At Castle we have worked hard to produce a curriculum that develops, engages and enthuses all our learners. Our aim is not just to equip children to remember facts or pass tests but to become lifelong learners with the independence and resilience to experience and learn about the world around them. Currently we are working hard to ensure that our curriculum is in line with the new National Curriculum which was introduced for Years 1, 3, 4 and 5 in September 2014, ensuring that we were also ready in Years 2 and Year 6 when it became statutory for them in September 2015.
At the heart of our curriculum are the Inquiries that children undertake each term. Each Inquiry starts with a question such as ‘What responsibility do we have to the planet?’ or ‘How can we make a difference?’. The questions are deliberately big and open-ended allowing the children, through the Inquiry, to offer different opinions about the best way to answer these questions.
Then comes the WOW Day which is a whole day when children take part in a range of learning opportunities designed to ignite their interest for the upcoming Inquiry. WOW days are varied and can include 'Alien Invasions' in the local wood as part of a 'Space' Inquiry or educational visits to places like Warwick Castle or the Living Rainforest. Whatever WOW Days involve, they are always fun and provide a great opportunity for children to be enthused about their learning.
Teachers plan a series of skills-based learning opportunities from different curriculum areas such as English, Science or Art. These opportunities are all linked to the Inquiry question and give children the background knowledge they need to develop their learning. We ensure that the relevant objectives from the National Curriculum are covered and each child's progress is assessed against these objectives. Lessons also ensure that children understand the different social, moral and cultural contexts that exist both within their direct experience and also in the wider world.
Once children have developed their background knowledge, they are given the opportunity to decide how they would like to take their learning further. Children decide on questions they would like to ask and then work either independently or in groups on their Independent Inquiry. Independent Inquiry is the child-led part of our curriculum - children decide what they want to know, how they are going to find out, and how they are going to present their learning. This part of the Inquiry is a great opportunity for children to learn independently; they are encouraged to make mistakes, ask questions and use a range of resources to find out what they want to know. We find it develops both independence and resilience as children are keen to use their own styles to answer their questions. The children are then given the chance to present their work which must provide an answer to the original Inquiry question plus answers to the children’s own questions.
Our Inquiry Curriculum encompasses the vast majority of what the children need to learn but there are instances where some learning does not fit neatly into the Inquiries. In these instances, time is set aside for discrete lessons where Learning Intentions are taught seperately.
In addition to our Inquiry Curriculum, we also put great importance on basic skills which are the foundations of a successful education. A systematic phonics programme, developed by Get Reading Right, is embedded with children reading and writing simple words from their very first weeks in Reception Class(es). Children are carefully monitored and support is given if children show signs they are beginning to struggle. As soon as the children are ready, daily Guided Reading sessions begin, teaching reading strategies, comprehension and, higher up the school, aspects of the writer's craft. For Guided Reading, the school uses the Oxford reading books 'Project X'. Homework in Literacy develops spelling, reading and vocabulary. In Numeracy, particular importance is given to mental maths skills with weekly homework focussing on developing children’s speed and confidence when solving questions in their head. Homework is monitored weekly and parents/carers are encouraged to work with the school in partnership.
As part of the new curriculum we have also introduced a new system of assessment for tracking children's learning. We have worked with a cluster of schools from B&NES and we will no longer be assessing using 'levels' in Years 1, 3, 4 and 5. Instead we will be looking at whether children are 'at, below or exceeding' national expectations. Teachers assess this weekly and, for those children who are below national expectations, extra support can be put in place quickly to help them catch up. Year 2 and Year 6 are still working on the previous curriculum so won't move to this new model of assessment until September 2015. Until then we will continue to assess them using the existing levels and both classes will undertake statutory SATs testing in the summer.
In addition to the academic curriculum we also place great importance on the wider curriculum including British values and keeping children safe. Through assemblies and our PHSE lessons children discuss a wide range of issues such as tolerance and respect for other cultures, how modern democracy works and the rule of law. This learning is designed to help them become citizens that can make a positive contribution to their world. We also highlight areas of risk for children and teach strategies for staying safe; these cover a variety of issues including road safety lessons, stranger danger, staying safe online and dealing with bullying. We are committed to helping children lead successful and safe lives both while they are with us but also as lifelong learners.
Through our curriculum we aim to develop independent, resilient learners who are inquisitive and have an understanding of the different societies and cultures from around the world.
Most of all we want our children to enjoy their learning in a supportive and enjoyable environment where they are able to achieve their best.
We follow the new National Curriculum that was introduced in 2014. Details of the full curriculum can be found by following this link https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum or, alternatively, parents/carers can make an appointment to discuss the curriculum with the classteacher.