They [leaders] have put in place ambitious and well organised learning schemes. These include detailed guidance and support for staff about what pupils should learn and remember. Leaders have designed learning units that are based on the school’s values and that will be relevant to pupils. For example, one history unit focuses the experiences of the Windrush generation. Ofsted, September 2021
"Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future." Nelson Mandela
Children are at the heart of everything that we do at St. Michael's. Our curriculum is designed for our pupils. It is bespoke to our school. The St. Michael's curriculum is designed around our school vision, our school values and three primary curriculum drivers.
School Vision: For all pupils to fulfil their God-given talents and to aspire to achieve a university education.
School Values: Community, Aspirations, Learning and Love
Our faith, values and experiences
St. Michael's vision and aspirations
The culture and heritage of our pupils
Our faith, values and experiences underpin our curriculum and pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development underpins everything that we do at St. Michael's; it is not an addition to our curriculum but is central to the whole learning process.
We have also developed a knowledge rich curriculum, bespoke to our school and our pupils. While meeting the requirements of the National Curriculum, it also reflects the interests and cultural heritage of our school community. Our expectations of what pupils can learn are high. We are explicit about what we want our children to learn and have prioritised key knowledge that we want our pupils to know.
Units of study and topics are carefully sequenced across a year group, an academic year and a key stage to ensure as much learning is retained as possible.
The influence of our three drivers is evident throughout our curriculum in terms of the topics that are taught. Examples include:
Our Faith, Values and Experiences
The Roman Empire and Christianity - A historical study into the effect that Christianity had on the Roman Empire. From the early days of widespread persecution to the conversion that started under Emperor Constantine.
The Atlas Bible - This geographical unit uses the Bible as the starting point for a number of in depth studies of both human and physical geography. These include stories of King Solomon used as the stimulus for learning about trans-continent trade links and the tale of Jonah and the Whale as the window into the world of natural disasters.
The Culture and Heritage of our Pupils
The Windrush Generation - The National Curriculum for history states that children should study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066. Therefore, our pupils study the role played by the Windrush Generation in the shaping of modern Britain and Birmingham.
Ancient African Civilizations - The History National Curriculum also states that pupils should study a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history. Our pupils study a number of Ancient African civilizations in great depth, including Songhai, Mali, Great Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Kush.
The Islamic Golden Age - Similarly to our studies of ancient African civilizations, pupils learn about the so called Golden Age of Islamic Civilization. The Islamic Golden Age refers to a period in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 13th century, during which much of the historically Islamic world was ruled by various caliphates and science, economic development, and cultural works flourished.
- The Geography of South Asia - The Geography National Curriculum states that pupils should learn about a contrasting non-European country. Pupils at St. Michael's study the human and physical geography of Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh, including relevant historical knowledge such as the 1947 independence of India.
Our choice of whole-class texts in English is influenced by this curriculum driver. Pupils read high quality, age appropriate texts in which they can "see themselves". Books such as Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker-Rhodes, Journey to Jo'burg by Beverley Naidoo and Planet Omar by Zanib Mian provide our pupils with characters, plots and stories that they can relate to in one way or another.
Aspirations for Pupils to Achieve a University Education
Key stage two pupils learn Latin weekly. Studying Latin, a highly organised and logical language, much like studying maths, sharpens the mind, cultivates mental alertness, creates keener attention to detail, develops critical thinking, and enhances problem solving abilities.
Upper Key stage two pupils study Oracy and Debating. Like Latin, we believe this is a subject that will enhance any university application. Advanced oracy skills enable pupils to engage in effective group talk and to confidently talk in a public setting, something that will be key when being interviewed for a place at University or for a job.
Music is taught on a weekly basis, with all pupils learning to play an instrument before they leave St. Michael's at the end of Year six. From the ukulele to the violin, our children are taught about the power of music from the youngest of ages.
We have designed and implemented a number of initiatives informed by education research that have improved standards of learning and pupil enjoyment. Our approach to curriculum design has also helped improve teacher well-being by reducing workload and providing them with high quality resources that support teaching and learning.
Our curriculum materials have been designed by practising teachers, expert university academics and other school stakeholders such as religious leaders.
The curriculum has been constantly refined and altered in light of teacher, pupil and parental feedback.
