We define curriculum as the totality of a child’s experience at Marden Vale Academy.
At Marden Vale, we value each child as an individual with a unique potential for learning. Our aim is to enable each of our pupils to participate fully in current and future society as a responsible, self-confident citizen, including those who are disadvantaged or who have additional needs. We promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical qualities of all pupils. At Marden Vale, our curriculum is suitably demanding, both in line with and exceeding the objectives laid out in the National Curriculum. We believe that an effective programme of study offers knowledge, skills, understanding and progression. Our curriculum is therefore designed with these principles in mind: it is personalised, reflecting the background and experience of our pupils; it is outward facing, setting learning in global contexts wherever possible; it celebrates diversity to emphasise unity; and it is rooted in authenticity and context so that learning is relevant. Through regular discussion, evaluation and reflection, school leaders, teachers and support staff have reached a solid consensus about the knowledge and skills that pupils need in order to take advantage of opportunities, responsibilities and experiences in later life. These are reflected in our school’s curriculum drivers and are key to addressing disadvantage and ensuring all children fulfil their most ambitious potential.
At Marden Vale, we understand the true power that a solid foundation in reading can provide for our pupils. We are determined to ensure that every student will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities. Whilst many children naturally acquire an awareness of the world around them, an understanding of how life works, and – crucially – a language with which to explain it all, we know that many disadvantaged children do not. So, while for some, this cultural capital, established through experiences brought to them before they reach school age (reading, visiting museums, discussions on current affairs, trips abroad etc), provides a solid foundation on which they can build further knowledge, skills and understanding, we know that some will arrive at school without these key experiences.
Cultural capital takes one tangible form: a pupil’s vocabulary. The size of a pupil’s vocabulary in their early years of schooling is a significant predictor of academic attainment in later schooling and of success in life. Department for Education research suggests that, by the age of seven, the gap in the vocabulary known by children in the top and bottom quartiles is around 4,000 words (children in the top quartile know around 7,000 words). At Marden Vale, we are committed to ensuring that ALL our children develop the ability to read fluently, comprehend and enjoy language so that we can diminish the difference, close the word gap and ensure all children are able to access and flourish across the curriculum and thus have an equal chance of success.
Our bespoke Marden Vale curriculum is driven by the needs of our children and the key skills we believe they require in order to succeed at secondary school and beyond: effective communication, both orally and in writing; ambitious aspirations and knowledge of the smaller goals they need achieve on route to success; secure life skills that will help them grow into kind and independent adults who know how to keep themselves and others safe; the ability to be creative and remain curious about the world; and resilience in order to face life’s challenges with perseverance, positivity and adaptability.
Forming the foundation for all of these skills, is one key subject that is at the absolute heart of our Marden Vale Promise: the ability to read. It is only once a child has mastered the capacity to read and understand the written word that we can truly begin to unlock their potential and realise their individual genius. We are committed to ensuring all our pupils can read fluently and with understanding so that they can access and enjoy all aspects of the curriculum and the opportunities life has to offer.
The impact of our curriculum will be measured in a number of ways:
- Pupil Voice
- Quality of Learning in Books
- Children’s Performances and Events
- Attendance Data
- Parent Feedback
- Behaviour Logs
- Official Outcomes at KS2
- Reading Skills across the Curriculum
When talking to the children, we will find that they are confident and articulate communicators who are able to discuss their knowledge of the topics they are studying in a way that shows their understanding, engagement and enjoyment. We envisage that children will be able to speak positively about the challenges they have faced and identify when they have shown resilience in their learning as well as what they have understand or can do now, that they were aware they could not do before. We will find that pupils have a thorough understanding of the subjects they are taught and of the purpose of that education, in relation to themselves and their individual dreams of success. They will begin to become experts in different disciplines, showing personal talents and interests and begin to develop passions and ambitions of subjects to pursue in the future. Children who are disadvantaged are able to talk about their learning with as much knowledge and enthusiasm as their non-disadvantaged peers. Pupils remember, in depth, the topics they have studied and can make connections between their learning experiences. There is clear progression in terms of children knowing more, remembering more and being able to do more, and children have the self-awareness to articulate this clearly.
