Our curriculum in Years 7-11
The vision of our curriculum is to nurture life-long learners; students who want to know more, think more and do more. (i) We want to inspire a life-long love of learning. (ii) We want to enable students to have a rich understanding of the context, of their lives, of their communities and of their future. (iii) We want to empower learners to overcome barriers through determination and hard work. (iv) We want to encourage students to aspire to be the person they desire to be, and to show good character and resourcefulness. Ultimately, it’s to ensure that we can achieve our mission of ‘developing tomorrow’s leaders, compassionate and articulate; ready for university or a career of their choice’.
Our Guiding Pillars
In order to achieve our vision, our curriculum intent is underpinned by these guiding pillars:
1 – Knowledge-rich – to provide students with access to a knowledge and skills that they need to succeed and thrive.
Our curriculum is knowledge-rich. This means that the focus of our teaching is to ensure that students build a broad, deep and subject-specific body of knowledge.
– Our approach is ‘knowledge-rich’ in response to research about how students learn. Firstly, a knowledge rich approach is exponential. This is because those students with a ‘rich base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more – the rich get richer’ (known as the ‘Matthew Effect’). Also, the more knowledge a student acquires the more efficiently they will be able to engage in cognitive processes (due to the establishment of well-connected schema and the reduction of cognitive load). Secondly, a knowledge-rich approach aids reading comprehension since background knowledge allows a reader to understand, and make sense of, what they read.
– Because of this, our decisions about what we want pupils to learn matter, and so the knowledge content of our curriculum is carefully chosen by subject leads. Finally, we believe that a rich, subject-specific vocabulary should underpin our curriculum.
– Our curriculum is sequenced according with the aim of ensuring vertical progression. This means that decisions about content choices and sequencing support students to progressively acquire the substantive, disciplinary and procedural knowledge that they need to get better at the subjects they study. Throughout our teaching, we make curricular links within and, where relevant, across subjects. We help pupils see ‘big ideas’ and threads through the curriculum, ensuring this happens when new material is encountered.
– See https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/spring-2006/how-knowledge-helps.
2 – Inclusive – to enable all students, regardless of background or circumstance, to achieve and succeed.
Our curriculum is inclusive. This means that we plan and use scaffolding strategies and ‘deepening-knowledge’ strategies in lesson to ensure that all students master the same core knowledge whilst providing the opportunity for some students to learn additional knowledge that deepens their understanding of curriculum content.
– At City Heights, we concentrate on scaffolding and not differentiation because we want all students to master the same core knowledge regardless of their context or SEND.
– Whilst recognising that ‘differentiation’ is a nebulous term, it is often associated with giving students a different task or a different objective within a lesson. E.g. ‘all, most, some objectives’. The result is often that not all students will reach the same objective or master the same knowledge.
– Whilst recognising that ‘scaffolding’ is a slightly nebulous term, we use it to refer to a variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively towards the same core learning outcomes as all other learners. It might (i) activate earlier curriculum content/learning, (ii) provide the knowledge that we would assume most students have, but some may not or (iii) provide the support that most/all students will need to make connections and encode new knowledge. The idea is that all students will reach the same objective or master the same knowledge and that some students will learn additional knowledge that deepens their understanding of that same knowledge.
– See https://marymyattlab.com/courses/differentiation/
– When students have mastered the knowledge listed in the Scheme of Learning, we will teach additional knowledge that ‘deepens’ the schema for the student. For example, during an English Literature unit on Romeo and Juliet, higher attaining pupils might be provided with 5 Shakespeare sonnets, and encouraged to find connections between them and the themes/ideas presented in the play. Or they will be directed to read/watch another Tragedy, e.g. Hamlet, and asked to draw points of comparison between the plays (using the conventions of Aristotelian tragedy as a framework).
3 – Building Social and Cultural Capital – to empower learners to overcome barriers.
Our curriculum is an opportunity to build pupils’ social and cultural capital. This means that we make content choices within subject disciplines which allow students to access and critique both a context-specific and diverse curriculum and knowledge which may be out of their current experience but which constitutes the traditional canon of each subject.
– As part of our mission, we recognise that all of our students deserve lifetime access to a wide range of cultural experiences and choices and that, in order to gain this access, we must ensure that all students master the core knowledge at the centre of our curriculum regardless of their context.
– We also recognise the importance of providing our students with both a context-specific and diverse curriculum in which students learn knowledge which is relevant and access to ‘powerful’ knowledge which may be out of their current experience but which constitutes the traditional canon of each subject. In providing both, we believe that our students will build their social and cultural capital. Our decisions about what we want pupils to learn are therefore carefully chosen and regularly reviewed by subject-leads to ensure that they a both diverse and relevant and covering the traditional canon of each subject.
– Further, we ensure that, where applicable, students learn disciplinary knowledge within each subject in such a way that presents the ‘broader picture’ of how the traditional canon was established (and how the establishment of the traditional canon may be critiqued).
– See ‘Cultural Capital, Critical Theory and Curriculum’ (Reid, 2020) ’ in ‘The Research Ed Guide to the Curriculum’.
– See ‘Knowledge and the Future School: Curriculum and Social Justice’ (Michael Young).