‘To unlock students academic and personal potential’
‘Our aspirations are our possibilities, believe you can and you will!’
WAT’s Aspire Curriculum has been co-constructed by leaders and staff from across our family of schools. Over the last few years, we have sharpened the content so that it is ambitious, challenging and exciting for all pupils. Each time the next curriculum theme comes into cycle, our staff work together in trust-wide year groups to evaluate previous learning and further develop future theme content. This powerful cycle of collaboration has put curriculum development and subject knowledge at the heart of school life.
It has been designed to give our young people the knowledge, skills, understanding and experiences to be successful in learning and in life. We have used some of the critical research in cognitive science to help underpin our approach. For example, the use of interleaving and retrieval practice to help pupils’ retention of knowledge.
The Aspire curriculum has 6 different themes across the academic year. Four themes are planned trust-wide and two themes are school led. Each theme has a lead subject with other subject foci within the same theme. Other subject links are only made where the subject content is not diluted.
We took the decision for the following subjects to be taught discretely: Mathematics, aspects of English, Science, RE, PSHE, MFL and Computing.
The aim of the lead subject theme is to inspire pupils and deeply immerse them in subject content so that key knowledge sticks in their long-term memory. As each term progresses key knowledge and skills will be re-visited through a variety of methods. Consideration has been given to progression from theme to theme and within themes.
We were conscious that the primary curriculum content in the past has too often become diluted through all encompassing topics. Consequently, we have created a golden thread focus to ensure that subject content is precise, rich and intentionally focused upon throughout the theme.
Each theme always starts with a big question to be clear about what children will be able to confidently and competently answer by the end of the theme. The big question links explicitly to the threshold concept/s for each theme. The threshold concepts are akin to a portal - they open up new or previously inaccessible ways of thinking.
Our curriculum subject milestone documents clearly set out the NC knowledge and skills alongside the threshold concepts. The knowledge and skills are smaller chunks of learning to help unlock students’ understanding of the threshold concept/s. We follow the NC as a minimum standard for breadth and balance and enhance it further through our big questions, threshold concepts and ambitious content.
The stunning start, fantastic finish and other rich experiences enable pupils to be excited about the curriculum and demonstrate learner skills and character virtues.
Our Aspire learning skills and character virtues are ‘caught, sought and taught’ throughout the curriculum. They are referenced explicitly in medium term planning where meaningful teaching opportunities arise. Part of our mission is to ensure that our youngsters have the metacognitive skills (learning to learn) to be successful in learning and in life. For example, pupils learn to ‘self-quiz’ to remember key bits of knowledge in history, or they practise ‘communicating clearly’ and ‘being courageous’ when presenting to an audience in the fantastic finish for the theme.
The medium term plans have set out the end-point knowledge required for each theme. This is depicted by the NC knowledge and skills but more importantly the threshold concepts and big questions. Consideration has been given to the order of when content is taught, so that there is progression. Activities are planned to help develop pupils’ knowledge and challenge their thinking.
Medium term planning structure:
While the themes have trust-wide medium terms plans, it is currently schools’ responsibility to ensure effective curriculum planning is in place for subjects taught discretely. Other trust-wide plans have been produced for art and music aligned to the Aspire curriculum. Examples are shown:
‘The real power of knowledge organisers is that they make us think hard about what we are going to teach.’
- Mary Myatt, The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence
Knowledge organisers are in place for each of the Aspire themes. They give the ‘bigger picture’ of how the key knowledge links together. They make knowledge and language explicit, supporting planning, teaching and assessment. The content of the quizzes is selected from the knowledge organisers.
Our curriculum intent will be implemented through ‘engaging, enthusing and inspiring every lesson, every day.’ Our WAT teaching and learning cycle, through which our ten teaching and learning principles are embedded, ensures that the curriculum is delivered effectively so that all students make progress regardless of background and ability.
There is a strong emphasis on planning for, teaching and using tier 3 vocabulary throughout the Aspire curriculum. Pupils are expected to know and understand the vocabulary needed to access the theme that they are learning.
Opportunities for writing and reading across the curriculum developed in Aspire medium term planning. Whole-class reading is unlikely to match the Aspire curriculum and nor do we want it to. However, other reading opportunities can be exploited, particularly using non-fiction texts. This could also be a stimulus for the formal reading domain lesson.
Our approaches to assessing reading, writing and mathematics are robust, established and clear. We use a mixture of summative tests and teacher assessment to make accurate judgements of how well pupils are doing and where they need further support.
The new Education Inspection Framework (EIF 2019) makes it clear that assessment should support the teaching of the curriculum but not increase teacher workload. The handbook goes on to say that inspectors will evaluate whether collections of progress and attainment data are proportionate and sustainable.
Within the Aspire Curriculum there are two strands to the assessment delivered:
The teacher uses information gained in these processes to determine how to best use the additional assessment block weeks and to shape teaching in future themes.
Cumulative Quizzes inform the teacher about the impact of the current learning and demonstrate pupils’ retention of previous knowledge. They use closed questions. There are a range of ways to carry out cumulative quizzes, including using Google Forms. In the collaborative planning stage teachers, determine supplementary questions. The quiz questions are taken from these supplementary questions.
Key Assessment Task (KATs) allow the teacher to see how the knowledge and skills gained can be translated into understanding. These will be centred around a deep-thinking question, known as the ‘Big Question’ and will always be explicitly linked to the threshold concept/s. It must demonstrate pupils’ independent understanding of what they have learnt. For example: In Key Stage 2, this could be a written response to a question.
Purpose: To inspire pupils and support their learning across the theme. The Aspire curriculum display may have:
Digital technology is used to power up the curriculum where meaningful opportunities arise. Year groups who have started to use iPads for Learning 121 devices map APPs and activities into the medium term planning. For example, pupils use Quizlet as an APP to self-quiz and support their retention of knowledge. You can see below an example of Year 4 planning where APPs have been explicitly embedded into the themes:
Our ongoing commitment to safeguarding is also reflected in the curriculum.