A ‘curriculum’ is a list of content to be taught and learnt – a course of study for schools, colleges and universities. From September 2014, schools in England follow a new National Curriculum – a course of study decided by the Department for Education. Private schools, academies and free schools are exempt: they do not need to follow the requirements.
National Curriculum: overview
The following extract from section 2 of the National Curriculum (Department for Education, September 2013) provides a helpful overview:
2.1 Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:
- promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and
- prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life
2.2 The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils. The national curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum.
2.3 All state schools are also required to make provision for a daily act of collective worship and must teach religious education to pupils at every key stage and sex and relationship education to pupils in secondary education.
2.4 Maintained schools in England are legally required to follow the statutory national curriculum which sets out in programmes of study, on the basis of key stages, subject content for those subjects that should be taught to all pupils. All schools must publish their school curriculum by subject and academic year online (as we do here).
2.5 All schools should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice. Schools are also free to include other subjects or topics of their choice in planning and designing their own programme of education.
The National Curriculum: aims
Section 3 2 of the National Curriculum (Department for Education, September 2013) sets out its aims:
3.1 The national curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. It introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said; and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.
3.2 The national curriculum is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications. The national curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum.
The National Curriculum: structure
At Mortimer Primary School, there are three phases in total:
- Early Years: ages 3-5 (Nursery and Reception); the National Curriculum does not cover this phase
- Key Stage 1: ages 5-7 (Years 1-2)
- Key Stage 2: ages 7-11 (Years 3-6)
For Key Stages 1 and 2, there are three core subjects:
- English (spoken language, reading, writing, including grammar and punctuation)
- Mathematics (including number and place value, calculations, fractions, measurements, geometry)
- Science (including ‘ working scientifically’)
In addition, there are foundation subjects; for Key Stages 1 and 2, these are:
- art and design
- design and technology (DT)
- physical education (PE)
A language is also a foundation subject in Key Stage 2 – we have been teaching French to our older children for several years now. Religious Education must also be taught in both key stages.
Our Curriculum aims
Mortimer Primary is a happy and healthy place to learn.
Like all schools in England, we must follow the National Curriculum – it sets out subjects and content which we must teach. Within this, however, there is flexibility so that we can interpret and plan to meet the needs and interests of our children now and for the future. The key aim for all our teaching and learning is to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn, to enjoy and to achieve.
We want our children to be happy, enthusiastic and committed learners.
We encourage and stimulate the best possible progress and the highest attainment for all our pupils. Our curriculum builds on pupils’ strengths, interests and experiences and develops children’s confidence in their capacity to learn and work independently and collaboratively.
We want to equip our children with essential skills for learning and living well.
We place great importance on the skills of literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology and problem-solving. We promote skills that help our learners to improve their own learning and performance and that help them to work well with others.
We want everyone in our school community to be happy and healthy.
We place a high priority on developing pupils’ physical skills, self-esteem and emotional well-being. We encourage them to recognise the importance of pursuing a healthy lifestyle and keeping themselves and others safe. We promote happy, effective relationships that are based on respect for themselves and for others.
We want to promote our pupil’s sense of identity.
We do this through teaching knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural heritages of Britain’s diverse society and of the Local, National, European, Commonwealth and Global dimensions of pupils’ lives. We want everyone in our school to understand and appreciate their own and different beliefs and cultures and how these influence our communities.
We want our children to be reflective, expressive, independent and appreciative.
We provide rich and varied contexts for pupils to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills. Doing so enables our pupils to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better.
We want to prepare our pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.
We promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and, in particular, the differences between right and wrong and that we have rights but also responsibilities. We want everyone in our school to be responsible and caring citizens who make positive contributions to communities.
Our curriculum is a creative, skills-based curriculum.
- Creativity = imaginative, purposeful activity + originality + with value
- Core skills = communication + mathematics
- Supporting skills = ICT + improving own learning and performance + working with others + problem-solving
Creativity is important so our children are really engaged in their learning: we want our English, Maths and Topic lessons to be inspiring, challenging, enjoyable and relevant to the pupils. Skills are needed so that our children can become effective, life-long learners and successful, happy citizens. The skills feature in all subjects; they are sometimes the primary objective of a lesson whilst at other times, skills are developed more implicitly.
