The Ark mission is for every child to have the opportunity to attend university or pursue the career of their choice. This is the fundamental principle underpinning the Oval curriculum, complemented by our school values of Bravery, Resilience, Respect, Honesty and Aiming High.
The intent of our curriculum goes far beyond the outcomes seen at the end of Year 6. We have thoughtfully constructed a curriculum framework which focuses not only on academia, but also on shaping our pupils into confident, passionate, life-long learners. We want our pupils to continue their journey with a secure foundation of knowledge, skills, ideas and, most importantly, a relentless curiosity about the world around them. Thus, when designing our curriculum, we endeavoured to ensure it was broad, complemented by a wide range of experiences which provide pupils with far more than just academic achievement.
The curriculum covers all areas of the statutory National Curriculum and offers equal importance to all subjects – a move away from the more traditional focus on reading, writing and maths. Rather, these ‘core’ subjects are interspersed in all subject areas to allow pupils to flourish across a range of areas and develop multiple interests and talents.
The Oval Curriculum is not a rigid structure, but rather a framework of suggested content ready to be moulded and shaped by teachers and pupils alike. Whilst the core knowledge base is fixed, how this knowledge is explored and extended is very much reflective of individual cohorts.
The shifting demographic of our pupils underlines the importance of having a responsive curriculum which responds to pupils' individual starting points, existing knowledge and interests, as well as emphasising pupil voice in the learning cycle. Our curriculum is therefore continually evolving. Both teaching staff and the leadership team contribute, with a shared commitment to review and refine each year so that our pupils continue to receive a highly relevant education of the very highest quality.
Our curriculum is based on four key constructs:
Recent research in the field of cognitive psychology has had huge implications for what we understand about effective teaching and learning. In particular, it has highlighted the importance of a rich knowledge base in order to develop critical thinking: a crucial life skill not only in education but in day-to-day life. The idea that a rich base of factual knowledge helps pupils to make connections – and exponentially leads to further learning – is at the heart of the design of each curriculum unit.
Once pupils have a broad knowledge base, they need to explore, practice and master skills to allow them to apply this knowledge in a meaningful way. The Oval curriculum highlights these key skills and demonstrates how they are applicable in real life contexts. It is of crucial importance to us that our pupils are clear on how content relates to real life. This is integral to pupils developing positive learning attitudes from the earliest stages of their education.
Pupils' experiences are of paramount importance in the delivery of the Oval curriculum. They provide meaningful context to learning and make it ‘sticky’, giving pupils something to pin their developing understanding to. The curriculum details experiences that enrich and complement each unit and offer teachers suggested educational visits to enhance pupil understanding. These experiences also serve a different purpose: they allow our pupils, who come from differing backgrounds, equal opportunity to experience people and places that they may not have access to otherwise. Through these experiences, they will also develop key life skills that we too often take for granted: how to use transport systems, how to interact with others and how to conduct themselves in public – providing essential development of pupils both as students and active citizens in our society.
4: Holistic approach
In designing our curriculum, we have sought to maximise opportunities for pupils to make connections in content both across units and across year groups. This holistic approach is important for two key reasons. Firstly, as mentioned previously, learning acts as a catalyst for further learning. For example, learning about the events of World War 2 in history allows a better appreciation of fiction such as ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. Secondly, a holistic approach is beneficial for a pupil’s experience of their learning and their individual self-esteem. They become confident to ‘hit the ground running' with new knowledge, thus developing a positive self-image as both learners and individuals.
Impact & Assessment
The academy strongly believes that assessment should only be used to inform teaching practice and support learners, without additional pressure, stress or teaching workload. As such, we make frequent use of in-class assessment, where pupils receive live coaching, as opposed to written comments in books. We monitor pupil progress in the following ways:
- Low stakes quizzes and recall ‘check ins’ – Teachers use a range of recall tools and strategies to see what pupils can remember, identify gaps in knowledge and plan further teaching as required. Recall tools include: half termly quizzes, ‘tell the story’ using key words, summary activities, mind-mapping to promote links in understanding, and private assessment e.g. silent self-quizzes where can attempt tasks themselves and then self/peer assess to close any knowledge gaps.
- Termly assessments – Our pupils are assessed every term, whether using teacher assessment or more formal assessments following the Ark guidelines. Pupils are assessed in reading, writing, mathematics and across the breadth of our wider curriculum. Assessment takes many forms: marking, questioning, work scrutiny, observations and short tests (specifically we use Hodder Pira and Puma assessments). This kind of ongoing assessment is vital, as it helps the teacher plan what each child needs to learn next.
- Termly progress meetings – We use these sessions to moderate teacher judgements and to check children are making good progress. We centrally track each child's progress towards end-of-year expectations and update this at least once per term, using this data to inform the support we provide.
We update parents on their child's progress during parent consultation meetings and in an end-of-year written report. In addition to commenting on academic progress and attitude, these reports indicate attainment against national curriculum standards using the following categories:
- Well below expectations - working significantly below the end of year expectation
- Below expectations - not yet meeting the end of year expectation
- At expectations - working at the expected end of year expectation
- Above expectations - securely working at expected end of year expectation
- Well above (Working at greater depth) - Demonstrating deeper understanding (mastery) of the learning objectives. When this is the case, children do not move onto new content, but rather work to achieve a deeper understanding through problem-solving and applying their knowledge in a wider range of contexts.
We conduct the following national assessments:
- Baseline Reception – Children complete a short baseline assessment within the first few weeks of starting Reception class to find their individual starting point
- End of Year 1 – Children take an externally set Phonics Screening Test in June. They are also assessed on a regular basis using teacher assessment; you will be informed whether your child has met the required standard in phonics. If they have not met the expected level, they will be retested in Year 2.
- End of Year 2 (End of Key Stage 1) – In May of Year 2, children are assessed using externally set tests; these are marked internally by teachers. The tests cover mathematics, reading and writing. The writing assessment also covers spelling, punctuation and grammar. Instead of a level, children are given a scaled score out of 100, where 100 is the standard for that stage. These tests are used to validate the teacher's assessments in these areas.
- End of Year 4 (Multiplication check) – In June of Year 4, all children sit an online assessment of their competency with multiplication tables. This is an online assessment of mental arithmetic where each child has 6 seconds to answer a multiplication check question between the x2 table and x12 table. This assessment is used to validate the quality of the academy's mental arithmetic provision.
- End of Year 6 (End of Key Stage 2) – Children sit National Tests in May; these cover mathematics, reading and grammar, spelling and punctuation. Writing assessments continue to be based on ongoing teacher assessment; moderated locally. The tests are externally set and externally marked.