Our approach to curriculum design carefully focusses on the National Curriculum programmes of study but underpinning this we specifically focus on character development and the growth of softer interpersonal skills. We believe fitting the children who attend our school for their futures requires a holistic approach based on their own specific needs.
The content of our 'school curriculum' comes from:
- The statutory National Curriculum content for each year group / key stage
- Our shared vision and values around promoting collaborative approaches
- The locality of the school
- The needs of our school community
- The needs of our wider society
We endeavour to achieve this through the planning of cross-curricular ‘Curriculum Vehicles'. We came to this approach from our research based on a well-developed case study of a successful junior school in Worcestershire.
The requirement for each Curriculum Vehicle includes a key end outcome that pupils work together to achieve. This must forge a meaningful link to an associated career and ensure some direct involvement with a connected employer.
Our Curriculum Intent:
Whilst keeping standards high is extremely important to us, improving test results is not our only priority. We firmly believe for our children it is essential to place an emphasis on nurturing their interpersonal skills i.e. teamwork, resilience, enterprise and entrepreneurial creativity. Our school curriculum needs to include all aspects of learning.
We strive to ensure our curriculum keeps up to date with society's social and educational changes and that it is constantly developing our pupils’ 'soft skills’ that we know employers will value most in the future. We have put these skills at the heart of our curriculum planning.
We achieve this by implementing the school curriculum through planned Curriculum Vehicles. We know that a number of our children join our schools with very limited experiences, for example, having not ever visited anywhere further than Mansfield or Hucknall let alone been to a farm or the seaside. Our Curriculum Vehicles seek to provide our children with some experiences of these to enrich their knowledge and enhance their vocabulary so they are not only immersed in the statutory age appropriate knowledge and skills, but also equipped with the personal characteristics required to ensure they can achieve success in their futures. This is achieved by centring our provision and learning around attributes where pupils can relate to themselves, relate to others and manage situations.
A Curriculum Vehicle is the planning framework we use that delivers both our school curriculum aims and the statutory content of The National Curriculum. Each vehicle lasts either a term or half a term as this can be planned flexibly dependent on need balanced with the cohesive use of our programmes of study Curriculum overview. The vehicle needs to provide opportunities for pupils to learn about managing themselves, relationships and situations.
The difference between Curriculum Vehicles and what we used to call ‘Topics’ is that a Curriculum Vehicle is not solely driven by the acquisition of knowledge from the National Curriculum subject.
For example, for a 'Vikings' topic previously planned this may have been interweaved to include elements of English, History, Design and Technology and Art but this was all mainly driven by one specific subject in The National Curriculum which in this example would the acquisition of History knowledge, understanding and skills.
The difference with the Curriculum Vehicles is that in planning a similarly focused unit, rather than the end outcome being to purely gain knowledge and skills acquisition about the Vikings, a teacher can choose a Curriculum Vehicle such as 'Running a Museum', to embed opportunities for pupils to also comprehend teamwork, consumerism, responsibility, income versus expenditure, etc,. It would include them creating a high-profile Vikings museum exhibit to cover all the historic knowledge and skills content together as an end outcome, but this subject content is completed in a way where the focus is on pupils as whole learners rather than on what is to be learnt. The statutory content of the National Curriculum is embedded within what we then plan rather than being the only driver.
We believe that a Curriculum Vehicle needs to be absolutely founded on our own school aim for collaboration for it to succeed.
An effective Curriculum Vehicle:
- Draws on all areas of personal development and the National Curriculum forming a cohesive learning experience
- Drives learning and development throughout the term, rather than being a 'bolt-on' at the end of term where work undertaken is simply showcased
- Is integral to the delivery and success of the unit planned i.e. removing the vehicle concept would mean the whole unit would instead become a set of loosely related curriculum learning activities
- Engages pupils with their Curriculum Vehicle and its purpose so they see it as being the key goal in their learning progress
- Is the driver for more intrinsic pupil motivation to develop a natural striving for excellence based on the fact that all learning will contribute to the intended final outcome
- Centres on interpersonal skills, the development of team-based projects and should cause pupils to reflect more deeply on their ability to work together, e.g. understanding of roles (leader, facilitator, worker, etc) and playing to these strengths to achieve their goal. Alongside this learning how to resolve conflict, manage disappointment through the growth of resilience and the fine art of negotiation
- Replicates life in the 'real world' as far as possible. It should draw on processes that adults work with every day and narrow the gap between the artificial world of the classroom and the reality of learning in the wider world, therefore providing more context to learning
- Uses an outside client wherever possible, to give the vehicle a purpose so this is based on fulfilling the needs of the client. This allows for negotiation with an outside party who creates the need to constantly re-evaluate the intended product or outcome. For example, an internal newspaper is not as exciting as one that will be made and distributed in the local community
- Includes milestones along the way to maintain enthusiasm, particularly for younger pupils
- Draws on expertise from the community, including specialists, outside visitors and out-of-school visits wherever possible and relevant
- Aligns with the teachers, passion, enthusiasm and natural creativity
In order to ensure our curriculum provision stays alive and current we have made the important decision that there is no rolling programme of Curriculum Vehicles, so they are not repeated from year to year. This means that the year group specific statutory content planned for each year remains static, but this does not necessarily stay within the same term. Our approach encourages flexible thinking and creativity in the planning for provision from our teaching staff.
To support and quality assure this, we have a Curriculum Development Working Party which consists of key subject leaders who are our experts. They review the year group statutory curriculum carve up and work together to provide ideas for potential future Curriculum Vehicles that will cover all statutory content, but with different collaborative outcomes and career links. They are also key to ensuring planning is sequentially taught to enable the buildup of key concepts, skills and knowledge over time for our pupils as they move through the school.
Our intention is that Curriculum Vehicles, as much as possible, subsume aspects of a wide range of curriculum subjects. In order to achieve this, teaching takes place in the context of the vehicle, wherever possible. For example, we do not consider it is good practice to remove pupils for a 'persuasive writing' lesson and then bring them back into the vehicle to try out those skills.
The persuasive piece needs to be built into the context of the Curriculum Vehicle to provide more meaning and purpose to pupils which in turn leads to high quality learning taking place which has far more chance of ‘sticking’ for our children.
Our Curriculum Implementation:
Within our Curriculum Vehicles we plan for sessions by completing a Walk-Through plan.
This is where we divide the learning into appropriate units of working time, dependent on what needs to be achieved. These are planned out into sequential steps towards achieving the Curriculum Vehicle’s final outcome. Steps in the Walk-Through plan can be for one lesson, or may span several, dependent on content, skills and knowledge balanced with the teaching time required in order to deliver them effectively. Due to this weekly timetabling is more flexible in response to this. Planning teams will plan-out their weekly timetable to accommodate what needs to be achieved in the subsequent week as part of the Curriculum Vehicle and also in order to include any discrete aspects of other subject content needing to be taught alongside.
Alongside this each Curriculum Vehicle has an accompanying Knowledge Organiser Mat which is shared at the outset with our children and their parents/carers. This contains the key knowledge, the key personal skills (always abilities / soft skills) and the key vocabulary we want the children to learn about alongside reading recommendations, website links and potential connected careers.
There is a requirement that planning teams should seek to draw on expertise within the community, local industry or other wider business links as appropriate. The reason for this is that using external experts fulfils two important functions in the process of learning engagement.
The first is that many of them are inspirational, in the sense that they have ability and skills, which go beyond those within the school community. Secondly, and more importantly, they will be more aspirational figures for our children. School staff can obviously excel and inspire children in different fields of careers and expertise, but they cannot convincingly be seen as ‘aspirational’ because they still remain school staff and are not the actual expert in that field.
We want our pupils to develop aspirations to be like some of our career linked experts when they grow up.
