Learning for Life – ‘Life in all its fullness’
Our curriculum is broad, balanced and stimulating, encouraging each child to grow in confidence and faith. As a school we help our children to develop their intellectual and physical skills alongside their personal and spiritual qualities, enabling them to become caring, capable and responsible members of society. We aim to foster a life-long love of learning, through adopting a practical, experiential and cross-curricular approach wherever we can. Our curriculum in school is comprised of all of the planned activities that we organise in order to promote learning, personal growth and development. It includes the formal requirements of the National Curriculum (English; Maths; Science; Geography; History; Art & Design; Design & Technology; Music; Languages; Physical Education and Computing), PSHE & Citizenship and the school’s syllabus for Religious Education. As well as this, there is a range of extra-curricular activities, such as ‘Family Week’, that the school organises to enrich each child’s experience. We also explicitly teach the ‘hidden curriculum’, the things the children learn from the way they are treated and the way they are expected to behave.
Our curriculum is built in such a way as to be ‘knowledge-rich’: a distillation of the accumulated wealth of human knowledge, carefully chosen to be passed on to the next generation. It is focused around a body of subject-specific knowledge, with skills seen as the by-product of knowledge, not its purpose. This ‘sticky knowledge’ is generative and is intended as knowledge that will stay with the children throughout their lifetime: an amalgam of interesting facts and knowledge required for the National Curriculum and more. Within our curriculum, ‘learning’ is seen as “an alteration in long-term memory” and ‘progress’ is seen as “knowing more and remembering more”.
Our curriculum includes our list of ‘100 Things You Must Do Before You Leave Cotgrave Church of England Primary School’ (Appendix 1) that we want all of the children in our school to learn, experience or achieve during their primary years. Completing more that 75% of these experiences, skills and competences, across the areas outlined below, leads to the award of the ‘Learning for Life Diploma’ at the end of their time in school. We aspire to have every child that passes through our school achieving this significant award. A ‘Learning for Life Diploma – Gold Award’ is given in exceptional circumstances to children who have achieved a minimum of 90% of the ‘100 Things’.
We endeavour to teach the children in our school to demonstrate integrity and how to grow into positive, responsible citizens, who can work and co-operate with others while developing knowledge and skills, so that they can achieve their full potential. This is set within the context of our school ethos – Learning for Life – ‘Life in all its fullness’. We encourage all children to strive to be all that they can be, through seizing every opportunity and so building a culture of ambition. We are a ‘take care’ school, where we not only take care of ourselves, each other, our community and our wider world, but also take care of our work, aiming for the highest standards that we can achieve.
The Aims of our School Curriculum are:
Every Child Matters: All are Precious in God’s Sight
Christian Ethos (see separate Mission Statement, Ethos and Vision document)
The school curriculum is underpinned by the Christian ethos of our school and daily Collective Worship is “the heartbeat of the school” (SIAMS, 2019). Our mission is to help develop happy, confident, independent, caring young people who are enthusiastic about their achievements, excited about their future and who excel to reach their full potential, within an atmosphere of Christian love that encourages respect for others and a positive attitude to the world around.
We develop children’s knowledge of Christianity, as the predominant religion in Great Britain, and of the other principle religions represented in this country. In addition to the teaching of Religious Education, there is provision for a daily act of worship in accordance with the requirements of the Statute and the Trust Deed. We expect our children to put the Christian values they acquire at school into practice both in their learning and in their interaction with other people. As such we foster a monthly ‘value’ (Appendix 2) to bring these qualities to the forefront of children’s minds. These values are reinforced through the day-to-day ‘commentary’ of each class teacher and staff member within the life of each class and for the whole school and wider school community through their display around the school, on the school website and on the newsletter, through Collective Worship generally and explicitly through the monthly class-led Collective Worship held in church.
