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Our Curriculum: a rationale

Our Aims

Our curriculum is designed to provide a challenging, rigorous, engaging broad and rich experience for able and ambitious students. Our drive is towards the highest possible quality of education provision for all learners in our school community. All students, regardless of need, gender, ethnicity and background, are guided to challenge themselves and achieve their full potential. We expect students to be independent thinkers, emotionally resilient, empathetic, reflective, well-behaved and socially responsible. Our curriculum aims to ensure that they are prepared to make a constructive contribution to society as a result of the experiences they encounter, and the example set by others.

 

What is our curriculum?

A School’s curriculum model is the amount of time each subject is given in a particular year group or Key Stage. More on our model can be found at the bottom of this page. However, a curriculum is much more than this: it is fundamentally the lived daily experience of our students. A curriculum is the complex interplay between content, adaptive pedagogy and assessment. Put simply, it is the things we want students to know and understand if they have been taught in a rich, challenging and effective way. It is a framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, translating it into Schemes of Learning, and evaluating what knowledge and understanding has been gained against expectations.

 

Knowledge and understanding

At the heart of our curriculum is the core principle that progress is based on what students know and understand. Our curriculum philosophy is one which ties in with the knowledge-engaged theory. This sees knowledge as underpinning and enabling the application of skills, and that both are key to successful progress[1]. The National Curriculum is used as a starting block at Key Stage 3, as are exam specifications at GCSE and A-level, but departments are free to build on and extend these in any ways that they see fit to ensure maximum progress. Departments have identified the substantive knowledge that they want students to acquire- this is the subject-specific content that leaners need to grasp in order to think mathematically, scientifically or historically, for example. This is supplemented by disciplinary knowledge, which is an understanding of how that knowledge came to be acquired and how it comes to be revised. The subject-specific skills which have been identified by departments are the strategies which allow students to develop their knowledge, solve problems or to apply their knowledge to new contexts.

Curriculum coherence therefore comes from linking a knowledge-based curriculum to the acquisition of skills. Our aim is for students to know more, remember more and apply their learning to new contexts. In designing our curriculum, we have ensured that our departmental leaders have identified the body of knowledge and skills that they want their students to master by the end of each Key Stage. This thinking has helped to form the Departmental Standards in each subject at Key Stage 3, which show students how they can make progress from Standard 1 to a maximum of Standard 6.

 

Sequencing

A schema, in this context, is a mental framework of ideas and concepts relating to some aspect of the world. With regard to our curriculum, it is the mental framework of knowledge and understanding that each child builds up over time. The more complex the schema, the more effective the curriculum has been for an individual student in building up effective and connected changes to their long-term memory. Each subject is sequenced by departmental leaders using their departmental intent as a starting point. Schemes of Learning are designed so that knowledge and skills are built up and revisited over time, and so that knowledge and understanding is developed and retrieved in a progressive and logical way. Subjects have designed discreet Key Stage 3 intents, and matched these to their Schemes of Learning, so it is clear how their intent is to be fulfilled. If students choose not to pursue a subject beyond Year 9, they will still have had sufficient exposure to the skills and knowledge of the subject to be able to achieve up to a Standard 6. This is fundamental to our proposal that our curriculum is broad and ambitious for all students. Schemes of Learning show how departmental intention will be translated into a logical order of teaching, indicating the main knowledge and skills to be covered and tying in with departmental assessment frameworks. This allows teachers to judge what progress has been made, so that they can adapt their teaching to ensure students make effective progress. Adaptive teaching, as opposed to differentiation which sets lower expectations for particular pupils, is a hallmark of our curriculum ethos.

Whilst there is a discreet subject intent for Key Stage 3, the knowledge and understanding built up from Years 7-9 have obvious benefits for GCSE and A-levels further down the line. Indeed, Key Stage 3 outcomes are not just an end product in themselves, but a valuable step for future learning. Therefore, by the time they get into their GCSE exams, the curriculum, built up from Year 7, will mean that students should be able to perform effectively, independently and with resilience.

Our curriculum is also well integrated, and the skills and knowledge students develop across subjects. For example, the reference above to reaching justified conclusions in History would be cemented and reinforced by work in the English and Geography curricula. This helps to create flow, and ensures that knowledge is retained without resistance.

 

Assessment

In order for a curriculum to be effective, it is essential for progress to be assessed by teachers. Our assessment policy explains this in detail, but in brief, we follow a programme of formal assessment of work (at least twice per half term) along with more regular lower-stakes formative assessment. Retrieval practice involves recalling something you have learned in the past and bringing it back to mind- this is one of the most effective ways of learning something and changing the long-term memory. This is why low-stakes assessment is such a valuable part of an effective curriculum in allowing more complex schema to be built up over time. Information captured from assessment is used to identify gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding, to inform future curriculum activities.

 

Creativity

At Key Stage 3 we encourage creativity and risk. We aim to encourage creativity by having a wide range of practical subjects, as well as encouraging creative thinking within traditional academic subjects. We believe that this is a useful way of allowing students to tackle complex questions. For example, we encourage and see a lot of open ended enquiry-based approaches, giving students as much ownership of the tasks as possible and allowing them to think and be creative in their approaches.  A rich and well-sequenced curriculum, building up a complex schema in students’ minds, gives them the tools to be more creative and certainly more open to taking risks.

