Our curriculum values the integrity of each subject within the national primary curriculum and ensures progression and challenge within each subject
Each subject within the national curriculum offers a unique and distinct way of viewing, understanding and describing the world. Each subject has its own distinct body of knowledge, vocabulary, skills and concepts which, when taught well, afford children a different perspective on the world in which they live in. We know that our children need the experience of looking at and learning about the world in as many ways as they can, building-up a rich bank of diverse knowledge, skills and experiences, that they use to make connections between different areas of learning. This understanding is progressively built upon in each subject area as children move up through the school. Where firm cross-curricula links exist and skills and knowledge in one subject are taught and developed in another, these links have been identified and mapped out by subject leads.
How do we achieve this?
The statutory programmes of study for each subject within the primary national curriculum have been mapped out by subject leaders into our curriculum milestones. The milestones for each subject break down the national curriculum programmes of study into a series of objectives or milestone which outline the core knowledge, skills, concepts and vocabulary that children must encounter and master at each stage of their learning. These are the foundations of our Teaching and Learning Strategy. The milestones build on each other and progressively develop children’s understanding across year groups and phases, allowing children to build on and transfer their learning, and laying the foundations for the next stage of their education. Our curriculum milestones are both an essential planning and assessment tool: they are the starting point for teachers when planning units of work, allowing them to see what children should already know and what they need to know, and against which teachers make formative judgements to inform next-steps in teaching and summative judgements on children’s overall progress and readiness to access the next stage in their learning. The content of all subject areas has also been carefully sequenced to ensure that children revisit 'strands' of learning within particular subjects as they progress from EYFS through to Year 6. In Geography for example, the units of work have been organised into 6 strands (The Weather and Our Climate, Maps, Leicester and Migration, Settlements and Trade, Contrasting Continents and Natural Wonders and the Environment) each of which develops particular aspects of geographical knowledge and thinking. As children move through the school, they are able to build on and consolidate their learning as prior knowledge and skills are revisited and used as the foundation for new learning.
Our curriculum is inclusive
At Spinney Hill Primary School, we aim for every child to have a sense of belonging. We recognise the contribution of every individual in the school community. Spinney Hill Primary is an inclusive school in which pupils of all abilities and from all cultures and backgrounds are valued, and their achievements matter. The good progress of all our pupils is of a paramount importance. It is our aim that all pupils will make progress towards their individual targets. Parents will be well informed about their child’s progress so that we can work in partnership to celebrate success and overcome difficulties. Any pupils experiencing barriers to their learning will be rapidly identified and action taken to overcome these. We look to create an ethos of achievement and a climate of high expectation in which children’s broad range of talents, abilities and achievements are valued. We aim to promote success and self-esteem, remove barriers to learning and combat discrimination through an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our school community and reflect this in the content of our curriculum whilst overcoming barriers through the use of teaching strategies which promote inclusion.
How do we achieve this?
Both the content of our curriculum and the teaching strategies which support it are constantly under review, hence our Teaching and Learning Strategy as opposed to policy. Recognising the diversity of the community we serve is only the first step, as is recognising that all children are different. The teachers at Spinney Hill understand the recognition in itself will have no impact on children’s life chances but creating an inclusive curriculum in which children can see themselves represented, actively participate and find their voice will. A key attribute of being a Dyslexia Friendly School is the willingness to respond quickly to perceived needs without waiting for a formal assessment. This inclusive, dyslexia friendly response comes from class teachers and teaching assistants who identify learning issues and respond appropriately as part of their day to day teaching. There are clear referral procedures within the school for identification, assessment and monitoring through a graduated response.
Our curriculum is focused on wellbeing in order to encourage independent and emotionally resilient learners
To become effective learners and overcome the many challenges they will encounter both inside and outside of the classroom, we know that children need to build their independence and resilience. In order to do this we know that children need to be and to feel included, and through this to develop a sense of belonging. This involves children developing a growth mind set, self-regulation strategies and adopting positive learning behaviours, underpinned by the knowledge that they have a ‘voice’, the vocabulary necessary to articulate what it is they want to say and the knowledge that their voice will be heard.
How do we achieve this?
The Ten Keys to Happiness underpin the curriculum and provides children with a shared vocabulary with which to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions – summarised in the acronym ‘Great Dreams’.
The ‘Worry Woos’ put the Ten Keys and GREAT DREAM into context and make them accessible for all children through relatable stories used across the teaching of PSHE, the wider curriculum and within lessons when issues do arise and strategies to resolve these are needed.
