Winton Curriculum Rationale
At Winton we have designed our own curriculum and a unique approach to delivering it which is in line with the new demands of the National Curriculum. By designing a creative curriculum, we have given teachers the freedom and empowerment to think imaginatively about the best way to combine subjects and inspire learning. We are deeply aware that children only get one chance at their primary education and our Ethos and Values reflect our commitment to ensuring that all children reach for the highest levels of personal achievement and development.
Throughout the curriculum, opportunities are provided to develop skills and enable children to demonstrate what they have learnt. Skills are progressive and opportunities broaden across the key stages. The skills, which are linked to the national curriculum, ensure clarity and educational purpose. Carefully chosen curriculum drivers enable us to create a curriculum that is unique and relevant to our learners. These drivers are aspiration, community and enquiry.
The bedrock of a good education is the secure grounding in the skills associated with reading, writing and maths. We promote a love of reading through well- resourced and attractive reading environments with carefully selected books to motivate and engage children. Teachers model reading and through book talk immerse the children in the text. In KS1 and Early Years we use Floppy's Phonics as part of our phonics teaching.
At Winton, we begin to develop the skills required for writing early and encourage children to become successful writers. Alongside the national curriculum, we have developed an approach to writing based on Pie Corbett’s ‘Talk for Writing.’ This approach helps the children to become familiar with different genres and features of writing. High-quality modelled texts are shared which contain a range of “Exciting sentences.” These help children to write a range of sentences using a range of punctuation. Our teaching also focusses on the grammatical skills children need to be effective writers. To meet the demands of the new curriculum for spelling we follow the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ spelling scheme.
In mathematics we have developed a clear progression of skills. Within these we have identified mental skills required in order for children to have secure times table knowledge by the end of year 4. We adopt a concrete, pictorial, abstract method of teaching calculations.
Learning Without Limits
At the heart of how we teach is our commitment to an approach that is aligned with a research project called ‘Learning Without Limits’. It has a core belief that children learn and develop at different rates and that the traditional grouping model and an expectation of linear progress do not take account of this as they can put a ceiling on a child’s learning. We firmly believe that this approach will result in pupils being engaged and excited by what they learn thus enabling them to make the best progress.
The five principles that we adhere to are:
Enlivening learning through authentic & relevant experiences
Listening to children
Enlivening learning through authentic & relevant experiences
Each topic begins with an exciting launch where opportunities are planned to provoke children’s interests and hook them in to their learning. Wherever possible, we also link English learning to these topics to give writing a genuine purpose and real-life audience. Real-life maths opportunities are also implemented e.g. data collection or planning an event with a given budget.
The topics are enhanced by home learning projects which are fun and practical for families to do together e.g. build a volcano or construct a medieval castle. All topics culminate in a landing which pulls together all of the learning. Once a term, there is a real-world outcome which has an impact beyond our immediate school community of pupils, staff and parents. Examples of a real world outcome may be the screening of a film in the cinema to the public, a museum in a pop-up shop which is open to the public, the creating of an electronic nature trail for the public to use or a workshop and puppet show/presentation to pre-school children.
Listening to children
Ensuring that pupil voice is part of classroom practice means that children are engaged with their learning. This area is often closely linked to choice and steering learning; however, it can be more than allowing pupils to steer a topic in a certain direction. It can also be ensuring that our planning takes into account their interests and the latest crazes as well as current affairs and world events which the children are engaged with or excited by.
This principle is one of the most radical changes to established primary practice. It includes providing choice to pupils in a variety of contexts. This could include choice of who they work with, choice of where to work or the method they use to achieve a task. Pupils may choose the level of support they require to be successful or they may choose the level of challenge. By the time children reach years 5 and 6, they should be ready to make choices about the level of challenge that is appropriate to them. Sometimes younger children will be able to do this but at other times they will not. Their experiences however should prepare them for making sensible learning choices. This will always include access to choice e.g. how they choose to complete a task even if it is not about the level of the task itself. All children should have an education that does not pigeon hole them into an attainment group and fix a ceiling on what is expected of them. For examples, no child should perceive themselves as being in the bottom group for a subject. Sometimes children may do the lower task but they should know that this is not a daily expectation as sometimes they will have opportunities to complete harder challenges. We believe that ability is not a fixed trait: this complements our Growth Mindset approach which is referred to later in this document.
By giving children choice, teachers still have ownership of children’s progress. Teachers must be aware of pupil’s current attainment and be prepared to re-direct or direct them to an appropriate challenge to ensure they are doing work that is appropriate for them. In addition, if a child chooses to sit next to someone and their choice means they cannot concentrate, then the teacher must address this and support the child to understand why the choice did not work and how they would approach it differently in future. In the early stages of any Learning without Limits approach this is a likely misconception and we have worked hard at Winton to ensure that staff understand that children having more choice does not mean the teacher has less ownership or control.
Choice is also about steering the learning (as mentioned previously). We have changed our planning approach, particularly to topics, to ensure that staff have time to enable pupil steering. This allows the topic to go in a direction that interests the children e.g. if studying the Anglo-Saxons the children can choose between researching farming, homes or clothing. We have found children need a lead in to these choices rather than making them cold as they may not understand the choice if it is not clearly illustrated to them. On a day to day basis, pupils may be able to steer the learning with their interests. For example, recently in Year 3, children were learning about non-fiction texts and learnt a talking text about animals. These texts were tailored to the individual classes’ interests i.e. one class text was about giraffes whilst another was about meerkats.
Children should have some ownership of where they sit and who they work with. This does not necessarily mean they have to sit with children who are doing the same task. Children are encouraged to collaborate and help each other to understand a concept or complete a task, even if they are not doing exactly the same activity. Research shows that peer collaboration allows children to develop their understanding through articulating their thinking. Children highly value the feedback from their peers and are motivated to act upon it.
We recognise the importance of all forms of feedback which we use to promote learning. Throughout the school we have an agreed general marking code and a SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) code for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, which the children are familiar with.
Self-assessment has been part of our practice for many years and has included initiatives such as Assessment for Learning. At Winton we believe good success criteria remove the context and are process related, helping children to complete a task. Pupils should be involved in the co-construction of success criteria and the evaluation of work against the success criteria. Learning stops are used during lessons to support children in self-assessment. Where children are assessing in relation to success criteria, emphasis is placed on the quality of their work rather than just the inclusion of the success criteria. Children are continuously given opportunities to respond to teacher/peer feedback as well as assess their own work.
Our approach to self-assessment is more than this though: it is about involving pupils, and their families, in learning conversations. Pupils and their parents need to know what the next steps in learning are for the child and how they can achieve these. With this in mind, we want children to be involved in assessing their own successes and reporting these to parents as part of their parent consultations and reports.
In school we have worked hard to promote a growth mindset which underpins our approach to teaching and learning. Growth mindset is based on the belief that everyone can change and grow through application and experience. We teach pupils that changes occur in the structure of the brain as they learn to do new things. When they first start to challenge themselves it may seem hard but if they keep persevering then challenges become easier. Praise is focused on the effort children have given, rather than their achievement. Feedback, even if critical, is seen as an opportunity for learning and children respond positively accepting the fact that their first try isn’t always the best. Children are given opportunities to continuously review and improve their work with purple polishing pens. Rather than being seen as a failure, mistakes are seen as an opportunity for learning. We have tried to embed that there is no such thing as “I can’t do it.” Instead we say that “I can’t do it …yet”.