St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School

Spirituality, Aspiration, Innovation, Diversity

Our Curriculum

‘The ladder of education can never be secure unless the first rungs are firmly in place.’

We want all our children to experience success and enjoy their learning whilst at school. We aim to achieve this through high standards of learning and teaching within a happy and caring environment.

We aim to present the curriculum through an interesting and challenging programme of work, which builds on the children’s interests and experiences. We build children’s confidence and try to encourage our pupils to develop cooperation, self-discipline and perseverance. Our children are given the chance to develop and use these skills throughout the curriculum, through first-hand experiences and practical activities. We actively teach the children how to be good learners.

Through a variety of teaching methods and strategies, we aim to instil children with an enthusiasm for learning and prepare them for future school life. Teaching methods, including whole class, group and paired work, or individual personalised programmes of study are chosen, as appropriate, to meet the task or skill being focused upon.

During the course of the year, the children will encounter a range of teaching methods. They will mainly be taught by their own class teacher, although we do have specialist teachers in some areas, enabling us to best use the individual expertise of a large, talented teaching staff.

Our curriculum strives to ensure breadth, balance and depth. We know that children learn faster and more effectively when skills and concepts are linked between subjects over time. We plan themes or topics carefully so that continuity and progression are deliberately sequenced and aid recall. Topics enable us to identify skills, concepts, knowledge and ideas from individual subjects and bring them together in a cohesive way. Some areas of study are taught discretely, especially where strong links cannot be made, to ensure complete curriculum coverage.

Our curriculum has been designed to be both knowledge rich and skills-based, promoting challenge and depth through enquiry, whilst matching the children’s learning needs. Children will be able to re-visit key concepts throughout their time at the school, layering, interleaving and sequencing their growing knowledge, thus enabling progression. – a ‘Mastery’ approach to learning. Our curriculum is being planned around our school driver words; Aspiration, Innovation, Diversity and Spirituality, which take into account the factors which make our school the unique place that it is.

Growth Mindset In Our Curriculum

At St Francis, there is a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture throughout the school whereby children become more open to new ideas and more able to take risks with their learning. We have done this by delivering specific Growth Mindset training to both children and staff, actively changing the language of learning that we use in school and altering the focus of our Celebration Assemblies. This approach is also reflected in our feedback and marking strategies, in increased opportunities for children to make autonomous choices, in opportunities for ‘challenge’ and in extending and refining the range teaching strategies that can be used to engage children. We call this FACE, and it forms part of the Teaching and Learning model which underpins all that we do in the classroom. Children, teachers and Support Staff have all contributed to ensuring that we have created a firm basis on which to build our new curriculum.

Staff Expertise

Underpinning our curriculum development is an increased whole staff understanding of the cognitive research and theories about how children learn best. Through regular ‘Teachmeets’, both teachers and Teaching Assistants have had opportunities to explore at depth the pedagogy which informs good learning, and to investigate different approaches to curriculum design. We have close links with both the Norwich Research School and The Julian Teaching School, with members of our staff being actively involved in both national research and the delivery of programmes across the East of England. We have been fortunate to work with nationally acclaimed educationalists such as Mark Burns and Chris Quigley, who have both delivered training within school.

Intent, Implementation and Impact

At St Francis we view our school as a ‘Learning Community’ – a place where children, staff and families learn together, following in the footsteps of Christ.  With this in mind our Mission Statement is…Learning and Growing Together in God’s Love. 

In his report to government, ‘Creativity – all our futures’, Sir Ken Robinson defined creativity as purposeful, imaginative activity with value. With this in mind we could define a creative curriculum as one that:

  • Has clear educational purpose
  • Is delivered with imagination
  • Has measurable educational value

Educational Purpose and Intent

Our aim is to develop and enhance our children’s cultural capital, equipping them for today and tomorrow, by designing and providing a curriculum that:

  • is inspiring, engaging and empowering 
  • recognises children’s prior learning and builds upon it
  • provides first hand learning experiences that allow the children to develop interpersonal skills, build resilience and become creative, critical thinkers
  • celebrates the rich and diverse cultural heritage of our children and their families
  • is driven by a desire for our children to have a greater knowledge of the world and an awareness of the possibilities open to them in their future lives and careers 

What do we teach?

The National Curriculum Framework 2014 and the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia’s RE Syllabus underpin our curriculum and every pupil is taught in line with those expectations. However, our distinct curriculum also includes learning opportunities that are designed to support our values and reflect our local community, whilst retaining the flexibility to respond to our children’s changing interests and the developing world around them.

Rather than subjects driving the curriculum, it is the needs of children that have determined the emphasis. It is important that children learn what is in the statutory curriculum, but we know that children need much more than this. Balancing children’s needs with the statutory curriculum will always be a challenge, but instead of the two acting in opposition we can ensure the content of the curriculum meets the needs of children and fulfils statutory requirements. To do this, we have established some key ‘drivers’ for our school curriculum.

We have developed four curriculum drivers that shape our curriculum and bring about our schools aims, responding to the needs of our children and our community, the values of our school and the location of our school.

Our curriculum drivers are:

  • Spirituality
  • Aspiration
  • Innovation
  • Diversity

These drivers underpin our planning process and help us to focus our curriculum content.

We strive to offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which provides pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens. “It introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said, and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.” NC 2014

The curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum.

Our curriculum provides pupils with opportunities to develop pupils’ spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of the teaching of every subject. This supports their acquisition of knowledge. We also plan to use every relevant subject to develop pupils’ mathematical fluency. 

Pupils’ acquisition and command of vocabulary are key to their learning and progress across the whole curriculum. The curriculum plans to develop vocabulary actively, building systematically on pupils’ current knowledge and increasing pupils’ knowledge and vocabulary.

In addition, we actively seek to provide inspiring opportunities for education in the Arts, so that all pupils are encouraged to become creatively literate through the art, craft, design, music, dance and drama activities they experience. Our Gold Award in the Arts Council’s national Artsmark Award scheme demonstrates our commitment in this area, both within school and in the wider community.

Curriculum map

We have devised a curriculum map in order to define the educational purpose of our curriculum and to ensure breadth and balance, influenced by our curriculum drivers. This map relates to the CMAT’s Curriculum Overview.

The content has been divided into continuous and specific learning objectives. We call the continuous objectives ‘threshold concepts’ – these are the key disciplinary aspects of each subject that will shape pupils as, for example, historians, geographers etc. These reflect the drivers of our curriculum and require lots of repetition. Specific objectives are the ones assigned to a particular year group. We have started with the needs of our children in mind and then shaped the curriculum around them.

Curriculum Expectations

The curriculum is designed in such a way as to provide a coherent, structured academic curriculum that leads to sustained mastery for all and a greater depth of understanding for those that who capable. The curriculum is split into Milestones in order to ensure that the content is not only covered, but also repeated to a progressively higher standard to enable progress and depth of learning. Within each Milestone, the threshold concepts are broken down and defined. Progress is defined as the widening and deepening of essential knowledge, skills and understanding. Pupils revisit key aspects of learning across subjects and over time, with increasing levels of cognitive demand and challenge, allowing them to apply the skills they have learned independently in a range of contexts, rather than moving them on to the next skill if they have not truly mastered it.  We call this process DISCOVER, DEVELOP and DEEPEN, whereby children firstly discover essential knowledge, then they develop it by applying it in different situations and then some children will deepen their depth of understanding through the inventive application of their knowledge and skills. This involves pupils not only acquiring new knowledge but becoming creative and critical thinkers. The expectation is that in Years 1, 3 and 5 pupils will Discover new knowledge, practising and applying it until it is thoroughly embedded. In Years 2, 4 and 6 children build upon the concepts introduced in the previous year in order to Develop their understanding further. Some, but not all, children may then go on in Years 2, 4, and 6 to use and apply their learning at the Deepen level. 

Underpinning our knowledge rich curriculum is a continuous provision for developing subject disciplinary skills, with which children will build increased competency through ongoing use and practical application in different contexts as they move through the school. Pupils are encouraged to consider what it means to think and act like a scientist, historian, artist, philosopher, to be inspired by paradigm-breaking, diverse and innovative examples of people past and present working in these subject disciplines, and to apply those skills directly in their learning with increasing sophistication.

Implementation

Imagination

Planning how the curriculum is to be delivered is key to engaging and inspiring our children. When strong and meaningful links can be made, we adopt a multidisciplinary approach and conjoin subjects to develop a shared theme or understanding of a concept. Where valid links cannot be made we teach aspects of learning within discrete subjects. This multidisciplinary approach suits our ‘Teaching Backwards’ approach where pupils are working towards answering a ‘Big Question’ in the form of a ‘Fabulous Finish’, whereby pupils reflect upon, articulate and cement their learning. We endeavour to maintain the authenticity of each discipline by articulating to pupils which subject the key knowledge and skills within a lesson stems from.

Through systematic planning we have ensured that all the skills and knowledge that the children need to acquire are covered.

Principles for curriculum themes

We deliver the curriculum through themes which capture the children’s interest and enthusiasm for learning. When planning our themes, we have kept certain principles in mind:

  • Making it real

The more real the learning experience, the more likely it is that children will engage. We plan to make the theme real to children – it should not be abstract or too far removed from their experience. If something is based in the past, for example, we try to think of the legacy it has left and start with that.

We use a stimulus of some description: a visit, visitors, artefacts, books, videos, situations, plays, etc. The wider the range of stimuli, the more likely it is that children will engage with the theme.

