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.
A Knowledge-engaged Approach
Knowledge underpins and enables the application of skill and thus we strive for children to learn skills alongside valuable knowledge, ensuring that both are explicitly developed. At Marden Vale, we see knowledge and skills as intertwined and our curriculum is focused on ensuring children are able to use their skills to assimilate new information into an existing web of interconnected, well-understood knowledge. We do this by having an emphasis on cross-curricular teaching and a mastery approach to learning. We believe that this is important for making the curriculum engaging, relevant and meaningful to pupils and for putting knowledge into context.
At Marden Vale, we seek to ensure that the content of the curriculum is useful to all our pupils and taught in a logical progression, systematically and explicitly enough for all pupils to acquire the intended knowledge and skill. In order to enable this, leaders are committed to providing high-quality training for staff so that they can become experts in the subjects they teach. Teachers’ own subject knowledge is reviewed regularly and opportunities for tailored professional development are provided. Each subject is led by an experienced teacher who will not only ensure they have expert knowledge of the curriculum for the year group they teach but for all phases, including understanding the expectations our children will face when they move on to Key Stage 3. Subject coordinators will be expected to stay abreast of all developments in the pedagogical approaches and disseminate this to staff as well as take some responsibility for supporting the development of their colleagues’ subject knowledge and confidence, through development days, coaching and planning support.
Ensuring Knowledge is Retained
In order to achieve the outcomes we know they deserve, children need to retain the knowledge they acquire during lessons. At Marden Vale, we are developing a curriculum with knowledge retention at its core. If nothing has been altered in the long-term memory, nothing has been learned. One way we are ensuring that information is committed to memory, is by revisiting the key concepts of each subject. From the national curriculum objectives, teachers have identified key concepts drawn from the content to be taught within each subject. These are repeated during several stages of the children’s primary education so that children have the opportunity to revisit the idea, deepening their understanding of that concept and linking it to other key themes; therefore, tightening as well as widening their web of knowledge. For example, the key historical concept of ‘Gods and Worship’ may first be introduced in KS1 as they look into the Romans, then again in LKS2, when children learn about the Ancient Egypt; and then, in UKS2, it may be revisited during the study of the Vikings. It is essential that children re-examine challenging and important concepts such as these, particularly in a comparative and rigorously thought-provoking way, as well as learning concepts which are completely new.
LINKS TO KEY CONCEPT SPIRAL DIAGRAMS FOR EACH SUBJECT
Art Computing DT Geography MFL Music
Ensuring Progression in Knowledge and Skills
At Marden Vale, the subject curriculum is designed and delivered in a way that allows pupils to transfer key knowledge to long-term memory. It is sequenced so that new knowledge and skills build on what has been taught before and children work towards clearly defined end points. Teachers consciously plan lessons so that they can build connections between the existing knowledge children have and the new knowledge they need to learn. Developing fluency so that the knowledge can be unconsciously applied as a skill is also key, however teachers are mindful to ensure that the memorising of unconnected facts has no place in our curriculum. We ensure that our curriculum increases in challenge and academic expectation as our children grow older and more knowledgeable, but we are careful not to allow gaps to develop which might cause some children to fall behind on the journey. The specific skills required to be successful in each subject have been identified and crafted into structured progressions. These show what children should be achieving in these subjects, in each phase. To ensure coverage of both skills and content, whilst Marden Vale contains mixed age classes, the curriculum works on a two-year cycle. Whilst we ensure all objectives from the national curriculum are taught, our priority is to develop depth and a mastery of those key concepts within and across subjects, rather than scattered coverage that is too disconnected or shallow to be retained.
CLICK for LINKS TO YEARLY OVERVIEWS
LINKS TO PROGRESSION DOCUMENTS (to follow)
Progression in History
Progression in Geography
Progression in Science
Progression in Reading
Progression in Writing
Progression in Maths
Reading at the Heart
Reading is at the heart of our Marden Vale curriculum. In order to ensure children can access all that the curriculum and wider world has to offer, they must first be able to read. Reading fluently, with comprehension and for enjoyment allows children to engage with the world around them.
At Marden Vale, the reading co-ordinators and other leaders ensure there is a rigorous and sequential approach to reading that develops the pupils’ fluency, confidence and enjoyment. At all stages, reading attainment is assessed and gaps are addressed quickly and effectively for all pupils. The sharp focus on ensuring that younger children gain phonics knowledge and language comprehension necessary to read, and the skills to communicate, gives them the foundations for future learning.
In all year groups, we ensure that the children receive the full curriculum, even those year groups which are externally assessed. However, opportunities are given for children who have fallen behind the peers in reading to close the gap. Early intervention is key for ensuring that gaps do not develop in the future and all pupils can read efficiently by the end of key stage 1.
Our Thematic Curriculum
Our curriculum is grouped into a series of themes or topics. Each topic begins with an immersive lesson, trip or visit designed to engage the children and frame the learning journey through to identified outcomes. Initial reflection on this lesson supports formative assessment of pupils’ starting points and gives an opportunity for pupil voice to lead the project in directions relevant to the specific cohort’s interests and ambitions.
During the learning journey, a range of objectives in several curriculum subjects are addressed. This content is sequenced to ensure that components of knowledge lead to conceptual learning. This analysis is supported by strong subject knowledge from staff and aims for both depth of learning and breadth of coverage. Opportunities to practise knowledge and skills are built into the curriculum to secure deep understanding of each discipline. The curriculum planning ensures a layering of knowledge and concepts so that all pupils can make progress. The length of each project depends upon the identified learning and outcomes but they will usually last one or two terms.
