“Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged,
to be entertained, to be delighted.”
At Mount Pleasant Primary School, we understand the importance of getting our curriculum right; it has been designed to meet the needs of our children so they can flourish – both academically and socially. In order to achieve this, we provide a curriculum that is broad, balanced, relevant and able to provide for varied needs.
Our ultimate school aim is to ensure that children leave Mount Pleasant Primary school as 'good, kind people'; we are determined to ensure that our curriculum enhances our school culture and climate in order to deliver this fundamental ambition. We aim to identify and remove barriers to learning and provide suitable learning challenges that respond to diverse needs, including those of the most able.
Our curriculum encompasses a variety of exciting, first-hand experiences to enable children to acquire appropriate skills, knowledge and understanding preparing them for today’s world – respecting the nature of individual subjects. Through the provision of a stimulating environment and our school grounds, links within the community and beyond, children will develop their full potential. We are determined to reach our aim that any child should reach their goals and excel in any area of the curriculum - and not just in English and Mathematics. As such, children’s Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) development, and their Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCHE) is at the heart of our curriculum approach.
Our curriculum is aspirational; we aim to promote children's self belief and a 'can do' attitude. We make links to the 'real world' whenever we can, including occupations and locations which children may not relate to on a daily basis.
We implement a broad and balanced curriculum which is pertinent to life in and around Darlington and knowledge of the wider world. We use deliberate themes which are threaded through our curriculum and deepen the sense of belonging and community. We believe that the sense of belonging is a concept related to quality of life, encompassing a feeling that individuals matter to one another and to a group. We want to ensure that our children become fully inclusive and welcome all that join our school and their wider community. We want them to understand that being different is welcomed and believing in different things is embraced.
The common theme across all topics is belonging, with a key question being ‘What was it like to be a……?’ which identifies belonging to a certain period in history. Other golden threads include key people, scientific achievements and rule of law. There is a close link to geography which includes why people settle and how they identify with their surroundings through time. Our sense of identity is founded on our belonging to particular communities through shared beliefs, values, or practices.
The choices that we make, from our religious views, to the friends that we make, places us as part of the groups, networks and communities that make up human society. To that end, we want our children to be tolerant, kind and be people who defend/support the vulnerable throughout their lifetime. We feel this especially important to teach these values so our children feel confident as they develop into adulthood. We aspire for our children to be productive, successful and happy adults in tomorrow's society. We embrace the notion that what they are taught and experience today, directly sets the standard for tomorrow.
Our curriculum assessment procedures are designed to facilitate ever deepening learning in all subjects, often with key learning objectives revisited across a year and beyond, in order to ensure that children's knowledge deepens each time a concept or skill is revisited. Our subject overviews highlight how this deepening is explored across the school and in individual year groups, with clear prior learning identified, key knowledge and skills to be assessed and the vocabulary which children should experience and know by the end of the unit of work.
Parents are kept up to date about curriculum foci by means of a curriculum overview sent out each half term by individual teachers, which includes how the curriculum can be further extended at home; we see the home school relationship as vital in making our curriculum purposeful and ‘real’ to the children. We have a detailed ‘early reading’ page on our school website to support parents.
Whilst our school is committed to a ‘topic’ approach, we value – and plan for - the study of each subject separately - being conscious of the very 'essence' of each subject. This ‘essence’ is clearly captured in the individual subject ‘intent’ sections as part of each subject overview, and the subject specific overviews below. We want children to be confident historians, geographers, artists and musicians. Therefore we have clear subject and disciplinary knowledge and vocabulary expectations for each subject, which are purposely linked through the theme of a class topic.
The teaching of British Values is integral to our school's mission of ensuring our children are 'good people' and leave our school ready for life in Modern Britain. The 4 key 'British Values' are:
Respect for the Rule of Law
Respect and Tolerance of others, regardless of beliefs, faiths or lack of faith
The teaching and promotion of British Values however, goes deeper than individual ‘lessons’ - it embodies our school attitudes, ethos and the way in which we work and interact with children and families – including our school reward system. We truly do embody our school motto of 'Learning for Life'.
Curriculum Planning Overview
Our school curriculum is based on a simple premise: when a curriculum is carefully and sequentially planned and of good quality, it is the progression model which is set for our children. We understand that when children make progress, they simply know more and remember more – the impact of good quality teaching, tied to a high quality curriculum.
This ‘sequence of learning’ for each subject begins as soon as children join our school – and whilst ‘national curriculum subjects’ formally start in Year 1, it is vital that we make links into our Early Years curriculum, in order to prepare children effectively for Key Stage 1. There is no ‘cliff edge’ at Mount Pleasant Primary School. Our curriculum plans set out what we believe as a school our children need in order to develop the cultural capital that they need to develop in order to be successful in life beyond primary school. For all children, but particularly the most disadvantaged, it is vital that children leave Mount Pleasant Primary School with the knowledge and experiences they need in order to continue to succeed. Knowledge develops confidence, confidence embodies success.
