The curriculum is the whole planned experience pupils can expect when they come to Whitehill. Through our curriculum, we aim to provide pupils with the best possible chance of becoming:
- Successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve.
- Confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives.
- Responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.
We recognise the importance of creativity, connectedness and rigour in underpinning a successful curriculum. We define creativity as something that promotes original and independent thinking and develops pupils’ ability to find innovative solutions (equipping them to answer the question ‘What do you do when you don’t know what to do?’). We have designed our curriculum to be connected – maximising the potential for links between subjects and concepts. A good example can be found in Year 4, when pupils learn about the physical changes in continents since dinosaurs, before plotting tectonic plates on world maps and looking at where earthquakes and volcanoes are most likely to be found. At the same time they explore traditional Japanese stories and study the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This approach provides a deeper and richer learning experience, allowing pupils to make connections and embed their understanding. The rigour of individual subjects is closely guarded, ensuring that subject-specific knowledge and skills are learned. Through a curriculum that is creative, connected and rigorous, we aim to develop learners who not only pass exams but develop enquiring minds.
- Ourselves, as individuals capable of spiritual, moral, social, intellectual and physical growth and development.
- Our relationships, as fundamental to the development and fulfilment of happy and healthy lives and to the good of the community.
- Our society, which is shaped by the contributions of a diverse range of people, cultures and heritages.
- Our environment, as the basis of life and a source of wonder and inspiration that needs to be protected
We use the National Curriculum as the basis for the core knowledge taught at Whitehill. Our topic-based approach allows us to provide a curriculum that is creative, connected and rigorous. By working thematically, we are able to connect learning in a way that makes it both more meaningful and more memorable. For example, in Rainforests (one of our year 3 topics) pupils will read and respond to stories, poems and information books on the subject in English; they will learn about physical features of rainforests and the causes and consequences of deforestation in Geography; they will explore Mayan civilisation in history; and design, make and evaluate packaging for chocolate in DT. As well as being efficient – avoiding the need to undertake the multiple pieces of research that would be necessary without a topic link – this immersive approach allows pupils time to build connections and embed understanding.
Wherever possible, we take an enquiry-based approach to learning, with the role of the teaching being more facilitative than didactic. Or, to put it another way, pupils are given activities that will allow them to find things out and make discoveries for themselves rather than listen passively to facts. It is our belief that this active way of learning is more enjoyable, more likely to lead to long term retention of information and equips pupils with skills that can be transferred in other contexts and later life. Many lessons will involve a ‘big enquiry question’ – often generated by the pupils themselves – which is then answered over that lesson or series of lessons.
We provide practical first-hand experiences to enable pupils to build their knowledge but do also explore theory when it is needed. These experiences include visits from authors and organisations, a range of visits to sites of cultural, natural or other educational significance. Examples of this include pupils in Year 4 visiting the Natural History Museum when learning about dinosaurs and those in Year 6 having a tour of Parliament and meeting their MP as part of their Rulers and Leaders topic.
As we view talent as something expandable rather than fixed, groups to support or challenge are flexible depending on pupils’ particular needs for that particular area. For instance, we recognise that pupils might find some areas of maths challenging and require additional scaffolding to access the learning. However there is not the assumption that they will then find every aspect of maths difficult – indeed there might be some areas where they require additional challenge. We provide lots of opportunities for group work, peer-to-peer collaboration and peer-lead tasks because we know that pupils enjoy and achieve success from this way of working. There are also times when pupils will be expected to work independently.
To allow pupils to become immersed in particular fields of learning, we include subject-themed weeks and days. Visitors to the school frequently comment on the very broad range of extra-curricular clubs and activities offered, some of which have been started up as a direct result of pupils’ requests.
We recognise that a significant part of the curriculum takes place out of class; it could be described as the ‘invisible curriculum’. It is what pupils learn from the systems, behaviours and responses of the school community. This includes what is learnt from having, or directly participating in, the many positions of responsibility within school, including the highly active Junior Leadership Team. It can also be seen in adhoc conversations and interactions between staff, pupils and pupils and staff. One of the things visitors repeatedly comment on is how clearly they can see our Core Purpose when interacting or observing staff and pupils.
Learning is assessed using a variety of strategies, including questioning, assessment tasks and tests. This information is used to inform the planning and teaching of individuals and groups, so that gaps in learning are addressed and an appropriate level of challenge is present.