  • Provoking

By planning a ‘skeleton’ theme based on our curriculum map, we ensure educational purpose, but the content needs also to be steered by children.

We aim to provoke children into taking an interest in both what we’ve planned for them, and related things that they find interesting along the way. This is not the same as asking children what they would like to learn. When children don’t know what they want to learn or what they can’t do, it can be a pointless exercise. Asking children what they want to learn also assumes that they can articulate it. Most worryingly, though, asking children what they want to learn may lead to a situation that keeps children in a world that they’ve already experienced and not into the new worlds teachers can take children based on their needs rather than their wants. Having said this, we do want children to feel part of the process. We try to give lots of provocation in order to stimulate their interest and imagination, and allow children to steer rather than lead learning, including:

  • using a learning challenge in the form of a “Big question” and/or stimulus at the beginning of the theme to provoke lines of  enquiry from the start.
  • allowing the children’s enquiries to steer the theme’s direction.
  • responding to lines of enquiry that come up later in the theme – not all children will be provoked at the same time.

Allowing time and space

If we are to provoke lines of enquiry, then children need space and time to follow them. We allow for this by:

• planning for about half of the time we expect our plan to last.
• allowing time for children to explore their chosen lines of enquiry.

Being Flexible

We try not to let timetables get in the way, especially at the ‘launch’ of a theme. In order to facilitate this, we:

  • may collapse the timetable at the beginning of a theme.
  • hook the interest of children and secure their commitment through a dramatic start – “Brilliant Beginning”.
  • Try to pull the theme together at the end, enabling the children to reflect upon and demonstrate their learning, as well as demonstrating their learning in an interesting way – “Fabulous Finish”.

Themed Weeks

At St Francis, a themed (off-timetable) week, is held every term. This allows us to either immerse our children in an area of the established curriculum or enrich our children’s education beyond the statutory curriculum.

Planning for measurable educational value and impact

Planning a purposeful and engaging curriculum will not raise standards in itself. We have carefully planned what we want children to accomplish as a result of this purposeful and engaging curriculum.

Planning for subject knowledge and key skills

We have ensured breadth of study by creating our curriculum map. Curriculum maps for each year group ensure that each teacher has clarity as to what to cover and can provide a coherent and personalised learning experience.

Our curriculum design is based on evidence from cognitive science, with three main principles underpinning it:

  • Learning is most effective when spaced rather than blocked.
  • 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.

Knowledge Organisers define the key vocabulary and essential knowledge that pupils need to acquire within each theme. The expectation is that pupils will learn the content of knowledge organisers in order that it can be both applied and built upon in future learning. To this end, teachers provide plenty of opportunities for pupils to recall and retrieve this knowledge so that it becomes embedded in their long-term memory.

Pedagogical Approach

We have developed a Growth Mindset culture throughout the school so that children have become more open to new ideas and are able to take risks with their learning. We have actively changed the language of learning that we use in school. We have also re-defined our feedback and marking strategies, increased opportunities for autonomous choices, explored what ‘challenge’ looks like and extended our knowledge of the many different methods we can use to engage children. We call this FACE, and it forms part of the Teaching and Learning Model which underpins all that we do in the classroom. Planning begins with the outcome in mind: the learning process to get from the child’s individual starting point to the end objective is broken down into sequential steps. This is called the Teaching Backwards approach.

Each Subject

Each Subject has a Vision Statement, presented both as a short overview and as a more in-depth explanation into the intent, implementation and impact. These are available on our school website.

Monitoring Impact

The impact of the curriculum is monitored in standards achieved in relation to the curriculum intent, progress made and personal qualities acquired. The impact of our curriculum is that by the end of each Milestone, the vast majority of pupils have sustained mastery of the content, that is, they remember it all and are fluent in it; some pupils have greater depth of understanding. We track carefully to ensure pupils are on track to reach expectations of our curriculum.

 The impact of our curriculum is seen in:

  • High standards: consistently performing at above national averages
  • Progress which builds incrementally year-on-year at a pace and momentum appropriate to the learner.
  • Quality experiences which are memorable, worthwhile and challenging.
  • Teaching which is rigorous, personalised, innovative and learning-centred.
  • Learners that are resilient, questioning, resourceful and self-sufficient.
  • Self-aware learners, with well-formed characters, who have a thirst for learning, embrace challenge and enjoy learning from mistakes
  • Individuals who value and respect themselves and one another and demonstrate the school’s gospel values in action.

Means of Monitoring Impact:

The curriculum is regularly reviewed, developed, monitored and evaluated by the school leaders, external advisers and governors, leading to improvements and innovation.

Subject leaders take responsibility for ensuring coverage, progression and standards through long and medium-term planning, promoting the subject and developing the teaching methodology and securing high quality resources. They regularly monitor and evaluate learning, teaching and the curriculum.