introduction & overview
Introduction and Overview
"Leaders have developed an exciting, broad and balanced curriculum where academic rigour is complemented by a range of wider experiences. This enables pupils to develop knowledge and understanding alongside self-confidence and self-esteem." (Ofsted - June 2017)
During 2019-20 we embarked on a major review, and this produced our 'Quest 1' Curriculum document. This document structures our long-term planning, so that there is a clear and meaningful sequencing of knowledge, skills & experiences across Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. In 2020-21 we embarked upon our ‘Quest 2’ project, designed to add detail, with the aim of ensuring well-structured and carefully sequenced Medium Term Plans (all of which can be viewed on the individual subject pages on our website - links to the right).
We have used the term Quest Curriculum because learning is, in part, a 'quest for knowledge and understanding' - a journey. Given the key role that knowledge plays in learning, we have ensured that subject content - i.e. knowledge - is clear and carefully organised. This careful sequencing of knowledge ensures that each step builds upon the last, and prepares the children for what lies ahead.
Our curriculum is designed to inspire enthusiasm for learning, to ensure achievement and to support pupils' well-being. We provide first hand learning experiences that enable children to deepen their knowledge, and to link this to the skills required for successful learning.
The GPS Quest Curriculum encourages and nurtures interpersonal skills, self-confidence, curiosity and mutual respect. It is broad and balanced and provides a wide range of curricular activities involving visits out of school and visitors to school, to enhance learning and extend pupils’ cultural capital.
Our PSHE lessons and assemblies promote positive attitudes, which reflect the values and skills needed for future learning and success. We are an inclusive school, and our curriculum recognises and celebrates the differences within our diverse community. We encourage all to be kind and respectful of themselves and others.
Running parallel to our KS1/KS2 Curriculum Review, we also reviewed and further developed our Early Years curriculum.
Intent, Implementation and Impact
- The GPS ‘Quest Curriculum’ is characterised by aspiration, enrichment and rigour. It meets the needs of our children, is carefully sequenced, builds-in strategies to embed knowledge & understanding into long term memory, and prepares the children for the next stages of their education.
- With our context in mind, our curriculum is designed to not only raise attainment, but also to provide children with an enriching range of experiences which develop ‘cultural capital’, and also to equip the children with a range of personal and interpersonal skills – thus ensuring that they are ready not only for the next stage of their education but also for their life beyond school. Our curriculum is highly engaging, and inspires an enthusiasm for learning at all ages. We promote the work we do, and our successes, with GPS families, so that they gain insights into the value and importance of school and of education. We also work directly with parents through Family Learning, and through our many parent workshops. Parents are aware of what their children are learning because they receive half-termly Parent Pamphlets, monthly Newsletters and weekly mini-newsletters, and in addition they can access curriculum and learning related updates on our Facebook page.
- Key knowledge and skills have been established across our whole curriculum, in a logically sequenced way. The curriculum is broad and balanced, and promotes the enjoyment of learning as well as academic achievement. Across all phases, our approach ensures that all children are given the opportunity to build upon their prior knowledge, and that the curriculum is engaging in order for children to commit learning to memory. Teachers incorporate specific activities to support retention and retrieval. Clear Long Term and Medium Term plans are in place for each subject area. Where appropriate, links are made between subjects, to make learning more meaningful, though we have moved away from ‘topics’ or ‘contexts for learning’ towards a subject-based curriculum.
- Our curriculum enables children to develop positive attitudes towards themselves and towards learning - we aim to build children’s confidence and their feeling of self-worth.
- The Quest curriculum is designed to ensure that children are challenged appropriately, are given the opportunity to build upon prior knowledge and skills, and make connections in learning and have real-life, meaningful reasons for learning.
- To enhance learning and enrich the curriculum, teachers plan opportunities for external visits. We give the children hands-on, practical and engaging experiences. This ensures that knowledge is allied to skills and understanding, and that learning (because it is meaningful and connected) has more opportunity to become embedded in long term memory.
