Aims based curriculum

The starting point

"General aims should be the starting point for school planning – school should aim to equip students to lead a life that is personally flourishing, and provide a moral education in which students become informed, and active citizens of society, respecting such values as freedom, and equality."

What are the key principles of this approach to the curriculum?

General aims should be the starting point for school planning – school should aim to equip students to lead a life that is personally flourishing, and provide a moral education in which students become informed, and active citizens of society, respecting such values as freedom, and equality.

More specific aims are then generated from these – for example, around the role of imagination, the arts, student choice and discussion in the curriculum.

An Aims Based curriculum includes familiar items from a subject based approach but allows for new directions. The overall goal is enthusiasm for learning rather than comprehensive coverage. 

More specific aims are then generated from these – for example, around the role of imagination, the arts, student choice and discussion in the curriculum.

An Aims Based curriculum includes familiar items from a subject based approach but allows for new directions. The overall goal is enthusiasm for learning rather than comprehensive coverage.

What are the main benefits of this approach?

An aims-based curriculum starts with the needs and wants of students and the aims can and should inform school learning at every point. In comparison, a subject-led curriculum starts with and so is necessarily constrained by the availability of teachers capable of teaching certain subjects. 

What does this mean in practice?

Learning should be delivered through a variety of compulsory, taster and optional courses.

The curriculum should encourage whole-hearted involvement in the school day, with activities that pupils find enjoyable and absorbing.

Activities should include cooperative projects and discussions that provide students with an element of choice.

Wroxham Primary School – one of our case study schools – is an example that has been cited as an aims based approach – with the focus on giving pupils chances to express their ideas and participate in decisions to improve their lives.

What does this mean for teachers?

The proponents of the aims based curriculum argue that teacher education should include a focus on classroom competence, but also place much greater emphasis on a broader reflection on education and its aims – including understanding the aims based structure of personal well being, and the role of personal autonomy.

How can I find out more?

The publication mentioned above:

  • Reiss, M., White, J. (2013) An Aims-based Curriculum: the significance of human flourishing for schools. Institute of Education Press