Our children live in an information-rich age and can access more information from their bedrooms than Nobel prize winners could hope to find in a lifetime, only 20 years ago. This shows us that simply having access to information does not improve learning, although, obviously without information learning is impossible. So, for us, learning requires the learner to engage with information; in simplest terms it is committing to memory.
We remember recent events in short-term memory, but it is long-term memory that better describes what has been learnt. This learning may be understood in two ways: skills, the procedural memory describing how to do things; and, knowledge, such as the meaning of words or information about events, that can be recalled or “declared.”
Furthermore, committing to memory brings about a physical change in our brain; and, dramatic events or repetition is required for this long-term retention. The skills and knowledge retained are vital for thinking and the more they retain the easier it is for children to learn and make sense of even more. In terms of learning, the “I remember” response is associated with recollection and “I know” with familiarity.
“Powerful knowledge provides more reliable explanations and new ways of thinking about the world and …can provide learners with a language for engaging in political, moral, and other kinds of debates”Young, M. (2008). From constructivism to realism in the sociology of the curriculum. Review of Research in Education, 32, 1–32
This journey from ‘experiencing’ to remembering and through repetition to ‘knowing’ underpins our curriculum.
In the earliest years, we build upon the experiences children bring, extending and enhancing them and where necessary compensating for those missed, as they engage with the EYFS Framework.
Curiosity is encouraged, modelled and explored leading children to search for meaning, be that in the marks they make, the world they observe or the games they play. Basic skills give gesture, word and expression to their new found search for meaning and prepares them to engage with the broad and balanced primary curriculum which includes religious education and the national curriculum.
By the end of their time with us, our children will attain in RE, English, Maths & Science above the national average. More importantly, they will have learned how to learn about the world as a mathematician, scientist, historian, artist, musician, designer…
They will have experienced forming and maintaining healthy relationships, beyond their immediate peers, being both follower and leader. They will appreciate the British values of mutual respect and tolerance as modelled throughout the setting; they will have learnt about suffrage and democracy and employed it in electing student councillors; the rule of law will underpin their experience of school discipline and be seen in fairness and the valuing of individual liberty. They will appreciate who they are and where they have come from; prepared for the world they will inherit but ready to own their future.
Learning how humanity has learned, knowing some of the human knowledge garnered and being ready to make a positive contribution as participants of society requires a clear curriculum, well taught.
There are five elements forming our school curriculum:
The ‘Come and See’ National Project provides a Religious Education curriculum underpinned by the directory which, like the NC, is progressive, supporting knowledge acquisition to deepen understanding and application.
Readiness (Redlines of learning) are mostly skills and knowledge (although understanding underpins their application) that we use as ‘proxy indicators’ of learning, giving access to the fundamental learning of the subsequent year.
The National Curriculum recognises three essential elements:
- basic skills that are progressive in acquisition, in elements of the reading, writing and maths programmes of study, and within the purpose of study of the other foundation subjects;
- knowledge within programmes of study, appendices and content for each year group or key stage;
- use & application of skills and knowledge to deepen understanding, from the aims of each subject.
Personal, Social, Health & Citizenship Education and Relationships Education, through the Diocesan Primary Framework and the PSHE Association programme of study, are further extended and enhanced by our own inclusion curriculum (developed with parents), our canvas classroom curriculum (working with partners) and our curriculum for life.
Pearls & threads describes a series of attitudes and attributes that form the so called ‘soft skills’ that are essential both in learning and in life. We make explicit reference to these throughout our curriculum so that children can recognise which are important to them.
Religious Education drives the rhythm of our curriculum, and its repetitive pattern informs our spiralling sequence. Three twelve-week sequences lay out the learning across the academic year.
The first – Core Sequence – uncovers, for all learners, the knowledge and skills, that form the key learning for the year. All children play in the shallows, some dipping their toes, some tentatively exploring and others wading right in.
The second – Broadening Sequence – provides opportunities for learners to revisit the year’s key learning in new contexts, while some move on to deepening their learning, gaining fluency and accuracy in the year’s key learning. All children are in the water, some playing in the shallows while others explore the waves in deeper water.
The third – Applying Sequence – supports learners, needing to return to aspects of the key learning for the year, to have time to grasp the knowledge and skills to support their learning journey, while others gain fluency and for others it is a chance to delve into the application of learning. All children are in the water, some becoming confident in the shallows, others exploring the waves, and some beginning to dive beneath the surface.
Through this spiralling, we place emphasis upon the acquisition of key skills and knowledge as we want every learner to get to grips with the breadth of knowledge and skills offered through our curriculum. We intervene to ensure progress, for example breaking misconceptions so that children do not embed errors; providing children with ‘prep’ to be ready for a lesson; precision teaching to overcome a particular barrier; and, additional support with strategies and practice to consolidate learning where necessary.
Children are periodically introduced to a so-called ‘Skinny’ of facts drawn from the subject content, which they need to know and use during learning in that context and be able to remember afterwards, providing the ‘pub-quiz’ knowledge of later life.
Through the changing contexts for the learning in each sequence, children will develop different interest and enjoyment of subjects, and our curriculum provides opportunities for children to move beyond the ‘essential’ in aspects that engage them. Indeed, where a child displays a particular appreciation of, let’s say history, ultimately, they will be able to pursue this context through a wide range of ‘learning briefs’. While it is necessary that they maintain the broad knowledge expected by the NC, there is in upper years a real opportunity for children to pursue their own agenda in the learning contexts of our curriculum.