St Mary’s C of E Primary – Overview of the Curriculum
Intent: At St Mary’s, we believe that an ambitious, exciting curriculum is the key to transforming children’s lives and developing them into lifelong learners. Fostering children’s curiosity will give them a desire to learn that both enriches them and equips them with the skills, values, and attitudes needed to find their place in modern Britain and the wider world. Our curriculum has been designed with great care by our teachers collectively in order that there are opportunities to acquire deep and meaningful knowledge and explore a broad range of skills to apply this knowledge, thus preparing children for life beyond school.
Children’s learning is driven by high expectations so that they can succeed academically. However, the curriculum is also our most important tool in developing children more broadly, supporting their creative and sporting aspirations and enabling children to grow up spiritually in the context of our strong Christian culture. We help children to build a moral foundation through the explicit teaching of Christian values that are compatible with modern British values, in order that they develop qualities such as respect, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.
Activities will be designed to build confidence and self-esteem, which in turn will support children’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Knowledge and skills – The knowledge and concepts children acquire through our curriculum must be powerful and planned in a systematic way. Teachers must constantly question the purpose and value of what they are teaching and how learning is structured and reinforced through the accumulation of related concepts. The more children know, the more they can build on this foundation with future learning. The acquisition of skills is also crucial because any body of knowledge is only useful if it can be applied effectively in different situations. A successful curriculum must provide both knowledge and key skills and our teachers plan consciously how these aspects work together to aid children’s learning.
- Overarching concepts – It is vital that the knowledge and skills children learn are co-ordinated and coherent. In order to achieve this in our curriculum, teachers have identified the key concepts or overarching ideas within each subject. In order that children can access them, we call these the ‘Big Ideas’. Pupils’ intellectual development and knowledge-retention is supported by structuring learning according to these few carefully selected ‘Big Ideas’ and returning to them frequently, giving context and familiar language on which to build new learning. It is essential that these ‘Big Ideas’ are continually returned to and reinforced in order to create an organised, easily-understood and progressive structure of learning. This principle is about making connections and constant reference to a bigger picture. Future learning, authentic cross-curricular understanding and the detail of deeper learning take place within this coherent structure.
- Engagement – A curriculum that fails to engage pupils will not be effective. We have identified that our pupils respond well to inspiring stimuli to generate productivity; opportunities for active or outdoor learning; and exciting tasks that allow them to explore their creativity. Wherever possible, these opportunities are built into our curriculum maps explicitly.
- Personal development – The curriculum is our most important tool for developing children’s character and shaping how the see and interact with the world. Activities are planned that provide opportunities for spiritual and social growth, through which children learn to lead others and lead themselves. We explicitly teach a range of Christian values that create a moral foundation and support children into becoming positive, contributing members of society. Through exposure to diverse people and cultures, children learn the importance of tolerance and respect for all.
- Vocabulary and reading – In order for pupils to access learning in any subject, they must be taught the correct technical vocabulary, allowing them to understand, analyse and communicate. At St Mary’s, teachers plan when language and key terms will be introduced, explained and taught explicitly. Curriculum maps show how this technical language is then revisited and reinforced regularly. Similarly, the ability to read fluently and understand a range of texts is essential for all future learning. Therefore, an emphasis on reading for both pleasure and information underpins the whole curriculum.
- Teachers have worked together to design curriculum maps for each subject. These are live documents that are subject to constant review and improvement. It is important to pupils’ needs and interests and for teachers to reflect on their practice. Therefore, our curriculum maps may be subject to change.
- ‘Big Ideas’ – the teachers have identified collectively the three ‘Big Ideas’ for each subject. We have created a coherent, structured curriculum by explicitly planning to return to these concepts frequently throughout Key Stage 1 and Key stage 2. Reinforcing these concepts through repetition is the key to improving pupils’ retention and supporting future learning through the context of familiar ideas. The ‘Big Ideas’ relate to elements within an academic discipline, such as ‘observation’ in science, or refer to important concepts that contribute to pupils’ personal and social development, including ‘diversity’ in geography and ‘equality’ in history. It is essential that the ‘Big Ideas’ within each subject are understood by the children and become part of their common classroom language. This is achieved by using the ‘Big Ideas’ in subject-specific displays, explaining the ‘Big Ideas’ verbally and referring to them in lesson plans and by requiring the children to write them down and explain them in their own words.
