The Curriculum at The West Park Academy
We believe strongly that in our context we must equip children with the necessary basic skills in Mathematics and English so that they have the tools to succeed as they move through secondary school and beyond. It is for this reason that “standards” in these essential areas are developed as a thread throughout our curriculum. Related to this is the need to ensure that children have a broad curricular knowledge that equips them for life in 21st century Britain. As an academy within the Forge Trust we have identified key drivers which inform our curriculum at every stage. These drivers are explored through each of the core and foundation subjects and in addition to “standards” include “aspiration” and “cultural diversity.”
Aspiration has been identified as a curriculum driver as a way of impacting on social mobility (Kirkby in Ashfield is a national cold spot for social mobility- according to the Social Mobility Index). It was also noticeable that while parents and the wider community are highly ambitious for their children, in line with the values of The Forge Trust, children were not always aware of the opportunities open to them. For this reason, the curriculum has been developed to specifically highlight these for pupils across a range of varied curricular content with particular emphasis on visits and visitors into our academy. It is our intention that by developing children’s awareness of options and opportunities they are able to develop ambition based on a real-life understanding of the many and varied paths they could follow into the world of work. Similarly, our choice of “cultural diversity” as a driver was chosen to highlight for children the rich fabric of British society over time and the achievements of cultures from around the world. Our curriculum has been designed to support children to develop understanding and appreciation of the value and contributions of a range of cultures so that they are prepared for life in 21st century Britain.
A further important element of our curriculum is speaking and listening. This emphasis is reflected in planning at all stages with a focus on the constituent skills of speaking, listening, non-verbal communication and awareness of audience, giving our pupils the skills to perform well in a range of social situations.
How we implement our curriculum
In core subjects, topics are taught in a systematic way to build on previous learning and ensure maximum understanding. Our curriculum is carefully structured to build links within and between subjects, with the aim of thoroughly embedding important cultural knowledge whether from science or the arts. Key vocabulary is highlighted and children have opportunities to use and apply their learning in every lesson. The knowledge content of our curriculum is summarised in long-term curricular plans and topic maps which follow the national curriculum but with a unique local focus.
The systematic structure informing our curriculum is further developed through the use of well thought-out “learning journeys”.
Learning journeys ensure that the teaching sequence builds clearly and logically to support pupils’ knowledge acquisition. Individual lessons, within the sequence, have learning objectives and success criteria, and the trust’s teaching and learning toolkit highlights the areas of the learning cycle that should be evident in a lesson. The toolkit also links to ‘pedagogy’ that teachers employ in lessons.
Outcomes are assessed through a mixture of formative and summative assessment. Teacher assessment grids in reading, writing and maths ensure that teachers build up an accurate understanding of the learning that has taken place, which is then used to inform planning and the personalisation of learning. In foundation subjects such as History, Geography and Art, topics have a concept pyramid containing key vocabulary linked to the topic. These concept pyramids form the basis of assessment criteria, but more importantly guide a meaningful learning journey where lessons are sequenced in a progressive way. Tracking is informed by an exam based system of assessment that also helps gauge the impact of our curriculum, with three assessment points per year. This further strengthens our assessment offer and ensures no child falls behind.