Our Whole School Curriculum Rationale
Our Curriculum Intent
At St Vincent de Paul, our Mission of ‘Serving with Love, Striving for Excellence’ is alive and permeates all that we do. From this, we created our shared vision which builds, embeds and sustains high performance.
As a whole staff, we have crafted our curriculum so that our children develop academically, socially, culturally and emotionally. We are: powerful orators, skilled readers, confident writers, mathematicians, scientists, historians, geographers, musicians, artists, linguists, theologists, athletes, designers and technologists, inclusive and diverse. We want our children to have no limits to what their ambitions are and want them to embody our core values. We aim for all children to ‘be happy; love learning; pursue possibilities.’
Our curriculum promotes curiosity and a love and thirst for learning. It is ambitious and empowers our children to become independent and resilient. We strive for academic excellence and want our children to have high aspirations. We want them to have no limits to what their ambitions are and want them to embody our core values:
- Feel safe
- Sense of community
Our curriculum follows a simple model:
- Breadth of study – the topics children will study
- Threshold concepts – the ‘big ideas’ that children will explore through every topic
- Milestones – the goals that children should reach to show that they are meeting the expectations of the curriculum
We encourage our children to celebrate success and learn from mistakes in order to develop resilience. We want to equip them with not only the minimum statutory requirements of the National Curriculum but to prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. We want our children to use the vibrancy of our great city to learn from other cultures, respect diversity, co-operate with one another and appreciate what they have. We achieve this by providing a strong PSHE curriculum, with British Values and our core values placed at the heart of everything we do. We enrich their time in our school with memorable, unforgettable experiences and provide opportunities which are normally out of reach. We firmly believe that it is not just about what happens in the classroom, it is about the added value we offer to really inspire our children.
Our Curriculum Implementation
We have three school values which permeate all aspects of life at St Vincent de Paul: ‘Ready, Respectful, Kind’. Through weekly focuses set out at the start of each week, the use of a recognition board in each class and a finale of the week’s recognition achievements through a whole school assembly at the end of each week, the three school values remain at the heart of all that we do.
Our curriculum has been carefully built and the learning opportunities and assessment milestones for each year group have been crafted to ensure progression and repetition in terms of embedding key learning, knowledge and skills. Subject leaders have developed subject specific characteristics which we expect the children to demonstrate in each discrete subject area. These characteristics underpin all work in these subjects and form a focal point for display areas and provide a common subject specific vocabulary for staff and children.
We empower our staff to organise their curriculum as they see fit to best suit the needs of the children in their care; they are best placed to make these judgements. Staff develop year group specific long-term curriculum maps which identify when the different subjects and topics will be taught across the academic year. Choosing subject content carefully provides space to ensure that appropriate and specialised vocabulary is introduced and consolidated with pupils. Research suggests that pupils with the most extensive vocabulary have:
- better reasoning, inference and pragmatic skills
- academic success and employment
- better mental health in adulthood
The vast majority of subjects are taught discretely but staff make meaningful links across subjects to deepen children’s learning. Both English and maths are embedded throughout all of the subjects. This adds huge value to pupils learning as such connections provide different perspectives and viewpoints about issues and illustrates how interconnected and interdependent the world is in the twenty-first century. When suggesting such cross-curricular linkages, the emphasis has been on relevance and ‘adding value’ to study rather than on making tokenistic or superficial connections.
We feel that our children should be taught, systematically, a range of academic words so that they can articulate complex ideas, therefore developing the vital verbal communication skills they need to succeed in work and life. An important aspect of both continuity and progression is to ensure that time is devoted to thinking about what subject vocabulary the pupils have already mastered and how this can be built upon and extended through the curriculum. In our curriculum, each milestone introduces a range of subject specific vocabulary.
Along with creating vocabulary rich environments, oracy is seen as an integral part of our curriculum across all subjects as there is a strong evidence base that improvements in children’s speaking skills and the quality of talk in the classroom can raise attainment in core subjects such as English, maths and science as well as enhancing their confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. We believe that developing confident and articulate communication from an early age is an essential tool in ensuring children can transfer learning effectively across the curriculum and beyond. Within each subject, we encourage children to work collaboratively; refining sophisticated teaching skills in oracy to ensure that our children receive the best possible stepping stones to succeed. Teachers understand the importance of modelling high quality oracy in the classroom to support children in learning how to express themselves, build confidence and empower children to find their voices for success in school and in later life.
Our curriculum design is based on evidence from cognitive science; three main principles underpin it:
- Learning is most effective with spaced repetition
- Interleaving helps pupils to discriminate between topics and aids long-term retention
- Retrieval of previously learned content is frequent and regular, which increases both storage and retrieval strength
We believe that by crafting our curriculum this way, we improve the potential for our children to retain what they have been taught, to alter their long-term memory and thus improve the rates of progress they make. In addition to the three principles, we also understand that learning is not always visible in the short term and that sustained mastery takes time.
Our Curriculum Impact
Because learning is a change to long-term memory, it is not always possible to see impact in the short term. We do, however, use probabilistic assessment based on deliberate practice. This means that we look at the practices taking place to determine whether they are appropriate, related to our goals and likely to produce results in the long run.
We use comparative judgement in two ways: in the tasks we set (Proof of Progress -POP tasks) and in comparing a child’s work over time. To help create appropriate activities that help prove children are developing a strong schema, we use POP tasks as follows:
- Basic – in the first year of a milestone
- Advancing – in the second year of a milestone
- Deep – in the second year of a milestone once the children have a strong conceptual system for understanding knowledge
Within Science and foundation subjects, milestones are the goals that children are aiming for. Children need to develop a strong schema (a conceptual system based on knowledge, vocabulary and tasks, to meet these milestones). Knowledge organisers present topics around the threshold concepts in each subject by using the relevant knowledge categories.
Although our curriculum is question led and enquiry based, we do adopt a slightly different pedagogical style in each of the cognitive domains of basic, advancing and deep. This is based on the research of Sweller, Kirschner and Rosenshine who argue for direct instruction in the early stages of learning and discovery-based approaches later. The goal for children is to display sustained mastery at the advancing stage of understanding by the end of each milestone and for the most able to have a greater depth of understanding at the deep stage. The time-scale for sustained mastery or greater depth is, therefore, two years of study.
As a staff, we regularly conduct lesson study cycles. This involves continually researching pedagogies, coming together as a staff to plan, trialling these initiatives through teaching, collectively observing impact and therefore assessing the most effective ways of teaching each subject.
Our staff use Balance to systematically assess what the children know as the topic progresses, identify gaps and inform their future planning. This formative assessment then informs summative assessment judgements for each topic in every foundation subject. We use both formative and summative assessment information every day, in every lesson. Staff use this information to inform their short-term planning and short-term interventions – including in the foundation subjects. This helps us provide the best possible support for all of our children, including higher attainers. Subject leaders have mapped out the assessment milestones for each phase and further broken these objectives down for each year group in each subject area.
Assessment information is analysed by Subject Leads and the SLT as part of our monitoring cycle. Pupil progress reviews provide the SLT and Governors with an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the quality of education in our school.
We set out our monitoring cycle at the beginning of each academic year. This identifies when monitoring for all year groups is undertaken in all subject areas. Monitoring includes: book scrutinies, learning walks, lesson study cycles, pupil/parent and/or staff voice. All of this information is gathered and reviewed regularly. It is used to inform further curriculum developments and provision is adapted accordingly.