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Curriculum

Our Juicy Curriculum

At Yattendon our staff have a passion for a creative curriculum which is rich, demanding and develops the imagination through the creative use of media and materials. We believe that this is the key to motivation in learning and the growth of children's self esteem and enjoyment and their success as learners. The curriculum is the means of developing our vision and ethos of the school and helps generate a strong sense of team work and creativity in everyone.
 
At Yattendon our curriculum is designed to give cohesion, meaning and motivation, developing the commitment, curiosity and creativity of each child. This has been done by linking the learning experience into a meaningful whole. A thematic approach stitches together the individual subjects of the National Curriculum into a ‘seamless coat of learning’. It makes everything related and relevant and enables...
·         Learning in a meaningful context and allows for first hand experience and concentrates on the depth and breadth of the curriculum. 
·         Links to be made and ensures that children apply knowledge and skills learned in one area to others, thus reinforcing learning and increasing understanding and confidence 
·         Effective coverage of the National Curriculum and makes good use of longer blocks of time, enabling sustained work on themes covering more than one subject
·         Team work and detailed cross-curricular planning and promotes shared vision and consistency
·         Creativity in learning and encourages flexibility and the development of exciting learning opportunities through different teaching techniques and strategies, making learning vivid and real.
 
To fulfil our aims of integration and creativity we have developed a curriculum model based on termly topics or themes for each year group. These have been chosen to link in with the National Curriculum and act as titles to hang the programmes of study and learning objectives for all the different subjects which have been carefully allocated to the topics to ensure good coverage. Each term has a main focus taken from the Foundation Subjects to promote a broad and balanced curriculum and nearly all the learning will relate in some way to the topic. A very important vehicle to implement this cross-curricular approach is English. Relevant skills are taken from the Literacy Strategy and given a meaningful context through the topic and learning is enhanced and enriched. This happens in Science and Computing and to a lesser extent in Maths and requires detailed but flexible planning and a whole school approach so that important work is shared out and revisited.
 
We are very proud of our Curriculum. We believe that our Topics make learning fun and that if a child is motivated and challenged they are more likely to succeed. We design learning experiences with a strong narrative that makes what the children do related and relevant and hopefully rather tasty! 
 
In fact our school curriculum is a bit like a doughnut. You know those delicious rings with icing and hundreds and thousands on top...
The hundreds and thousands? -the colourful and exciting events and activities that tempt the children to school each day
The icing?- the rich and seamless curriculum that links and sweetens the day to day learning experiences through the term
The donut itself? – the caring and loving relationships that unify and nurture the individuals in the family of school life
And the hole? – the indefinable creativity that lies in the centre of each individual, making us whole and truly satisfying us
 
 
 
Year Groups
Autumn 2014
Spring 2015
Summer 2015
3
Greeks
Science: Materials; Rocks and soils
‘Good to Grow’ (The Body, Food, helping plants grow)
 
 
 
Here and There (Horley and a contrasting place in the world)
Science: Light and shadow; magnets and springs
4
Tyrant King (Tudors)
 
 
Science: Forces (pullies) & keeping warm
 
Inside Out & Outside In (Teeth, Moving & growing, how we see things)
 
 
Jungle Journey (People living in rainforests)
 
Science: Habitats and
changing materials
5
Changing Face of Britain
(Britain since 1950)
 
Science: Sound
 
Galactic Adventure
(Earth, Sun and Moon; Forces in Motion)
Carnival
(Comparing London and Rio)
 
Science: Changing State &
life cycles
6
Invaders
Science: Changing circuits; circuits and conductors
Another World
(Inderdependence of living things; microorganisms)
 
 
Islands
(Compare Isle of Wight and Haiti; Coasts, rivers and erosion)
 
Science: Reversible and irreversible changes; more about dissolving
 

September 2014 - What’s this new National Curriculum all about then?????
 
The new national curriculum – which by some margin is Michael Gove's most important legacy – has been widely criticised as hopelessly old-fashioned and out of date, with its emphasis on Shakespeare, fractions and grammar. Shouldn't today's children be learning essential skills that will enable them to find employment in 21st Century industries?
 
The short answer to the charge that the new curriculum is "old fashioned" is that it includes computer programming for the first time, so is hardly antediluvian. More generally, it isn’t nearly as “Victorian” as some of Gove’s opponents have suggested. On the contrary, the emphasis on building up children’s factual knowledge – which has been wrongly described as “rote learning” – is underpinned by the latest research in cognitive science and supported by a good deal of empirical evidence.
 
Let’s take the “rote learning” charge. To begin with, there’s almost no material in the new curriculum that children are expected to learn by rote, with the exception of their times tables (and maybe Phonics) and that was also true of the old curriculum. Yes, it’s a “knowledge-rich, subject specific” curriculum (Gove’s words), but the manner in which this will be taught is a far cry from the Gradgrindian stereotype conjured up by Gove’s critics – rows of children sitting in front of a blackboard obediently writing down what the teacher dictates. Unlike the old curriculum, the new curriculum isn’t prescriptive about how teachers choose to deliver the content. For the most part they’ll continue to teach in the gentle, child-friendly way that they’re used to. In terms of content, the main difference is that children will be supplied with a schemata in each subject. That is, they’ll begin by learning some basic factual knowledge that can then be built upon in a logical, systematic way. In Geography, for instance, this means learning the names of the seven continents, the five great oceans, the four points of the compass, the difference between latitude and longitude, the rudiments of map reading, and so on.
 
Critics contrast this knowledge-building approach with a skills-based approach in which children are taught all-purpose abilities such as “problem solving”, “critical thinking” and “creativity”. But this is a false dichotomy. The consensus among cognitive scientists after three decades of research into the development of the human brain is that you can only solve problems in a particular subject if you already know quite a lot about that subject. Higher-order thinking skills like “problem solving” and “creativity” aren’t abstract, stand-alone abilities that can be taught instead of subject knowledge, as some people mistakenly believe. Nor does teaching children factual knowledge inhibit the emergence of these skills. On the contrary, children only begin to develop these skills in a particular subject after they’ve memorised a good deal of facts about that subject. There’s no reason to believe children won’t begin to think creatively and analytically about, say, Music or Design and Technology in primary school, but they won’t be able to learn those skills without learning about those subjects. The development of these higher-order thinking skills in any subject goes hand-in-hand with learning a lot of facts about that subject. This is how the cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham puts it:
 
Data from the last thirty years lead to a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts and that’s true not just because you need something to think about. The very processes that teachers care about most – critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving – are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory (not just found in the environment).
 
As you’d expect, there’s a substantial body of evidence that the knowledge-building approach is more effective than one that dispenses with subject knowledge and skips straight to higher-order thinking skills like problem-solving. For instance, the American state of Massachusetts introduced a curriculum much like the new English national curriculum in its public schools in 1993 and the results were astonishing. Scores in the standard tests taken by 10-year-olds and 14-year-olds – the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – shot up and in 2005 Massachusetts children became the first to top the league tables in all four NAEP categories. When the bi-annual tests were repeated in 2007, Massachusetts topped the table again, as it did in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
 
Some critics of the knowledge-building approach claim it’s only suitable for white, middle class children – that the new curriculum is designed in Michael Gove’s own image. But the evidence from America suggests otherwise. As a result of its curriculum reforms, Massachusetts saw the attainment gap between children from different social and ethnic backgrounds narrow further than in any other state between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the NAEP scores of African-Americans and Hispanics improved faster than those of white children, and children from low-income families made similar gains. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child, Massachusetts is the state to move to,” wrote the American educationalist ED Hirsch in 2008.
 
The reason for this is obvious. Children of educated, middle-class parents pick up a good deal of knowledge in the home and that gives them a head start over their less fortunate peers when they begin their schooling. Unless the school compensates for this by adopting a knowledge-building approach, disadvantaged children will struggle to catch up. This was the finding of two Kansas psychologists, Betty Hart and Todd Risley, who set out in the mid-1980s to find out why a government programme designed to help children from low-income families wasn’t doing much to improve their grades. They looked at how parents talked to their babies and visited 42 families every month, spending an hour recording conversations between parents and their children. Then they spent the next six years transcribing and analysing everything that was said and revisited the children at the age of nine to see how they were getting on at school.
 
They concluded that the most important environmental factor in the development of young children’s cognitive abilities – and their subsequent academic performance – is how many different words are spoken to them per hour. Hart and Risley discovered that children in professional homes hear, on average, 2,153 words per hour, children from working class homes an average of 1,251 and children from welfare homes just 616. “Extrapolated out, this means that in a year children in professional families heard an average of 11 million words, while children in working class families heard an average of six million words and children in welfare families heard an average of three million words,” they concluded. “By age four, a child from a welfare-recipient family could have heard 32 million words fewer than a classmate from a professional family.”
 
It’s partly as a result of Hart and Risley’s research – which has never been successfully challenged – that there’s so much emphasis on enlarging children’s vocabulary in the new national curriculum. Schools are expected constantly to teach children new words, not just in English, but across all subjects.
 
There’s no doubt that the new curriculum is ambitious. One of its stated aims is to introduce children to “the best that has been thought and said”. That’s a phrase coined by Matthew Arnold. But it would be wrong to think that a knowledge-based education is only suitable for children at private schools or in the top half of the ability spectrum. As the example of Massachusetts shows, all children can benefit from this approach, regardless of background or ability. To dismiss it as right-wing or conservative just because it’s championed by Michael Gove would be a mistake. On the contrary, it is in keeping with the democratic ideal underpinning the introduction of universal, free education in Britain in the last century. The principle that every child should leave school with a broad base of knowledge, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, was the commonly accepted rationale for our public education system, as summarised by the National Education Association in the 1950s: “Making freely available the common heritage of human association and human culture opens to every child the opportunity to grow to his full stature.”

The most eloquent argument for the approach embodied in the new national curriculum was made by Robert Tressell, the author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, a seminal text of the British labour movement. To my mind, this sums up the spirit of the new national curriculum:
 
Civilization – the accumulation of knowledge which has come down to us from our forefathers – is the fruit of thousands of years of human thought and toil. It is not the result of the labour of the ancestors of any separate class of people who exist today, and therefore it is by right the common heritage of all. Every little child that is born into the world, no matter whether he is clever or dull, whether he is physically perfect or lame, or blind; no matter how much he may excel or fall short of his fellows in other respects, in one thing at least he is their equal – he is one of the heirs of all the ages that have gone before.


 
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