 

Extra-curricular Provision

Knowledge and understanding is developed beyond lessons in our broad extra-curricular programme. Our extra-curricular opportunities are a significant strength of the CGS offers. They support students’ education and wider personal development and have a positive impact on behaviour and attitudes. We run over 50 weekly clubs in a wide range of subjects or extracurricular themes, increasing students’ experience of cultural capital. Our House system enables students to mix across year groups in a broad and inclusive range of music, sporting and drama activities, amongst others. We are a Duke of Edinburgh Centre and run activities at Gold, Silver and Bronze levels: over 100 students per year take part. Not only are these kind of activities vital in developing students’ ability to be resilient, empathetic and socially responsible, it can also have obvious benefits to the rest of the curriculum in areas like organisation, persuasion and developing critical thinking skills.

 

Personal Development, PSHCE and RSE

As part of our cohesive approach, our PSHCE and RSE curriculums are not add-ons: they are an integral part of our curriculum intent. These programmes are reviewed frequently and expose students to challenging material which enables them to develop an understanding of the world, through their Personal Development lessons. A strong understanding of safeguarding, an awareness of what it means to have positive mental health, and a positive and engaged approach to the options available for students’ next steps are all integral to our curriculum intent. Our curriculum is therefore driven by what is right and good as well as preparing students for the demands of the society into which they will eventually take a full and active role.

 

Inclusivity and building on mistakes

Our curriculum aims to be rigorous and engaging for all learners. We aim for fast-paced lesson sequencing, which has a high level of challenge and extension tasks to ensure that no student is being allowed to coast. Our aim is to help SEND and disadvantaged students to embrace and tackle as many challenges as possible, rather than restricting their curriculum. The SEND department works closely with staff, SEND students and their families, to ensure that this is the case. We promote the idea of obstacles and challenges being a good thing and useful to learners in the long run. Whilst we always reward and credit success, we don’t pretend to students that every answer they give is correct, and we encourage them to use challenges and mistakes to build on their knowledge and understanding. We believe that this makes them more willing to take risks and to be resilient in examinations.

In summary, it is essential for a selective school to offer a curriculum which is challenging, rigorous, engaging, rich and broad, and which sees students engage with a world in which they will be– and some already are – making a significant contribution. We therefore seek for students to build up a body of knowledge and skills, and to empower them to make choices which are right for themselves, their families and, in the long term, their communities. We are proud that our curriculum is designed to allow students to thrive in the face of challenge of an ever-changing world.

[1] Ofsted Education Inspection Framework, 2019 p.7

 

Curriculum structure and logistics.

We work a 45-period week over five days. There are 9 periods in a day, 5 periods before Lunch and 4 periods after. We have breaks at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Our lunch hour lasts one hour and five minutes, enabling students to pursue extra-curricular interests, on our split site.

Students in Key Stage 3 study English, Maths, Science, Computing, History, Geography, Modern Languages, Art, Music, Design and Technology, Religious Education, Physical Education, RSE & PSHCE (as part of Personal Development). Our approach to Science treats Biology, Chemistry and Physics as separate subjects. In Year 7 students will study German or French as their first language. In Year 8, students study the other one of these languages or Latin.

Personal, Social, Health, Citizenship and Economic Education (PSHCE) is delivered in a number of ways: through a programme of Personal Development lessons directed by Heads of Section and taught by tutors, through assemblies and through a series of visiting speakers covering Living in the Wider World, Careers, Health & Wellbeing and Relationships. In Year 9, we have an additional lesson strengthening our provision for Relationships & Sex Education (RSE). This programme and our curriculum emphasise an inclusive approach, personalised learning approaches and follow assessment for learning strategies, as well as emphasising the fundamental British Values.

At Key Stage 4, Years 10 and 11 students’ study ten subjects for GCSE. The basic ten are English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, a Language (French, German or Latin), Triple Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) a humanities subject (History or Geography) and two optional subjects chosen from Art, Computer Science, Design & Technology, French, Geography, German, History, Latin, RE, Music, PE and Religious Education. At the core of our curriculum is the EBacc. All students in Key Stage 4 also cover Personal Development, including RSE, PSHCE and Careers) and Physical Education. Students at KS4 also have drop-down days in RE. Some students have the opportunity to take Level 2 Further Mathematics.

The School offers breadth of choice at ‘A’ level; most of our students will study three ‘A’ levels. Some students may choose to study four ‘A’ levels. We expect and encourage students to choose subjects, for the right reasons, especially enjoyment, career choice and ability in that subject. The subjects that we offer are Art & Design, Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Classics, Design & Technology, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Music, English Literature, French, Geography, German, Government & Politics, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology and Religious Studies. We advise students who choose a fourth ‘A’ level that breadth should be a real consideration, as should academic prowess.

In addition, all Sixth Formers will have the opportunity to be involved in a programme aimed at enriching their academic studies. This programme will include sport, Performing Arts Leadership Award, Sport Leadership award, private study, work experience placements, volunteering, the Extended Project Qualification and the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme at Gold level.

Similar to Key stage 3 and 4, PSHCE for Key Stage 5 is delivered in a number of ways: through a programme of Personal Development lessons, assemblies and through a series of special days and occasions. We offer dedicated support in our curriculum to the students making the next step from Caistor Grammar School into the world of work or Higher Education.

Our curriculum is accessible to all students. You can read our SEND policy and how our curriculum links with our Equality Objective by visiting the Policies section of the website.

You can contact Mr Marcus Croft (i/c Teaching & Learning) to ask about our curriculum via marcus.croft@caistorgrammar.com

 

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KS3 Scheme of Work summaries

Relevant Documents


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GCSE and A-level courses studied

Relevant Documents