We fundamentally know there is a difference of some magnitude between being able to inspire and aspire. Inspiration hinges on what you can do whilst aspiration is founded on who you are. We feel the latter is the more powerful of the two. In our school community, due to high levels of deprivation, aspiration is a key personal attribute we need to grow, nurture and embed within our children’s personal armoury.
To ensure this planning teams must always plan to provide opportunities for pupils to develop their ‘soft-skills’ to plan their Curriculum Vehicle from. The integration of National curriculum subjects and content is entwined around this initial intent.
To support children’s understanding and develop autonomy in their own learning, we deploy a Challenge by Choice approach to a large proportion of our differentiated lessons. This involves removing caps placed on children’s learning, so as not to restrict their progress. This approach offers more ownership for the children as they choose their own level of activity within a lesson to work at. This means that all children are given the opportunity to challenge themselves appropriately in different aspects of a subject without the limitations of being automatically ability grouped.
In this approach there are four different learning options for the learning intention of a session. In order to make this system accessible for all our learners, these options are referred to as ‘chillis’ and the system is referred to as Chilli Challenges in the classroom. Each chilli builds on the previous one, offering different levels of difficulty or application.
|Tongue Tingler||Nose Runner||Eye Waterer||The Beast|
|Involves practising the skill with scaffolding.||Involves the practising element in a more independent manner||Involves the application of the skill.||This is a mastery level activity where children are expected to use and apply deeper thinking.|
Some of the non-core skills-based subjects within the National Curriculum are far are easier to integrate into every Curriculum Vehicle such as Art and DT. Other more heavily content-driven subjects are integrated where a meaningful link is appropriate such as PSHRE, French, RE, Music and PE but these subjects are generally taught discretely within the weekly timetable.
Computing is taught from a scheme of work from Purple Mash. Some of the English, Maths and Science work is taught through the Curriculum Vehicles but other required coverage is taught discretely. Pupils will have a geography fieldwork week in Years 1, 3 and 5
As much of our PSHRE provision is key to all we provide for our children’s needs, we deliver this within a high-quality picture book-centred framework which focusses on dealing with many aspects of social challenges and adverse childhood experiences (ACES).
This is divided up into a variety of ‘Talking Points’ each term which culminate in challenge by choice activities where discussion encourages pupils to ‘agree, build or challenge’ social concepts. The framework covers Year 1 through to Year 6 and has a progressive build up to suit the age and needs of our pupils. There are four main strands within this in each Year Group. These are:
1. Understanding me
2. Understanding others
3. Understanding groups
4. Looking after me
The teaching of reading throughout school falls primarily into two main areas: word reading and comprehension. Word reading is a key focus particularly in children's early schooling where there are daily phonics sessions as well specific reading sessions. Phonic sessions follow a four-part format allowing children to revisit/review previously learnt sounds/words; teach, where they learn new sounds; practise; which allows children to 'try out' the sound(s) and apply, where children use these newly taught sounds in context. KS1 provision aims to be opportunities for phonic practice and application.
Throughout school, comprehension is taught so that children can understand what they have read. We use RIC principles to structure our comprehension teaching (Retrieve, Interpret and Choice) which allows us to focus on author intent as well as inferring and retrieving information in order to fully cover all areas of the reading content domain. Children have the opportunity to apply their understanding in a wide range of ways including, but not limited to, using text to draw settings/characters, answering questions, matching/sequencing activities and specific vocabulary activities. Additionally, in KS2 APE (Answer, Prove, Explain) is used as both a teaching tool and a resource to support children with structuring higher-level answers.
Children are taught through a variety of whole class, small group and 1:1 reading sessions however, KS2 reading is primarily taught as a whole class. The principles of Reciprocal Reading are applied to reading sessions to support children’s autonomy and comprehension. All children are exposed to a range of authors and text types throughout these sessions. (Refer to Our Reading Offer and Reading Spine)
Additional reading enrichment takes place throughout school, with books shared in Talking Points (PSHRE), texts used to support Curriculum Vehicle sessions, assemblies and whole-class reads.
