We believe that our core purpose as a school is not only to help your children succeed academically but also to teach them about the wider world and their role in the future. We want children to learn today the knowledge and skills required to be able to transform tomorrow. Therefore, at Portway, we have one simple statement that encapsulates our vision: Learning today, transforming tomorrow.
We have constructed a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all pupils the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.
How is our curriculum designed?
Our curriculum is designed to help pupils form subject-specific mental models within their long-term memories. Mental Model theory states that all knowledge is organised into units. A mental model is, therefore, a conceptual system for understanding knowledge. Each mental model is a way of organising a subject’s substantive and disciplinary knowledge in a meaningful way; it is an appreciation of how facts are connected and the ways in which they are connected. It is distinct from information, which is just isolated facts that have no organisational basis or links. Big Ideas help form the basis of the mental model. Big Ideas are key concepts that underpin the subject.
Each Big Idea has knowledge strands which help to strengthen the mental model. Learning knowledge in each of the strands allows pupils to express and demonstrate their understanding of the Big Idea. These Big Ideas and knowledge strands are returned to over and over again in different contexts so the pupils gradually build an understanding of them.
Curriculum Knowledge Maps
Subject leads have created Knowledge Maps outlining the subantative and disciplinary knowledge pupils will be taught in each knowledge category and when this knowledge will be taught. Knowledge Maps support teachers to maximise opportunities to make links across topics and subjects, helping to deepen an understanding of the Big Ideas.
Each subject’s curriculum planning documents help pupils meet the milestones by providing:
- clearly defined topics to study which ensure curriculum breadth
- the knowledge (both subantative and disciplinary) needed to build a mental model
- the vocabulary needed to articulate an understanding of the subject
How is our curriculum delivered?
We know that learning is most effective with spaced repetition, which is why throughout the year, children study numerous topics for each subject, allowing the Big Ideas to be revisited over and over again. We ensure previously taught knowledge is retrieved regularly, which increases both storage and retrieval strength. Continuous provision, in the form of daily routines, replaces the teaching of some aspects of the curriculum and, in other cases, provides retrieval practice for previously taught learning content.
How do we support teaching staff to deliver the curriculum?
Each Subject Lead is an experienced practitioner and, with the support of the Curriculum Lead, is responsible for devising subject mental models, Subject Knowledge Maps, and subject planning documents. Professional Development is provided through curriculum planning meetings between subject leads and teachers to help to build subject knowledge and to adapt subject topic planning suitably for each cohort. As a result, the curriculum can be successfully modified, designed or developed to be ambitious and meet the needs of pupils with SEND. The teaching of subjects is monitored and feedback from lesson observations, learning walks and work scrutinies etc as well as pupil voice feedback informs future planning refinements and developments – under the guidance of the Curriculum Lead. This ensures coherence and cohesion.
Does the curriculum remain as broad as possible for as long as possible?
The full curriculum is taught throughout the school. Subjects have been carefully timetabled to ensure coverage and progression. Each year group has a simple, standardised class timetable to maximise the use of learning time so that:
- Big Ideas/knowledge strands are revisited over and over again, in a range of different contexts
- All subjects have quality space in the timetable
- Opportunities for deep learning are maximised
- Teachers and pupils can become immersed in specific topics and the learning journey does not become disjointed and fragmented
- Workload is manageable and teachers have the time and space to focus on the topic
- Subject leads can support with planning and teaching and monitor the impact of the curriculum more effectively
- Cognitive load on pupils is balanced and opportunities for transference of learning into long term memory are increased
How does your curriculum reflect the culture and climate of your school?
Our school offers a bespoke curriculum, designed carefully with our children in mind and also with our vision of what education should be. In creating and developing our offer, we considered:
- Cultural bias- maximising opportunities for raising cultural self-esteem both in the subject planning and also in the wider environment, images, assemblies, Planning actively promotes BAME role models and challenges European bias where possible. British values are woven through pastoral care and SMSC as well as the academic curriculum
- Social and moral rights and responsibilities are taught in context through the academic curriculum as well as through assemblies, Votes for my School and the pastoral offer
- Rich experiences – trips, forest school, visitors, work week to not only support particular curriculum topics but also to provide wide life experiences to all and to support social mobility
- Strong SEND provision – bespoke curriculum within curriculum for pupils with complex additional needs
- Strong well-being offer to support children to manage and to develop their social and emotional literacy using a simple whole school approach – Zones of Regulation
How do you use research to support teaching?
We are an outward looking school that is keen to be innovative and purposeful. We value research and encourage our staff to take ownership over their own learning through engaging in research and reading that is relevant to their role and areas of interest. We have a Virtual Professional Development Platform alongside our physical Professional Development Resource Library to encourage, support and motivate our staff across the school.
Whole school Professional Development is closely aligned to our School Development Plan priorities and impact in practice is then carefully monitored. We use the EEF Mechanisms of Professional Development to ensure our planning, pedagogy and practice are well designed and where relevant, we adapt our professional development offer to incorporate findings from research, e.g. concepts from cognitive load theory or central role of timely feedback. Feedback from monitoring in the form of ‘Deep Dives’ further informs our professional development offer and additionally, we ensure bespoke and individualised professional development is provided through weekly planning meetings, mentoring and coaching.
We recognise the importance of research and the use of valuable relevant information to inform practice. We acknowledge credible sources and have used the EEF Toolkit to support us in devising our curriculum, enabling us to ensure it is bespoke, purposeful and engaging for our pupils. Our ECT offer is also built around a research focussed programme where teachers engage with a range of research as recommended by Ambition Institute, our delivery partner.
Based on information obtained from previous monitoring, we have embarked on a two year project centred around Embedding Formative Assessment. Through personal action planning and peer observation opportunities, we are working to empower our teaching staff to make confident decisions within their practice which in turn, lead to the best possible outcomes for pupils
How do leaders know if pupils ‘learn the curriculum’ and how do they track achievements?
Teachers use a range of formative assessment strategies daily to inform next step in their curriculum planning. Termly summative judgements enables, teachers and leaders to make judgments about curriculum design in order to ensure pupils are delivered a well matched curriculum to their learning needs.
This page was last reviewed in July 2023.