Curriculum Thinking and Design – Gillingham Primary School
How did we make decisions about our curriculum?
The imperative to improve our curriculum arose from our self-evaluations which indicated our previous curriculum model (Cornerstones) was not bringing about the best learning and progress for our children. It had been fun, and very busy, but we knew our children could achieve more in every subject.
Built collaboratively by leaders and teachers over the past two years, our knowledge-rich curriculum is based on the key idea of ‘fewer things in greater depth’. We spent time as a team unpicking each subject in the National Curriculum to identify the key concepts and knowledge that children need in order to become masters of their learning and enthusiastic about the breadth of our curriculum offer. All of our curriculum thinking and design came from extensive research, including visiting other schools with an exceptional curriculum in place.
How do we organise our curriculum?
Depending upon the subject area, different subjects are planned and taught in different ways:
The ‘Blocked’ Subjects
Where appropriate, we deliver the curriculum in subject-specific blocks. Blocks can be one, two or three weeks in duration, dependent upon the intended learning. This is carefully mapped to ensure spacing is effective, meaningful links can be made between subjects and opportunities for retrieval and recall are maximised.
Blocked teaching ensures children can truly build deeper knowledge and understanding and the regular revisiting of prior learning supports children to commit their learning to their long-term memory. It stops learning being diluted amongst a ‘topic’ and children are better able to talk about and recall what they learned as opposed to what they did.
The subjects we deliver in blocks are Art and Design, Computing, Design and Technology, Geography, History and Music. Additionally, we plan and provide meaningful opportunities to use Computing right across the curriculum.
The ‘Regular’ Subjects
English (reading, writing, phonics, spoken language) and Maths are taught daily in order to efficiently acquire knowledge, improve and apply skills and master the breadth of expected curriculum content.
PE is taught twice a week, with a range of daily opportunities beyond the ‘taught curriculum’.
The ‘Integral’ Subjects
Religious Education (RE) and Relationships, Personal, Social and Health Education (RPSHE) are taught in a combination of blocked units and through assemblies/collective worship, special days and in response to significant worldwide, national or local events
The ‘Limited’ Subject(s)
Modern Foreign Languages (French) is taught only in Year 5 and Year 6 as a carefully planned series of lessons to build knowledge and understanding over time, in preparation for secondary school.
What are the key principles for excellent subject-specific teaching?
- Vocabulary is a driver. We identify a powerful range of subject-specific terminology for each block and ensure children learn this. They can recall and apply the terminology throughout the block, as well as retrieving it later in time.
- Sequence and progression is vital. We identified the building blocks for every subject within the EYFS curriculum and planned the KS1 and KS2 learning to sensibly build upon this, regularly referring back to prior learning whilst acquiring new knowledge, understanding and skills. This helps make their learning ‘stick’
- We regularly check on children’s acquisition of knowledge and understanding. Consistent systems and processes, such as ‘Never Heard the Word’, ‘Low Stakes Quizzes’, ‘Knowledge Organisers’ and ‘End of block showcase’ ensure teachers are using assessment for learning throughout the teaching and learning sequence.
British values (click on the link to understand more about British values in primary schools) are also something that we hold as important in our community primary school and we work hard to ensure our children understand and celebrate their cultural heritage diversity whilst understanding their commitment to being British in the 21st Century. British values are:
- the rule of law
- individual liberty
- mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith
We use White Rose planning (click on picture link to find out more about White Rose Mathematics) for our mathematic lessons, which is a government funded, teacher-centred planning approach to support teachers in planning meaningful, practical mathematics, which encourages the children to think deeper and really embed understanding of key concepts rather than encourage them to race through mathematics at a superficial level.
If you are a parent or carer and would like to know more about your child's curriculum talk to their class teacher in the first instance.