Curriculum Intent

Our vision for every child

 

We believe in every child’s potential to be a knowledgeable, articulate and successful individual.  Our vision is that when our pupils leave Ark Pioneer, they do so with real options: to go onto the best universities and courses in the country or t0 embark on the career path of their choice. Our school is built on six pillars, which are present in all aspects of our practice, setting our long-term vision and driving day-to-day decision making.

 

At Ark Pioneer, our Rigorous, Academic Curriculum offer provides each pupil with a solid foundation for further study and preparation for university. Our subject leaders craft a rigorous curriculum that promotes curiosity, develops a depth of understanding and includes a thorough base of content in that discipline.

 

Our teachers are passionate subject and curriculum experts with an excellent understanding of the intellectual journey they are taking their pupils on. Each lesson is underpinned by high expectations and teachers challenge every child while fostering a curiosity for learning.

 

We build on each child’s values, character and habits to support their academic and personal development. We teach self-discipline and develop a sense of responsibility in all of our pupils. This supports them to grow into thoughtful and engaged members of society, acting responsibly and making good decisions. 

 

 

 

Intent (ii)

Principles underpinning our curriculum offer

 

Academic focus for all pupils

At Ark Pioneer, pupils study a traditional curriculum, with an academic focus from Key Stage 3 through to our Sixth Form offer. In years 7 to 9, we offer a rich and varied curriculum, designed to prepare pupils fully for GCSEs and the ‘step-up’ to Key Stage 4. We have a strong focus on English, mathematics and science, with generous allocations for these three core subjects. Each pupil also spends significant studying the humanities and French. However, our pupils also experience a range of practical and expressive subjects including design technology, art, music, drama and PE every week. Computing skills are built in across our subject offer, our Values & Character programme and individual pillar days and enhanced by our Digital Strategy, ensuring our pupils are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology. This balanced curriculum diet ensures they develop into rounded individuals, with a range of strengths and talents.

 

Rigorous planning through a 7 year journey developing disciplinary thinking

Our curriculum is planned ‘backwards’ from university study in each subject and includes a thorough base of content. At each point the knowledge, conceptual understanding and skills that need to be mastered in order to move on are clearly defined in our curriculum maps, medium term plans and at a pupil level, in subject knowledge organisers and supporting classroom resources. Our teachers have a detailed understanding of the curriculum structure and sequence, recognising how each lesson’s learning fits into the pupils’ broader development within the subject.

Each subject curriculum promotes disciplinary thinking and explores the big ideas underpinning that discipline. Teachers develop a depth of understanding in each pupil, ensuring they are well prepared for future study, leaving no doors closed to pupils as they narrow their choices later in their education.

 

Extended school day facilitating depth and catch-up

We are lucky to have an extended school day which facilitates exploring core subjects in depth and catch-up in particular in reading, English and maths. We commit extra curriculum time to English and mathematics in every year group and train all teachers to be confident teachers of reading. This allows our pupils to quickly develop literacy and numeracy skills to a very high level, including improving their reading age, all of which increases their chances of being successful across every subject. Pupils who enter at below average levels of attainment and pupils with additional learning needs are supported to catch up, so they can access, and be successful in, our curriculum.

 

Assessment informs teaching & planning

We use assessment to support us in teaching our curriculum. Regular and spaced, low-stakes assessment allows us to identify misconceptions or gaps and to plan appropriate ‘immediate’ interventions such as re-teaching specific content or addressing issues with individual pupils or groups. Rigorous, challenging and fair tests of content taught each year allow us to gather accurate data, indicative of where pupils are in relation to national expectations. Both inform our review and improvement of curriculum maps and medium-term plans in each subject. This has been particularly important through the pandemic, supporting us to identify gaps in learning throughout virtual learning and the return to school.

 

Instilling values, character and self-discipline in every child

We devote significant time to instilling our school community values and to building on each pupil’s character and habits to support their academic and personal development. Through our Values and Character Programme our pupils reflect on personal development and relationships, consider what it means to be a British citizen and explore national and global issues. They are taught specific skills they need to succeed both at university and in the workplace. This includes developing key dispositions such as debating and presenting as well as embedding useful learning habits such as practice, repetition and recall through ‘copy, cover, check’. All of this is intertwined with teaching the value of self-discipline and developing a sense of responsibility in all of our pupils, supporting them to grow into thoughtful and engaged members of society, acting responsibly and making good decisions.  

 

Built in Enrichment Programme

We are proud that our extended school day includes two sessions of enrichment for our pupils in every year group. Every pupil is exposed to a variety of interests whether sports, arts or academic and has the chance to develop passions that will give them enjoyment throughout their lives. In addition, we subsidise instrumental lessons for all pupils and offer opportunities for our choir, band and instrumentalists to rehearse and perform regularly. Pupils play sports at lunchtime and our teams practice and compete regularly in local and network fixtures after school. Our pupils are encouraged to take part in school events and competitions from UK Maths Trust to photography through the year – ensuring aspirations for every child stretch well beyond the base curriculum offer.

 

Curriculum Implementation

Principles of Curriculum Design

 

We have considered carefully how our curriculum in every subject is designed, so that it meets the rigour we have set out in our vision and can be implemented successfully in every classroom. Our subject leads have crafted a rigorous curriculum that enables pupils to gain a true depth of understanding and a solid basis for future study through rigorous planning with their team and in many cases, building on Ark network curriculum programmes and considering the principles below:

 

  • Knowledge-rich: A rich and broad body of core knowledge is clearly specified for each subject discipline, selected for its power in developing expertise in the subject discipline. This empowers pupils to achieve in school and to live fulfilling lives, able to understand, appreciate, critique and, if they desire, change the world in which they live. Skills are domain-specific and their development is intrinsically linked with acquisition of knowledge.
  • Academically ambitious: The curriculum provides students with knowledge that they are unlikely to otherwise encounter or understand without a teacher’s support. The content selected is ambitious in order to challenge the most able and provide a rich and empowering education to all. The extent of knowledge provides a broad and deep grounding in subjects, so that students have a framework within which they can situate future learning, regardless of whether they continue a subject beyond Key Stage 3 (or 4). The curriculum is not narrowed by selecting knowledge solely for its utility in preparing students for later exam success.
  • Logically sequenced: Knowledge is ‘generative’ or ‘sticky. It attaches to pre-existing knowledge, creating connections in long-term memory and forms increasingly complex mental models (or ‘schemata’). In other words, ‘pupils learn new ideas by reference to ideas they already know.’ Therefore, within units and across the whole curriculum, knowledge is positioned to build on what has come before. The curriculum sets out a logical journey that students need to embark on to get better at a subject. In this sense, ‘the curriculum is the progression model’; it is the selection and organisation of knowledge to form a coherent model of intended progression in the subject. As pupils progress through the curriculum, they grapple with greater complexity and develop both increasing conceptual understanding and disciplinary competency. This does not mean the curriculum always starts with the ‘easiest’ knowledge, but with the most foundational or facilitating knowledge. The sequencing of content also aims to pre-empt and avoid common misconceptions.
  • Designed to support memory: Learning is a change in long-term memory. The curriculum is structured to help students remember, not simply encounter, the core knowledge they learn. ‘Memory is the residue of thought’, therefore, tasks are designed to ensure that students are thinking about subject matter. In order to disrupt the forgetting curve, knowledge from previous units is interleaved in future units and revisited through frequent low-stakes retrieval practice. The points at which students apply knowledge from existing and previous units are explicitly stated
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Our inclusive approach to curriculum aims to widen participation and engagement with our subjects long after pupils have left school. As a result, our curricula help pupils to develop an understanding of how they relate to the subjects they are studying, and use this knowledge to appreciate, critique and, if they desire, change the world in which they live. “We aim to build a diverse and inclusive organisation where everyone – staff and students – can do their best work and achieve their full potential. We want to reflect and represent diverse perspectives across our organisation because we know that doing so will make us stronger and more effective.” (Ark Diversity and Inclusion Statement)

Implementation (ii)

Structure of school day, Key Stage 3 offer & pupil grouping

 

Our school week at Ark Pioneer is made up of 34 timetabled periods. This is broken down into 32 periods of lessons and 2 periods of enrichment for every pupil; each of these is 50 minutes in length. Enrichment takes place period 7 on Thursdays and Fridays. In addition to this, pupils have 5 periods of tutor time through the week, each lasting 30 minutes. During this time, pupils study the Values and Character programme, which includes Citizenship development. Computing skills are built in across our subject offer, our Values & Character programme and individual pillar days and enhanced by our Digital Strategy, ensuring our pupils are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology. The weighting of subjects through each week and number of pupil groups is shown here:

Subject

Periods

Groups

Subject

Periods

Groups

English

6

7

PE

2

6

Maths

5

6

Art

2

7

Science

4

6

Design & Technology

1

6

History

3

6

Music

1

6

Geography

3

6

Drama

1

6

French

3

6

Enrichment

2

8

Religious Education

1

6

Values & Character programme

2.5

6

 

Our homegroups are mixed prior attainment, gender, primary school, EAL & SEND needs which we believe is the right balance to ensure every child genuinely develops a growth mindset. We work hard to ensure every child in these groups is motivated to achieve their potential and challenged and supported to do so. Each homegroup has a classroom base where most lessons take place, though they attend subject specialist spaces at specific times during the week. Each homegroup’s tutor is the main parental link and delivers our Values & Character programme to pupils each morning.

In maths and science, we have an adjusted grouping to ensure that pupils follow precisely the right curriculum based on their prior attainment. This supports accelerated progress and success in GCSE curricula in these subjects. We never communicate set numbers or discuss grouping with pupils, other than reiterating that the group they are in ensures they are challenged to achieve their potential and that we are working to ensure every child does well enough in GCSE to have real options and choices for their future.

Seven-year planning: Key stage 4 & 5 curriculum offer

Seven-year planning: Key stage 4 & 5 curriculum offer

 

Key Stage 4 Curriculum:  In Key Stage 4, our pupils will be exposed to a more grown up, sophisticated study of their chosen GCSE subjects. The disciplinary language and vocabulary, the difficulty of the concepts, the expectation in terms of homework and revision, will be unapologetically demanding. We ensure our pupils are well informed about the benefits of the English Baccalaureate academic pathway, including the development of cognitive skills and an understanding of the world around them, and we expect most pupils will choose this programme. In addition, each pupil will be interviewed wil have the option to choose two further subjects, including Art, Design and Technology, Music, Drama, Physical Education, Religious Education, History, Geography and Computer Science.

 

Key Stage 5 Curriculum: Ark Pioneer will open its sixth form in 2024 after our 2019 founding pupils complete GCSEs. We will offer A Level courses across a range of academic subjects following on from our Key Stage 4 offer with the addition of economics, psychology and sociology. We also intend to offer a number of rigorous level 3 qualifications, the Applied Science Professional Pathway and the Business Professional Pathway – which have been designed in close collaboration with partners from the commercial and public sectors and are complemented by a careers readiness programme, careers mentoring and business partnerships. We believe this offer will prepare Ark Pioneer pupils to attend the best universities in the country or embark on a higher level apprenticeship of their choice.

 

 

 

Preparing for Excellent Teaching: Co-planning and Intellectual Preparation

Co-planning and intellectual preparation

This Curriculum Map and each related Medium-Term Plan are vital in developing understanding of the curriculum development, sequencing and intent for all of our teachers and subject teams. These documents show how we interleave key knowledge and skills to ensure learning is embedded over the long term as well as setting out key residual and facilitating knowledge and the competencies the subject will develop in our pupils during that term. Our medium term planning ensures the development of pupils’ cognition within each topic and set outs a sequence of lessons that drive towards the end outcome.

Medium term plans form the foundation of weekly team co-planning, ensuring we deliver the curriculum consistently and continue to develop it, to ensure the success of our pupils. Co-planning is protected time for two periods for each week. Collaborative planning provides an opportunity to:

  • Explore the rationale for sequencing and weighting in the scheme of work
  • Discuss how knowledge and understanding develops through a lesson or unit of work
  • Agree key, pivotal questions for each learning and approaches to modelling
  • Discuss typical misconceptions and possible gaps in prior learning
  • Unpick model answers and develop consistency in marking and feedback 
  • Ensure overarching objectives and longer term development of learning remain a constant priority
  • Develop subject or discipline knowledge and expertise in planning

Teachers engage in intellectual preparation that builds on this co-planning, where they consider the nuances of pupils in their own groups and adjustments that are needed to ensure the progress of every child whether supplementary planning to support catch-up or close gaps, individual support or differentiation to ensure pupils with SEND or EAL make strong progress.