Communication is a two-way process. We communicate ‘outwards’ by speaking and writing and we receive communication by listening and reading. In all our teaching and learning, we aim for our pupils to communicate orally to a high level and so we place a lot of emphasis on all forms of speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing. In this increasingly information-based world, we also want our learners to evaluate information critically rather than believe everything they come across without questioning. For example, children at Mortimer Primary frequently compare different websites or books and decide which are better and why.
Maths is a key skill. We all need to be able to perform simple mental maths skills; understand functions of a calculator and interpret the results; read and question data we see in tables and graphs; tell the time… There are many areas of everyday life in which we use mathematical skills without realising. In addition to this, Maths gives us the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and apply logic and reasoning. We don’t think it’s acceptable for anyone to have poor numeracy skills and so we are constantly thinking about how to develop this core skill in our topics and not just in a Maths lesson. (It’s worth remembering, too, that research shows the better a person’s numeracy skills are, the more likely they are to earn more and manage their finances better!)
As well as dedicated Computing lessons, which form part of the statutory National Curriculum, there are many more lessons in which information and communication technology (ICT) is used as a ‘vehicle’ to learn in other areas. This might be as simple as using a maths game to practise times tables, or something more complex such as entering data from a PE lesson to compare performances.
Improving own learning and performance
At Mortimer Primary we recognise that our children must be able to initiate, engage, persevere and reflect in all their learning. We want our pupils to be able to work independently without close supervision. We often, for example, incorporate independent research on a subject that they want to find out more about. Children then might present their findings to others.
Working with others
Working with others is a life-skill that will help to prepare our pupils for their future. Just like adults, children need to be able to co-operate and compromise, agree and sometimes constructively disagree, help others to learn and learn from others.
Problem solving and thinking skills
Another aim of our teaching is to build children’s confidence to investigate and find solutions to problems and to think for themselves. There are many ways to build up skills in this area. For example, we might do this through lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement, teaching step-by-step problem-solving techniques and indirectly using role-play or other realistic problems to reach agreement.
Speaking and listening, reading and writing are at the centre of a creative curriculum at Mortimer Primary. Children are given the opportunity to develop and enhance their literacy skills for a variety of audiences and purposes.
Structured class activities as well as wider school events, responsibilities and clubs give our children the opportunity to develop their speaking and listening skills.
Early reading skills are taught in a systematic yet lively and challenging way and parents are involved and guided through this crucial stage. Children of all abilities can develop a love of books through a wide selection of good quality literature in the classroom and two school libraries. This positive and inclusive reading culture continues throughout the school where all are supported to become keen, independent readers with skills they can use across the curriculum.
A balance of reading and writing is maintained and children are encouraged to write with accuracy, confidence and stamina as well as responding to many creative, cross curricular projects, incorporating I.C.T. Writing is displayed and celebrated throughout all key stages and older children’s work is viewed as a role model for others as well as a real form of communication.
Mathematics is taught through a daily maths lesson to all children. At Mortimer Primary School, children experience maths in formal classroom settings as well as through practical, hands-on activities. Our aim is to make maths achievable and fun for all.
Maths helps children to make sense of the world around them, this is achieved by understanding relationships and patterns in; quantity, space, shape and measure in everyday life.
Number work is the key to success; therefore building knowledge of number bonds and times tables is an essential part of the daily maths lesson for all children. Problem solving activities are integrated in all elements of the maths curriculum.
While Early Years and Key Stage 1 children are taught in mixed ability classes, Key Stage 2 children are taught in groups according to their individual ability.
Science is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
We live in a technological society that is based upon scientific discoveries and advancement. Our aim is to prepare children to appreciate the discoveries and knowledge base of science, it’s application to everyday life and encourage a willingness to engage with the various aspects of science.
Children are taught a scientific methodology to solve problems which involves stating a hypothesis to an experiment, careful observation and analysis of patterns of collected data, report writing and theorisation as to the observed result of the data. Where possible the use of experimentation is encouraged , however, some aspects of science are researched through the use of computers and books. All aspects of the National Curriculum are covered-Scientific Enquiry, Life Processes, Materials and Physical Processes, as are cross curricular links with Mathematics and Literacy.
In encouraging this approach we hope that children will gain knowledge of the natural and physical world that they inhabit.
“Science generates knowledge beyond all expectations”. B. Cox.
The 2014 national curriculum introduced a new subject, computing, which replaced ICT. Computing is concerned with how computers and computer systems work, and how they are designed and programmed. Pupils studying computing will gain an understanding of computational systems of all kinds, whether or not they include computers. Computational thinking provides insights into many areas of the curriculum, and influences work at the cutting edge of a wide range of disciplines.
