Welcome to our Academy’s Curriculum Approach – The Background
How did we design our curriculum?
The Academy started to look at ways in which its curriculum could change before the announcement came in May 2019 from Ofsted that a change in the inspection framework was to be implemented from September 2019. As a school, we had already started to look at ways in which we could make learning ’stick’ for our pupils and we had a keen interest in the messages that were coming from cognitive overload theories. We had strongly held views that a curriculum was not to be imposed on our staff and that all members of the school needed to be involved in its construction, as it needed to embody our shared vision, values, ethos before it could be successfully implemented. We also believed that Subject Leads needed to be key in our approach and in the curriculum being successfully implemented across the whole school. We had already appointed key Leads in Reading and Maths to join the SLT to make both areas strong, key focuses.
We had already spent a considerable amount of time on initial designs, discussing the needs of the pupils, the relevance of our local community/ history, and combined this with extensive research. We will continue to dedicate staff CPD and INSET sessions to further support staff in their implementation and enhancement of our curriculum going forward. Our staff have been given regular release time, over the full year, in order to develop their subject areas, unique to our school, whilst covering National Curriculum objectives.
It is also of paramount importance to us that our core fundamental values of ensuring we produce young members of society who are ‘Self-aware, Unique, Problem-solving, Empathetic, Responsible, and Benevolent citizens’, is embedded throughout our whole approach – which led us to implement the ‘SUPERB’ citizen approach to learning.
How does our curriculum meet the needs of our pupils?
At Old Clee Primary Academy we believe that learning is a change to long term memory. It is body of knowledge which sits in the long term memory and can be recalled when needed. Through the short term experiences and objectives, our main aim is to ensure all that is learned is transferred into a child’s long term memory so that they develop a wide and deep knowledge base in which to make sense of the world.
Therefore, our curriculum approach has been developed, and continues to be developed, in order to ensure learning is repeated, and so skills become embedded and transferable, and knowledge becomes extensive, deep, engrained and useable. Underpinning this is our aim to ensure our pupils all have the same access and experience of high and equal expectations through an ambitious curriculum approach.
We aim to make all our learning meaningful to our pupils so that links can be made that makes sense to them. Our curriculum has been developed to enable a child to build a web of knowledge where meaningful links can be made within and across subject areas. We understand that children need to understand what they are doing and learning so that they can link it to prior learning; we know that having plenty of opportunity to practice, develop skills and apply their understanding through different contexts helps learning ‘stick’. We aim to make this happen through ensuring our planning is built on coherent and well sequenced units of work - units of work which encapsulate the interests of the pupils at Old Clee, are appropriate, and embody our uniqueness in our locality. We aim to provide our pupils with a broad, balanced and wide range of subjects and opportunities, but also aim to develop their personal attributes.
We understand that at times children will need to be taught learning directly whilst at other times children will need to learn through finding out for themselves. We will go forwards and backwards, engineering knowledge links which children can retain – and therefore build upon. With this in mind, our delivery approaches will be informed, managed, planned and well thought through, with clear intentions for choosing each approach. Our curriculum approach will at times secure the basics of learning before extending it, so that a secure base is formed on which to build and therefore deepen.
We place high priority on ensuring children’s physical and mental well-being are met. We understand that children will not be successful learners unless they are emotionally secure, therefore we designed our curriculum and adopted a flexible approach to timetabling and grouping to ensure we can meet and respond to needs and any issues that arise. At Old Clee Primary Academy it is our underlying belief that every child should feel valued and experience the feeling of success in a wide range of curriculum areas. Therefore, we have designed, organised and planned our curriculum to ensure every child receives an appropriate mix of academic and personal development and have aligned the need for pupils to secure the expected standard at the end of KS2 by placing greater importance on the role foundation subjects play in contributing towards this.
How do pupils progress and achieve within our curriculum?
