Curriculum Strategy

INTENT 

Our aim is to provide a curriculum that is truly comprehensive and enables the most academically interested students to pursue a path to the best universities and all students to achieve in the areas that engage them.  The needs of learners, and the best route for them, are considered at each stage of planning, and we provide as flexible and broad a range of diverse curriculum and assessment routes as we can offer.

We aim to boost self-esteem and create cultural capital by maintaining as broad and rich a curriculum as we can and by maintaining the focus of our curriculum on fulfilling experiences, as opposed to chasing performance targets.  It is for this reason that we have a wide artistic, technical and performing arts offer – with vocational routes as well as academic – alongside the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) offer.  It is also for this reason that we encourage and strongly support our extra-curricular and enrichment offer with a broad range of sports clubs; arts, drama, music and other disciplinary clubs; the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the opportunity to do Ten Tors.  In addition, we run an enrichment day each term to provide a broad range of PSHE and citizenship learning, as well as a wide variety of supported trips to London and abroad and to visit STEM, careers, Higher Education and other wider learning opportunities or to compete in speaking or creative arts or chess competitions.

We plan and run a three year key stage 4, with students making their options’ choices in Year 8, because this process helps students (and parents) focus on their particular talents and interests at the first possible opportunity.  This fosters engagement and enhances focus, and leaves extra time for students’ wider knowledge in their preferred, chosen subjects, and enables them to make mistakes, re-learn and be better prepared for the eventual summative, external exams.

All students are introduced to two languages in Year 7 – French and Spanish – and have the opportunity to continue studying both, or just one, throughout their time in our school.  They are encouraged to do so, but not forced as we believe in guided choice and individualised advice as opposed to a prescriptive curriculum for all.

Our curriculum aims to provide for all and, in particular, to enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who arrive in year 7 below national expectations, to catch up and keep up.  For this reason, we invest in talented HLTAs in maths and English to run booster classes and extra support from years 7-11, as required.  It is also, primarily, for this reason that we invest in the ‘Accelerated Reader’ programme and make literacy a key focus.  All students have reading time in tutor periods each week and an extra reading lesson in Years 7 and 8 each week in order to foster and continue a love of reading.  We are developing an embedded approach to metacognitive thinking and a growth mind set through both tutor time and a whole curriculum approach.

We are proud of the broad range of course we offer post-16 and in a relatively small Sixth Form we offer a broad range of A levels plus vocational routes in motor mechanics, hair and beauty, construction, health and social care , engineering and sport, as well as work skills for those who require a continued level 2 focus.  This ensures that our post-16 provision is both fully inclusive and highly aspirational and provides a strong, viable route for all.

We are proud of the broad range of course we offer post-16 and in a relatively small Sixth Form we offer a broad range of level 3 courses including A levels, Btec qualifications and Cambridge technical courses many of which offer a vocational pathway. Level 2 courses offered include IMIAL Service and Maintenance Engineering, Construction, Cache Certificate for Children and Young People’s Workforce(L2,3), Leadership through Football, and Work Skills. Courses in GCSE English and Mathematics are available to level 3 and level 2 students. This ensures that our post-16 provision is both fully inclusive and highly aspirational and provides a strong, viable route for all.

CONTENT

The curriculum offer we provide depends on three principles:

  • The interests and aspirations of our students;
  • To provide as broad and aspirational offer as we can;
  • Performance measures and national dictates.

The curriculum is planned and overseen by the Curriculum Vice Principal but all major decisions are discussed with the Principal and then with the whole Senior Leadership Team (SLT).  Heads of Faculty and subject leaders are consulted and their advice and support is sought through middle leaders’ meetings and line management.  The curriculum shape and process is discussed and interrogated by Governors twice each year.

Students are grouped into pathways in Year 8 to help them pick their options.  These pathways are based upon students’ prior attainment and the views of teachers and studnets’ tutors.  The advice and options recommended to students are based upon their pathway.  However, this pathway approach is based upon a principle of guided choice, not prescriptivism.  No student is compelled to remain on their given pathway, though most do.  If a student on the Ebacc pathway doesn’t want to follow this route, they are encouraged but not forced down this ‘academic’ pathway.

We quality assure our offer by forensically evaluating the success of courses each year through student and parent/carer feedback, evaluation of results, and by closely monitoring students’ progression and destination routes.  This process is ratified and checked by Governors.

DELIVERY

Our timetable is evaluated each year and the allocation of hours to each subject is scrutinised by SLT and Governors, based upon success outcomes and the needs of learners.  Our pedagogical priorities are also shaped by the needs of our learners and external research and ideas.  We are currently focusing on: urgency and pace; strong, purposeful feedback; and carefully targeted differentiation which challenges all learners to reach their potential.

We foster a strong professional focus and excitement on the curriculum by investing in external training within the school and by looking outwards at nationally leading partners (e.g. PiXL, Challenge Partners, SWTSA and elsewhere).  We have considerably reduced time spent on traditional, whole-school inset and are beginning to embed a coaching culture which uses non-judgemental peer reviews and carefully organised coaching structures, together with delegated subject meeting time, to enable all to learn from the strongest teachers and to enable time for internal moderation and subject specific training.

Consistency is developed through simple and clear, whole-school structures which enable students to receive a consistent experience across curriculum areas and to be supported by a shared language of tools and expectations.

Quality assurance is conducted by Heads of Faculty checking their own areas’ teaching regularly though unscheduled learning walks and drop-ins, through student voice and through book monitoring.  These assurances are checked by SLT line managers and the SLT also conduct regular, fortnightly drop-ins, learning walks and book trawls which are discussed each fortnight in regular meetings.  These are cross-checked against the faculty reports and against outcomes data.

EXPERIENCE

Students’ behaviour is good and they generally appreciate and value the broad and rich curriculum offer they receive.  This view is supported by their attitude and efforts, and by their and their parents’ feedback.  Outcomes are in line with national average at KS4  and we are confident that they are improving. At KS5 Outcomes are above national expectations.  As importantly, students’ progression to further and higher education and to a broad array of careers and fields is good.  This is carefully tracked by our Attendance, Sixth Form and Careers’ team.

We carefully track educational progress of all learners from year 7 onwards through regular assessment and in termly data checks.  A Vice Principal leads in this area and oversees a broad and well-resourced team to focus on Disadvantaged Students (with our Pupil Premium Champion) and under-performing students.  Some students will be targeted for extra literacy or numeracy catch-up and support throughout their school career (not just in Year 7) and others will be allowed to swap options or gain extra subject time in key areas of under-performance in order to enhance overall success.

We retain as broad and flexible a curriculum as we can with a guided vocational pathway for our most vulnerable learners, two well-resourced and specialised study rooms (run by specialist HLTAs) for those in need, and a bespoke, alternative, flexible, on-sight provision for the most vulnerable students and those at risk of exclusion (known as STARS).