Our School Ethos
Growth Mindset (see separate Learning and Teaching policy)
Within school, we have adopted a ‘Growth Mindset’ approach, encouraging children to embrace challenges and cultivate a positive attitude towards the learning process. We want to give the children the tools that will aid them as they develop as learners. To support this, we have introduced our ‘Learning Muscles’: Self-belief; Teamwork; Enthusiasm; Perseverance. These are all aspects of developing a ‘Growth Mindset’: developing the understanding that everyone can change and grow through application and experience, even though their initial talents and aptitudes, interests or temperaments differ. We work to develop the children’s understanding that their ability can be developed through their learning.
We believe that if children are fully engaged in their learning and are able to develop the skills to learn independently, the quality and standard of their work will constantly improve. Progression in creative learning will be shown by an observation of attitude to learning, greater depth and complexity, autonomy and quality. We believe that creative learners: Grow within their community; Seize every opportunity; Strive to be all that they can be; Take care of themselves, each other, the community, God’s creation and their work; Find problems to solve; Apply skills that they have learnt to different situations; See learning as incremental; Use their imagination; Persist at a task in pursuit of a chosen goal. As a school we believe that children learn best when they can see links and have reasons for learning. We aim to make the curriculum relevant to the children’s life experiences, inspiring and engaging them in their learning and enabling them to work in a flexible and collaborative way using imagination, problem solving, application and persistence.
I listen and I forget... I see and I remember... I do and I understand...
A Thematic Curriculum
Connections across subjects are integral to our curriculum design. Within our ‘knowledge-rich’ curriculum we have endeavoured to link our subject planning together where possible and practical. Whilst each subject is seen as a separate entity (and teachers make clear reference in their teaching to the integrity of the discrete subjects), our curriculum is based upon learning through cross-curricular topics, where ‘sticky knowledge’ (knowledge that is generative) is brought to the fore and systematically taught. Vocabulary, similarly, is built up over time and developed methodically. We see ‘vocabulary size’ as an important part of academic success, and it is crucial that our curriculum increases the breadth of our children’s vocabulary. Our topics have been carefully chosen to be relevant and stimulating to the children in our school, containing a ‘bank’ of ‘invaluable knowledge’, relevant to their lives now and in the future (Appendix 5). In order to harness the very strong ‘cross-school’ working (across the range of ages) and the strong ‘family’ nature of the school, these topics are ‘cross-school’ as well as ‘cross-curricular’. They have been chosen so that learning can be: shared (including through our termly whole school exhibitions); returned to (2 or 3 times through a child’s school journey); and developed (with knowledge systematically built upon throughout a child’s time in school). Topics are brought to life through visits, residentials, visitors, themed days, exhibitions and other ‘wow’ moments... The purpose of our visits and visitors is to cement the curriculum, not as an add-on – enhancing and deepening knowledge. Alongside all of this, a flexible approach to timetabling gives space for depth of study.
Educational Visits (see separate Educational Visits Policy)
Our curriculum is constructed with the recognition that educational visits and ‘learning outside the classroom’ contribute immeasurably to each child’s experience of school, their understanding of the world around them and their aspirations for the future. Work in this area is part of the ‘seizing every opportunity’ strand that runs through our school ethos. We aim to provide a wide range of opportunities from beginning in Reception through to the end of Year 6 that enable each child to experience ‘beyond’ the classroom far more than they could ever experience ‘in’ the classroom. These experiences include our list ‘100 Things’ (Appendix 1).
Curriculum visits include those directly linked to topics, as well as those that form part of studies within Religious Education or which contribute to the development of the school’s Christian ethos: visits to the local churches, our Cathedral Church in Southwell, a Synagogue, a Mandir and a Mosque. Further visits are planned to give children a particular experience during their primary years: visiting the National Coalmining Museum near Wakefield linked to the school community’s heritage, hearing the Hallé Orchestra at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham and visiting The Houses of Parliament in London. Some visits are about learning alongside others and developing social skills and a ‘take care’ approach to those around us: our annual whole school trip is a good example of this. Beyond the basic curriculum, our residential opportunities (and especially our rolling programme of residentials for the children in Years 4 to 6) provide a breadth of experience and an understanding of contrasting localities that could not be replicated anywhere else within the curriculum: the Peak District of Derbyshire, the Norfolk Coastline and The Broads and the range of outdoor and adventurous activities: climbing, abseiling, fencing, archery, orienteering, walks in open country... Other opportunities such as Bikeability Training and D.A.R.E. also form part of our curriculum.
