Our aim is for every child within the MAT to flourish academically, socially and personally through the challenging, engaging and knowledge led curriculum that has been developed across our schools.
Our vision and moral purpose translates into a knowledge rich curriculum which is driven by a strong set of values about what matters. It is informed by research and deliberately designed to enable all of our children to have equal access to knowledge, to value the pursuit of that knowledge and to be able to use that knowledge for good.
Our curriculum is ambitious for all children and the careful sequencing and planning, underpinned by research, aims to support even the most vulnerable or disadvantaged appropriately to close the attainment gap. We know that our classrooms may be the only source of the structured knowledge essential in providing firm foundations for the future learning journey for some of our most vulnerable children and so this must be guaranteed. From the Early Years onwards, the knowledge and understanding that children acquire supports the development of critical thinking, analysis and creativity which we view as necessary precursors to future educational success.
Our curriculum is a framework for setting out the aims of our programme of education, including:
- The knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage (intent)
- Translating that framework over time into a structure, narrative and with subject specific pedagogy (implementation)
- Evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations (impact)
The curriculum enables children to deepen their understanding of the key concepts within each curriculum area and develop their knowledge through carefully sequenced units of work. The detail of this is informed by research carried out by subject associations such as the Historical Association and Geographical Association, through the work of subject specialists and through ongoing feedback from staff delivering the curriculum.
We believe that the knowledge base of our curriculum is key to developing understanding and is perhaps the most significant factor that the school can control regarding tackling disadvantage, hence the need for it to be mapped so precisely. Specific tiered vocabulary is also essential for that knowledge development and understanding and so it is both identified, sequenced and taught explicitly in order that children have the necessary language to communicate both orally and in written form in each subject area.
The sequencing of our curriculum is a key factor in enabling our children to make appropriate and informed links in their learning which we believe will deepen their knowledge and provide opportunity to apply, evaluate and analyse what they have learnt.
The curriculum is enriched through carefully chosen trips and workshops, which give children the experiences that bring knowledge to life.
Realising the ambition
We are committed to high quality professional learning that focuses on developing excellence in teaching, including strong subject knowledge and supported by robust, research-based formative assessment practices. Curriculum design is driven by a curriculum team which supplements the traditional subject leader roles. Subjects are taught discretely, but links are made where there is natural alignment to ensure that children develop an interconnected web of general knowledge. A core reading curriculum is identified for all children and the non-core curriculum is a key driver in developing reading comprehension thereby supporting children to engage on a ‘level playing field.’
How we know if the curriculum is being learned
The curriculum is the progression model – if children are keeping up with the curriculum then they are making good progress. Within the context of the WMAT curriculum we understand progress to mean knowing more and remembering more and being able to demonstrate that knowledge in different contexts. We ask: has the child gained the knowledge to understand the key concepts and ideas? Is this enabling them to develop the skills they need to master? We set regular low stakes quizzes as well as cumulative quizzes on previous topics. Assessment is carefully planned, and activities are underpinned by the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We know that if knowledge has been learned and retained in the long-term memory it can then be used to analyse, create and evaluate and so opportunities are planned to enable this.
Teachers from all our schools (primary and secondary) come together to ensure we are all marking and assessing in the same way to the same standard. This not only ensures that pupils from different schools are marked fairly and assessed accurately; it also ensures that there is a smooth transition to the secondary school system. We have developed academy wide principles for marking and feedback but again, these are then contextualised to each school’s context.
Together, we have implemented a common assessment tool that enables all our primary schools to show progress effectively and identify areas where intervention is needed. This data tracking is augmented by 3 yearly standardised reading and maths tests. We have a comprehensive MAT moderation programme and are developing standardised tasks for moderation so that comparisons are more meaningful. Our consultation team also validate all moderation with a final check undertaken by our SIPs.
Collaboratively, we ensure that schools set challenging targets for pupil achievement in terms of both attainment and progress within year, across years, at the end of each year and across Key Stages. The targets, when realised, ensure that pupil achievement is significantly above national average. In this context, we strive for all our schools to be at least Good by the time of their next Ofsted inspection. Target setting in our academy is led by the headteacher and LGB and reflects the context of individual schools working from pupils’ prior attainment. These targets are then peer reviewed before being ratified at director level.
For a school of this size, our curriculum will be planned in themes on a yearly rolling programme. Best practice balances the need to deliver discrete subjects with emphasis upon their underpinning vocabulary, within a thematic approach and this is how we structure our curricula. For example, science within an umbrella theme of Great Britain focuses upon the people who were key to our understanding of the heart and circulatory systems and lead onto how they work. We ensure that our schemes of work sequence knowledge to support the understanding of each key concept rather than delivering knowledge alone.
Where classes are smaller than 1 form entry, we will adapt the programme accordingly, as we do in our existing schools of differing sizes. Research shows that children who regularly read make significant progress so all our themes include a high quality text from a range of genres that “hook” the children into the programme of learning.
Each theme is introduced with an immersive day in which we introduce key vocabulary and deliver some of the cultural capital needed for children to access the content effectively, and ends with a celebration of all that our children have achieved. Where possible, to further develop cultural capital, we have at least one trip / visit linked to each topic. Because we believe it is better to do less but well, each theme runs for a long term.
We map subjects such as Art, DT, ICT, Music, Geography, History, MFL and Science to each skill / knowledge based theme. This allows children to build secure links in their learning. PE and RE are usually taught as discrete subjects