To see the exciting curriculum offered at St Mary’s please see the curriculum overview page and the individual subject pages.
“We are passing on the discoveries and work of the previous generations to the next whilst empowering them to add to this body of knowledge in the future.”
Mark Enser, 2019
Our curriculum is designed with knowledge at its heart to ensure that children develop a strong vocabulary base and understanding of the world. The curriculum promotes long-term learning and we believe that progress means knowing more and remembering more. We have developed a curriculum built on current research regarding how memory works to ensure that children not only have access to ‘the best that has been thought and said’ but are taught this in a way that ensures children can remember the curriculum content in future years. We make use of knowledge organisers (which are displayed on class pages on class dojo for parents) to ensure children know exactly which information is expected to be learned over the course of their study in a particular subject. One of the central aims of the curriculum is to ensure that our pupils are both “interesting and interested”. We want them to be ‘interesting’ to talk to, because they know a great deal about the world and ‘interested’ in finding out more. We understand that knowledge is ‘sticky’, in other words, the more pupils know the easier it is for them to know more. This is why we place particular emphasis on children knowing by heart and building rich webs of knowledge as they progress through the curriculum.
What is a blocked curriculum?
A blocked curriculum is a way of timetabling Science and the foundation subjects into weekly or fortnightly blocks. Block teaching allows for these subjects to be taught in equal equity and have quality focused time. It allows us to ensure that no single subject or subjects are given reduced attention and that no subjects are missed from the curriculum. The blocked curriculum approach gives our children a more focused and immersive learning experience, one which enables their knowledge to become more deeply embedded as part of our knowledge-rich curriculum.
Which subjects are taught on a weekly basis and as part of the blocked curriculum?
Science, History, Geography, Design and Technology, Art and RSE all form the subjects taught in the blocked curriculum. Some of our subjects are not taught as blocks due to them being provided on a weekly basis. These subjects are PE (including swimming), French (KS2), Maths, English, Music, Phonics, Shared Modelled whole Class Reading, spelling, and RE.
How does a blocked curriculum impact our staff and children?
- Allows for staff to focus on quality implementation, as the intent of each block is pre-determined.
- Staff spend time ensuring there is effective building of sequential knowledge, with short time periods between adding new knowledge to existing knowledge
- Allows staff to address misconceptions quickly
- Maximises learning time as there is little or no afternoon transitions
- Stronger assessment judgements as it allows teachers to focus on a pupil’s progress in one curriculum area at a given time
- Improvement on staff work-load and well-being as they can focus on fewer subjects in more detail, creating high quality learning experiences for our pupils
- More in-depth discussions during their Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time about the blocked curriculum area allows strong collaboration and equality of provision across the year group. By planning in this way, it enables those who have stronger knowledge to share it effectively at the planning stages with their colleagues.
- Children make quicker and stronger links with the blocked teaching time as there is more time for them to think about the lesson’s knowledge instead of moving on to another curriculum area within the same afternoon.
- Quizzing is deliberately planned in so that the children have plenty of opportunities to recall the key knowledge in the subject areas. . These quizzes occur throughout the year and is further enhanced by the teaching and learning strategies deployed in the classroom to allow children to recall the information frequently.
How does a blocked curriculum support memory?
Science and the foundation subjects have been deliberately designed by St Mary’s to progress and build on prior knowledge. The key knowledge has been identified by our subject leaders so that it is very clear to our teaching staff what the children must know by the end of the block. In doing this, it has improved staff subject knowledge in the blocked area as they have more time to invest into exploring the subject’s content. This immersive teaching experience reduces the time between reviewing prior knowledge and introducing new knowledge which allows for stronger connections in the brain (referred to as a schema). When these neural networks become stronger, children can recall information quicker which helps them to access their learning and build on better. When designing the curriculum, overarching concepts across the school have been woven to support with stronger links within subject areas such as democracy in History and transport in Geography. Furthermore, our teaching staff are trained to deploy the best Teaching and Learning strategies which enable effective pedagogy to maximise knowledge recall.
How does a blocked curriculum enable us to teach disciplinary and substantive knowledge?
Through external and internal expertise, disciplinary skills have been identified for Science and the foundation subjects. These are introduced from Year 1 and continue until Year 6. The disciplinary skills are posed to children as ‘What does a good (insert Historian, Geography, Scientist) do?’ Each lessons reviews the subject’s disciplinary skills and then homes in on one skill which is the focus for that lesson. Although the skills are explicitly taught from Year 1, the Reception children are given the opportunity to practise some of the skills implicitly such as fieldwork in Geography or observing in Science.
Substantive knowledge is identified on medium-term planning so that teachers have clear expectations about the outcomes of the unit. Each lesson has a question for learning which aims to continue to teach the children about the disciplinary skill they are practising and the piece of substantive knowledge which is outlined in that lesson. The number of lessons in a block varies as it depends on the amount of substantive knowledge that needs to be taught in that unit. The children have the opportunity to showcase all of the substantive knowledge from the block in a final piece called the ‘reflection’.
What if a child is absent and misses an entire unit?
The Knowledge Organiser for that unit replaces that child’s following weeks homework so that they can complete a mini project on that subject area. The parents are directed to the parental support for Knowledge Organisers on the school’s website. The child will have a follow-up conversation about the knowledge on that knowledge organiser with the teacher and/or teaching assistant in the class. The child will take part in further quizzing on that subject; any gaps or misconceptions are then addressed as they are with any of the children within the class.
How does a blocked curriculum support Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) learners?
The immersive blocked curriculum reduces cognitive overload for our SEND learners as one curriculum area becomes the focus for the week or fortnight. If any of these learners are taking part in an intervention, the teachers carefully adjust their timetables so that key learning is not missed.
How do we support pupils who do not have secure knowledge in place?
- Additional support within school will be provided to these children, designed to aid the practise of the learnt knowledge.
- Support is provided at home with Knowledge Organisers sent out the week prior to the subject being taught.
- Additional recall checker to ensure children have embedded knowledge.