Character education, an umbrella term loosely used to describe the teaching of children in a manner that will help them develop as moral, civically-minded, healthy, good-natured, critical and well-mannered individuals, is developed through our ‘Commando Joes’ programme. Each term, children learn about the life journeys of inspirational heroes, heroines, adventurers and explorers who are linked to areas of the curriculum being studied. They develop an understanding of the adversities they experienced and how they overcame these, as well as taking part in physical and mental challenges inspired by the individual they are studying. Here children work as a team to undertake a mission which allows the character behaviour traits of individuals and groups of pupils to be put to the test in a safe environment. Each mission is carefully tailored to meet the needs of the pupils. At the end, the pupils are given time to self-assess, and set personalised targets for themselves and their peers.
Our curriculum fosters and develops good, old-fashioned general knowledge
However, it would be incorrect to say the general knowledge is either ‘good’ or ‘old fashioned’; we know it is just plain essential. At Spinney Hill we know that our curriculum and the teaching which support its must enable children to develop and remember a broad body of both subject-specific knowledge, general knowledge and, hopefully, a great deal of trivia in order that they become both ‘experts’ in subject areas and develop a desire to discover the new, the strange and the unusual. We know that with the prerequisite knowledge children will be able to acquire new knowledge more readily and easily as the new learning ‘sticks’ to the old. This allows children to draw on their knowledge and develop their comprehension and inference skills, as well as applying it in their broader learning - and simply enjoying knowing 'stuff'.
How do we achieve this?
Each unit of study for each year group in science and the foundation subjects are supported by a knowledge overview document. These provide an overview of both the core and background or contextual knowledge (the ‘hinterland’ knowledge) which will be covered in each unit of work. When teachers are designing lessons, they identify the core knowledge - the facts - that children must remember and which will become the focus of retrieval practice, and the ‘hinterland’ knowledge which provides structure, context or a narrative within lessons and to learning. This process, including the identification of the contribution and achievement of significant individuals in different areas and across different cultures, builds on what children already know and have previously learned. This enables them to understand and appreciate what has and is being achieved, and, most importantly, what they could achieve.
Our curriculum is enquiry-led through developing critical thinking across all subjects
We know that thinking critically is an integral part of children’s development which enables them to question or reflect on the knowledge or information presented to them. Critical thinking is a key ingredient to developing children’s metacognition, enabling them to learn how to learn, and requires children to draw on their previous experiences, knowledge, skills and understanding to make sense of new information and tackle new problems. In order to develop children’s critical thinking, our curriculum is enquiry led. Each unit of work and each lesson is led by an enquiry question because questions demand investigation and explanation; they also demand a response – evidence and proof of learning.
How do we achieve this?
Teachers use the subject milestones and knowledge overviews to formulate the ‘big question’ which provides the overall line of enquiry for the lead subject and those subjects with which purposeful and relevant cross-curricular links have been established. Other subjects, where necessary, are also led by an over-arching question. Teachers then design a sequence of ‘component’ lessons which sequentially develop children’s knowledge, skills and understanding with the aim of answering the ‘bigger question’. Critical thinking is developed through the core teaching strategies teachers employ: talk, debate and discussion; ‘feeding in the facts’; and, most importantly, asking the ‘right questions’ which allow children to remember, understand, use, analyse, create and evaluate. When planning, teachers also create one or two key questions (more where the subject naturally lends itself to this) which demand critical thinking. These questions, sometime purposefully controversial, demand that children think critically about issues that arise - discussing, exploring and evaluating as they go - and make links with other areas of learning, their own experiences and the experiences of others.
Our curriculum systematically and progressively develop children’s vocabularies
We know that the development of vocabulary goes hand-in-hand with the development of knowledge and is a prerequisite to accessing future learning. Children’s prior knowledge – the knowledge they have and the vocabulary they have developed – is the key to comprehension, inference and new learning. We understand that children’s acquisition of vocabulary is central to their learning and the key to their future academic success; therefore, developing cognitive academic language proficiency is central to our curriculum as this is the language of reading, writing and discussion, of enquiry and critical thinking. It is the language of the curriculum.
How do we achieve this?
Alongside the subject curriculum milestones, core vocabulary and concepts (pragmatically distinguished by the idea that a concept is difficult to draw) have been carefully mapped out in each subject area to ensure progression in their development and use. As teachers plan they carefully select core vocabulary and concepts and map these out against each unit of study, always referring back to and building upon what children already know. As outlined in the Teaching and Pedagogy section of this policy, vocabulary is pre-taught where necessary and lessons designed around key terms where children’s ability to access the learning is dependent upon their understanding of these, as in the case of concepts such as settlements in geography, conquest or civilisation in history and belief in RE.
Our curriculum is oracy and talk-based curriculum, and enables children to learn to talk and learn through talk
We know that a key indicator in children’s future success is their ability to express themselves clearly and articulately. In order to develop the language skills and vocabulary necessary for children to access their current learning and lay the foundations for their future learning, opportunities to both learn to talk and learn through talk are prominent across all areas of the curriculum.
How do we achieve this?
At Spinney Hill we use the Voice21 Oracy Framework which synthesises the myriad of skills that constitute oracy or ‘talk’ into four distinct categories designed to practically organise and support teaching and learning. These are:
- Cognitive: the deliberate application of thought to what you’re saying.
- Linguistic: knowing which words and phrases to use, and using them.
- Physical: making yourself heard, using your voice and body as an instrument.
- Social: engaging with the people around you; knowing you have the right to speak.
The framework and accompanying teaching strategies give teachers and children a shared understanding and language around which to develop oracy. This is further supported by the oracy milestones which break down the framework further in order that knowledge and skills are appropriately age-related and there is progression in their development across the school. Specific teaching strategies, questioning techniques and scaffolds are used by teachers to ensure that dialogic talk, paired talk and group discussion and debate are central to all lessons and enable children to utilise and embed key vocabulary, develop their skills in both exploratory and presentational talk, and master key grammatical structures and syntax as they learning through talk.
Our curriculum is relevant, topical and rooted in its locality
We know that the best learning always takes place within a well-established context and children are able to relate to and, where necessary, empathise with those they are learning about. It is also massively important to ensure that we do not shy away from issues and current events which children will be aware of and which will affect them either directly or indirectly.
How do we achieve this?
The design and content of our curriculum gives us the springboard to tackle, discuss and debate both local issues and current affairs. Many of the units of study chosen, their focus and content lend themselves to the discussion of broader issues through the development of critical thinking or tackle them head on; many use the local area or the wider City of Leicester to contextualise learning. Examples from each year group include:
- Year 1 – History/Ocean Explorers. The children discover and compare the amazing achievement of Christopher Columbus, Francis Drake and the Vikings, but also question the morality of travelling to new lands in search of profit and the actions this resulted in.
- Year 2 – Science/Fighting Fit. Children explore not only what constitutes a healthy diet, but also where are food comes from and whether it is ethical to eat some of the foods we do considering the damage it is doing to the planet.
- Year 3 – RE/Faith in the City. Children explore how Leicester has become such a centre for the migration of people from different parts of the world, the reasons behind that migration and also why the city has a culture of welcoming outsiders. They learn how that culture can be maintained through both learning about each other and ensuring we know about our wider responsibilities.
- Year 4 – History/The Windrush Generation. Children investigate why Great Britain invited thousands of people from the Caribbean to come and work in the UK following WWII, their hopes and expectations and how the welcome they got in the UK, and the racism they experienced, was not what they had expected.
- Year 5 – Science/Environmental Change. Children tackle issues of climate change and sustainability head-on, and explore the actions, behaviours and industries that are having such a devastating impact on our planet, and what can be done to turn the tide of destruction.
- Year 6 – Geography/Why Settle for Less? Children explore the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors which cause people to migrate and investigate the reasons their parents, grandparents, friends and relatives migrated from different parts of the world to Leicester.
Our curriculum embeds SMSC, British Values and PSHE
We know that children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, including the promotion of British Values, and their understanding of PSHE, including RSHE, must be developed across the curriculum and feature prominently in all subjects, with specific issues and themes being tackled in focused units of work.
How do we achieve this?
Our curriculum incorporates SMSC, British Values and PSHE in three key ways.
- Detailed curriculum maps have been created for all year groups which identify 6 broad PSHE themes to be covered on a half-termly basis. These plans identify the focus for PSHE, RSHE and the areas of SMSC and the promotion of British Values which are developed within these. Each thematic PSHE unit of study is led by a key question, identifies the vocabulary, concepts and objectives to be covered, and the links to SMSC and promotion of British Values. Many of the elements of the units of work are incorporated within the broader curriculum, for example e-safety as part of the study of computing and Year 5 and 6 sex education within science.
- When creating medium term plans and designing sequences of lesson, teachers consider how the development of critical thinking can be developed within these to incorporate and develop PSHE, SMSC and British Values. Under each subject heading on medium term planning teachers identify the following: Focus for critical thinking (How can children’s thinking can be challenged to go beyond the immediate area of study to address, analyse and evaluate broader issues relating to PSHE, SMSC, wellbeing, British Values and the world around them?)
- Some units of work naturally lend themselves to themes, ideas and concepts linked to PSHE, SMSC and British Values, for example the year 6 study of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.