Book Review: Mastery & Depth in the National Curriculum by Simon Camby @focuseducation1

Review written by @Ezzy_Moon

When I first saw the title, I stereotyped the text as something that would tell me how to make children master a subject like a ‘how to’ guide, particularly given some of the debates around the word ‘mastery’ which I’ve seen on social media. Having now read it, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised.  As Camby states in the introduction, “the publication has not been written with the intention of providing definite answers but rather more as a ‘thinking tool’ to help structure…” making it a useful school resource more than a how-to accommodate mastery book.

Divided into two sections, part one is focused on helping leaders understand issues around mastery whilst the second half identifies examples of mastery across several subjects that not only act as helpful guides for teachers but also as talking points to draw out perceptions of what mastery is among a staff team. Links to the ‘Four Stages of competence’ and the notion of shallow learning, deep learning and mastery and how they are layered are useful to help educators picture a pathway towards mastery, without being told in a ‘this is what you must do’ tone. Camby uses a dialogic tone in this text and often frames things with a ‘could’ approach rather than a ‘should’ stance.

Personally, I found section two very helpful due to the examples of both printed and photocopied versions of pupils work, which had been taken from a range of schools and contexts. For me, it gave a mental structure and added a little more confidence to what mastery could look like in various subjects. Although I found most value in section two, I found the provocations offered in section one made me reflect on what my understanding of what assessment is and think wider than the practical sides of implementing it as part of my practice. Would I recommend it? Yes. I think the text is a useful resource for primary schools with its exemplars and reflective questions, with a main strength being a holistic approach to mastery within a wider context of assessment.

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