The Curriculum at Hill West
Our whole school curriculum has been designed, developed and refined over many years. High aspirations underpin our curriculum philosophy and we want our children to flourish socially, emotionally and academically through well-taught, progressive curriculum content. Building on relevant educational research, our curriculum has been responsive to the concepts of retrieval practice, interleaving learning and spaced learning. We understand that children make good progress across the curriculum and in individual subject disciplines when we build on their prior learning and the children remember more. We are committed to ensuring that learning is engaging but appreciate that to commit new knowledge or skills to the long-term memory, there is a need for regular retrieval, practice and consolidation. We know that when a child understands something, they have a well-developed schema. This is as a result of lots of organised, connected knowledge as opposed to a handful of unconnected facts. It is the connection between facts that is understanding. Our aim is to weave a rich web of understanding by enabling children to make a wealth of connections between different facts and to think deeply and creatively about them.
- Interleaving Learning – Interleaving is a process where students mix, or interleave, multiple subjects or topics while they study in order to improve their learning. This was predominantly the basis for our key questions / thematic learning.
- Retrieval Practice – Retrieval practice is a strategy in which bringing information to mind enhances and boosts learning. Deliberately recalling information that underpins the learning which is about to follow, forces us to pull our knowledge “out” and examine what we know, so that new learning can be built upon this.
- Spaced Retrieval – Spaced retrieval, also known as expanded retrieval, is a learning technique, which requires users to rehearse information to be learned at different and increasing spaced intervals of time. At Hill West, to support this, we teach subject disciplines thematically through a linked learning approach and we also teach them discretely as individual subject disciplines where learning is either revisited or pre-taught. At Hill West, to support this, we plan regular mini-quizzes.
Our curriculum has been designed to ensure learning is durable in the longer term and can be transferred from one context to another. We understand that semantic memory refers to the storing of information, facts or concepts ‘context-free’; that is without the emotional and special / temporal context in which they were first acquired. We know these memories take effort and it’s our pupils’ amazing ability to store culturally-acquired learning in their semantic memory that leads to well-rounded, able young people. We are committed, through our curriculum intent and implementation, to providing rich, autobiographical experiences for all children so that richer episodic memories (‘episodes’ of our life) are created.
At Hill West, building on our understanding of how children learn, our curriculum is taught through key questions that link different subject disciplines thematically. We do this so that children have well-developed schema underpinned by interconnected knowledge and skills. Our key questions that link the learning are designed to engage and inspire, improving children’s ability to; ask questions, investigate, interrogate information, present and argue whilst developing a range of skills and deep knowledge. Alongside this, children also receive a weekly subject-specific lesson that either reinforces prior learning through earlier linked learning, or introduces new learning that will be revisited during a subsequent key question.
Progressive learning journeys for each subject chart the children’s learning and allow teachers to assess progress over time. Annual data captures for the non-core subjects give us a robust understanding of those children who have met year group expectations or who are exceeding those year group expectations, in individual disciplines.
Our commitment to developing cultural capital for all children is embedded in our rich curriculum offer. This includes a range of opportunities that allow children to develop their autobiographical experiences so that their episodic memories enhance their semantic memory.
The EYFS Curriculum at Hill West
At Hill West Primary, we believe that the Early Years Foundation Stage is crucial in securing solid foundations that children can continue to build upon. It is our intent that all children that enter our EYFS classrooms develop emotionally, verbally, physically and cognitively, whilst embarking upon a lifelong love of learning. We believe that all children will succeed and are passionate in supporting all children to achieve their full potential. With all this in mind, we begin each school year by looking at the individual needs of our children and, taking into account their different starting points, we then carefully develop our flexible EYFS Curriculum. This is, of course, under-pinned by the assessments undertaken by our 17 preschool settings that support the transition of our pupils into school. As a result, our children make excellent progress from their individual starting points.
At Hill West, building on our understanding of how children learn, our EYFS curriculum, like our curriculum throughout KS1 and KS2 is taught through Key Questions that link, where appropriate, different subject disciplines thematically. We do this so that children have well developed schema underpinned by interconnected knowledge and skills. Our key questions that link the learning are designed to develop the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ which are at the heart of the EYFS Curriculum. We strive to develop the key characteristics of ‘Playing and Learning’, ‘Active Learning’ and ‘Thinking Critically’ in order to provide our children with the skills they will continue to draw upon throughout their development. All of the crucial skills, knowledge and vocabulary that we teach are presented to the children throughout the year through a range of these Key Questions, all of which are designed with the children’s interests in mind. A vital part of our curriculum design is therefore developing strong relationships with our children, so that the children’s interests are reflected through each key question. The teaching of The Prime and Specific Areas of Learning is practical and playful with support and challenge from adults in whole class sessions, small group sessions and working with individuals. There is a combination of adult led, teacher taught sessions, as well as a wealth of stimulating continuous provision opportunities.
Birmingham Curriculum Statement
All children in Birmingham will experience a broad and balanced curriculum enabling them to grow and learn in an environment without prejudice or inequality. The curriculum will:
- promote children’s engagement in learning through enquiry-led approaches that develop skills, dispositions and attitudes to learning;
- equip children for their futures in a rapidly changing world recognising the importance of technology, science, languages and communication for dialogue and understanding between different groups;
- value, celebrate and build on children’s religious and cultural heritage and develop a sense of identity, honouring the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- promote the fundamental shared values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs;
- help children develop an understanding of all faiths and none, and participate in the celebration of different religious events in understanding and accepting differences;
- develop children holistically: their intellectual, practical, aesthetic, spiritual, social and emotional capacities;
- ensure an understanding of protected characteristics of the Equality Act and how through diversity they can be celebrated;
- develop children to take the lead, accepting responsibility for their behaviour, to show initiative and compassion for others, to make a positive difference in their own lives and in the lives of those living and working in their local, national and global communities.
All children and young people will be given the opportunity to learn the benefits of physically and emotionally healthy lifestyles, by participating in high quality Personal, Social and Health Education including Sex and Relationships Education. Opportunities will be provided for children to explore their talents and abilities through:
- Developing an appreciation of the arts
- Taking part in a wide range of physical activities, sports and games
- Developing a sense of self in a non-judgemental, mutually supportive environment
- Experiencing music and its intrinsic value for enjoyment and self expression through performing, singing and the playing of instruments
- Experiencing social, moral, spiritual and cultural education which broadens children’s awareness and understanding of the world and their place within it
- Independent careers advice that inspires and motivated them to fulfil their potential.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 29, states that education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures and the environment. We will not allow any attempts to narrow the curriculum, or to deny our children and young people their right to education.