School planning for curriculum implementation
Advice to support school leaders in aligning curriculum implementation to the Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP)
Framing the support
Curriculum reform involves change that spans many aspects of schooling, including teaching, learning, assessment and reporting to parents. School planning for curriculum implementation is a significant, complex and ongoing process. Effective curriculum implementation drives student growth and attainment, and school improvement. New syllabuses provide schools with a unique opportunity to re-focus and place curriculum at the heart of school planning.
This information is designed to support schools in the provision of high-quality educational outcomes for all students by ensuring that school planning processes recognise the centrality of the curriculum to the domains of learning, teaching and leading. It addresses the following questions:
- How can schools develop a Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) initiative specific to curriculum implementation?
- How can schools align curriculum reform activities to existing SIP initiatives?
- How will curriculum reform impact on implementation and progress monitoring (IPM)?
- How can schools map curriculum reform activities to the School Excellence Framework (SEF)?
- What questions and data sources are required to support the evaluation of curriculum reform activities?
Purpose of resource
The School planning for curriculum implementation support provides advice for school leaders in aligning curriculum implementation to the Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) and in developing implementation and progress monitoring (IPM) aligned to the phases of curriculum implementation.
The audience for this resource is school principals, executive teams and school staff. Directors, Educational Leadership (DELs) and Principals, School Leadership (PSLs) can also use it to guide schools with their IPM development.
When and how to use
Curriculum implementation is core and ongoing business in schools and effective curriculum implementation drives student growth and attainment, and school improvement.
New syllabuses provide schools with a unique opportunity to re-focus and place curriculum at the heart of school planning. This resource can be used by schools to align IPM activities, resources and evaluation plans in strategic direction initiatives to the essential work of curriculum implementation.
A range of activities have been included as examples to highlight actions schools may undertake during each phase of curriculum implementation.
Evaluation samples are also included to support the iterative nature of the Question, Data, Analysis, Implications (QDAI) process. There should be a logical connection between evaluation questions, the data that is collected to answer those questions, the analysis of the data, the implications determined from the analysis, and the next activity.
This resource was developed by Curriculum and Reform. The research base used was NESA’s NSW Curriculum and the department’s What works best in practice.
Email questions, comments, and feedback about this resource to email@example.com using the subject line ‘School planning for curriculum implementation’.
Alignment to system priorities and/or needs – School Excellence Policy (nsw.gov.au), School Excellence Procedure
Alignment to School Excellence Framework
Learning domain – High expectations, Curriculum provision, Teaching and learning programs, and Differentiation; Teaching domain – Lesson planning, Data use in teaching, Improvement of practice, and Professional learning; Leading domain – Instructional leadership, High expectations culture, and Continuous improvement.
Alignment with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – 6.3.4, 6.4.4 and 7.2.4
Consulted with – Strategic Delivery, Strategic School Improvement and Transformation representatives, Principal School Leadership and Director Educational Leadership representatives.
Reviewed by – CEYPL Director and CSL Director
Created/last updated – 23 September 2022
To be reviewed – July, 2023
The phases of curriculum implementation
Effective curriculum implementation is best understood as an iterative journey, rather than a single event.
The following phases of curriculum implementation can be used to guide and align curriculum reform to school planning:
- Engage – explore aspects of the new syllabus to identify and plan for changes required for successful curriculum implementation
- Enact – teach, assess and report using the new syllabus and evaluate to refine new practices and systems
- Embed – strengthen and scale to ensure sustainable practices and systems.
Developing a curriculum implementation SIP initiative
The SIP is a working document outlining the steps schools will take to improve learning outcomes and the achievement and growth of all students. It is developed in collaboration with the school community and underpinned by the SEF, SEF Self-assessment Surveys and the external validation process.
As schools undertake external validation and have the opportunity to develop a new SIP, they should consider including SIP initiatives specific to curriculum implementation or embedding curriculum reform activities in initiatives related to excellence in teaching and learning.
Curriculum reform activities may include:
- engaging staff and managing change
- planning and programming
- engaging students (including assessment)
- engaging parents (including reporting).
Curriculum reform activities should be aligned to existing SIP initiatives that focus on school priorities related to continuous improvement and student learning outcomes. Schools need to consider which of their current initiatives best reflects this focus.
Reflective questions to help schools align curriculum reform activities to their SIP:
- What activities will the school undertake to engage teachers with the new syllabuses and explore the evidence underpinning these changes? How will such a significant change be managed?
- What activities and professional learning will the school undertake to support teachers in planning and programming for curriculum implementation?
- What activities will the school undertake to ensure adequate resourcing for curriculum implementation aligned to new syllabuses?
- What activities will the school undertake to engage students with the new curriculum (this will include aligning assessment to new syllabus outcomes)?
- What activities will the school undertake to engage parents with the new curriculum (this will include reporting to parents)?