The teaching of writing is key skill applied throughout the whole curriculum. Discreet English sessions are utilised to ensure that all areas of the writing curriculum are covered.
To support their development of writing, children have specific Grammar Skills and Spelling teaching. A range of approaches to spelling teaching is deployed, including the use of No-Nonsense Spelling for KS2 and within phonic sessions for KS1. Grammar is taught using Rainbow Grammar. Rainbow Grammar is a systematic approach to teaching grammar and punctuation created by Jason Wade (a Grammar expert). This approach separates sentences into eight parts of grammar and assigns each a colour. During their time at our school, children will learn about each colour and how they can be combined to create a rich array of sentence structures. Children are given opportunities to practice grammar skills through daily grammar starters.
Handwriting is taught systematically throughout school using Nelson Handwriting. This begins with sessions focusing on developing gross and fine motor skills and moves on to letter formation and joining. As children become more competent with their handwriting they are able to use pens in their writing.
Writing units are planned around a quality text. Units are structured to allow for immersion in the text/writing genre, the practicing of key grammatical and structural features. Units come to a close with an end written outcome which will follow the writing format of plan, write, edit to an age appropriate level. Marking symbols are used to share success criteria and build children’s autonomy with developing their own writing skills.
Children are given opportunities to write for different purposes and different audiences both in discreet English sessions and across the wider curriculum. Where meaningful outcomes can be achieved, writing is delivered throughout Curriculum Vehicle sessions to ensure that it is purposeful.
Maths is taught through structured sessions designed to allow children to make progress at each stage and also to think at a deeper level about each concept of skill. An anchor task at the start of the lesson contextualises the skill and also allows all children an opportunity to think deeply about the skill being taught. This is then followed by a guided practice which is more heavily structured and allows all pupils to see a skill being applied – this is also an opportunity for pupils to work together to practice a skill before moving on to the independent part of the session. This independent part is structured through the Challenge by Choice (chilli challenge) approach and pupils are given opportunities to choose the level appropriate for them and work with adult support if necessary.
Each class also does a daily 5 in 5 (or 3 in 3 in Year 1) fluency task which is designed to support children in building the speed with which they can recall number facts such as number bonds, times tables, multiplying by powers of 10 or finding simple fractions of amounts. Towards the start of the year, these are likely to be based on gaps from the academic year below but will move to be covering more age related gaps as we move through the academic year. They are planned for individual classes based on gaps the teacher has identified through previous sessions or arithmetic practices.
Times table subject knowledge is also something which features strongly in our teaching of mathematics. We have a three-pronged approach to this:
- Times Table Rockstars – this is an online program which each KS2 pupil has access to and is designed to continue times table practice at home and also develops a passion and excitement around times table learning
- Times Table Superheroes – these are a series of levelled challenges that pupils work through. They do a paper based, times table exercise weekly and move through the superhero named levels once they have completed the previous one. These again increase the emphasis on times tables but also ensure each child within a class is working on a personalised times table target and progress is tracked. These have also been made available for online learning
- Shanghai sessions – Shanghai sessions take place fortnightly in Y1 – Y3 (moving on to weekly in Y4) and are a focused session on a specific times table which all children access.
They are designed to absorb children in a times table for a lesson and allow for repetition and building up of knowledge through guided sessions and short tasks which in turn lead to increased independence in that particular times table
For remote maths learning for Years 1-6, lessons mirror the in-school pedagogical approach, though tasks have been renamed for encourage parental engagement, e.g. ‘Anchor Task’ has now been renamed ‘Task 1’.
It is necessary for the current maths provision to adhere to our long-term overviews in order for children to continue to make progression and to address gaps in missed learning. Staff’s views have been taken into account to reflect children’s current gaps and learning needs when updating these overviews. The format through which children access their home maths learning has been tailored towards maximising children’s engagement through the use of personalised explanation and modelling.
