The ‘Big Question’ Curriculum
From September 2017
The curriculum at Frome Vale Academy allows students to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, whether it is here in Bristol or in the wider world. We are committed to providing a demanding and challenging curriculum that develops an appreciation of their own and different beliefs and cultures, and how these influence individuals and societies. We recognise the importance of nurturing a student’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural compass and, in particular, develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong and encouraging good choices. We do this through our Frome Vale Citizen, which supports our curriculum model.
An effective curriculum gives teachers, students, parents, employers and the wider community a clear and shared understanding of the skills and knowledge that young people will gain at school. The curriculum makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to students, parents, teachers, academy councillors, employers and the public, and establishes standards for the performance of all students in the subjects it includes. These standards can be used to set targets for improvement, measure progress towards those targets, and monitor and compare performance between individuals, groups and schools.
Frome Vale Academy uses the UK National Curriculum as the basis for our approach. This curriculum is, of course, adapted to take account of the needs of our children and their backgrounds. In Year 1 to Year 6 Class teachers teach: English (which includes reading, writing and grammar, and some aspects of Drama), Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE), MFL and DT and Art. Specialist teachers are involved in the teaching of: Physical Education (PE), Music and Computing.
Each year group covers six ‘Big Questions’ in a year. These are studied for approximately 5 weeks. Each ‘Big question’ aims to integrate the curriculum areas as much as possible to ensure we are taking a cross curricular approach and the content is meaningful.
Each term also includes a ‘themed week’ that addresses other important areas of learning. These vary from developing aspirations, to understanding how we exist in a wider community, to developing knowledge about keeping healthy and fit. The themed weeks planned for 2017/2018 are:
Term 1: International week, w/c 25th September 2017
Term 2: Community week, w/c 20th November 2017
Term 3: Aspirations week, w/c 22nd January 2018
Term 4: World book week, w/c 26th February 2018
Term 5: Science week, w/c 7th May 2018
Term 6: Fitness week, w/c 25th June 2018
For each ‘Big question’ children are expected to share their thoughts and ideas about what they know at the beginning. The expectation is that these will be displayed on a dedicated ‘Big question wall’ in each classroom. The class will add to this during the term with their learning from the following subjects:
Literacy – Power of reading text or another relevant text
The children will then answer the ‘Big question’ at the end.
At Frome Vale we have chosen to use one book to record our work in the following subjects:
This is to ensure that ideas can be connected between different subject areas and to give purpose to pieces of work.
Clear objectives will be displayed at the top of pieces of work which state the subject they have come from and what the objective is. E.g:
Geography: L/O Identify and describe what places are like.
Teachers will mark these pieces of work according to the expectations of the subject. See the marking policy for more detail.
There will be a separate folder for maths work and a separate book for literacy skills, spelling and guided reading.
At Frome Vale we recognise that literacy is something that underpins all curriculum areas. Our ability to read, write and talk well is at the centre of how we develop as individuals. It helps us to think, problem solve and communicate. Our curriculum provides opportunities for children to experience activities which will nurture their skills and knowledge in literacy and language. At Frome Vale we use The Power of Reading to engage children in high quality books and through creative teaching approaches. This recognises that children get ready for writing by having opportunities to talk about texts through drama, discussion or other oral activities before writing. From time to time, and in accordance with the ‘Big question’ we may use other texts in literacy to support the question, such as non-fiction books.
Literacy: guided reading
At 1pm all classes are expected to deliver a guided reading session of 45 minutes (1 hour in year 6). This involves a session of 15 minutes called ‘Everyone a reader’ where teachers lead the session looking a set text for the week. This may take the form of a newspaper, set of instructions, leaflet etc. This is to ensure children get experience of a wide coverage of text. The teacher will ask questions using specific question stems that will develop the children’s comprehension skills. During the next half an hour, the teacher will work with a small group reading a shared text that they will continue until they have finished. There will be an emphasis on using question stems that develop inference and deduction skills and word meaning in context. The rest of the class at this point will be practicing other skills such as grammar, spelling and handwriting.
At Frome Vale we use Letters and Sounds to deliver our phonics teaching. Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2007. It aims to build children’s speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven. Letters and sounds sessions take place in reception, year 1 and year 2.
At Frome Vale Academy we strive to provide our children with the opportunities to become global citizens, deepening their interest and wonder in exploring their own place in the world. We believe it is important to provide ‘Living Geography’ concerned with children’s lives, their futures and their world. Through our curriculum our children will develop a sense of their world at the local, national and global scales understanding the interconnections between how people and the environment interact. Fieldwork is an essential part of this. Pupils learn to think critically, think spatially, use maps, visual images and technology. They will have an adept understanding of their responsibilities within their own society whist also having a coherent insight into sustainability of a dynamically changing world.