Throughout school we plan the curriculum carefully and progressively, so that there is coherence and full coverage of all aspects of the seven Early Years Foundation Stage areas (three ‘Prime’ (Communication & Language; Personal, Social & Emotional; Physical) and four ‘Specific’ (Mathematics; English; Understanding of the World; Expressive Art & Design) as well as the ten subjects of the National Curriculum (Appendix 6) (English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Art & Design, Music, Design & Technology, Physical Education (including swimming, for which we offer an enhanced provision) and Computing), PSHE & Citizenship and the school’s syllabus for Religious Education.
Curriculum planning ensures progression and coverage of all subjects across a child’s journey through school. A two-year rolling programme indicates which topics are taught in each half term (Appendix 4). More ‘in-depth’ plans, developing into teachers’ weekly planning, break down Learning Objectives into Success Criteria along with activities/resources. Separate planning covers curriculum areas that are not routinely part of a topic, although links are still made where possible.
What If Learning
‘What If Learning’ is one of the ways in which we weave the school’s Christian ethos into the ‘day-to-day’ of the curriculum. It involves teachers making small changes to the way they organise learning in order to reflect the school’s vision and ethos. These small changes add up to a significant impact when experienced across the curriculum and across the school.
At the core of ‘What If Learning’ are three steps that support teachers in developing their pedagogy. Step 1 is the fundamental step in the process. Steps 2 and 3 are not intended to be sequential, but to identify the need to express both what pupils experience and how teachers plan:
Step 1: Seeing Anew: This is the point at which a distinctively Christian vision, value set and ethos is drawn on by the teacher to re-imagine a piece of work. It entails asking how a Christian values might change our teaching and learning, moving the lesson in a ‘Christian direction’, for example deliberately shifting pupils’ attention towards forgiveness or towards unselfishness:
Step 2: Choosing Engagement: This is the process of choosing learning activities so that the pupils experience the new way of seeing the lesson. It is about how pupils experience learning and how they engage with the new way of seeing the lesson or unit. There are many possible ways of engaging – listening, role-play, discussing, answering questions, writing, responding to pictures and music, taking part in dance or drama, doing independent research and working with others – to name but a few. The critical decision for the teacher is to ensure that the form of engagement that they may choose works with, not against, the new way of seeing the lesson and contributes to spiritual and moral growth:
Step 3: Re-Shaping Practice: This is the action taken by the teacher to bring regular classroom practice (the ‘habits of the classroom’) into line with the new vision. It is about how teachers change their classroom practice to be in line with the Christian values, vision and ethos of the school. This might include timing, planning, how we ask questions, what we do with displays, the teaching approach we use, how we arrange the room, the resources we use and so on. It is about translating vision into concrete classroom practice:
Within our school curriculum we have certain areas of learning which must be reached by a specific time in a child’s school life.
Alongside mathematics lessons (and reflected in the ‘100 Things’ list) children are also given the opportunity to learn certain number facts. This may take place within lessons as well as during other curriculum time, yet the children must aim to reach these goals within the year group stated:
Alongside English lessons (and reflected in the ‘100 Things’ list) children are given the opportunity to learn how to write in the school’s adopted cursive style (Appendix 9) and using a natural, often ‘tripod’, grip. This may take place within English lessons as well as during other curriculum time, yet the children must aim to reach these handwriting certificate goals within the year group stated:
Underpinning beautiful work is the imperative to draft, take feedback which is precise, robust and kind, redraft and repeat. Then we are ready to showcase to the work, but work for a purpose.