We expect our pupils to take P.R.I.D.E in their learning by working to their full potential and demonstrating positive learning behaviours. We have high expectations of academic progress, attendance and social and moral aptitudes. This permeates across our schools through enabling opportunities for pupils to be elected onto a range of pupil forums where they are instrumental in working with key staff on a range of key developments. These include:
Attendance Forums, Sports Leaders, Reading Champions, Take 5 Ambassadors and Learning Forums.
We very much see working with our parents and carers as a fundamental partnership and rigorously strive to strengthen this relationship as much as possible in order for our pupils to benefit. This is usually successfully achieved through a calendar of events across the school year that they are invited into school for work showcases, celebration events, meet the teacher evenings, fun family learning events, etc. We are currently working to adapt and organise these kinds of events to take place in a more virtual way.
As part of our experiential curriculum as well as us regularly inviting visitors to the school and planning carefully chosen trips out to enhance our Curriculum Vehicles we also run residential visits, after school clubs and have a sports specialists for the schools to enhance delivery. (Refer to the overview in Appendix 1 of the Curriculum Statement below).
We also carefully plan and include work around fundamental British Values using appropriate language and themes accessible for our pupils to identify with (Refer to the 2-page overview in Appendix 2 of the Curriculum Statement below). These are also reinforced and delivered each week through our Assembly Themes which also link closely to our PSHRE foci. (Refer to Appendix 3 of the Curriculum Statement below).
Assessing the Impact of Our Curriculum:
Teaching staff utilise the National Curriculum and Skills overviews to highlight and map coverage which informs them of what has been achieved and what requires more emphasis in future provision.
The school uses an online tracking system (Classroom Monitor) for staff to complete marking on the skills within taught provision for the core subjects.
We use Cornerstone Assessments each term to assess Reading and Maths (arithmetic) to support our summative tracking data teacher assessment points.
Our marking and feedback procedure is focused on this taking place at the point of teaching as much as possible in order to ensure good progress can be made with insightful intervention. Where pupils are less confident in aspects of learning this is picked up and a post-teach will be provided typically on the same day.
These all provide information for staff to use in order to identify gaps in learning on which to base their planning and teaching provision on. They are also used by school leaders for the ongoing assessment of National Curriculum statement coverage.
Continual professional development is ongoing for all Subject Leaders so they have the necessary skills and expertise to support and embed high standards for their subject. They ensure a clear progression of skills is planned for and that these impact on the depth of knowledge acquired. Subject Leaders use a range of monitoring to ascertain levels of learning and track levels of progress and coverage so that they can ensure this fulfils National Curriculum requirements and sequentially builds the acquisition of knowledge and skills for pupils over time. They are responsible for embedding robust systems of assuring this is achieved.
We strive to draw a distinction between assessing the impact of the school curriculum and assessing National Curriculum subjects. The purpose of a school curriculum is not only about aiming to achieve outstanding SATs results. We know for our pupils we need to provide a holistic education for our pupils in line with our school core values and curriculum aims. To this end, during the last academic year we set up a pupil Learning Forum which was due to be used to provide the conduit to developing a record of achievement approach to assessing pupils' social and emotional journeys through a learning log. Work was accomplished towards achieving this. We had planned to provide a way for pupils to reflect on their own experiences and learning within these logs, in conjunction with peer feedback and teacher feedback. This has now been transferred as a key development for the second part of the Spring Term 2021.
We utilise our subject leader experts which include key Senior Leaders within the Curriculum Development Working Party who meet regularly to quality assure and provide guidance, support and challenge for year groups.
As part of our school improvement planning and ongoing quality assurance we carry out a range of monitoring in order to assess strengths and identify areas requiring support and improvement in order to keep a keen eye on quality assurance to ensure all are taking Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence.
If you would like to find out more about the curriculum we follow at Holgate Primary School, please contact the school office on 0115 963 8649 with your specific enquiry and a member of our teaching staff will provide more details.
Please see the below Curriculum Statement for all information on our school curriculum.