Over the last year, the St Mary Federation has been developing a renewed knowledge rich and well sequenced curriculum, informed by research evidence as presented by T. Sherrington (2019). Deep rich knowledge is taught through quality teaching, incorporating Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction. This simultaneously facilitates the development of M. Robinson’s theory of Know, Explore, Communicate.
We endorse ‘interactive teaching from the front’ allowing successful children to narrate their thinking and encounter ideas over and over. We believe learning is for the long-term not the short term. (G. Nuthall, 2007) The curriculum is being continually refined via critical analysis of feedback from staff, pupils and advances in subject specific pedagogical knowledge.
At the St Mary Federation, our broad and balanced curriculum is underpinned with the aim of developing leadership via nurturing and growing Courage, Curiosity, Confidence, Collaboration and Compassion. Our curriculum is designed to prepare our learners for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of leadership.
Our curriculum is designed to meet the needs of all our children and to provide the opportunities needed for them to achieve their full potential within a caring Christian ethos.
The impact on learning, of factors which make our school unique, such as our rural setting, richness of surrounding natural environments, local history and village community, have all been maximised.
We have recognised and proactively designed our curriculum to overcome the challenges we face. These include mixed age classes, mixed Key Stage classes and split year groups - which vary from year to year dependent on cohort sizes. We also have to address some very low starting points for language acquisition on entry. These are combined with environmental factors such as geographical isolation, coastal community deprivation, lack of cultural diversity and limited local facilities.
Currently, curriculum development is overseen by Miss Chell and Mrs Smith (Key Stage specialists) in consultation with EYFS and key subject leaders.
Our curriculum journey begins in EYFS with rich and engaging learning opportunities which maximise both the indoor and outdoor environments. Here we operate a curriculum which incorporates in the moment planning and child led learning activities, which both fall under a wider unit heading.
We operate two four year rolling programmes of study based around engaging, knowledge rich units. These ensure that positive features of our unique environment are maximised, for example Holme’s Sea Henge, in the unit ‘The Past Around Us’. Embedding knowledge and linking learning is the beating heart of each unit with the core content created and designed to develop a sophisticated schema of learning.
During each unit, content ensures that all children become ‘culturally literate’ (Hirsch, 1987) and have the opportunity to engage in and develop ‘powerful knowledge’ (Young 2013). Our units identify essential key coverage, but maintain the scope to be adaptable, ensuring that staff develop a degree of ownership and can further enhance learning with their own interests and passions.
We provide opportunities to broaden the children’s experiences, which may be limited owing to the factors identified above, such as our residential exchange with Colebourne Primary School in Birmingham, participating in many projects, including working with the nationally renowned Purcell School of Music and Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and experts from the wider community.
All statutory aspects of the National curriculum are covered and many enhanced with practical exploration and varied means of communication. All stakeholders are committed to the implementation of an inclusive curriculum, which caters for individual needs via quality first principles applied in relation to areas of need.
Each unit ensures that children are able to synthesise and elaborate on all of the knowledge they have acquired throughout. Key assessments enable teachers to monitor, evaluate and reflect with rigour. Where appropriate, units of work contain carefully planned opportunities for children to experience and expand upon their powerful knowledge, creating memorable moments which last beyond their time at our academy.
Quotes from the School Council include:
‘It was amazing that we tried tinned food and experienced the trenches at Bircham’ (WWI),
‘I was smiling all the way through that one and will always love tacos (Mexico)’,
'I will always remember dancing as the Sugarplum Fairy in a little white tutu'
and ‘I really enjoyed attending the LELE conference in Norwich with the other ambassadors’.
By the time our children leave, they will all be leaders!