Topics are well-selected so that any cross-curricular knowledge or vocabulary is clearly linked and specific subject objectives are logically included, not shoe-horned into the journey through tenuous links. When planning their topics, teachers focus on the most important aspects of the topic in relation to usefulness for the pupils, how they are meeting the needs of our school ‘curriculum drivers’, how transferable/connectable the knowledge is and how well-matched the content is to the national curriculum objectives for that age group. Lessons will be well-sequenced so that knowledge is retained, consolidated and built upon as the topic progresses, with content being examined at depth rather than merely touched upon. Although the lessons are linked through the topic, each will have a clearly identified subject area and precise learning intention so that children understand which subject is being taught. It is important that they understand the purpose of the different subjects and have the chance to identify their personal passions, aptitudes and interests.
INCLUDE HYPERLINKS TO TERM 1 TOPIC MAPS
EYFS – Who Am I? (to follow)
Key Stage One – Me, Myself and I (to follow)
Lower Key Stage Two – Land Before Time
Upper Key Stage Two – Life on the Edge
For each topic, a knowledge organiser is created in advance. These are published on our website, stuck in children’s books, displayed on learning walls and sent home so that children and their parents can make constant reference to them throughout the topic. They not only allow children to refer back to content and vocabulary discussed during preceding lessons, but allow children to see where their learning is going to take them over the course of the unit. Teachers and students can use the knowledge organiser to set quizzes and challenge children’s retention and understanding of the key concepts that are being taught. Knowledge organisers help teaching staff to ensure their lessons remain focused on the acquisition and retention of the key ideas that can be covered in that unit without illogical moving between ideas and objectives or focusing on information that is less valuable. A focus on vocabulary is clearly embedded through its inclusion in the knowledge organisers, as well as in individual lesson plans, on learning walls and through teachers conscious focus, encouragement and clearing up of misconceptions during discussions.
INCLUE HYPERLINKS TO KNOWLEDGE ORGANISERS
EYFS – Who Am I? (to follow)
Key Stage One – Me, Myself and I (to follow)
Lower Key Stage Two – Land Before Time
Upper Key Stage Two – Life on the Edge
Science Knowledge Organiser
Teaching and Inclusion
It is essential, if children are to become masters of the subjects they study, that first the teachers become experts in the subjects they teach. Not only must teachers ensure their subject knowledge is of a high standard for all the subjects they teach, but they must understand the content well enough to be able to select the most useful elements in order to determine what must be taught as well as in which order that knowledge might best be assimilated. Teachers will need to select content so that it ensures coverage of the national curriculum objectives, but allows exploration at a sufficient depth so that pupils’ cumulatively acquire sufficient knowledge and store this in their long-term memory. Teachers are supported in this planning through school leaders and subject coordinators.
Content is decided upon and detailed in the knowledge organisers, whilst objectives to be met are outlined in the topic maps. At this point, teachers will think about their classes’ individual needs whilst planning lessons. In all subjects, teachers present the information clearly, promoting appropriate discussion about the subject matter being taught. They check pupils’ understanding systematically, without creating unnecessary burdens on pupils or themselves, identifying misconceptions accurately and providing clear, direct, yet positive, feedback, that effectively moves learning on. Naturally, teachers adapt their planning and styles to respond to their pupils’ needs, address gaps in their learning and engage them through targeting their interests.
Over the course of each topic, teaching is designed to help pupils remember, long term, the content they have been taught and to integrate new knowledge into larger ideas. This can be achieved in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to the following pedagogical approaches: opportunities for extended pupil talk, including presentations and drama activities; opportunities to write at length; short, fun quizzes; starter games that recap key ideas and vocabulary; immersive or practical activities that engage children and linger in the memory; pre-teaching and revision sessions, particularly for children who are disadvantaged; and exciting events such as ‘Brain of Marden’ where the children engage with general knowledge questions from the topics they’ve studied over the previous terms. The key to knowledge retention in our pupils is the commitment from staff to ensure that learning is stored and revised. Creating the spiral diagrams empowered teachers and allowed them to understand how and when concepts are revisited so they can consciously draw upon their pupils’ previously acquired knowledge and scaffold their connections, eventually teaching them to seek out connections for themselves.
At Marden Vale, teaching staff are committed to creating an environment in which all children make significant progress. Outcomes and resources are rigorously planned out and selected to reflect the school’s ambitious intentions for the course of study. These materials clearly support the intent of a coherently planned curriculum, sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment. All staff ensure that their own speaking, listening, writing and reading of English support pupils in developing their language and vocabulary well. This is modelled consistently and all staff see it as their responsibility to positively and politely pick up on children’s misconceptions when speaking.
At Marden Vale, we are deeply committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes for all our children. We consistently strive to ensure that our curriculum is accessible and engaging to every child regardless of their individual needs or barriers to learning. We aim to tailor the curriculum to the interests and learning styles of our children, doing everything we can to ensure all reach their full potential. At Marden Vale, all staff are committed to ensuring the key skills which drive our curriculum are embedded within every learning journey and the wider enrichment opportunities. Our school charter and the awareness of staff contribute to ensuring all disadvantaged pupils are able to access the curriculum and succeed in line with their peers, through the conscious development of their cultural capital and personal wellbeing.
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.’