Pupils and their learning needs are at the centre of effective curriculum planning and assessment.
In October 2018, West Drayton’s curriculum review began. To determine our priorities, the knowledge, skills, values, opportunities and attitudes, we consulted with stakeholders. Collectively, it was agreed that all children would:
- Have the opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and new opportunities
- Be challenged
- Be engaged in their learning
- Be kin, considerate and happy
- Be ready for the next phase of their learning.
At its most basic level, from nursery to year 6, we wanted the curriculum to sequence knowledge and skills, creating a coherent journey. The journey would begin with children being novices and the progressive skills and knowledge would help them to be more expert. Over time, more and more connections are made both explicitly, within the structure of what is taught, and internally as the children’s own schemata becomes more sophisticated as a result of deliberate sequencing.
In addition, we reviewed Ofsted’s criteria. One of the key themes of the 2019 Ofsted inspection framework is a broad, well-balanced knowledge-rich curriculum. Another theme is reduced workload for teachers. This is a result of research carried out by Ofsted into how the quality of education in a school should be measured. Ofsted said, “the curriculum will be at the core of the proposed framework, recognising the close connection between curricular content and the way that this content is taught and assessed in order to support children to build their knowledge and to apply that knowledge”.
Our curriculum planning needed to include powerful background knowledge, accurate and differentiated layers of understanding, new vocabulary and National Curriculum skills. During the last four years, we have designed (and redesigned!) a plan that is particular to the needs and aspirations of our children and it reduces staff workload. Once the medium term planning is complete, teachers are freed to prepare lessons rather than having to plan it from scratch. As a result, teachers are enabled to personalise learning and the pupils understand and enjoy more ambitious skills and content. Lemov and Badillo said that, ‘if teachers think carefully about the sequence of knowledge they teach, pupils are capable of far more than we previously assumed’.
At WDA, cross curricular learning happens but it is not the priority. We believe that ‘powerful’ knowledge should be focussed on individual subjects - we want children to immerse themselves into a subject to gain a masterly insight that might see them becoming subject experts in the future.
We started with history, an independent scheme, written by Jon Hutchinson. Jon was local, a subject specialist, a research graduate and VP at Reach Academy in Feltham. The content of the scheme was scholarly and, using cognitive science research, it was designed to support knowledge retention. Children were excited and proud to be learning such highbrow, academic information. Jon’s work has now been taken over by Pearson Publishing!
How knowledge is assimilated by pupils is influenced by many factors, including their social interactions with teachers and fellow pupils in school and parents and friends at home.
We want to see everybody, including disadvantaged, special needs and greater depth children, succeed by offering them a vision of something different. In addition to the National Curriculum, we offer an enhanced programme of cultural experiences, leadership opportunities and life skills. The ‘Childhood Promise’ and the ‘100 Club’ are two strategies that have been developed to provide West Drayton children with knowledge, skills and experiences beyond those prescribed in the National Curriculum, helping them to ‘envisage life alternatives’ (Young and Lambert 2014). We want to open doors for our children and we want them to step through with confidence into a future world where they can make a big difference.
All children have the ability or the potential to learn. At West Drayton Academy, we understood that some children required a curriculum that would help them to ‘unlock’ their potential. Some children did not meet expected outcomes because they were disengaged. This group of children were typically reluctant readers, poor attenders, passive and they rarely became excited in the classroom. To support these children, we developed a ‘personalised learning’ approach - Solo Taxonomy.
‘Opportunities to develop talents, interests and understanding of the world are specific to the needs & interests of the child and of exceptional quality’ (Ofsted). ‘Pupils make a highly positive, tangible contribution to the life of the school and/or the wider community. Pupils actively support the wellbeing of other pupils’ (Ofsted).
The journey has not been smooth. Curriculum development slowed during the pandemic - priorities inevitably shifted to remote learning, health and safeguarding. We were also guilty of trying to implement the curriculum before our intent had fully evolved. Knowledge concepts, initially numerous and too narrow, have been reduced to a manageable number and now ‘grow’ from EYFS to year 6.
Now that the purpose of our curriculum is established, we will finish both the implementation and impact stages, ensuring that our offer is rich, balanced, fun and meaningful to children and families of West Drayton.