Given the context set out above, the Trust wants to see all settings respond to their local context. However, as the commissioner, the Academy is clear that all schools should ensure their curriculum reflects the curriculum model set out on the diagram below that outlines the Trust’s ambition for all children.
School leaders will continue to work with each provider to ensure the aims and ambitions for all children are underpinned by strong medium terms plans for each subject that are tightly aligned to the school’s long-term overview documentation.
Strong curriculum planning is strengthened by what each school wants children to know, do, and understand in each subject and phase. Coupled with the right skills children will be equipped for modern Britain and will ensure all children are academically successful – relevant to their starting point.
These successes will be built on a foundation of trauma-informed settings where children can regulate their feelings in safe environments. Safe, because their enhanced needs are recognised and planned for.
The Trust agrees with Ofsted that “all behaviour is a form of communication” and “those who care for children have a duty to understand what the children’s behaviour communicates” (Positive environments where children can flourish. Oct 2021). This belief is at the heart of the Academy’s overarching curriculum model principles. An effective, knowledge-rich curriculum that goes to the heart of meeting the holistic needs of all children supports Ofsted’s view that the:
The Foundation of good practice in working with children should be:
- Protecting and promoting children’s rights
- Recognising that staff have a responsibility to understand children’s needs
- Building relationships of trust and understanding
- Understanding triggers and finding solutions
- If incidents do occur, knowing enough about the child and positive behaviour support techniques to defuse the situation and/or distract the child where possible
The culture of our settings, underpinned by a highly stimulating, contextual curriculum, will ensure all children flourish. The trust will measure the impact of this model in each setting by reducing numbers of exclusions, periods in isolation, and the occasions (and justification) for physical intervention.
The first focus is to ensure all staff have an accurate understanding of what children know, understand and can do in each subject area. There should be a strong emphasis on reading, spelling, literacy, numeracy and science. Where assessment identifies age-appropriate gaps, schools should ensure individual plans are developed with specific measurable targets (linked to EHCP requirements where appropriate). For pupils who join school with identified complex needs, there should be a strong emphasis on transitional arrangements that develop communication, self-regulation, literacy and numeracy and independence/social skills.
Pupil progress must be monitored and reviewed through each school’s structures and systems that offer regular feedback to pupils and their families and clear SMART targets for further improvement where this is required.
Regardless of the type of setting across the network all pupils gain support through:
- Carefully considered integration to each school and be placed in settings most likely to be conducive with re-engagement with education (specialist settings)
- Effective use of specialist staff and deployment of resources.
- Consistent high-quality learning and expectations.
- Outstanding professional relationships between staff and pupils.
- All staff receiving regular high-quality training and development, including access to external qualifications.
- Focused reading opportunities in place with assessment procedures leading to a rigorous and sequential approach to developing skills.
- Celebrating and engaging all stakeholders in the learning process, examples include, review meetings, reports, newsletters, website, phone calls, trust values assessment.
- A comprehensive assessment system and the use of standardised testing.
- Effective use of staffing and resources to support learning and promote independence, to ensure all children are prepared for the next phase.
- Robust policies, procedures and practices that are applied consistently.
The Academy believes each setting should adopt curriculum planning tools that work in their individual context, although generic templates can be provided, and we encourage Principal’s to share exempla materials with each other and through the Alternative Provision Network. Regardless of the tool used, there are five practical considerations when you begin to plan or review your current planning. These practical steps are set out as a learning cycle and suggestions by Jerome and Bhargava (effective medium-term planning for teachers).
The five A’s of effective medium-term planning are principles because research and experience show that effective teaching and learning require these elements to be in place, and steps, because they provide a practical set of things to do when approaching your planning or reviewing.
You should have a clear idea of what you want your pupils to learn and why this is important and appropriate.
You should structure the learning so that the order in which pupils engage with new material enables them to progress to higher levels of understanding and skills.
You should provide activities that support this learning.
You should know how you are going to assess the important things you want your pupils to learn.
Along the way you should monitor the pupil’s progress against your intentions and update your plans to ensure they learn effectively.
The Academy adopts the position that a knowledge-rich curriculum is one that is focused and sequenced.
Early Ofsted research defined a knowledge-rich approach as one in which curriculum leaders are clear on the “invaluable knowledge they want their pupils to know. Essentially, this means schools must make choices about what to prioritise, when and for whom.
A successful knowledge-rich curriculum must be designed to help pupils remember what they have been taught. Such a curriculum must be well-sequenced and underpinned by understanding how children learn. In addition, it must be based on a rich conception of knowledge that includes the skills and attitudes that contribute to success. This view is central to the development of the trust curriculum principles model.
Keep it simple
There is a risk that settings will overcomplicate curriculum planning, which will divert energy from the simple things that matter:
Does your curriculum identify the knowledge pupils need to achieve the goals of their education, and have all pupils learned that knowledge?
We know that all settings continue to deal with all the pressures created by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This disruption makes it more critical that each school focuses on what is most important for pupils’ life chances.
Research has highlighted that some pupils in primary schools have gaps in phonics knowledge. In both primary and secondary schools, some pupils are catching up on practical skills, such as sciences and physical education (PE). These ‘gaps’ in knowledge are either because schools had not taught this content while partially closed or because pupils did not learn effectively during this period.
Modified medium-term planning must respond to these challenges by using regular, informal assessments to determine what knowledge pupils have (and have not) remembered from their teaching during a lockdown. Regular informal assessment can help identify pupils who may benefit from additional support, such as one-to-one intervention, to catch up.
Understanding what pupils do and do not know and using this information to make necessary adjustments to the curriculum is an essential part of education recovery. However, effective approaches to assessment and catch-up will be different in different subject areas and school contexts.