At Beechcroft St Pauls, we have worked as a whole staff to consider, from our vision and values, what our children require. We have reflected upon the needs of our community, as a school, locally, nationally and internationally and have developed key curriculum drivers that we believe will offer our children a rich journey through Beechcroft St Paul’s, equipping them with the skills and aptitudes necessary to prepare them for their next steps: Communication, Aspiration, Spirituality and Environment.
We have carefully considered the rationale behind the key drivers and believe it important to articulate a CASE for our curriculum:
Communication – We believe that language is the tool that unlocks opportunities. We will provide a language rich environment, that will both inspire and embed a rich vocabulary so that there is access for all. Building on this, children will speak with clarity, confidence and eloquence, connecting the words they know (vocabulary) with what they know (knowledge). Through collaboration, children will rehearse and strengthen their use of language, to become effective communicators. We know that having a rich vocabulary and being able to read securely offer a gateway to life-long success. Our children will understand that they can expand and deepen their language through reading: ‘reading is important, because if you can read you can learn anything and everything about anything.’ (Tomie dePaola) Children will capture their deepening vocabulary, knowledge and learning through recording in their books.
Aspiration - We want our children to have life-long aspirations and to achieve well, both in their academic learning and their wider personal development. We will build children’s self-belief by challenging their thinking and widening their perspectives so that they are able to articulate their hopes and aspiration for the future. Our children will gain confidence through purposeful struggle so that they build their resilience and are able to be courageous in their hopes for the future. We want our children to take measured risks in their learning, to grow courage when faced with unfamiliarity or setback and to be excited to try new challenges which expand and deepen their knowledge and understanding. We strive to activate a child’s natural curiosity, providing them with the opportunities, tools and content to become active learners, who are engaged and excited by their learning.
Spirituality – Our children need to understand themselves and take ownership of their thoughts and emotions. We will nurture all children, who through their learning and reflection can ‘still’ themselves. Our children will take an interest and delight in the world around them; they will be open to what lives beyond the material, which may manifest itself in faith. They will understand that differences between people should be celebrated and learned from. Our children will want to question the world around them in increasingly sophisticated and articulate ways and will seek to answer big questions.
Environment – We will give our children a clear understanding of, and respect for, the natural world around them. Our children will fully engage with environmental issues of our time, through both our curriculum and enrichment opportunities so that they may flourish and impact the environment positively. They will understand their influence upon the world around them - their local community, our geographical locality and the wider world. Children will communicate their understanding of issues with confidence, clarity and purpose and will advocate for a better future for all.
These curriculum drivers act as the backbone for our ongoing curriculum development. We are moving towards enquiry based learning, where each class will investigate a range of ‘Big Questions’ throughout the year, from Land of the dinosaurs – what clues are there? in year 1 to How does Islam’s past and present influence our lives? in year 6. Staff are currently working hard on developing this approach, with the intention for it to formally launch after February half term.
What does this look like?
Each of the Big Questions is supported by a curriculum driver, enabling the children to develop their skills in this particular area alongside the knowledge rich curriculum offered as part of enquiry based learning. Within each of the Big Questions lies a collection of further subject questions, which develop the children’s knowledge, vocabulary and enquiry skills in individual subjects. The order of the foundation subjects, which are blocked so that children are able to deeply immerse themselves in the question, has been carefully considered so that the learning is coherent and logically sequenced within each Big Question. For history, geography, science and RE enquiries, knowledge organisers will be created to support clarity over the expected knowledge as well as subject specific vocabulary. Sequenced roadmaps are being produced to clearly show the journey a child will have at Beechcroft, in each yeargroup as well as through each curriculum subject.
Year on year, Big Questions have been planned to ensure that knowledge builds both within a year group but also as children progress through the school. For example, in year 5, children answer the question: What did the Maya achieve?, which allows them to further develop their knowledge of jungles, which will be studied in the year 4 Big Question: Why is climate so important?
At times where there is no natural link between subjects, we do not force it, instead teaching a subject discreetly when appropriate. Sometimes, this is as part of a whole school Big Question, such as at Christmas and Easter, where the whole school seeks to answer a question that builds towards a collective understanding.
Whole school Big Questions
Whole school Big Questions are also used for wider celebrations that are topical, such as Why Do We Celebrate VE Day? and Road to Tokyo – What Makes a Great Athlete? These enable the children to join together as a school community and develop understanding wider than just their own class’ learning.
Learning Objectives Within Enquiries
Subject leaders for history, geography, science and RE are currently reviewing the learning objectives within each enquiry to ensure that the learning objectives set out that are progressive and coherent, building upon one another in each enquiry, across a year and vertically through the school.
Next Steps with Big Questions
Big Questions are in their infancy currently and will be worked upon carefully and reviewed throughout the remainder of the academic year and beyond to ensure they are as purposeful, engaging and coherent as possible. Some classes have started using the approach immediately, whilst others will be starting after February half term as part of our formal launch. Pupil feedback will be sought to ensure that the knowledge set out has been retained and to consider the children’s views of the curriculum. Subject leaders will be working with senior leaders to ensure changes to the curriculum are long lasting.
We look forward to sharing the work we have been developing, as we move towards using Big Questions to develop our curriculum – please keep supporting the school as we open our doors to you to share our work.