At Old Clee, our definition of progress is the widening, deepening, recall and use of essential knowledge, skills, understanding – all of which will have been acquired through excellent pupil learning behaviours. We have designed, organised and planned our curriculum around children are not merely covering content but achieving a depth to their learning which enables them to use their skills and understanding across all areas. Our curriculum design and planning means we build in many opportunities for repetition, practise and retrieval of essential skills, knowledge and understanding in every subject. This ensures children can revisit previous learning, which allows them to gradually develop a deeper understanding of the skills and processes within subjects, at their own pace and in the best possible way for each individual child.
Curriculum Design Statement: intent, implementation, impact
The breadth of our curriculum is designed with three goals in mind:
(1) To give pupils appropriate experience to develop as confident, responsible citizens;
Experiences which bring about the aims and values of our school, and respond to the particular needs of our community:
- For pupils to become independent thinkers and learners – having the knowledge, skill and resilience to tackle challenges and find the answers out themselves;
- For pupils to become articulate individuals who are able to think and express themselves at a deeper and more mature level;
- That our approach increase the life chances and aspirations of our pupils so they are open to more possibilities and are able to make more choices about their future.
(2) To provide a rich ‘cultural capital’:
Cultural capital is the background knowledge of the world which pupils need to infer meaning form what they read. It includes vocabulary which, in turn, helps pupils express themselves in a sophisticated and mature way. Cultural capital helps pupils form opinions by drawing on a wide body of knowledge, thus helping them become independent thinkers.
(3) To provide a coherent, structured, academic curriculum that leads to sustained mastery for all and a greater depth understanding for those capable:
- LTPs provide a clear list of the breadth of topics that will be covered – they are the ‘curriculum drivers’
- The ‘Continuous Concepts’ are the consistent ‘umbrella’ concepts that all objectives (CE) sit under. They are the same across Y1 to Y6 and will be continually revisited and are designed so that our pupils talk, write and question like a ’geographer’ for example.
- Criteria for progression sits within the ‘Concept Element’ objectives which are different for each year group or phase.
- The ‘Matrix’ documents the ‘prior learning’ on which to build, and prepares pupils for the ‘future learning’ in the above years
- ‘Subject Specific Vocabulary’ is an important part of our approach to develop spoken language and each year group has a ‘SSV’ directive
- ‘Being a…….’ provides a child friendly, progressive skill overview of what pupils need to be able to do to call themselves a ‘Geographer’ (for example).
- ‘Pop Tasks’ tells teachers who has retained information and who can use and apply it to a given context – for example a book scrutiny shows a pupil has been in a lesson and merely completed a task, it doesn’t show if a child has a deeper understanding or has learned at a deeper level; only by applying the skill in a different context can this be shown, and even more so, after a time delay.
Nothing is learned unless it rests in pupils’ long-term memories. This does not happen, and cannot be assessed in the short term. Assessment, therefore answers two main questions: ‘How are pupils engaging with the curriculum content and their learning?’ And ‘How well are they retaining previously taught content and skills?’
Our curriculum design is based on evidence from cognitive science; three main principles underpin it:
- Learning is most effective with spaced repetition – ‘wait and then repeat’ – leading to a strengthened memory
- Interleaving - teaching many ‘content drivers’ in parallel rather than blocking them. This aids pupils’ long term retention.
- Retrieval of previously leaned content is frequent and regular, which increases both storage and retrieval strength.
In addition to the three principles we also understand that learning is invisible in the short term and that sustained mastery takes time. That some of our content drivers are subject specific, whilst other content is combined in a cross curricular approach.
The impact aim of our curriculum is that by the end of each year, the vast majority of pupils have sustained mastery of the content and concepts delivered - that is - they will remember, recall and further build on secure platforms, year after year; some pupils will have a greater depth of understanding. But for all – learning has been transferable so that the vast majority are ready to progress on to the next year’s curriculum.
Pupils have also developed into ‘SUPERB’ citizens - capable of playing an active and successful role in society and who have happy and fulfilled lives.
Monitoring of this will be robust - through continuous, everyday metacognitive process whereby learners think about their own learning more explicitly and acquire the ability to monitor, direct and review learning themselves; and through teachers using many AFL opportunities, and through employing teacher/pupil ‘Assessment Conversations’; in addition, more summative POP tasks designed to retrieve and apply learning will be used. More formal testing will also provide quantitative data for some subject areas.