Our curriculum defines our school. It IS our school! We are tasked with sharing powerful knowledge with children on behalf of society.
Key to our approach is the democratising and socially enabling effects that powerful knowledge can have in equalising the deeply entrenched and pernicious effects of disadvantage. This gives a sense of urgency and mission to our work. Our approach opens doors for our children.
There are four components:
- Knowledge provides the driving philosophy:
The specifics of what we want children to learn matter. Subject-specific disciplines are respected, grammar in each discipline is given high status. Acquiring knowledge is valued as an end in itself. Acquiring knowledge cannot be left to chance.
- Knowledge content is specified in detail:
We want children to have more than a general sense of things. We want them to amass a body of declarative and procedural knowledge that is specified in detail
- Knowledge is taught to be remembered:
We embrace learning from cognitive science about memory, the forgetting curve and the power of retrieval practice. It is structured to build upon itself and sequenced with ideas that ‘rub’ against the pupil’s emerging schema to give a more nuanced understanding.
- Knowledge is sequenced in detail:
Our curriculum contains both horizontal, vertical and diagonal links. It is a 3D Curriculum that promotes understanding (reference: Claire Sealey). Careful thought has been given to ensuring the optimum sequences and order that will help develop secure schemas. Our linked ‘themes’ help children to understand cultural diversity, human development and evolution.
Ashcombe themed 3D curriculum overview
Our curriculum model works by teaching powerful new knowledge that relates to, and builds upon, what is already known. This supports children in developing schemas that will help them understand and interpret their world.
By specifying this core content clearly and explicitly, we are able to ensure that all children have access to this knowledge. We feel that powerful knowledge opens doors for all, but especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged. It is socially enabling and is one of our key drivers in reducing the inequality gap in both our school and in society today (reference: Tom Sherrington)
Curriculum content is organised under thirteen core ‘themes’ that run across the school. We systematically revisit key ‘themes’ such as, for example ‘Monarchy’, across the school, each time in a different context so that children’s understanding becomes denser and more nuanced. Selection of content under these themes is designed to ‘rub against’ the existing schema and thereby deepen it.
Alongside this specified content, runs our ‘Knowledge Enriched REAL Projects’ approach. This complements essential knowledge acquisition by enriching, deepening and transforming what is known. Developing knowledge and comprehension are key elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and so too are analysis, application and synthesis. Therefore, each child takes part in a REAL (Real Engaging Authentic Learning) project every term that takes an aspect of the theme and meaningfully linked knowledge content and uses it to create products, services or events that matter for a public audience.
The purpose of learning takes on a new dimension when we ask: where could this knowledge go? Who else needs to know this? Are there links we can make with the wider community? Who might be an external audience for what we’ve done?
We believe that it is possible to both meet the National Curriculum standards AND create authentic, ‘beautiful’ work (reference: Ron Berger). Children’s work should be of the highest quality and it should have an authentic audience beyond the classroom- work that matters as exemplified by ‘Austin’s Butterfly’.
The combination of powerful knowledge with REAL projects gives children, we believe, the ability to interpret and improve their world. It enables pupils to grow in to cooperative, useful citizens who can participate in the common good and democratic society (reference: Mary Myatt)
Key protocol in knowledge enriched REAL projects include:
- Multiple drafts and critique
- Student-created final products
- Essential questions
- An authentic audience
- Public exhibition
In summary, we like to think of the whole process as being a ‘continuum’, where Bloom’s Taxonomy is inverted and the learning process moves from left to right over time. All elements are important, but the sizes of each indicates both proportions of teaching time that’s needed and the order of learning sequences.
Implementation - This is how we do it here: