The Flexible Curriculum – how do you pack for the journey ahead?

The Flexible Curriculum – how do you pack for the journey ahead?

This is an abstract I had written for @CharteredCollege for a possible article in their Impact magazine with Curriculum as the central theme.

Abstract for Impact magazine

As both a partitioner in adventure activities and a teacher in the BTEC Public Services qualification I have been influenced in the curriculum devised by Kurt Hahn in the 1930’s which is still used in Gordonstoun the school he founded [1]. He believed that students learn through experience rather than simple instruction and outdoor education was an essential part of Hahn’s curriculum. BTEC introduced their Public Services qualification in September 1990 and to the present there has always been a unit involving expedition skills [2]. This has provided an opportunity for Hahn’s curriculum to be accessed on a wider scale. Currently learners undertake at least two expeditions within challenging outdoor environments. However, what approaches determine this curriculum at subject level? For me I use the analogy for what essential equipment would I pack for an expedition to a challenging outdoor environment. I would need to ensure I select the lightest clothing and equipment to not be burden by excessive weight. In the back of my mind would also be do I include extras to allow for a margin of safety just in case things go wrong. Therefore, the dilemma for missing out what could be essential is mirrored in both a curriculum perspective and in an outdoor environment partitioner one. So there needs to be a flexible approach to the curriculum to meet the challenges arising on the journey.

Their reply:

“Following careful consideration by the editorial board, I’m sorry to let you know that we are unable to accept your submission this time.

Although your abstract is interesting and engaging, it has a very specific remit, and with the number of submissions we have received for this issue, we can unfortunately only accept those that have a wider application across the curriculum.  

We thank you for your interest in writing for Impact, and certainly hope you choose to submit another abstract for future issues.”

After this feedback I decided to continue and do more research as I personally thought that this idea was worth pursuing.

Definitions for analogy

A few definitions for analogy [3]:

  • A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
  • A thing that is comparable to something else in significant respects: works of art were seen as an analogy for works of nature.
  • In logic – a process of arguing from similarity in known respects to similarity in other respects.

Introduction: The Flexible Curriculum – packing for the journey ahead

Knowing that a curriculum is a course of study in an educational environment and one needs the essentials in order to complete whatever requirements are needed. Can these essentials be compared with what is needed when planning a journey in a challenging outdoor environment? A curriculum for a short course lasting a term might have to cover the same content as a unit lasting an academic year but not necessarily in the same depth. If I go for a short five miles countryside walk lasting two and half hours I might need to pack the same items for a day long twenty miles adventure walk. However, for the short walk I might check the weather forecast before I embark on my journey to be sure I really don’t need to pack my waterproof clothing. Underpinning these two statements is that a flexible approach is required in order to have successful outcomes in both academic and expedition environments.

The Flexible Curriculum 3b JPEG

The essentials are: protection; nutrition and hydration; safety and navigation. In the table above it shows the relationship each essential has with both context for a curriculum and packing for an expedition.

The Curriculum for England, Wales and Northern Ireland not only provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers develop exciting and stimulating lessons but also a recognition that learning in and about a natural environment contributes to a varied and enriching curriculum.

“Giving children the opportunity to discover, learn about and experience the natural world is hugely important – it can help create a sense of belonging rooted in their local environment, enhancing their health, wellbeing and educational outcomes.” Transforming Outdoor Learning in Schools, Lessons from the Natural Connections Project. 2016 [4]


As can be seen the Curriculum for England, Wales and Northern Ireland certainly supports a model for a flexible curriculum recognising both parts played within academic and expedition environments. Also if we consider linking the essentials as mentioned above we will know what to pack for the journey ahead.

References [1] accessed 10th June 2018 [2] accessed 10th June 2018

Apple Dictionary [3] accessed: 28th June 2018 [4] accessed 30th June 2018