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 highly inclusive approach, Opening Worlds quickly gained appeal in schools tackling under-achievement in areas of social disadvantage.

The Opening Worlds programme was first launched in 2019 by Christine Counsell and Steve Mastin, in association with Haringey Education Partnership (HEP). Over 60 primary schools took it up in Haringey and subsequently in neighbouring Enfield. A new company Opening Worlds Ltd was then founded and, in partnership with HEP, began to work with cohesive groups of twelve or more primary schools (eg LA partnerships, MATs and other school groups with established community leadership) in other settings. In this way, over 120 primary schools beyond Haringey and Enfield have now adopted the programme through Opening Worlds communities established in Birmingham, Brent, Cambridgeshire, Lancashire, Liverpool, Peterborough and Surrey, together with some MAT communities serving multiple locations.

The programme meets and substantially exceeds the demand of the National Curriculum for history and geography. The religion programme is compatible with the objectives of most SACRE locally agreed syllabuses in RE but substantially exceeds the knowledge-base and the resourcing that such local RE syllabuses offer. 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 by intricate horizontal and diagonal connections, thus creating a curriculum whose effects are far greater than the sum of their parts.

The Opening Worlds programme includes:

  • detailed curriculum plans
  • full curriculum rationale
  • six pupil booklets, per subject, per year, each comprising six chapters
  • a set of 15 to 30 Powerpoint slides for each lesson, with each lesson directly corresponding to a booklet chapter
  • additional printable sheets for pupils needing extra access or extra practice
  • 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 own continued development
  • website containing further support
  • networking opportunities with Haringey and Enfield schools who have taught the programme since 2019.

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: beautifully written narratives and the 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 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.
Perhaps the most noticeable impact is that pupils can access the rich, extended text in the booklets because all new vocabulary is pre-taught and practised through blends of direct instruction, engaging story-telling and other activities. An outline of the humanities curriculum is available on the Opening Worlds website.
 

Sample resources

Pricing Structure

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

Opening Worlds is offered on an annual subscription basis, as follows:

  • £1000 per 1 form entry
  • £1500 per 2 form entry
  • £2000 per 3 form entry

This includes access to all resources on the website and all training.
In addition, hard copies of the booklets are purchased at £3.00 per booklet plus £10 delivery.

The booklets function as textbooks: pupils do not write in them, allowing for multi-year re-use. We estimate that the booklets, with their durable covers, will stay in good condition for at least five years, and longer if you place them in a plastic wallet. Some larger schools have purchased one class set of booklets and used the set across multiple classes. It is not possible for schools to print their own booklets. The resources on the website are watermarked and are not for reproduction.

Adoption and Implementation

Communities of schools adopting the programme all enjoy a preliminary ‘Implementation Plan’ which can take place in any term. Implementation is a period of training, extra support and practice for teachers. It lasts for one term. 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 project 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 Year 5.

Level of difficulty is determined by prior knowledge and is therefore not intrinsic to year group or age. 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.

To find out more about Opening Worlds or to arrange 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 or info@openingworlds.uk. We would be delighted to help.

“Opening Worlds has been a ‘game changer’ for our children and staff. The children, most of whom have English as an additional language, are confidently using vocabulary and making links across the curriculum, with knowledge that our previous curriculum would have never even exposed them to. The quality resources provided mean that teachers don’t spend time on research but instead on really understanding the content provided. We couldn’t recommend it more highly.”
Jane Flynn, CEO, Children First Academy Trust, Enfield
“Created by two of the country’s best curricular minds, Opening Worlds is an incredible resource for any school wanting the best possible knowledge, vocabulary and progression for their pupils. The training provided by Steve and Christine ensures that every teacher understands the intent, is supported through the implementation, and can marvel at the impact on pupils.”
David Morell, Headteacher, Willingham Primary School, Cambridgeshire

To find out more about Opening Worlds or to arrange 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 or info@openingworlds.uk. We would be delighted to help.