United Learning Curriculum Statement – Midhurst Rother College
Our aim is to provide an excellent education for all our students; an education which brings out the best in all of them and prepares them for success in life.
Our curriculum is designed to provide children with the core knowledge they need for success in education and later life, to maximise their cognitive development, to develop the whole person and the talents of the individual and to allow all children to become active and economically self-sufficient citizens.
By teaching our curriculum well we develop pupils’ cultural capital: “the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.” (DFE National Curriculum, 2014)
We draw on Michael Young’s distinction between ‘the knowledge of the powerful’ and ‘powerful knowledge’: “Powerful knowledge ensures that people are not trapped by the limits of their experiences.” Yet we also want all pupils to be able to see themselves in our curriculum. Our recent review into the Diversity and Inclusion of our curriculum included a commitment to this dual function of curriculum: that all pupils see themselves in our curriculum, and our curriculum takes all pupils beyond their immediate experience. This, and the other guiding principles for our curriculum, are stated here:
- Entitlement: All pupils have the right to learn what is in the United Learning curriculum, and schools have a duty to ensure that all pupils are taught the whole of it.
- Coherence: Taking the National Curriculum as its starting point, our curriculum is carefully sequenced so that powerful knowledge builds term by term and year by year. We make meaningful connections within subjects and between subjects.
- Mastery: We ensure that foundational knowledge, skills, and concepts are secure before moving on. Pupils revisit prior learning and apply their understanding in new contexts.
- Adaptability: The core content – the ‘what’ – of the curriculum is stable, but schools will bring it to life in their own local context, and teachers will adapt lessons – the ‘how’ – to meet the needs of their own classes.
- Representation: All pupils see themselves in our curriculum, and our curriculum takes all pupils beyond their immediate experience.
- Education with character: Our curriculum - which includes the taught subject timetable as well as spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development, our co-curricular provision, and the ethos and ‘hidden curriculum’ of the school – is intended to spark curiosity and to nourish both the head and the heart.
Implementation – how we expose our pupils to powerful knowledge and provide education with character.
Subject specialism is at the heart of our curriculum and you will see differences in the way that the curriculum is constructed and assessed in different subjects. Standardised written assessments, for example, play less of a role in performance subjects such as music and physical education. The stability of our curriculum allows subject expertise to develop over time, and we are careful to provide sufficient time for teachers of the same subject to plan together and collaborate.
Further subject specialism is provided by United Learning’s subject advisers. These advisers are subject experts who help teachers link the subject discipline to our pupils’ daily experience in the classroom. Subject advisers meet regularly with Heads of Department across United Learning and provide curriculum resources to support the implementation of the subject curriculum.
As a mastery curriculum our pupils study fewer topics in greater depth. A 3-year Key Stage 3 provides pupils with the time and space to gain a secure understanding that builds over time in each subject. In our lessons we expect to see all pupils grappling with the same challenging content, with teachers providing additional support for pupils who need it. Rather than moving on to new content, our higher attainers produce work of greater depth and flair.
Our approach to teaching and learning supports our curriculum by ensuring that lessons build on prior learning and provide sufficient opportunity for guided and independent practice. We use Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction to develop our teaching practice. At the heart of Rosenshine’s principles is a simple instructional core:
- Explanation of new material in small steps (I)
- Guided practice with prompts and scaffolds (we)
- Independent practice with monitoring and feedback from teacher (you)
At each point in this instructional core, teachers check understanding of all pupils by asking lots of questions and providing feedback.
The Rosenshine principles support the implementation of the curriculum by ensuring that pupils regularly recall prior learning. You will often see this at the start of our lessons. When prior learning is committed to long term memory it becomes fluent or ‘automatic’, freeing space in our working memory which can then be used for comprehension, application, and problem solving.
Deans for Impact, The Science of Learning, 2016: “Each subject area has some set of facts that, if committed to long term memory, aids problem-solving by freeing working memory. Existing knowledge and skills can then be applied to new contexts.”
In order to allow the mastery approach to be effective (i.e. children learn what they are expected to in the year they are expected to), early catch-up is essential: we aim to promptly identify and support pupils who start secondary school without a secure grasp of reading, writing and mathematics so that they can access the full curriculum.
Everything from which children learn in school – the taught subject timetable, the approach to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, the co-curricular provision and the ethos and ‘hidden curriculum’ of the school – are to be seen as part of the school curriculum. Our principle of ‘Education with Character’ is delivered through the curriculum in this broadest sense.
Impact – how we measure and secure continuous improvement for all
With thousands of pupils across United Learning following the same curriculum, we have been able to develop common assessments in most subjects. These are summative assessments which allow pupils to demonstrate their growing understanding of their subjects and teachers to assess the impact of their teaching. These summative assessments are typically taken once or twice a year, enabling teachers to focus on formative assessment from lesson to lesson.
Our formative assessments are designed to support students in achieving fluency in each subject. This means that in lessons pupils are quizzed on prior knowledge in order to embed this knowledge in their long term memory. This frees up their working memory to attend to current learning. We are particularly conscious of the role that literacy and vocabulary plays in unlocking the whole curriculum. Our teachers explicitly teach the meaning of subject-specific language, and we expect lessons to contain challenging reading and writing. Knowledge organisers provide students with key information in each subject, enabling them to develop their understanding of key concepts outside of their lessons. We also encourage all pupils to read widely.
Every child has an equal right to a challenging and enlightening curriculum. By teaching this curriculum well, and developing effective habits in our pupils, we bring out the best in everyone.