Curriculum Principles at City Academy

  • Curriculum principles

  • Rationale

  • ‘Big Questions’

  • Curriculum Checklist and Timeline

  • Tasks for Curriculum Meeting

Curriculum principles

The quality of the curriculum at City Academy is the fundamental to the school’s success. We have had a rare opportunity to design and build an exceptional, thought-through programme, which underpins student achievement and progress, influence and reflect the school’s culture and ethos, and provides a structure to enable generations of teachers to thrive and truly enjoy their work.

The key principles for and features of an excellent curriculum at City Academy are :

  1. Clear and ambitious in intent, so that all are clear as to the purpose and value of each subject
  2. Rich in powerful knowledge, language and ideas, all of which are specified, taught, assessed and securely learnt
  3. Exceptionally well-planned, sequenced and resourced, to ensure strong coherence within and across subjects
  4. Exceptional in its use of formative and summative assessment to support learning
  5. Supportive of teachers’ well-being, through ensuring a manageable workload and providing an appropriate blend of structure and autonomy

What is the rationale behind these principles?

Clear and ambitious in intent, so that all are clear as to the purpose and value of each subject

  • All subjects can articulate with clarity the purpose and value of their curriculum, through a curriculum mission statement which sets out an ambitious vision.
  • Intent includes furnishing students with the knowledge and skills required for exam success, but not be limited to this. Instead, subject teams have thought deeply about the wider value and deeper purpose of their curricula, in helping students to flourish at and beyond school.

Rich in powerful knowledge, which is specified, taught, assessed and securely learnt

  • Knowledge here can be defined as both factual and procedural knowledge (i.e. how to perform subject specific procedures or tasks). Therefore, knowledge includes those concepts, facts, ideas, stories, techniques and procedures which are important to know in order to have a deep understanding of a subject.
  • Powerful knowledge gives students the cultural capital they need to be able to take their place as informed, active citizens, be increasingly aspirational for their future choices, and excel in further academic study.
  • Desirable skills such as analysis, explanation, creativity, evaluation and independence of thought are only possible when a wide knowledge base is secure; all thinking involves connecting new ideas to existing knowledge.
  • Powerful knowledge includes knowing the language required to apply knowledge. Therefore, the best language for students to learn in order to apply their knowledge at each point in the curriculum should be specified, taught and practised.
  •  Because of these reasons, more emphasis than is typical given to knowledge and language, with a commitment to the idea that overall, students will be taught, understand and retain much rich knowledge and language.
  • Curriculum planning has defined and minutely specified the core knowledge and core skills that is regarded as most important for students to learn.

Exceptionally well-planned, sequenced and resourced, to ensure strong coherence within and across subjects

  • Careful and skilful curriculum sequencing and planning is essential if students are likely to secure and retain knowledge.
  • This required that the order in which students are exposed to core knowledge was carefully specified and planned so that concepts lead on from one another (particularly in hierarchical subjects, where knowledge builds upon necessary precursor knowledge, e.g. Maths, Science, MFL), or refers back to previous knowledge (in both hierarchical and cumulative subjects). A cumulative subject has a wider range of knowledge paths that can be taken through a course, e.g. English Literature or Art.
  • Effective sequencing also involved specifying exactly when and how core concepts are returned to so that they are retained over time.
  • Where it was sensible to do so, planning took into account the content that is being taught, or has been taught, in other curriculum areas at any point. Links between subject areas – for example where the same period is being considered in English, Art and History – are  planned, understood and capitalized on by teachers in each subject. Literature that has been studied in guided reading has also be carefully considered.
  • The provision of high quality resources to support curriculum implementation is our priority, and is a key responsibility of subject leaders. Highest priority resources may differ between subjects, but will include knowledge organisers, provision of models of quality work for key tasks, core lessons or activities, homework, textbooks and assessments.
  • Out effective curriculum therefore has a very clear and convincing rationale for what is taught, and the order that it is taught in. It clearly identifies core concepts, knowledge, ideas, words and skills, and specifies when students are to be introduced, and when / how they are returned to.

Exceptional in its use of assessment to support learning

  •  Effective teaching uses assessment and feedback constantly and fluidly in the classroom, through discussion, questioning and activities which require students to demonstrate learning. In some subjects, particularly practical subjects at KS3, it is sensible that this is the dominant form through which assessment takes place.
  • A standardized approach to formative (interim) assessments within subjects is devised, so that it is consistently high quality and ‘manageable, meaningful and motivating’.
  • ‘Manageable’ here means efficient and achievable for teachers, with a sensible expectation of workload. ‘Meaningful’ means that assessments allow valid and reliable inferences to be drawn about what students know or can do, and what their next steps should be. ‘Motivating’ means that assessments should provide opportunities for accomplishment and challenge, to ensure that students benefit from the positive impact on motivation which comes from gaining a high success rate.
  • For formative and summative assessments, clear procedures are specified in subject assessment policies, including guidance on how the information gathered is to be shared and used to adapt future teaching.
  • Formative assessments take a variety of forms, including short answer questions and multiple choice questions. They are not solely a watered-down version of the summative assessment, but aim to isolate and target the most important knowledge and skills with precision.
  • Summative assessments are regularly standardized across a subject in terms of content and conditions, and are expertly designed. This means that they have high levels of validity (they test understanding of the core knowledge and skills as specified in the curriculum), and reliability (they allow the teacher to make reliable inferences about what a student has learnt and where gaps remain).
  • Well-designed formative and summative assessments include cumulative elements – that is to say, they include items which refer back to previous learning and content. This is designed to aid retention and ensure that knowledge is secure over time.
  • Standardised and carefully designed formative assessments  allow leaders to collect in raw data for vulnerable students, and therefore gain a clearer picture of the specific content which these students are not grasping.
  • It is the responsibility of school leadership (at subject and senior level) to ensure that high quality standardized formative and summative assessments are in place for each course that is delivered.

Supportive of teachers’ job satisfaction, through ensuring a manageable workload and providing an appropriate blend of structure and autonomy

  • An effective curriculum means that a teacher is always clear as to what needs to be taught, in what order, to what time scale and how / when this is to be formatively and summatively assessed.
  • This information is provided through Schemes of Work, Subject Assessment Policies and Subject Assessment Calendars – in place for each subject taught.
  • An excellent, centrally planned curriculum means that teachers are free to concentrate more of their attention on how to deliver content with skill, precision and energy.
  • Core resources  – including formative and summative assessments, model activities, SoW sequences and core activities – are coherently planned, excellent quality, and easily accessible to all teachers of that course.
  • Teachers are supported in the best ways to deliver the content of the curriculum through regular opportunities for training, sharing and discussion with other teachers of their subject wherever possible. Opportunities for teachers to access training and have these discussions within faculties and subject areas are essential and are planned into whole school and faculty meeting time.
  • It is also important that many teachers benefit from and enjoy having control and autonomy over the specifics of their work, such as how to tailor content to suit a particular class. Curriculum materials and approaches therefore build in flexibility where possible and appropriate, aiming to foster and not stifle teachers’ sense of professional agency and autonomy.
  • Curriculum content is reviewed regularly by subject teams, with teachers invited and able to contribute feedback, views and suggestions for changes or improvements.