Our history curriculum aims to inspire our pupils’ curiosity to know more about the past. History helps pupils to understand the process of change, the diversity of societies as well as their own identity and the challenges of their time.
Our history curriculum will equip the children to ask perceptive questions, think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments and develop perspective and judgment. As a Heritage school, we ensure that the ‘Big questions’ involve some exploration of the local area and how this might help to answer a question. This may also involve geographical skills looking at changes over time on maps and using documents to find clues about what life was like in the past.
Art and Design
“Art, craft and design embody some of the highest forms of human creativity. A high-quality art and design education should engage, inspire and challenge pupils, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to experiment,invent and create their own works of art, craft and design. As pupils progress, they should be able to think critically and develop a more rigorous understanding of art and design. They should also know how art and design both reflect and shape our history, and contribute to the culture, creativity and wealth of our nation.”
National Curriculum 2014
The core curriculum for art and design aims to ensure that all pupils:
- produce creative work, exploring their ideas and recording their experiences
- become proficient in drawing, painting, sculpture and other art, craft and design techniques
- evaluate and analyse creative works using the language of art, craft and design
- know about great artists, craft makers and designers, and understand the historical and cultural development of their art forms
Using our ‘Big questions’, we plan pieces of work that not only develop skills but are meaningful as well. We ensure that there is progression of skills across the Key Stages.
Science is all around us every day, wherever we are! At Frome Vale Academy we recognise that Science is a rapidly changing and evolving subject which affects everyone in different ways. We believe that Science is a way of developing children’s ideas and ways of working that enable them to make sense of the world in which they live through investigation, as well as using and applying process skills. Our children need to be able to build up a good scientific knowledge and understanding of concepts, an ability to investigate using the most effective scientific method and be able to communicate scientifically, both orally and in writing. We aim to develop in our children an enthusiasm, curiosity, excitement and positivity towards Science. We link this in the ‘Big question’, whilst ensuring a progression of skills.
By the end of Year 6 we want all our children to be able to:
- Have an awareness of the scientific and technological world today and be equipped to deal with it in the future;
- Express their thoughts and ideas with confidence in a way appropriate to the situation;
- Have acquired a growing understanding of the nature, processes and methods of scientific ideas;
- Have developed and be prepared to extend their scientific concepts of their world;
- Use their natural curiosity and developing knowledge of scientific approaches to tackle problems;
- Be open-minded and to use self-assessment, resilience, perseverance and their developing skills of investigation – including: observing, measuring, predicting, hypothesising, experimenting, communicating, interpreting, explaining and evaluating;
- Use scientific language, recording and techniques;
- Make links between science and other subjects;
- Know how to work safely in the context of science.
At Frome Vale we have embraced a maths curriculum, which places mastery at the core of it. Being part of the CLF, who were successful in being one of the 32 national maths hubs, we are working together to continue to develop a curriculum that recognises the importance of being able to reason mathematically, solve problems and be fluent in the key areas of mathematics. To support this we believe the use of models and manipulatives are of great value so that children make connections across the subject. The assessment of mathematics is carried out regularly, through classroom questioning and observation and, more formally in tests 3 times a year at Key Stage 2.
At the beginning of each day between 8.45 and 9am all classes are expected to do ‘bubbling maths’ where the children practice their arithmetic skills using formal written methods and an expectation to master mental maths skills.
When reasonably practicable, we use maths to answer the ‘Big question’, such as using data handling in geography to look at population change, measures to look at distances between countries, algebra using historical symbols such as the Egyptian’s number system.
Frome Vale Citizen (including RE, PSHE, British Values and Citizenship, SRE)
We use a range of teaching and learning approaches to deliver our Frome Vale Citizen Curriculum, which includes, PSHE, SRE, British Values and Citizenship, and religious education. Each year group has a Citizenship passport which outlines a range of experiences children are expected to achieve in that year group. These are included in the front of each child’s Citizenship book. (see Frome Vale Citizen policy). Each year group has a question that they will research related to religious education and will cover different religions across the year including main religious festivals. All children’s work for Frome Vale Citizen will be kept in an A4 book. Pieces of work should have clear learning objectives and be dated. Photographs of 3D work or collaborative activities, and visits in or out should also be included to build a full picture of the child’s learning.
Our PE lessons are delivered in alliance with Future Stars. This enables us to deliver a high quality fully inclusive curriculum that helps the children to develop the skills in the following areas:
- Gymnastics and Dance
- Net and Wall Games
- Striking and fielding
- Invasion Games
- Athletic Activities
Frome Vale Academy is using Switched on Computing to deliver computing skills. This helps us to deliver the skills such as programming and computational thinking. Take a look at the link to see all the units covered. Switched on Computing. This is currently being reviewed to utilise expertise in our secondary schools.
For further information on the National Curriculum go to https://www.gov.uk/national-curriculum