The new curriculum is split into three distinct areas; computer science, digital literacy and information technology. Computer science introduces children algorithms; shows how they are implemented as programs on digital devices; and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions. Children develop skills throughout the key stages to build programs and debug. Information Technology gives KS1 children basic skills to use technology purposefully, to create, store, and retrieve digital data. This is advanced in KS2 to include the use of search engines and to Select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information. Digital literacy recognises the common use of computers beyond school and reinforces digital safety encouraging respectful and responsible use.
History is a valued part of the curriculum at MortimerPrimary School. It provides a means of exploring, appreciating and understanding the world in which we live now and how it has evolved over time, through the study of major past events, and the lives of people who have evoked significant changes to our and other societies.
History should stimulate curiosity and imagination and we encourage this by providing children with the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways, including visits to museums and places of historical interest, the opportunity to develop enquiry skills, re-enactments and role play, as an integral part of the history curriculum.
Geography teaches an understanding of places and environments. Through their work in geography children learn about their local area and they can then compare their life in this area with that of other regions in the UK and the rest of the world. They learn how to interpret maps and they develop the skills of research, investigation, analysis and problem-solving. Through their growing knowledge and understanding of human geography, children gain an appreciation of life in other cultures. Geography teaching also motivates children to find out about the physical world, and enables them to recognise the effect of climate change and importance of sustainable development for the future of mankind.
At Mortimer we follow the South Tyneside L.A. recommended syllabus for R.E. and we are fundamentally concerned with exploring the important aspects of life and what it’s like to be human. We provide opportunities for pupils to ask questions, seek answers and develop ideas in a quest to discover more about their own identity and that of others. R.E. can provide a context for the explanation of moral and ethical opinions and dilemmas by learning about lifestyles and behaviour in real, historical and fictional situations. It can help our pupils to understand the power and meaning of belief and religion for individuals and communities in the United Kingdom and across the world.
Following a long tradition of involving all children in as wide a range of musical experiences as possible, we aim to ‘engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence’ (National Curriculum).
Singing is at the heart of our musical curriculum and is taught by class teachers in Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 and by the Music Coordinator in Key Stage 2.
All Key Stage 2 children receive two programmes of whole class instrumental tuition, one in violin/cello and another in percussion, learning to play instruments with increasing fluency and control.
A range of opportunities exist for small group tuition in: ocarina, recorder, guitar, violin, cello, flute, clarinet and samba drumming. This ensures variety and progression throughout the school.
Our large, enthusiastic Junior Choir performs regularly at venues in the wider community, as well as in school. It has strong links with the Outreach Programme at Durham Cathedral, having performed there on several occasions.
Work Related Learning
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius.
Teachers have a responsibility to provide children with work-related learning opportunities in order for them to understand the choices and range of jobs that are available to them. At Mortimer Primary we feel work related learning enhances the current curriculum and exposes children to a plethora of necessary skills which they will need to develop and hone as they move into secondary school and beyond. Education about business and work aims to increase the children’s understanding of economic and industrial Britain. By forging links between industry and schools, teachers are providing an environment in which to motivate the attainment of their pupils whilst also inviting them to think about what skills they need to be successful as they grow and become the next generation of Britain’s workforce.
Our school recognises the importance that physical education has in developing our children’s physical competence and confidence and their ability to use these across a broad range of physical activities. Physical education within our school provides many opportunities for our pupils to engage in competitive sports and activities. These include competitions with other schools and through our annual sports days and house competitions.
Within our physical education curriculum, we strive to ensure our pupils are physically active through sustained periods of time through a wide variety of creative, competitive and challenging lessons. This is supported by active playground activities run by and delivered through initiatives such as our school’s Young Sports Leaders and Change For Life champions. This will result in our children having greater knowledge of the importance of life long physical activity and an understanding of how sport and other activities build character and help to embed values such as fairness and respect.
Personal Social Health and Citizenship Education
Health education is an essential part of our pupil’s education as it enables them to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding they will need to become informed, healthy, active, independent and responsible citizens. We encourage pupils to take part in a wide range of activities and experiences across and beyond the curriculum, contributing fully to the life of our school and community. Through taking part in curricular and extra-curricular activities our children learn to recognise their own worth, work well with others and become increasingly responsible for their own learning. The children, as part of the process of growing up, will be given the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and understand how they are developing personally and socially. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues are seen to be an important part of this process.