Each subject is taught explicitly and is broken down into distinct units of study. We moved away from 'themes' (integrated curriculum) and instead teach foundation subjects such as geography, history and art as separate entities. By doing so, we can teach knowledge and skills at a greater depth rather than potentially spurious links between subjects and content.
Our foundation curriculum is taught using custom designed pupil curriculum journals. All pupil books are based on a consistent design and in line with the standard lesson structure (Five-Part Model) that we base our teaching on. Therefore, our curriculum is coherently planned and easily implemented, regardless of who is teaching it. The use of pupil workbooks and a standard lesson structure, serves to help develop staff in effective pedagogical approaches.
Bespoke pupil workbooks have been designed for the following subjects:
Oracy and Debating
Each unit of work and corresponding pupil workbook includes the following key features:
Knowledge organiser - A knowledge organiser is a document, usually no more than two sides of A4, that contains key facts and information that children need to have an understanding of before the end of a unit. It is a key planning, assessment and teaching document for teachers.
Pre and post-unit assessment - In order to gauge how much pupils have learned, it is not enough to assess their knowledge and skills at the end of each unit. We also need to find out what they know at the outset of a new topic so that we can identify more specifically the knowledge and skills they have gained during the unit. The pre and post-unit assessments are exactly the same and provide teachers with key information regarding the strengths and development areas of their pupils' knowledge and skills. This information subsequently informs planning and teaching.
KWL grid - Used in conjunction to the pre and post-unit assessments, KWL grids are a graphic organiser that helps children organise information before, during, and after a unit of study. They are used to engage pupils in a new topic, activate prior knowledge, share unit objectives, and monitor pupils' learning.
Key vocabulary and glossary - Learning vocabulary is a gradual process that often requires repetition. Key vocabulary is presented, defined and put into a context at the start and end of each lesson. Each lesson has a bank of vocabulary that must be explicitly taught in order for pupils to fully engage in a topic. Contextual vocabulary acquisition is further aided by the development of a unit glossary, which is added to and referred each lesson.
Graphic Organiser - Each unit of study culminates with pupils producing a visually stimulating graphic organiser to summarise the key learning from a topic. Not only does this aid long term retention of knowledge, it also serves to summarise the content that will form the basis of the end of unit essay.
Revision - Each lesson starts with a revision task and ends with an exit ticket. Both tasks require pupils to retrieve key information and help ensure that the essential learning outlined in the knowledge organiser 'sticks'. Revision tasks are also an important assessment tool for teachers as they provide them with key information about pupils' misconceptions, as well as an overview of what information has been retained and by whom.
Essays - Each unit culminates with an extended essay that is used to assess the information that has been retained, as opposed to a pupil's literacy skills. Essays require children to retrieve knowledge from across a whole unit of study and therefore aid the retention of knowledge. They also support the development of important skills such as the ability to reason, argue, persuade and consider multiple perspectives.
Talk For Writing
We are a Talk for Writing school. Talk for Writing, developed by Pie Corbett, supported by Julia Strong, is powerful because it is based on the principles of how people learn. The movement from imitation to innovation to independent application can be adapted to suit the needs of learners of any stage.
The Talk for Writing approach enables children to read and write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes within different subjects. A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’, as well as close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence, with the teacher using shared and guided teaching to develop the ability in children to write creatively and powerfully.
At St. Michael's, we underpin our pupils' English work via the use of a core reading spine of quality fiction, poetry and non-fiction texts, all of which are influenced by our curriculum drivers.
A 'St. Michael's lesson' has a consistent structure to it, known as the Five-Part Model. This involves the consistent use of the following pedagogical practices:
Part One: Set the Scene
- Revise previous learning
- Provide feedback based on whole-class assessment
- Share the learning objective with pupils
- Explicitly teach key vocabulary
Part Two: Direct Instruction
- Break learning down into small 'chunks'
- I do, we do, you do
- Use of models and scaffolds
Part Three: Hinge Question
- Formative assessment tool
- Multiple-choice question
- Diagnostic tool that provides the teacher with information about 'what to do next'
Part Four: Independent Practice
- Targeted use of adults
- Pupils work independently, using models and scaffolds where necessary
Part Five: Plenary
- Summarise learning
- Review learning objective
- Consolidate learning