The following table outlines thematic groupings of common SIP initiatives and suggests how schools can align common curriculum reform activities to established SIP initiatives.
|SIP initiative theme||Curriculum reform activities|
Student growth and attainment
|Collaboration and effective teacher practice||
|Student wellbeing||Engaging students (including assessment)|
|Parent and community engagement||Engaging parents (including reporting)|
Developing IPM for curriculum implementation
The purpose of implementation and progress monitoring is to ensure the successful implementation of the initiatives aligned to strategic directions within a school’s SIP. Curriculum reform will be a considerable focus for schools and activities should be embedded into SIP initiatives to support the achievement of improvement measures. Curriculum implementation planning support is available for each phase of curriculum implementation – Engage, Enact and Embed – to assist schools to plan, monitor and evaluate activities.
The Curriculum implementation planning template (DOCX 198 KB) can further support this process.
Planning support for schools exploring new aspects of the syllabus to identify and plan for changes required for successful curriculum implementation. Sample activities centre around ‘school processes for professional learning and curriculum implementation’ and ‘data collection and analysis to inform teaching and learning’.
Support for schools planning to teach, assess and report using the new syllabus and evaluate to refine new practices and systems. It expands on the activities in the Engage phase through the inclusion of a range of tools schools can use to support effective evaluation.
Support for schools planning how to strengthen and scale sustainable practices and systems. The Embed phase is an iterative part of curriculum implementation and hence the activities reflect the necessity of developing whole school processes to support ongoing curriculum implementation.
Curriculum implementation and the SEF
The SEF supports all NSW public schools in their pursuit of excellence by providing a clear description of the key elements of high-quality practice across the 3 domains of learning, teaching and leading. By mapping each phase of curriculum implementation to the SEF, schools can ensure curriculum reform activities reflect the needs of their school context and drive student improvement.
- Learning: Curriculum – Curriculum provision
- Teaching: Professional standards – Improvement of practice; Learning and development – Professional learning
- Leading: Educational leadership – Instructional leadership; Educational leadership – High expectations culture; School planning, implementation and reporting – Continuous improvement
- Learning: Curriculum – Curriculum provision; Curriculum – Teaching and learning programs; Curriculum – Differentiation
- Teaching: Effective classroom practice – Lesson planning; Data skills and use – Data use in teaching; Learning and development – Professional learning
- Leading: Educational leadership – Instructional leadership; Educational leadership – High expectations culture
- Learning: Learning culture – High expectations; Curriculum – Curriculum provision; Curriculum – Teaching and learning programs; Curriculum – Differentiation
- Teaching: Effective classroom practice – Lesson planning; Data skills and use – Data use in teaching
- Leading: Educational leadership – High expectations culture; School planning, implementation and reporting – Continuous improvement
Evaluating curriculum implementation
To effectively evaluate curriculum reform, schools need to ask the right questions.
Important considerations include:
- clarifying questions upfront to target the analysis process
- ensuring questions are focused and succinct
- tailoring questions to the correct phase of the implementation journey and the type of evaluation being conducted (process or outcome evaluation).
There is a range of different perspectives that can inform the questions being asked:
- the journey so far – how has the plan been implemented (To what extent? How effective?)
- progress towards goals – change from baseline or distance from target (How is it tracking? Unintended outcomes?)
- promising practices – innovations to strengthen (Should this practice be scaled?)
- the working environment – lessons learned and the impact on implementation (What were the enablers and barriers?)
- return on investment – cost-effectiveness of implementation (Was the initiative worth it?)
- the big picture – new insights or opportunities, review of focus (What needs to be adjusted for future activities?).
Once questions have been established, schools need to ensure that the data they are collecting can answer the question being asked.
- the type of data (qualitative, quantitative)
- the collection method (self-report, observation, assessment)
- the scale (granular – student, class, teacher or aggregate – whole-school).
Table 2 – examples of data that support the evaluation of curriculum reform activities. These are suggestions for schools to consider and not a progression of data sources.
|Evidence of activity||Evidence of process quality||Evidence of impact|
Professional learning records
Document analysis (teaching and learning programs)
Document analysis of teaching and learning programs
Staff or faculty meeting minutes
Professional learning exit slips
Professional learning exit slips
Perceptual data: Tell Them From Me (TTFM), student and parent surveys
Perceptual data: TTFM, student and parent surveys
Scope and sequence documents
Focus group responses
Internal and external student assessment data
Student work samples
Moderation feedback sessions
Focus group responses
Whole-school processes and procedures
NAPLAN (value-add, expected growth)
Remember, where possible, schools should triangulate multiple sources of data to ensure perspectives are balanced. They should also apply the principles of evaluative thinking when analysing the data. These principles include:
- suspending judgement (and being aware of potential bias)
- asking important questions
- using existing evidence well
- strengthening the evidence base.
Professional learning resources
NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) – Teaching resources