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Our Curriculum Rationale and Intent

ALDER COPPICE PRIMARY CURRICULUM RATIONALE

 

The new Knowledge Rich Curriculum at Alder Coppice, has been developed after completing a significant amount of educational research into secure and proven foundations referenced by Scientists, Cognitive Science and Educational establishments linked to the development of long term learning and memory. Whilst our curriculum is underpinned by the National Curriculum, it is also important to take note of the School’s ‘cultural capital’, hence although we have been guided by the key knowledge laid out in the National Curriculum, we have planned to ensure that language, literacy and reading skills are embedded across the curriculum. This is important, due to the socio-economic area we are in:

 

In the official Labour Market Profile for Dudley for 2019, Dudley was found to have a higher level of residents with either no qualifications or a lower percentage of qualifications than both the West Midlands and the UK average.

 

The rate of unemployment and those claiming benefits in Dudley was found to be both higher than the average for both the West Midlands and the UK, suggesting that finding a job in this area maybe hard.

 

Although our school has a statistically low number of pupils with Special Educational Needs and pupil premium, statistics in the local area suggest that it has an economic disadvantage and an educational disadvantage.  It is therefore imperative that our curriculum takes account of this cultural capital and enables all our pupils to build the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to gain an advantage. Bromley (2019) refers to the Matthew Effect, stating that ‘disadvantaged pupils shall get more disadvantaged because they do not possess the foundational knowledge they need, in order to access and understand the school and college curriculum’.  Ensuring vocabulary, literacy and reading skills are easily accessible in our curriculum therefore, continues to be a main component of our new knowledge rich approach.

 

Research has shown a good curriculum needs to empower children with knowledge, but also ensure that this knowledge is embedded in the long term memory.  It should allow pupils to build up schemas that enables them to think deeply and make knowledge transferrable to a variety of contexts. Bransford, Brown and Cocking (2000), refer to knowledge building as connecting information and then building up a network of this connected information as a schema. It becomes easier to add new information and recognise its place within a discipline: new knowledge can ‘stick to old knowledge’.

 

When designing our curriculum then, we have thought carefully about what we teach when, how we can ensure learning is layered in practice and stored in long term memory; ensuring the knowledge that we wish children to know, builds on previous knowledge and progresses over Units of work, so that children can create their own opinions based on factual knowledge and think deeply about how these concepts interrelate and how they may be relevant to a pupil’s everyday life.

 

ALDER COPPICE PRIMARY CURRICULUM INTENT

 

Curriculum Intent Statement

 

How our school’s curriculum is designed to meet the needs of Alder Coppice pupils in our context to ensure that every pupil becomes knowledge rich. We want our pupils to not only remember facts, but to apply their knowledge across the curriculum to create a rounded and broad knowledge base, appropriate to their age, and to gain an extended schema of understanding.

 

Curriculum Intent

 

Mastery: Pupils build knowledge of the key learning in a particular subject in a carefully sequenced way to develop a mental model towards a deeper level of understanding.  Mastery of a concept takes time, after being practised and revisited many times.  Mastery can be seen as linked to threshold concepts, ‘It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress… This transformation may be sudden or it may be protracted over a considerable period of time’ (Meyer and Land, 2003). Chris Quiggley states, ‘Threshold concepts come up time and time again in many topics and so prove useful in helping students to assimilate new information into growing schema.  For example the concept that physical processes create and change environments comes up in topics such as rivers (in which case it is erosion and deposition that is the process); volcanoes (in which plate tectonics is the process); coasts (erosion and deposition) etc.

 

Referring back to key concepts therefore, can help pupils achieve mastery, but when learning new concepts, a child will only have a basic understanding. They are novice learners and need to build a schema to become experts. Hence mastery takes time and it is not until concepts are revisited over and over that by the end of a two-year cycle for example, a child may move from a basic understanding to an advanced understanding, whilst some may have developed a deeper understanding during this time. 

 

Our curriculum therefore aims to take account of this, hence the importance of subject specific vocabulary to aid understanding and depth of learning with key concepts. Subject specific vocabulary has been carefully planned for, referred to on Knowledge Organisers and planned to be specifically taught in lessons to aid mastery of knowledge and understanding and build schemas for transferring knowledge to other areas of the curriculum.

 

The lesson elements used in our short term planning, are also embedded in every lesson where appropriate, and ensure that children are engaged, challenged and think hard about what they are learning at all times during the lesson, whilst being supported and scaffolded where necessary. This allows for every child to achieve success and gain a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught.

 

4M’s Planning Method: We want our pupils to have the best opportunities and choices when they move on to secondary education, therefore each subject is carefully planned for pupils to develop schemas of carefully organised knowledge by the time they leave Alder Coppice, which can be developed further when pupils study individual subjects in more depth. This has been sequenced by Subject Leaders to ensure a clear progression of knowledge and skills from year to year.  When planning lessons, we used Lemov’s (2015) 4Ms method of planning, whereby the objectives must be: Manageable, Measureable, Made First and Most important, and the steps to get there are planned backwards from this point.

 

Knowledge-rich: Subject Leaders, guided by the National Curriculum, chose the key knowledge they wished pupils to know, alongside knowledge that may take them beyond their own experiences. Key concepts have been carefully planned for and structured over time, challenging pupils and allowing them to establish effective mental models that they can continue to develop beyond their time at Alder Coppice. A knowledge-rich curriculum full of key facts can be a hugely powerful tool for giving pupils advantages in life by creating opportunities for them to become successful individuals and achieve our mission.

 

Knowledge is information that exists in the mind in long-term memory. Knowledge allows us to develop our mental models (which are what we know and how that knowledge is organised to guide perception, decision and action). To be confident, articulate and culturally aware pupils need to ‘become initiated into the common language, whether they were born into it,’ (Hirsh, 2016) meaning not just the literal use of the words themselves but a deep understanding of the meaning of the words and their context – something that comes through the process of mastery to increase expertise.

 

Michael Young defines knowledge as powerful, ‘if it predicts, if it explains, if it enables you to envisage alternatives.’ (Young, 2014) Michael Young says it is the educational right of a pupil to receive a comprehensive education committed to academic excellence, regardless of the pupil’s background or social standing. Knowledge transmission (and its organisation into effective mental models) gives all pupils the chance to lead ‘happy, healthy and fulfilled lives’. This powerful knowledge is planned and sequenced over time in each Key Stage. It is chosen and structured within key concepts. It is carefully planned as key learning and recorded on planning documents, on Knowledge Organisers and Resource Booklets, providing shared, high expectations for all teachers.

 

Assessment: Continual daily assessment in lessons through the use of retrieval practice, check its, quizzes and formal assessments allows for responsive teaching – checking for pupil understanding also helps to secure knowledge in the long term memory. We use regular low-stakes quizzes and opportunities for retrieval practice to help pupils transfer information into their long term memories. This is part of the process of mastery and helps build expertise through the organisation of knowledge into effective, subject specific mental models. Using the mastery approach teachers can re-teach and revisit knowledge to develop pupils’ mental models of the curriculum content. Spacing, interleaving and metacognition are a key element and are built into our formative and summative assessments throughout the year.  Teachers and Phase Leaders record and discuss assessment results, so that areas for improvement for individuals or key groups of pupils can be addressed through interventions or reteaching and revisiting of concepts as necessary. Although, some pupils may not achieve as highly as others, we expect all pupils to improve with good teaching. End of Year assessments in the form of both quizzes and formal assessments check for the retention and application of knowledge that has been taught across the year, and may reference work that has been completed in previous years.

 

“The most important assessments happened during teaching, not after it”. (Black and Wiliam, 1998). Dylan Wiliam has suggested that ‘responsive teaching’ might have been a better term for Assessment for Learning. Responsive teaching – or formative assessment – blends planning and teaching, based on an understanding of how students learn from cognitive science, with formative assessment to identify what students have learned and adapt accordingly (Fletcher-Wood, 2018). Continual checking of pupil understanding and addressing of misconceptions facilitates the development of subject specific mental models.

 

Responsive teaching is giving feedback as near to the point of teaching as possible to amend and improve the pupils’ mental model.

 

Revision built-in: “Unless we are intentional, there is a significant risk that pupils will forget much of what they have learnt”. (Mccrae, 2018). It is therefore important to invest significant time, as part of the mastery approach, in consolidating connections between material. Our long term memory becomes stronger the more we retrieve information. The more effort there is in retrieving information – providing the attempt is successful – the greater the strengthening effect (Bjork and Bjork, 2006). Material can be revisited across lessons as well as within lessons (spaced practice). We use a variety of ways for retrieval including:

 

• Retrieval Practice – recalling information that has already been learnt. The exact method will vary depending on the subject, but low-stakes quizzing is particularly high-leverage (Learning Scientists)

• Elaboration – explaining and describing ideas with many details by asking ‘why’ or ‘how’ to make links between the different knowledge (Learning Scientists)

• Interleaving – alternate practice of different types of content e.g. if pupils are learning four mathematical operations, it’s more effective to interleave practice of different problem type (Deans for Impact, 2015).

 

Reading: We recognise that the success of our pupils’ ability to become proficient and fluent readers is to ensure reading is embedded across the curriculum. Pupils’ capacity to build subject-specific mental models is bound through their capacity to read. Alongside our mastery approach to knowledge we ensure the ‘Everybody Reads’ element is included in lessons, where appropriate, to support pupils in reading more often and reading more challenging texts.  Our pupils use rulers and follow along in the text; they hear the teacher modelling how to read with expression, clarity and intonation. They have the opportunity to read out loud, practice speaking unfamiliar words and practice reading skills including retrieving information from the text and inference skills – skills that emerging readers need to continually practice in order to develop their ability to discuss and critique texts. In order to support pupils’ advantages in life, reading and addressing gaps in pupils’ ability to read, ‘is the single most powerful, cost effective contribution that education can make to society.’ (Murphy and Murphy, 2018).

 

Our English Curriculum has been written using the Reading Reconsidered reading spine by Doug Lemov, who champions the importance of pupils’ abilities to access complex texts; the five plagues of the developing reader—five forms of text complexity that are especially challenging and important AND that all students need to have extensive experience with during their school years if they want to hope to compete in college’ (Lemov 2013). Our English Curriculum is planned across both Key Stages 1 & 2, around these five key text types, to ensure our children have the best opportunities for accessing language and to successfully navigate reading with confidence.

 

Because these books are ‘complex beyond a lexical level and demand more from the reader than other types of books’, this fits in with our mastery approach and ensures our pupils are ready for the next stage of their education. We also ensure we explicitly teach subject-specific vocabulary to further enrich knowledge and understanding of the world so that pupils have the opportunities they deserve and are able to better develop their understanding of key concepts that will help them when they move on to the next stage in their education.

 

Wider curriculum: Our pupil’s entitlement to a rich and varied curriculum isn’t limited to subjects. To widen our pupils’ experiences we include a number of enrichment activities in each year, including providing a variety of after school clubs, residentials and educational trips and visits to enhance learning and allow children to develop interests and life skills.  Pupils in Year 6 are given roles and responsibilities in order to play an active role in school life and the world around them. Academic, sporting, and personal development are all celebrated across the curriculum, from in and outside of school. We are glad that we can offer these opportunities. This gives pupils the chance to develop their interests and to facilitate choices that they may make in the future.

 

 

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