- Key vocabulary will be pre-taught, revisited and extended as children progress through the year groups. Curriculum maps specify when key vocabulary will be introduced and explicitly taught and also when pupils will be exposed to this language in future learning.
- The curriculum is delivered in partnership with parents and families. There is a clear approach to learning at home, which focuses on developing reading fluency and understanding. A flexible approach to home-learning also reinforces learning in phonics, spelling and multiplication tables. Once each half-term term, pupils are asked to complete a piece of work at home that is inspiring or creative and is linked to learning in the classroom. Sharing cafés each term are also used to share children’s learning with parents.
- Relevant curriculum links are used to structure learning and support retention through repetition and reminders of concepts and through the application of learned knowledge and skills. However, it is important that these links are only made where they are genuinely support learning. Such links are not accidental but are planned in advance and included on long term curriculum maps. While curriculum links may help to inspire children, teachers are mindful of the key ideas they need to convey in a given lesson.
- In order to support progression and assessment, we teach discrete subjects. We are drawing upon and responding to the traditions of individual academic disciplines. Each subject has a tradition of subject-specific vocabulary and a body of knowledge and skills; mastery of these individual disciplines then allows children to make real, robust links with other subjects and apply their knowledge and skills widely.
- Our curriculum must inspire and engage children so that they develop curiosity and a lifelong desire to learn. Teachers include ideas for creative activities and suggestions for ‘beautiful’ final products in their long-term curriculum maps. They also build in explicit opportunities for outdoor activities and hands-on experiences that will reinforce retention. Theme days and weeks, including whole-school initiatives are used to inspire along with carefully chosen educational visits linked to learning.
- In order to support planning and progression (and to support teachers’ workload and wellbeing), we use carefully selected published schemes and programmes. This ensures consistency in provision and delivery across the school and helps to ensure that children work through a progressive sequence of learning within and across year groups. The key schemes and programmes that we buy into and deliver across the school are: Maths No Problem; No Nonsense Spelling; Pen Pals (handwriting); and Accelerated Reader.
- In order to meets pupils’ individual needs, teachers use assessment to inform planning and raise pupils’ awareness of their next steps in learning. The primary tool for this is live-marking and feedback during lessons, which allows the opportunity for quick intervention to address errors or misconceptions. In Key Stage 2, teachers identify a small number of pupils in maths lessons most days for ‘afternoon surgery’, which is an opportunity for misconceptions to be addressed or further challenge to be given before the next lesson.
- Pupils’ learning behaviour has a significant impact on their ability to access the curriculum. If learning behaviour is a barrier, then over time this can affect a child’s life-chances profoundly. Therefore, we teach children explicitly about learning and ask them to reflect on how they learn best. We use the language of ‘Building Learning Power’ to consider the most important skills, attributes and characteristics that affect learning. This is displayed in every classroom for teachers to refer to during lessons, along with visual rewards for children in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. A system of merits across Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 further reinforces good learning behaviour. Every week in our celebration assembly, children receive certificates for displaying good learning behaviour.
Impact: By the end of their time at St Mary’s School, children will be confident within each academic discipline because they will have developed knowledge, skills and understanding within a coherent structure of recurring ‘Big Ideas’. They will have been exposed to subject-specific technical vocabulary at key times in a planned, coherent and organised way. Explicit teaching and repetition of key vocabulary and concepts will provide a structure for future learning, ensuring that pupils are ready for learning in the next stage of their education. This confidence will extend across a broad range of subjects, allowing for flexible learning in the future. Pupils will develop curiosity and a desire to acquire knowledge and experience the world around them, understanding that learning enriches their lives beyond the classroom.
The curriculum is in the process of being reviewed and new curriculum maps will be available soon.
A one-page overview of the curriculum has been produced for display around the school.