Quality of Learning in books
When admiring the learning produced by children in their books, across the curriculum, we see evidence of the pupil’s dedication and resilience. We see that each activity is purposeful, suitably challenging and part of a clear learning journey that strives to embed and extend knowledge. Children’s learning is of a high standard and the content shows understanding, knowledge and progression. There is evidence that concepts have been revisited and that children have both retained knowledge from previous year groups, topics and lessons and are assimilating new learning into that existing information, building long-lasting, useful connections. Children are able to express what they have understood in a way that is meaningful and practical for them, and, notably, in a manner that does not hold back those who struggle with writing. Books (and learning stored on Showbie) show children’s accurate use of key vocabulary and effective communication of key ideas, in a variety of appropriate mediums (writing, diagrams, oral presentations etc).
Children’s Performances and Events
As part of each topic, classes will incorporate a showcasing activity whereby other children, staff and parents are welcomed into the school to witness the impressive learning that has taken place. We will be inspired and captivated by the children’s pride in their achievements and their abilities to speak in depth about their creations. Across the year, there will be other opportunities to exhibit their various talents in a whole school context: sharing assemblies, talent shows, times tables competitions, spelling bees and productions.
Regular attendance at school is vital to help children achieve and get the best possible start in life. Children who frequently miss school often fall behind. There is a strong link between good school attendance and achieving good results and those children who are persistently absent during primary school are likely to allow their attendance to drop yet further at secondary school, which will impact their ability to secure official qualifications. Only 12% of pupils with below 80% school attendance achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and Maths, compared to 68% for pupils with attendance greater than 95%.
The attendance data for the school will show the children’s desire to attend lessons and a supportive, communicative relationship between staff and families, particularly those in more challenging circumstances. As a result of the inspiring curriculum, we intend to remove persistent absence and increase attendance to be in line with national figures and beyond.
When speaking with parents, through questionnaires, during consultations or even informally, we hope to hear how proud they are of the way their children are progressing and developing. We know that every child has the capacity to impress their parents with the learning they can produce and we want to create as many opportunities for these special moments as possible.
At Marden Vale, it is our intention to make our lessons irresistible to the children in order to develop within them a lifelong love of learning. Our curriculum is designed to engage and inspire curiosity, whilst developing key learning skills such as perseverance, resilience and creativity. Therefore, behaviour logs would reflect positive behaviour from children. Significant incidences that result in exclusions will be significantly minimised and those children with challenging emotional needs will be supported in accessing the curriculum through the effective use of the pastoral team. Outcomes for these children will improve quickly as their engagement with the curriculum increases. Pupils are confident, polite and articulate. They are interested and listen well to others. Disruptive behaviour is not common place and the behaviour of pupils with particular needs shows demonstrable improvement. Relationships among pupils and staff reflect a positive and respectful culture; pupils are safe and they feel safe.
Pupils make good use of the exciting opportunities, designed to stretch pupils’ talents and interests. They appreciate these and are enthusiastic, committed and behave well throughout. Pupils’ attitudes to their education are positive. They are committed to their learning, know how to study effectively and do so, are resilient to setbacks and take pride in their achievements. During lessons, pupils contribute regularly to whole class discussions and make constructive and polite use of partner talk. All children attend a club during their time at the school. All children are involved in class assemblies and, where possible, attend all educational visits.
Official Outcomes at KS2
Reading, writing and mathematical skills remain at the heart of all that we do across the curriculum; however, it is the character education and knowledge acquisition that will impact even more significantly upon our children’s success in the end of key stage examinations. We understand that developing children’s confidence across a wider range of subjects and engaging them through their unique skills and interests, is invaluable when preparing children to be successful in statutory test situations.
Reading Skills across the Curriculum
Pupils read widely and often, with fluency and comprehension appropriate to their age. Reading records reflect that children are reading each night at home, either with an adult or independently. Whole class reading sessions show that children are being exposed to challenging, age-appropriate texts and explicitly taught the strategies to help them decode, understand and use them. When reading across all aspects of the curriculum, children are able to gather meaning and apply the information acquired this way. Children are witnessed to be ‘using their reading to learn’, as well as ‘learning to read’.
The greatest impact will be seen when our children reach the end of their time with us and are ready to carve out a meaning and successful future. We are committed to ensuring that our children are fully prepared for the next stage in their educational journey. Our curriculum is designed to mould resilient, creative, aspirational children who are excellent communicators and who are equipped with a wide-range of essential life skills.
As defined so succinctly in the Church of England’s definition of ‘Character Education’ (an essential aspect of our curriculum foundations), the true impact of the education we provide at Marden Vale, ‘will have a legacy far beyond the school gates, impacting young people as friends, neighbours, parents, team members and employers, benefiting the individuals themselves, their wider community and broader society.’