- We want to teach our children how to learn and therefore see the development of reading as a pivotal skill, enabling children to further progress in all aspects of their independent learning. With this in mind, at Grangetown, early reading is a key priority, with effective daily phonics in EYFS & KS1, and high-quality daily reading sessions taught throughout the school. In Autumn 2021 we trialled Monster Phonics, and we adopted this scheme in January 2022 after it gained DfE accreditation. All staff have attended a training day, as well as several twilight training and discussion sessions, focused on Monster Phonics.
- Providing learning-orientated visits, extra-curricular activities and enrichment days/weeks help to bring the curriculum to life, promoting engagement and providing practical opportunities to embed skills and knowledge. Highlights include Science Week, Health Week, World Maths Day and World Book Day. In 2020-21, these themed days and weeks were very effective in addressing some of the post-lockdown PSHE issues – for example our whole school focuses on the books ‘Mrs Noah’s Garden’ and ‘Kind’.
- We employ specialist teachers in French and Music, across key stages 1 & 2, ensuring high quality provision in these areas.
- Taking our context into account, we ensure that our Curriculum incorporates activities that build cultural capital i.e. the age-appropriate knowledge and experiences that children need, in order to grow intellectually and so that they can process new knowledge with understanding and insight. We provide a programme of visits to culturally significant sites and venues - for example local museums, theatres and art galleries – as well as a curriculum that provides culturally significant knowledge & experiences (for example via high-quality, carefully chosen books, and through history, SMSC, drama, RE, PSHE, etc).
- Our curriculum is rich in culturally significant knowledge, and thus builds cultural capital. For example, our main library - and each class library - offers a wide selection of high quality age appropriate reading books. We have made careful choices in terms of the knowledge we include in our curriculum planning documents, so that cultural capital is optimised and tailored to our children.
- We emphasise the importance of hands-on, practical experiences - again acknowledging and closing the ‘cultural capital’ gap.
- As a school, we place great value upon the arts - the children work with specialist music and drama teachers on a weekly basis. These subjects are enriched with age-appropriate cultural capital - in other words ‘significant knowledge about music that a child in Grangetown needs to know, in order to thrive’.
- We have developed a rich ‘international’ curriculum - we teach French from years 2-6 and our links with China and Nepal have provided the children with a range of significant cultural insights.
- Our SMSC and PSHE curricula add greatly to learning, in terms of cultural capital, and - especially - in helping children make (subconscious) sense of the interface between cultural knowledge and how to make use of this both in terms of their ongoing academic learning and in their ‘personal’ and ‘interpersonal’ development.
- Having devised our rich and well-sequenced curriculum, we ensure that it is well taught - this is the ‘implementation’ phase. We develop our teachers and TAs in a range of ways, via internal support, training, peer coaching, and through carefully selected external training.
- Two years ago, we moved away from ‘topics’ and ‘themes’, so that due emphasis could be placed upon Subjects. Links between subjects can be created where appropriate, but the main aim is to ensure the integrity and ‘robustness’ of discrete subject teaching.
- Professional Development for curriculum leaders ensures that they are able to offer the most up to date and accurate advice to colleagues, and ensure that their area of the curriculum is planned and taught effectively.
- Three training days in Autumn 2019 were used for the curriculum development, allowing staff from all key stages to work together on creating a structure for the knowledge and skills set out in the national curriculum, in a way that is progressive and engaging for our children. This led to our ‘GPS Quest 1’ document, setting out our Long Term Planning, and has proved the launchpad for the work we have done on our Medium Term Planning (‘GPS Quest 2’) – in 2021-22 we have allocated a training day, staff meeting time and a series of weekly non-contact days to maintain momentum and focus with this project. All of our subject leaders have been fully engaged in this initiative, and we have provided staff with non-contact time so that work could be completed thoroughly and to a high standard. We now have a bespoke Curriculum tailored to the needs of GPS children, created by GPS staff.
- During 2020-21, and continuing into 2021-22, we have embarked upon a carefully structured project to review, update and refine our Medium Term Planning – this is led by subject leaders, in consultation with colleagues. Non-contact time, internal support and external professional development are provided for each subject leader. Medium term plans are in place, outlining the key knowledge and skills that will be covered that term, set out in a carefully sequenced way. All learning builds upon prior knowledge and skills, and there are clear goals and end points.
- Activities are planned in a manner that enables all children to access the learning and make progress in terms of developing their skills and knowledge; staff offer support in the form of scaffolding activities or by providing additional resources to ensure that those with SEND or those who aren’t fully fluent readers are able to develop the same skills and knowledge as their peers.
- Moving toward immediate interventions rather than a structured programme of regular intervention (though there is some of that too) means that children’s gaps in knowledge are addressed rapidly and relate to their current learning, & also ensures that children are not being removed from curriculum lessons on a regular basis.
- Assessment is built into all curriculum areas, to provide teachers with a clear view of what each child knows and understands, and to enable teachers to plan accurate ongoing feedback, intervention, and next steps. Assessment is both formative and summative, includes strategies linked to recall and retrieval, and is linked to ongoing observation, marking and feedback.
We have worked so hard developing our Curriculum because we know that a high quality curriculum, taught by skilled teachers, will have a huge, life-changing impact on each and every child. It is the curriculum – in the hands of great teachers – that drives successful learning.
We believe that our Curriculum has significant and far-reaching impact, and in terms of explaining this we would break it down into 3 key areas: Academic, Interpersonal and Social, and in what can be termed ‘character and disposition’.
- Academic: Pupils will achieve their potential in the key areas of numeracy and literacy, and will also have a secure understanding of the content (knowledge, skills) taught across all National Curriculum areas. They will be ready for, and equipped for, the academic challenges that lie ahead (in the next yeargroup, and in secondary school). The children will also enjoy learning, will gain satisfaction from the rigour and effort required to learn, and will have the subject specific skills – for example skills in research, the ability to use grammar, being able to carry out mathematical operations swiftly, to record and evaluate evidence in science, etc, - required to enable them to successfully tackle the next stage of their learning. They will possess an appropriate level of age appropriate ‘cultural capital’, across a range of domains, and – as they mature - this will help them make sense of the world and of the new knowledge they accumulate as they move through secondary school.
- Inter-personal & Social: The children will develop good communication skills and will be able to form appropriate bonds with others. They will appreciate that getting along with other people requires give and take, the ability to listen, and a willingness to understand and respect the views of others. They will have the ability to cooperate with others, and to make a successful contribution to a group.
- Character and disposition: Our curriculum will help the children develop a range of key dispositions, all of which will have a positive influence on their ability to lead successful lives and become life-long learners. These dispositions include: being caring, having patience, being tolerant, having the ability to persevere, being able to solve problems, being independent in their learning, and being able to deal with challenging situations (knowing what to do when ‘stuck’). In addition, the children will develop self-confidence and self-belief, and will understand the importance of hard work in achieving whatever goals they set themselves.
A 'Grangetown Curriculum'
In developing our Quest Curriculum, we have thought carefully about the following:
- How can we ensure that we tailor our Curriculum to the needs of our children, and to the school's context?
- What makes our Curriculum unique and special?
These questions have always been at the heart of our work in developing our Curriculum, and they remained central as we have worked through our latest review of the curriculum between 2019 to 2022.
Whilst we have of course ensured that our curriculum is fully in-line with the National Curriculum, and that is is taught effectively and in a way that reflects 'what works', we also wanted to make sure that our curriculum was geared to the needs of Grangetown children, and that it reflected what we - as an experienced team - feel really 'makes a difference' and adds the 'Grangetown X-Factor' not only to the principles that underpin our curriculum but also to our day to day teaching of the curriculum.
In a staff meeting discussion in April 2022, staff worked in groups to discuss and explore what makes our curriculum distinctive, and the ways we meet the needs of GPS children - key points are below.
- The curriculum is planned through engaging themes and a carefully chosen range of core books.
- On entry, many children do not have a great deal of independence - we ensure that our curriculum has a range of learning experience to promote independence in learning and to build age-appropriate life-skills
- Core Stories are woven throughout our curriculum, to encourage a love of reading and a familiarity with the traditional characters and scenarios in these well-loved stories - this also builds vocabulary and listening skills.
- Play is central - staff put a lot of thought and effort into planning our day to day play provision, because of how much children gain from this and how much it complements and enhances learning.
- In Early Years, we have the flexibility to design topics and units of learning based upon the children's interests, thus creating engagement and enthusiasm for learning, as well as making learning purposeful.
- Areas of learning are enhanced with a range of external visits - this exposes the children to new experiences - to our local parks and beaches, the farm, museums, and so on.
- We make extensive use of the outdoors. Staff think carefully about how the design of - and use of - the outdoor environment, can enhance the quality of learning.
- Providing engaging, practical and meaningful learning experiences helps to underpin and embed the concepts and understanding that children need to acquire the more abstract aspects of learning and development.
- We ensure that the children revisit already learned knowledge in different ways - this embeds learning and aids recall. For example, in maths - numicon, number hunts, maps, games.
- Learning moves at a just the right pace, to give the children enough time to explore new understandings whilst also providing appropriate challenge.
- We make extensive use of the local community - for example: working with our community police officers, a bus journey (public bus) to local attractions, visiting the local shops, posting a letter at our local post office, visiting our local church and meeting the vicar, visiting our local parks, beaches and museums, looking at local maps, etc, - new experiences, cultural capital, and lots of opportunities for talk.
Key Stages 1 and 2
- Our Curriculum was carefully designed by our own teachers, who know and care for the children - it is therefore as 'bespoke' as we can possibly make it, in terms of meeting the needs of our children.
- Our curriculum takes starting points into account. For example, we focus on building language and vocabulary, because this area in one of the barriers to learning - these skills are generally not so well developed on entry.
- There is a strong focus on vocabulary and language, via high quality oracy activities and of course through reading and phonics.
- Out teachers plan plenty of well-structured opportunities for recap, recall and re-visit.
- We have a very strong focus on Reading, as a discrete activity and across the curriculum. We believe strongly in giving the children access to high-quality literature.
- The curriculum is 'hands-on' where appropriate - this adds to motivation and purpose, and makes the learning memorable and meaningful. All subjects have opportunities for practical learning. In Maths for example the children understand the day to day application of maths, and also use equipment to help with understanding abstract concepts (concrete to abstract). Visits and visitors are carefully planned, to extend and enrich the curriculum.
- As well as the importance of hands-on, practical learning, staff ae mindful of the impact of the visual side of learning - this helps with understanding and, used well, contributes to making learning memorable.
- We use a range of technology to support teaching and learning - for example we have 1:1 iPads across years 2-6 and we teach the children how to use these as learning tools in terms of writing or research (and not as a device for 'consumption' or 'fun').
- We make use of the local area, where appropriate. This adds to cultural capital, creates meaningful experiences, and gives the children an appreciation of what the area around school, around Sunderland, and even further afield, has to offer. For example: Backhouse Park, Raich Carter Centre, Silksworth Ski Slope, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, The Empire Theatre, Durham Gala Theatre, Penshaw Monument, Herrington Country Park, St Peter's Church, Souter Lighthouse, Newcastle Discovery Museum, the Centre for Life, St Aidan's Church, and so on. These visits are often part of a project set up via an external partner - for example our current local history project exploring East End history, via drama and music, set up in collaboration with Sunderland Together for Children Music Hub.
- Our curriculum is designed to help the children 'find their place in the world' and contribute to society. This involves helping the children develop an appreciation of the local and wider community and of their place within it. It also involves a curriculum strong both in terms of cultural capital and in terms of what could be termed 'life skills' - communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, perseverance , empathy, tolerance and so on. Underpinning this is an understanding of the importance of mastering reading, writing, language and mathematics, because those academic attributes are vital in that they open so many 'life-skills doors' too.
Curriculum 'End Points'
Our Quest 1 and Quest 2 curriculum documents set out:
- carefully sequenced content – knowledge and skills;
- the key concepts that pupils need to understand and the order in which they’ll learn them;
- the 'end points' i.e. what we intend pupils to learn by following each unit of study and by the end of each year of study.
Our curriculum is planned and sequenced so that new knowledge and skills build on what has been taught before, as the children move towards clearly defined end points. It is clear what end points the curriculum is building towards and what pupils need to know and be able to do to reach those end points.
As well as the detail provided in our Quest 1 (Long Term Planning) and Quest 2 (Medium Term Planning) documents, our subject leaders have each produced a summary of the end of year ‘End Points’ in their subjects – as set out below (click each subject for a short PDF):
- Physical Education
- Design and Technology
- Art & Design
- Online Safety
- Religious Education
Recall and Retrieval
Recall: to bring (a fact, event, or situation) back into one's mind; remember
Retrieval: the act or process of getting something back.
We have held several professional development sessions with staff, to facilitate discussion around recall and retrieval. This has enabled staff to explore practice and share ideas, and to ensure effective and consistent age-appropriate approaches across the school.
Research shows that retrieval practice strengthens memory and makes it easier to retrieve information later. It involves recalling something you have learned and bringing it back to mind. When recalling information, we typically use a word or picture associated with it, increasing the likelihood that we will remember a concept or fact.
We use a number of strategies in school to develop the skill of retrieval and place an emphasis on recall as a method by which children can remember what they have learned and apply new skills and knowledge. There is a common thread of strategies throughout school in addition to the variety of age-appropriate methods within each key stage.
Common Strategies Used Across School
- All teachers ask children to recall learning from the previous lesson during the introduction.
- Feedback given to children following teacher marking (Refer to feedback sheets)
- Quick questions throughout the lesson: “mini-plenaries” to check children’s understanding
- “What have we learned today” type quizzes and questions at the end of the lesson. Children recall information/facts that have been taught that lesson and children are encouraged to make links made with previous lessons within the sequence.
- Recall activities at the beginning of the day as an Early Bird type activity or lessons in which children revisit of prior learning. This can be from the previous lesson or further beyond e.g. last week, last term, last year, depending upon the age of the children.
- “Flashback Four” used in KS1 and KS2 in which children are set four questions about prior learning from a variety of units of work / calculations.
- Prompts, children’s work and photographs on display in class to emphasise prior learning which children refer to.
- Paired talk during whole class sessions then children share ideas with the whole class.
- Books in class linked to topics that have been taught throughout the year.
- End of lesson or end of unit quizzes with answers shared or recorded in books
- Mind Maps and Mind Dumps. These can be used at the beginning of a unit: What do we already know? The information can be added to throughout the sequences of lessons or at the end of the unit.
- Recall with small groups or as a whole class – “What have we learned today?” or “What did we learn yesterday?”
- Photographs from Tapestry are shared with the class/group to encourage children to talk about their learning and to recall previous learning.
- Photographs on display to encourage children to revisit prior learning or to apply skills independently through play based activities
- Routines are the same every day so children know what is happening next. This gives them the opportunity to consistently practise skills and recall knowledge e.g. number skills, days of the week etc.
- Songs and rhymes used throughout the day to embed knowledge e.g. counting, phonics etc.
Key Stage One
- “Morning Starters” – differentiated questions displayed on the Smartboard, linked to learning from previous week. Children record answers on their whiteboards to discuss.
- Games - recall questions set which become increasingly more challenging. When children answer correctly the ring the bell.
- “That’s Interesting” game. A fact is given to begin the game, children then add to this by recalling and retrieving knowledge. Children listen to the fact shared by the previous person and respond with “That’s interesting and…” to continue the game, this recalling a number of facts etc about a given topic/unit.
- Memory Games played throughout or at the end of the day in which children are given one word or fact and challenged to recall what they know and have learned
- 5 minute paired talk challenge. A book or picture is displayed using the visualiser and children are challenged to recall what they’ve been learning about
Key Stage Two
- At the beginning of lessons, facts are displayed on the board for children to discuss and expand upon to illustrate their learning
- Children use their books or knowledge organisers to recall prior learning and share this with teacher/class
- During teaching, children are set questions and challenges to share their knowledge from the previous lesson or within the lesson
- End of lesson plenary and marking is used to assess learning and is then addressed in following lessons
- End of unit written quizzes and assessments – when marked, feedback is given and any misconceptions addressed
- Maths meetings used
- At the beginning of a unit, children recall what they have learned in previous year groups
- Y6 – children create their own revision guides
- Y6 – a specific recap question or recall task is noted on planning
- Y6 – Guided reading is planned a half term ahead of writing so children recap the learning.
Themed Days & Weeks
Though our curriculum is very much subject-led, we do incorporate some themed days and weeks, across the year. These provide a fresh perspective on learning, and are a chance to give added focus to particular aspects of the curriculum
This is now well established, and provides an opportunity to celebrate French culture and language. We invite other practitioners to work with our children, including storytellers and musicians. Also, teachers & students from our local secondary school come in to work with us.
A day when we focus on mental health well-being, with support from our partners at Impact North East. Workshops are held across the school, we have a special assembly, and we also raise funds for charity with a yellow-themed non-uniform day!
A means of promoting an understanding of bullying as well as making sure the children know how to respond to any signs of bullying. This week is also an opportunity to celebrate friendship, tolerance and teamwork. Online Safety also features. Workshops are held for all classes, plus special assemblies.
Our well-established Science Week provides the children with a range of exciting hands-on experiences, both in school and in external venues. This year for example we focused on Growth - we were joined by Technology Tom for a range of workshops, our year 6's visited Bede Campus, and a science teacher from Southmoor - Mr Graham - worked with our Y5 pupils.
Working with a range of external partners, we provide the children with a range of activities to promote sport, PE, fitness and well-being.
World Book Day
Our annual celebration of Reading! This year the children were given the opportunity to decorate their own white t-shirt using their favourite book as inspiration. We also had a series of class swaps where our older children paired up with our younger children and they shared a story.
World Maths Day
This year, the children came to school dressed in an outfit which had a number, a shape or their favourite colour so that they could take part in some ‘human’ maths tasks throughout the day. We had measuring and baking in Reception, maths treasure hunts, and some classes learned about maths through stories. The children also had the opportunity to use Mathletics to challenge children in their mental maths from around the world.
- English, Maths, EYFS and SEND are led by Leadership Team members. Each foundation subject area is led by an experienced teacher. All subject Leaders are provided with non-contact time, on a rolling programme, so that they can develop their subject, monitor standards & impact, and support colleagues.
- All Curriculum Leaders, Core and Foundation, have regular scheduled opportunities to monitor and evaluate their subject, via lesson observations, book and planning scrutinies and pupil interviews. Non contact time is provided for this. Feedback is provided for staff, to ensure impact.
- Every term, a Foundation subject is ‘In-Focus’ - this receives extra attention in terms of development. English and Maths are always ‘In Focus’. Alongside this, we have developed a rolling programme of weekly non-contact time for subject leaders, enabling more frequent ongoing opportunities for subject monitoring and development.
- Curriculum Leaders are given access to a range of professional development opportunities. Externally, this includes links with the programme of training provided via Sunderland Together for Children. We have also developed links with a number of other schools, including Houghton Community Nursery (EYFS development) and Pennywell Early Years Centre.
- Our Key Stage and Curriculum Leaders are:
|Early Years Foundation Stage||Mrs V Hanlon|
|Key Stage 1 & English||Mrs N Roberts|
|Lower Key Stage 2 & Mathematics||Mrs L Millican|
|Upper Key Stage 2 & Science||Miss V Stell|
|English||Mrs N Roberts (assisted by Miss V Stell)|
|Mathematics||Mrs L Millican (assisted by Miss C Tose)|
|SEND||Mrs L Russell|
PSHE & RSE
Miss N Holyoak
Mrs N Bracknall
|Religious Education||Miss C Tose|
|Science||Miss V Stell (assisted by Miss N Roberts)|
|Computing and ICT||Mrs V Mitchell|
|History||Miss A McLoughlin|
|Geography||Miss A McLoughlin|
|Art||Mrs A Wight|
|Music||Mrs T Cox|
|MFL / French||Mrs C Blackett|