The ‘Pen Licence’ is held up within the school as a mark of quality. It is both a goal to be aspired to and a quality to be attained. Its value is carefully guarded and its achievement is appropriately praised and celebrated within the context of the ‘Wednesday Celebration’ service in Church.
Speaking, Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, Spelling and Phonics within the Curriculum
We have identified that written work will be of a higher quality if there has been high-quality talk, using subject-specific vocabulary, prior to the writing. Our curriculum recognises that ‘talk needs tuition’. We recognise that from the very earliest stage, pupils should be encouraged to use full sentences and technical vocabulary. We work hard to ensure that we are not routinely completing sentences for them, and in so doing taking away part of their learning. We hold our children to account for the way they speak, in order to support the way that they write. This leads to richer, more proficient writing. We see it as an entitlement that children are exposed to technical vocabulary at a young age. We recognise that they need to make connections and play with words and their meaning, building up a richness of language to support their long-term memory, engrain a fascination with words and so progress to be fluent and confident speakers. We see listening as more than good manners, it is the building block through which knowledge and understanding grows.
There are three main aspects to reading in our curriculum: 1. The teaching of reading; 2. Reading in subjects beyond English; 3. Reading for pleasure. We recognise that one of the strongest drivers of reading ability is prior knowledge. We work on the principle that once pupils are fluent decoders, much of the difference among readers is not due to ‘word reading ability’, but due to how much knowledge they have. Teaching content is teaching reading. We ensure that the children have the opportunity to read widely in history, geography, art, science, religious education… We see books as fundamental to growing knowledge, vocabulary and ideas related to the subject: a fundamental part of our reading culture is that we explicitly, from the earliest stages, teach the children to “read like a writer and write like a reader”. And we have identified that one of the neglected aspects of reading for pleasure is being read to for pleasure, particularly for those of children who are not read to at home – and reading aloud from texts which are above their ‘pay grade’ (texts to make them think and develop their language and ideas). We have identified that this has massive potential to increase pupils’ knowledge and vocabulary, including talking about the book together.
Whilst we see the importance within our curriculum of the necessary focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation, we see it as the ‘servant’ of great literacy, not its ‘master’. We see these as the tools with which language is given depth and punch. We support our children with their authorial voices gaining, in the process, more confident, articulate writers who understand the importance of correct spelling and punctuation. We also see ‘audience’ as key. Who are our pupils writing for? What opportunities are there for authentic writing for a purpose? – letters to parents about a school event, stories distributed to families to read and comment on, exhibitions…
We see deliberate building of vocabulary as one of the most important things we can do as teachers – closing the gap between those who come from language-rich backgrounds and those who do not -deepening and extending knowledge. We recognise the sheer joy of words well-used, knowing that children as young as four are often ‘fluent in dinosaurs’, taking great pleasure in pronouncing the different dinosaur names. Some even know that the word ‘dinosaur’ comes from the ancient Greek, meaning ‘scary’ or ‘terrible’ (deinos) lizard (sauros) – making connections with the root of the word, creating a picture of the meaning, making links to long-term memory. We recognise that if very young children are able to do this, and take great pleasure from it, then we should not shy away from unpicking, delving and finding out the etymological root of words at any age.
Within Foundation and Year One, ‘Read, Write Inc’ Phonics is used as the main phonics scheme, working through three phonics sets in a systematic and structured approach to phonics teaching which links to the National Curriculum’s Expectations. As children progress into Year Two and onwards into Key Stage Two, they progress onto the ‘Read, Write Inc’ Spelling Scheme which prepares children for the higher demands of the statutory spelling assessments. If children need additional support within their understanding of phonics or spelling knowledge, relevant interventions are used to support children’s understanding.
Whole School Production
On a biennial basis, the school stages a ‘Whole School Production’. This is an opportunity for every child in school to perform as part of a large-scale musical performance. This is staged in a large venue away from the school site, with staff, pupils and wider families working together to achieve something remarkable and of a high quality. The learning within this opportunity is far-reaching.
Assessment within the Curriculum (see separate Assessment Policy)
We believe that Assessment should be positive, encouraging and helping to raise the achievements of the children in accordance with the school's ethos and values: ensuring that our children seize every opportunity, striving to be all that they can be within an overall culture of ambition. Ongoing assessment is rooted in day-to-day ‘formative’ assessment (Assessment for Learning). This formative assessment builds up through each term to form the evidence for termly ‘summative’ assessment (Assessment of Learning). Formal tests, assessed pieces of writing and other evidence is used to qualify these judgements.
Assessment for each child is made against known and understood criteria: the Success Criteria for each particular lesson and the building blocks to achieve the National Standard for that particular year group. Individual teachers set Learning Objectives for each lesson for all curriculum areas and identify Success Criteria for, as a minimum, English and Mathematics, for the pupils in their class to assess their learning against. These Learning Objectives and Success Criteria are drawn from the content of the National Curriculum and are in line with the national expectations for that subject. We take a ‘Learning Without Limits’ approach to Success Criteria with Bronze set as ARE, Silver as application of ARE and Gold as Greater Depth.
In each discrete subject area, children are assessed in the autumn and spring terms as to whether they will reach the expected level for their year group by the end of the academic year and whether they will surpass that level. In the summer term they are assessed as to whether they have achieved or surpassed the expected level. Other more informal assessments are used, including: observation; discussion; planned questioning; marking of written work; specific task or investigation; recall tasks; reporting back to teacher/peers; peer-assessment; self-assessment; listening to reading; photographs, video recordings; teachers’ mark books; reading record books etc.
The Senior Leadership Team monitors the progression, continuity and effectiveness of the curriculum along with the Curriculum and Children Committee of the Governing Body. The school’s Curriculum Leaders and ‘Curriculum Teams’ also have a key role in curriculum innovation, working to develop key subject areas. ‘I know’ or ‘I can…’ statements referenced against the National Curriculum form an integral part of planning and Assessment for Learning, including differentiated success criteria, a key aspect of our teaching, informing next steps whilst working through topics.
The Community and the Curriculum (see separate Homework Policy and Home/School Agreement)
We ensure that our school and curriculum are enriched by the strong links which we have with the parents, wider families, the local churches (and churches and Christians further afield through the termly Prayer Letter) and the wider community. As the African proverb days, “It takes a village to raise a child”. The home/school partnership with parents and school staff working together through homework, exhibitions, parents’ meetings, our active PTA and the school’s ‘open door’ policy provides the continuity of education which doesn’t stop at the end of the school day.
We value the support of parents in the education of their children and endeavour to support them in their role as the first educators of children. We aim to involve parents fully in their child’s learning. We share information about the curriculum through our whole school exhibitions, through homework ‘menus’ and through newsletters, information evenings, reports and parent’s evenings. The work produced by the children is shared and celebrated through displays and exhibitions, at the ‘Wednesday Celebration’ service in Church and on the school website. ‘Family Week’ in the summer term brings together and celebrates the school’s family ethos.
We value too the support of the ‘Rainbow Fellowship of Church Schools’ through which we work in close partnership with two other Church of England Schools: St. John the Baptist Primary School in Colwick and Pierrepont Gamston Primary School. This relationship is built around ‘promise’, signified by the biblical picture of the rainbow: Claiming the promises of God together in fellowship; Trusting in the promises of each other (“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)); Seeking to fulfil the promise of every child. This partnership working supports the curriculum through staff training, moderation of work, staff cover and secondments, support in subject leadership, staff networking, shared resources etc as well as through shared events such as the Year 2 Residential at Beaumanor (currently an annual two-day residential experience for the Year 2 children from Colwick and Cotgrave), inter-school sporting competitions for Years 1-6, shared learning experiences and opportunities to ‘mix’ with pupils from other schools.
