Our curriculum is driven by the need to prepare our children for lifelong learning. At Wistaston Academy, we offer a rich and vibrant curriculum which is ambitious for all learners. Through our curriculum, we develop the essential knowledge, skills and understanding which are the building blocks for later life: it encompasses not only the formal requirements of the National Curriculum, but goes beyond the experiences of the classroom to ensure that our children are exposed to the richest and most varied opportunities that we can provide. Our quality principles are pivotal to our curriculum delivery and ensure that our children are immersed in authentic experiences allowing each of them to express themselves as individuals.
The quality principles behind the design of our curriculum are:
- Striving for excellence and innovation
- Being authentic
- Being exciting, inspiring and engaging
- Ensuring a positive and inclusive experience
- Actively involving children
- Enabling personal progression
- Developing belonging and ownership
We acknowledge that whilst many children often commence their academic journey at a level that is lower than age-related expectations, this does not act as a barrier to enabling children to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills necessary to fulfil all the requirements of the National Curriculum.
Ultimately, we want our children to foster a positive attitude to learning and have high aspirations for the future, knowing that these can be reached through hard work and determination.
Our curriculum is bespoke. We have designed it around the specific needs of our pupils using our locality, where applicable, and it is continually responsive. Consequently, it is not static; it is continually evolving in response to our children’s changing needs. Leaders have designed the curriculum to be progressive, so that knowledge is built upon secure prior learning and schemes of work are planned carefully to ensure that learning is sequential. Our school staff are reflective and adaptive practitioners; they consider what works and what does not.
At Wistaston Academy, our Trustees, Senior Leadership Team and Subject Leaders are passionate about our curriculum and their subjects and share their vision with confidence. The Senior Leadership Team continuously work alongside Subject Leaders to ensure they have an up-to-date account of what is being covered and how well it is being covered. We work together, listen to each other, evaluate and identify strengths and areas to be developed.
Subject Leaders monitor the delivery and coverage of their subjects well. Subject leaders strive for specialism and are confident in describing the impact of their particular subjects. They know the quality of their own curriculum design and understand that their subject is important.
Subject Leaders understand that in depth understanding of fewer, but high dividend concepts is more important than surface level understanding of more content. The Senior Leadership Team strive to always support Subject Leaders helping them progress within their subject areas.
Through our approach, children are taught to master subjects through subject specific knowledge, where skills are an outcome not its purpose (i.e. skills are the outcome of the repeated practical application of knowledge). The development of knowledge and consequent skills are delivered contextually where appropriate, such as through a particular topic/theme or key question. This helps children to store and retrieve their knowledge and skills. Staff help pupils to make connections in their learning between different topics/themes/key questions.
Staff understand it is crucial that children have explicit and robust instruction in vocabulary, to support their verbal and written communication. The explicit teaching of vocabulary allows students to access academic language and discourse, and facilitates their comprehension of increasingly complex texts across the curriculum. Staff use intelligent repetition of key concepts and vocabulary to enable deeper understanding and stronger connections to take place. Intelligent repetition is used to promote the acquisition of core knowledge, efficient recall, to practise, to deepen understanding and to make connections.
Time is built into lessons to re-visit and assess prior learning. Staff understand that for knowledge to embed in the long-term memory, it needs to be learned over many different interactions, resulting in stronger connections, which can be applied in different contexts.
Our curriculum recognises that children need to be taught the key concepts within each subject in a way that minimises overload and maximises retention. Our curriculum recognises the importance of progression. We understand that this is not a superficial movement from levels or stages. It is an understanding of the concept of Mastery. Through the Mastery approach, new knowledge is built upon secure previous knowledge. Mastery includes making connections between different aspects of learning or different contexts in order to create a rich web of knowledge. This results in the construction of strong semantic memory.
Our curriculum makes good use of the local area and community, through visits and visitors to the school to close gaps in our children’s experience and to cultivate high aspirations from a young age. It also provides wider opportunities and experiences that will enable our pupils to apply their knowledge, skills, values and understanding in much wider contexts. At our school we teach critical thinking skills in context: we give pupils the information and the opportunities to think critically about the subject matter and use it to solve problems and generate creative solutions. We teach children how to keep themselves and others safe.
Assessment is interwoven throughout the curriculum. Summative and formative assessments are used well by staff to check pupils’ understanding of key concepts. This supports staff in identifying gaps in knowledge and understanding and enables them to respond appropriately by adapting their teaching to inform planning and improve future curriculum design.
At Wistaston Academy we also recognise the value of assessment as an important learning tool which provides opportunities for children to strengthen their memories through concerted effort. We make good use of the value of assessment tasks (mindmaps/concept cartoons at the beginning of units, rapid recall of knowledge and carefully planned activities to assess misconceptions, which are supported through the use of progression maps) in strengthening memory by providing children with opportunities to take risks and make sustained effort in trying to retrieve information. Teachers celebrate the unique needs and creativity of each child, supporting them to maximise their potential based on what children can do, not what they cannot.
From their different starting points, all children will make good progress academically, emotionally, creatively, socially and physically. Knowledge, understanding and skills are secured and embedded so that children attain highly and are fully prepared for secondary school. They will have strong communication skills, both written and verbal, and will listen respectfully and with tolerance to the views of others. They will take pride in all that they do, always striving to do their best. They will demonstrate emotional resilience and the ability to persevere when they encounter challenge. They will develop a sense of self-awareness and become confident in their own abilities. They will be kind, respectful and honest, demonstrate inclusive attitudes and have a sense of their role in our wider society.