Our view on ‘Knowledge’
Information can be rote learned, knowledge is interconnected and applied.
At Mount Pleasant Primary School we understand the way knowledge is stored as a complex, interconnected web or ‘schema’. Every time a pupil encounters a word they have previously learned, but applied in a new context, it adds to the complexity of their understanding of that concept. In other words, they develop a deeper understanding of that concept and enhance their capacity to use that concept in their own thinking. Where pupils lack prior knowledge, they may find it difficult to learn new knowledge or skills, because their short-term, working memory is likely to become temporarily overloaded. If they are able to draw on their long-term memory and attend to a small number of new features in what they are learning, they are much more likely to learn and make progress. Research shows that we learn by relating new knowledge to what we already know. Therefore, the more pupils know, the more they have the capacity to learn. Our sequential curriculum is designed to develop children’s schemas – through progressive content and interconnecting themes across subjects.
A successful curriculum should ensure that it altars what children will notice next – by providing firm foundations on which to build new knowledge: a kind of ‘mental Velcro’ (Ed Hirsch).
The correlation between vocabulary size and life chances is as firm as any correlation in educational research. Vocabulary is important, because it embodies and communicates concepts. Simply put, the more words you know – and can use – the cleverer that you are. Our carefully planned curriculum considers the vocabulary which we explicitly teach and use. We understand that ensuring that children have the confidence and opportunity to repeatedly use vocabulary (we expect all children to practice and have the opportunity to use new vocabulary in lessons – built in to the lesson activities). Our curriculum plans detail both subject specific vocabulary – and importantly, transferrable vocabulary. These words can be used out of the taught context in a range of situations, broadening vocabulary understanding and when children are expected to use then, confident articulators.
Our Approach to retaining Key Knowledge
If nothing is altered in the long term memory, nothing is learned.
Children cannot remember all that is taught to them, in every lesson in every subject. However, it is vital that curriculum documentation makes clear exactly which information must be remembered in order to build a firm foundation for future learning, and which aspects of the curriculum are absolutely necessary in order to build an effective ‘hinterland’ on which to hang and place the ‘key learning’ in to context. In essence, we teach the hinterland in order to create a basket to contain the new key learning.
Curriculum plans detail what is to be remembered. Our approach to ensuring that this learning is retained is based on a spaced retrieval model.
In Early Years, when children learn through a topic, or experience, a physical item from the topic or experience is placed in to the ‘memory bag’. This bag is routinely brought out and the class discuss the items; what they learned, what they remember – and how that learning may link to what children are learning currently. An example would be that when children learn about Diwali, a diva lamp may be placed in the bag. When children move on to learn about Chinese New Year, the Diwali knowledge is revisited through the use of the lamp, and connections made to the new learning in relation to the themes of celebration, culture and light.
From Year 1 onwards, each class build a ‘Key of Knowledge’. After each unit of work is completed, the key learning is placed onto a large ‘Key of Knowledge’ for the class – which is a progressively built up into an aide-memoir of all key learning from the year. The knowledge is colour coded according to subject – and at the end of the year the ‘Key’ is passed to the next class – as a record of what children should know and remember – and from what the teacher can effectively build upon.
These keys are used frequently to ‘quiz’ children in low stakes approaches in order to keep key knowledge alive in children’s brains. In essence, ‘keeping the kettle boiling’. Opportunities include when children are lining up, on entry tasks, team quizzes etc – class teachers determine how and when these are used. When new topics are introduced however, it is expected that the prior learning that the new content is building on will be revisited and revised at the beginning of the unit of work to ensure a firm foundation and progressive journey through the curriculum. Teachers are expected to draw links from prior and future learning throughout their teaching in order to strengthen children’s schemas in relation to identified key concepts over time.
In mathematics, from Reception onwards, children will revisit prior learning every day, with a set session where children revisit content from:
recently taught learning (potentially the day before),
content from the previous unit of work
content from earlier in the year
content from a previous year group
Our Approach to Curriculum Assessment
Successful assessment procedures and approaches as part of a high quality curriculum are at the heart of high quality teaching and learning at Mount Pleasant Primary School. As such, curriculum and assessment are inextricably linked. Our school aims to ensure that all children achieve as well as they possibly can; accurate and appropriate assessment ensures that learning issues, barriers and successes are quickly identified so that teaching is precise and children progress. For details of how this approach is born out in practice, please see the Assessment Policy.
Subject Specific Pedagogy
At Mount Pleasant Primary School, we fully understand that the teaching of different subjects requires a range of pedagogical knowledge – if you can teach mathematics well, does not automatically mean that you can teach art well: they are different disciplines. As such, we detail the specific subject specific considerations below, and use these to develop appropriate CPD for staff in order for them to understand and value the components of each subject. Within our induction approaches, however we ensure that the three key pedagogical themes are discussed as our initial priority:
Effective explanation and modelling techniques – ‘I do, we do, you do’. Teachers make explanations clear, whilst considering cognitive load
Effective questioning and pace
An understanding that any writing floats on a sea of talk