Including a global dimension in our curriculum means that links can be made between local and global
issues and that what is taught is informed by international and global matters. It also means that pupils are given opportunities to examine their own values and attitudes, to appreciate the similarities between peoples everywhere, to understand the global context of their local lives, and to develop skills that will enable them to combat prejudice and discrimination. This in turn gives them the knowledge, skills and understanding to play an active role in the global community.
Through our curriculum, in the Foundation Stage and in Key Stage 1, pupils begin to develop a sense of their own worth and the worth of others. They develop a sense of themselves as part of a wider world and gain awareness of a range of different cultures and places. They learn that all humanity shares the same basic needs but that there are differences in how these needs are met.
Through our curriculum, in Key Stage 2, pupils develop their understanding beyond their own experience and build up their knowledge of the wider world and of different societies and cultures. They learn about some of the similarities and differences between people and places around the world and about disparities in the world. They develop their sense of social justice and moral responsibility and begin to understand that their own choices can affect global issues as well as local ones. They learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and they begin to develop their understanding of their role as global citizens, extending their understanding of issues such as poverty, social justice and sustainable development and the importance of taking action to improve the world for future generations. The season of Lent each year is as a time when the children not only ‘Give Up Something’ (Gus), but also a time when they ‘Take On More’ (Tom), often with a global dimension using resources such as #LiveLent (Appendix 8).
Children throughout school are taught to involve themselves in the issues of the world around them and to develop ‘courageous advocacy’. We see this as part of the command to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31). We encourage our children to challenge injustice and inequality through participating in activities which engage in social action and understand the importance of speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. This includes the annual Class Charities chosen by the children in each class, as well as specific fundraising and action at various times of the year.
Learning about Money
We believe that children need to understand that money doesn’t just ‘happen’: somebody, somewhere, has to earn it in some way before we can spend it, or we fall into debt. Through the curriculum we believe that children need to learn to understand the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’: we cannot (and should not) ever expect to be able to buy everything we desire, despite the best efforts of advertisers. This is part of being “prepared for life” and is set in the context of values and the school’s offering of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural education.
The school’s biennial “£1 Challenge” supports this area of the curriculum and is inspired by ‘the Parable of the Talents’. Each child in school is given a £1 coin and invited to make it ‘grow’. Ingenious ideas have included investing in art supplies to make and sell greetings cards, buying ingredients and making and selling cakes… Funds raised support School Council’s projects. One tenth of all of the money raised is ‘ring-fenced’ within School Council’s ‘budget’ for spending on charitable causes. This idea of ‘tithing’ (giving one tenth of an income to a ‘good cause’) is another concept from the Bible.
Inclusion and British Values (see separate SEND, Gifted & Talented, Equality and British Values Policies and separate Accessibility Strategy)
We value the diversity of individuals within the school. Our curriculum is designed to provide access and opportunity for all children. We work hard to preserve our cultural roots, teaching children to know their own heritage, but at the same time learning to understand and respect the different racial, religious, cultural and language backgrounds of others. Through our curriculum we aim to help the children to understand the role of British values in society including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs (Appendix 3). Our school is a place where children learn to live with integrity – ‘doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do’.
We aim to create an atmosphere where all children have the opportunity of interacting as part of learning and thereby gaining from each other’s skills and experiences. We follow the SEND Code of Practice in providing for children with special educational needs. Enrichment and extension opportunities are also provided for children with an identified aptitude or talent, linked to a specific subject area. We recognise that our pupils come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. The curriculum is adapted, where relevant, to suit individuals who are learning English as an additional language. Everything we do reflects and builds on this.
Selection of material by teachers refutes stereotypical images of lifestyles, occupations, human characteristics, status or culture. This concept recognises that good quality education cannot be based on the dominance of one culture only, and should therefore be ‘multi-cultural’ by definition. Such practice enables each child to understand their own society and to know enough about other societies and cultures (in increasing depth) to understand value and respect them.
Roles and responsibilities of Teachers
The teaching staff will ensure that:
Role and responsibilities of the Head Teacher
The Head Teacher will ensure that: