We believe in a broad and balanced curriculum that enables all our children to develop into well rounded individuals and life-long learners. Through our curriculum we are providing the early building blocks that will enable our children to become successful adults in terms of being able to gain employment, live healthy lifestyles, be spiritually aware, be moral citizens, and have the confidence to take opportunities to extend their horizons.
As a church school our curriculum is built upon a strong Christian foundation, with our core values of hope, perseverance, respect, friendship, forgiveness and thankfulness at the heart of all we do.
Learning is only sustainable if supported by a love of reading. Our curriculum is based upon a structured, tried and tested approach to early reading, alongside a range of literature that enables the children to experience the best of picture books, modern stories and classic texts. With our children in pre-school we read lots of books, listen to all kind of sounds, make all kinds of sounds and talk about all kinds of sounds makings. In the early years and KS1, we have a systematic approach to teaching phonics coupled with reading material which uses the phonetic knowledge the children have acquired but doesn't take them beyond it, therefore building their confidence in reading independently. As children progress through the school, we encourage them to develop a full range of comprehension skills and to transfer the knowledge that they have gained through reading to write cohesively with high quality vocabulary.
In the early years, children are taught to use their phonics knowledge to write single sounds with the correct letter formation. They then begin to put sounds together to build and write whole words. They are taught to make spelling decisions based on their phonics knowledge. When they are ready, they are encouraged to write complete sentences which are orally rehearsed and refined. A wide range of stimuli is used to inspire quality writing, including experiences, pictures and carefully selected stories. In KS1 we encourage children to enjoy writing, build stamina and be able to write sentences fluently in line with KS1 expectations through carefully planned sequences based around stories. As children move into KS2 and are secure with the basics of writing we use “The Write Stuff” by Jane Constantine to delve deeper into the mechanics of writing using high quality texts to explore how to write as a writer using both grammatical tools and writing features, ‘The Write Stuff’ follows a method called ‘Sentence Stacking’ which refers to the fact that sentences are stacked together and organised to engage children with short, intensive moments of learning that they can then immediately apply to their own writing. This is vocabulary rich and supports cohesion. Write Stuff units of work are followed by opportunities to revisit a previously taught text type using key vocabulary from the unit in a different writing genre. An additional ‘big write’ enables children to independently select from their growing bank of writing skill. Children are encouraged to be resilient learners who can edit and revising work to improve outcomes (a key feature of the writing cycle as evidenced by EEF research). Good presentation is encouraged through a whole school approach to handwriting. Mark making is a key feature of early provision including preschool leading to letter formation. The cursive style is introduced in Year 1.
To ensure a mastery approach our curriculum is carefully mapped out across all phases, providing continuity, supporting transition and revisiting / building on key concepts. Our mathematics curriculum, in particular, is planned in small carefully sequenced steps using the Do it, Twist It, Solve it approach. This enables our children to have foundation for understanding the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics, and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject. Our curriculum map allows our children to apply their mathematical knowledge across other subjects.
We strive to ensure that teaching in all subjects is consistently effective, enabling all pupils to make good progress to be well prepared for each new year group within the school and when transferring to secondary education. Teaching accounts for the full range of needs of our pupils. More able pupils explore the curriculum at greater depth enabling them to achieve the highest level of attainment. SEND pupils needs are met on an individual basis, taking into account individual routes to learning so that they can make good progress from their individual starting points and achieve their full potential. We celebrate the diversity offered by children with EAL and recognise that having two or more spoken languages bestows long term cognitive advantages. We build on a pupil’s prior knowledge, including their previous learning in another language, whilst providing models of good spoken language and scaffolding grammatical structures. Our curriculum is based around a culture capital that is rich in experiences and vocabulary, giving disadvantaged pupils equal access and enriching the lives of all our children regardless of their background.
Our curriculum is built upon a Growth Mindset, as advocated by Carol Dweck. This is founded on a belief that abilities can be developed; effort is something that propels learning; and setbacks are opportunities to build new skills. This enables resilience to be built into learning, giving children the confidence to be challenged as well as to challenge others.
We believe that a child’s innate curiosity, characterised by the joy of discovery and the desire for exploration, should be nurtured and encouraged. It is only through curiosity that children become engaged learners. Recent research has identified that “promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage, may be an important, under recognised way to address the achievement gap.” (Sash 2018). We have therefore introduced an enquiry based curriculum themed around questions that promote curiosity and a passion for learning. Put simply, a ‘Curiosity Curriculum’.
We have placed a rich vocabulary at the core of our curriculum recognising that “Vocabulary is a strong indicator of student success” (Baker, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 1997). This builds on an understanding that a child’s vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational abilities - not just reading, writing, listening, and speaking - but also general knowledge of science history and the arts. In placing vocabulary at the heart of our curriculum, we aim to ensure all of our children, regardless of background or life experiences, will have the same life chances. Core vocabulary is embedded in our curriculum plan with regular planned opportunities to revisit and build on the children’s understanding of key words and concepts.
Our curriculum has been designed to celebrate the unique resources offered in our village of Newnham-on-Severn and the surrounding area of the Forest of Dean; whilst also being outward looking and preparing our children for life in the wider, culturally diverse world. We enrich our curriculum with trips, visits and visitors. These are carefully planned to engage pupils’ curiosity and enhance experiences of people and places in a local and broader context.
In designing the structure of our curriculum, we have used a two year rolling cycle to accommodate mixed year groups. This has been specifically designed to strengthen links between themes and key learning points during the academic year, across subjects and between year groups. For example:
Core vocabulary introduced in Years 3/4, in relation to rivers, includes “meander” and “source”. As the children progress through the school they will be able to revisit these words and also explore their wider meanings through, for example, the use of the word source as evidence in history.
Our curriculum is based on a spiral model where learning is regularly revisited and built upon in order to aid working memory. This is reinforced with the use of Knowledge Organisers and whole class Big Books which move with the children as they travel through the school, allowing them to look back on prior learning and experiences.
Alongside our structured curriculum, we recognise the value of the hidden curriculum of play. This is a fundamental aspect of the characteristics of effective learning that underpin our pre-school and Early Years provision that cannot be lost if we are to enable our children to become successful life-long learners. Play can be defined as a process that is “freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated” (Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group, Cardiff 2005). Furthermore, outdoor play has been proven to support better mental health; improved physical activity; greater creativity; improved resilience; better social and emotional skills; and more focused learning when children go back to the classroom (Muddy Hands Report 2018). We are committed to providing high quality playtimes and making the most of our rural location, including our playing field, Spiritual Garden and Forest Area, to promote playful learning.
We believe our curriculum should also teach children to interact with other people, be aware of social issues and inequities and have the confidence to challenge injustices. We want to show our children that little but effective efforts can have a genuine influence on the world around them. They are never too young to start making a difference in the community. As a school we strive to find meaningful ways for pupils to contribute to community initiatives. These may include planting trees, litter picking, collecting for local Food Banks, taking part in community events, donating books, toys and clothes, and raising funds for charities in line with our vision to serve others.
A link to the National Curriculum: gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum