not mutually exclusive alternatives. Knowledge does not get in the way of reasoning: it's what we reason with.

Cognitive science tells us that teaching knowledge is the necessary partner critical to achieving culturally literate citizens able to meaningfully participate in democratic life. The success of the Core Knowledge curriculum and the ethos embraced by the Core Knowledge Foundation—educational excellence and equity for all children—is the motivation for Civitas' adaptation of their knowledge-rich curriculum for schools in the UK.

Why now?

Our school system is at a new and defining point in its development: the overhaul of the National Curriculum and freedom from the auspices of local authorities for academies and free schools places a great emphasis on individual schools selecting successful curricula for their pupils. The Core Knowledge curriculum can be used alongside the National Curriculum. Alternatively, it can also form the backbone of a school's curriculum, providing direction and flexibility to respond to local interests and needs.

pioneering teacher

Experienced teachers and subject specialists are informing our adaptation

Civitas is working with a broad range of stakeholders to adapt the American Core Knowledge Sequence and resources for teachers and parents in Britain. Most of the content in the American Sequence will remain the same—because knowledge is universal! The most significant change is the replacement of American history and geography with British history and geography. We have also adapted the visual arts selection to reflect widely acknowledged masterpieces on display in galleries that are within reach of primary schools across the UK because we think it is important for children to be able to experience artworks in their living and breathing context. Joan Miro's Painting is in Edinburgh's National Gallery, Henry Moore's Family Group is in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Anthony Gormley's The Angel of the North is in Gateshead and Henri Rousseau's Surprised! A Tiger in a Tropical Storm is in London's National Gallery.

Read more about the Core Knowledge Sequence UK and supplementary resources.

Working with schools

We are looking for pioneering primary schools to pilot the Sequence UK and supporting resources. If you are a leader or teacher and would like to play a leading part in developing this new curriculum, read more about how we will support our partner schools and contact us.