What is Opening Worlds?

Opening Worlds is a knowledge-rich humanities programme for teaching history, geography and religion in Years 3 to 6. We provide curriculum resources together with training, support and ongoing programme-related professional development for primary school teachers. Because of its rapidly discernible effects on literacy and its highly inclusive approach, Opening Worlds quickly gained appeal in schools tackling under-achievement in areas of considerable social disadvantage.


The Opening Worlds programme was first launched in 2019 by Christine Counsell and Steve Mastin, in association with Haringey Education Partnership (HEP) where over 60 primary schools took it up. More recently, a further 60 primary schools have now adopted the programme in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Liverpool.  In partnership with HEP, Opening Worlds now works with formal networks of ten or more primary schools (e.g. LA partnerships, MATs and other school groups with established community leadership). 


The programme meets and substantially exceeds the demand of the National Curriculum for history and geography. It is compatible with most SACRE locally agreed syllabi in RE.  The programme is characterised by strong vertical sequencing within subjects (so that pupils gain security in a rich, broad vocabulary through systematic introduction, sustained practice and deliberate revisiting) and intricate horizontal and diagonal connections, thus creating a curriculum whose effects are far greater than the sum of its parts. 

The Opening Worlds programme includes:

  • detailed curriculum plans
  • full curriculum rationale
  • six pupil booklets, per subject, per year
  • a set of powerpoint slides for each lesson, with each lesson directly corresponding to a booklet chapter
  • additional materials for pupils needing extra practice or other extra access
  • all assessments (formative and summative)
  • a core series of remote training sessions preparing all teachers to teach the programme
  • a menu of further training modules from which teachers shape their continued development
  • website containing further support
  • networking opportunities with Haringey and Enfield schools who have been teaching the programme for eighteen months or more.

Pupils can access the rich, extended text in the booklets because all new vocabulary is pre-taught and practised through a blend of direct instruction, engaging story-telling and other activities.

Opening Worlds only offers the above as a complete package. The one exception to this is where some faith schools choose to teach the history and geography strands only, retaining their own RE programme.  The history and geography strands will work satisfactorily without the RE strand.  That said, even some faith schools in Haringey have chosen to adopt the RE strand because of its unusual thoroughness in teaching each religion’s stories and texts, and its careful sensitivity to each religious context.

Opening Worlds is rapidly becoming known for the following distinctive features:

  • thoroughness in knowledge-building, achieved through intricate coherence and tight sequencing
  • global and cultural breadth, embracing wide diversity across ethnicity, gender, region and community
  • rapid impact on literacy through systematic introduction and revisiting of new vocabulary
  • subject-specific disciplinary rigour, teaching pupils to interpret and argue, to advance and weigh claims, and to understand the distinctive ways in which subject traditions enquire and seek truth
  • well-told stories including beautifully written narratives and nurture of teachers’ own story-telling art
  • a highly inclusive approach, secured partly through common knowledge (giving access to common language) and partly through thorough high-leverage teaching that is pacey, oral, interactive and fun
  • efficient, effective use of lesson time, blending sharp pace, sustained practice and structured reflection
  • rapid improvement of teachers’ teaching through systematic training in the Opening Worlds evidence-informed, high-leverage techniques
An outline of the humanities curriculum is available on the Opening Worlds website here: Openingworlds. A sample of materials can be viewed via this Dropbox link.

Pricing Structure

Opening Worlds does not sell individual resources separately. The resources are offered to communities of schools who wish to take up the full package, including the required training and ongoing support.

Opening Worlds is offered on an annual subscription basis, as follows:
£1000 per 1FE
£1500 per 2FE
£2000 per 3FE

This includes access to all resources on the website and all training.

In addition, hard copies of the booklets may be purchased at £3.00 per booklet plus £10 delivery. We estimate that the booklets, with their durable covers, will stay in good condition for five years. The booklets function as textbooks: pupils do not write in them, allowing for multi-year re-use.

Adoption and implementation

Communities of schools adopting the programme all enjoy a preliminary ‘Implementation Plan’ whose time period is negotiated between HEP, Opening Worlds and the prospective new partner. Implementation is a period of training, extra support and practice for teachers. It lasts between 3 and 6 months, depending on the time of year when the new partner chooses to adopt. During the implementation period, all Year 3 teachers and SLT undergo two half-days of (remote) training from Christine Counsell and Steve Mastin, phased release of resources, time to practise using the resources with current pupils (enabling feedback and questions to Christine and Steve), further support through twilight surgeries and additional partnership meetings for leaders. Because the success of the programme relies on sequencing, our new partners always begin with the Year 3 programme only. Where schools have wanted more year groups to benefit more quickly, they have successfully taught the Year 3 programme to Year 4, and in some instances to Year 5 as well. Level of difficulty is entirely determined by prior knowledge and is not intrinsic to the year. If pupils undertake the programme in the right order, then prior knowledge gives access to later material and text. In other words, the whole programme works on the assumption that the curriculum itself is the progression model.
If you are interested in finding out more about Opening Worlds or you would like to set up a meeting with Christine Counsell, Steve Mastin and our HEP partners, with a view to prospective adoption, please email christinecounsell@openingworlds.uk and stevemastin@openingworlds.uk and we would be delighted to help.

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