Our aim is to provide an excellent education for all our students; our vision for ‘best lesson, best day, best year, best future’ is rooted in a desire to bring out the best in all students and prepare them for success in life. Our curriculum is designed to provide all our students with the core knowledge that is the foundation of this success. We aim to maximise their cognitive development, to develop the whole person and the talents of the individual so that Walthamstow Academy students become active and economically self-sufficient citizens.
At the heart of our curriculum lies a respect for the subjects we teach and for the insight that each provides into the world around us. We teach children how to think, how to criticise, how to be active, rather than passive, recipients of information; but each of these skills are taught within the context of the rich knowledge each subject provides. By instilling our students with the best of what’s been thought, said and done in each subject, we hope that our curriculum enables children to appreciate and participate in the full richness of the human experience.
Our curriculum has been developed to meet the needs of Walthamstow Academy students and has been designed with them specifically in mind. It represents the highest standards in educational practice because it uses the ‘United Learning Core Curriculum’ as its basis, and that was developed with the support of hundreds of teachers across our group of schools. The United Learning curriculum is founded on four key principles, and they are also the principles that guide us at Walthamstow Academy:
- Entitlement – We believe all students have the right to learn what is in the Walthamstow Academy curriculum; we have a duty to ensure all students are taught the whole of it.
- Mastery – We want all students to achieve a full understanding of the knowledge specified in the curriculum for each year, and teaching should not move on until this is achieved. We use rigorous examinations three times a year and constant in-class assessment to judge the progress of our students and therefore find the moment when teaching can move on.
- Stability – We won’t constantly amend the curriculum; while we make occasional adjustments in the light of feedback and experience, we will aim for stability over many years, so that teachers can develop expertise, and we constantly build assessments and teaching materials to support the curriculum. Our Knowledge Organisers – new in 2018 for Years 7, 8 and 9 are an excellent example of the development of high quality resources to support learning.
- Concepts not context – Our curriculum specifies the knowledge that should be taught, provides resources to assist with this and exemplifies successful learning. It leaves the job of bringing knowledge to life, of providing context, humour and memorable classroom moments to our teachers. This is because each of them is individually skilled and learning is, at its best, a personal experience founded on relationships between teachers and students.
The curriculum for each year group can be accessed here. The curriculum for each subject is divided into two ‘cycles’. Each cycle contains a discrete body of knowledge and, at the end of each cycle, knowledge is tested through formal written assessments. Parents receive reports on their child’s progress in each of these formal examinations. Formal assessments play less of a role in subjects such as music, drama and physical education. The stability of our curriculum allows subject expertise to develop over time, and we are careful to provide sufficient time for teachers within the same subject to meet together. Our subject expertise is strengthened by the support of our United Learning subject advisors.
As we provide a ‘mastery curriculum’ our students study fewer topics in greater depth, with the expectation that we don’t move on to the next topic until all our students have a secure understanding of the current topic. A three-year Key Stage 3 provides students with the time and space to gain this secure understanding. In our lessons you will typically see all students grappling with the same challenging content, with teachers providing additional support for students who need it. Rather than moving on to new content, our higher attainers are expected to produce work of greater depth and flair.
Our approach to teaching and learning supports our curriculum by ensuring that lessons build on prior learning and provide sufficient opportunity for guided and independent practice. We have used Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction (2012) and our own experience of what works in the classroom to develop our teaching and learning approach in order to allow the mastery approach to be effective (i.e. children learn what they are expected to in the year they are expected to), early catch up is essential: we aim to promptly identify and support pupils who start secondary school without a secure grasp of reading, writing and mathematics so that they can access the full curriculum. We use the MIDYIS and NGRT reading age tests to gain information about our new Year 7 in the summer they are in Year 6 so they can begin at the Academy with the support the need.
Everything from which children learn in school – the taught subject timetable, the approach to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, the co-curricular provision and the ethos and ‘hidden curriculum’ of the school – are to be seen as part of the school curriculum. Our principle of ‘Education with Character’ is delivered through the curriculum in this broadest sense.
With thousands of pupils the United Learning family of schools following the same curriculum, Walthamstow Academy students are able to use common assessments in most subjects which are also taken by thousands of children in other schools. These are high quality summative assessments which allow pupils to demonstrate their growing understanding of their subjects and teachers to assess the impact of their teaching. These summative assessments are typically taken once or twice a year, enabling teachers to focus on formative assessment from lesson to lesson.
Our formative assessments are designed to support students in achieving fluency in each subject. This means that in lessons pupils are quizzed on prior knowledge in order to embed this knowledge in their long-term memory. This frees up their working memory to attend to current learning. We are particularly conscious of the role that literacy and vocabulary plays in unlocking the whole curriculum. Our teachers explicitly teach the meaning of subject-specific language, and we expect lessons to contain challenging reading and writing. Knowledge organisers provide students with key information in each subject, enabling them to develop their understanding of key concepts outside of their lessons. We also encourage all pupils to read widely.
Every child has an equal right to a challenging and enlightening curriculum. By teaching this curriculum well, and developing effective habits in our pupils, we bring out the best in everyone.
To find out more about our curriculum, please contact the relevant Head of Year for your child. Alternatively email Jess Capstick, Vice Principal in charge of curriculum, at firstname.lastname@example.org