Consistent high expectations in every classroom

Consistent high expectations in every classroom

Our teachers are passionate about their subject, asking pertinent questions that deepen understanding and foster a curiosity for learning in every pupil. Lessons start with a purposeful Do Now reviewing previous learning. During every lesson, teachers allow adequate time to embed new knowledge, understanding and skills. Our teachers systematically check pupils’ understanding and act to correct any misconceptions and each pupil is provided with individual feedback aimed at moving his or her learning forward.

We create an excellent climate for learning in every classroom and believe that consistency in the structure of our classroom routines supports pupil progress and ensure that the same high standards and shared language are embedded in every classroom. We describe these routines as our Signature Strategies, shown on the right. In all of our lessons, pupils are encouraged to try hard and take pride in all aspects of their work. They participate fully in every lesson and embrace the challenges we set them

Supporting catch-up

Supporting catch-up

 

We have a programme of intervention supporting pupils who are behind on their reading ages. This takes a variety of forms, depending on the child’s year group and their reading age variance. Pupils who are furthest behind have a supplementary English lesson every week (their Art & Design curriculum is condensed, though providing appropriate foundation for success in key stage 3 Art). Additionally, pupils work in small groups on guided reading interventions to work towards reading and comprehending extracts suitable for their age. Pupils are also exposed to phonics programmes where this is a necessary base for them to develop their reading age. Programmes take place outside of the school day or are withdrawal from larger group English lessons.

EAL pupils who are at a very early stage of English learning have supplementary lessons after school to accelerate their speaking, reading and writing. Pupils with SEND have a Pupil Passport, which sets out strategies for supporting each child to be successful in every lesson. This feeds into planning and interaction and support for pupils in lessons. EHCP pupils with very specific needs have a bespoke curriculum where this is necessary to meet medical needs, which may include reducing the total number of subjects studied, but this is rare.

We know pupils SEMH needs are particularly vulnerable during the current period (and this is most prevalent need of the SEND pupils). We support pupils with a number of different mentoring programmes for examples, zones of regulation or talking for teenagers. Where needed pupils have time-out cards, designed to ensure they can self-regulate and get back to learning as soon as possible (teachers are trained in how to use these and regularly feed back on each child).

In addition, pupils who have significant gaps and have struggled to maintain learning and progress through lockdowns have Academic Intervention, homework and revision support after school, as well as small group and individual mentoring.

 

Embedding high aspirations: University, Careers & Enrichment

Embedding high aspirations: University, Careers & Enrichment   

We are committed to ensuring every Ark Pioneer pupil has high aspirations for themselves. A key part of this

is ensuring each pupil understands the impact that school and further education can have on their future life – something we explore regularly with pupils through our Values & Character programme. We also inspire them to think more deeply and more broadly about the world around them and the opportunities it presents. We guarantee each pupil access and exposure to the experiences that will help them to shape a vision for their own future and guide their decisions about their university or career pathway after school, meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks as they progrress through each Key Stage. We introduce and discuss further study, career options and aspirational role models. Guest speakers share their career insights with pupils every half term. All of our pupils visit a university each year (including where needed, a virtual tour), with visits increasingly tailored to individual aspirations as they get older. This gives every child comprehensive understanding of a range of careers and the qualifications, skills and experiences they need in order to pursue them.

Values & Character Development

Values & Character Development  

Our curriculum extends beyond our academic programme to provide strong foundations for our pupils’ broader development. Our programme of values and character development includes:

  • Supporting our pupils to develop their character, learning about nine personal attributes: Curiosity, Honesty, Altruism, Reflectiveness, Adaptability, Courage, Tenacity, Empathy and Responsibility through concrete examples
  • Developing their understanding of our community values which set the bar for pupils as they grow into young adults, ready for life beyond school and promoting the fundamental British values and an understanding and appreciation of diversity 
  • Provision for teaching pupils how to keep physically and mentally healthy and what it means to have healthy relationships as we grow into adulthood
  • Deliver a programme of Relationships & Sex Education that enables our pupils to have a positive view of relationships, sexuality and sex, embedding a culture of both personal and mutual acceptance and respect as they grow older
  • Preparation for life beyond school by teaching pupils to be reflective and responsible pupils, family members and citizens
  • Developing key dispositions that support independence including presenting, collaborating and appropriate digital skills and awareness

Curriculum Impact

Evaluating Pupil Progress & Attainment

The key consideration around whether the curriculum is having impact is that our pupils demonstrate progress over time. Regular, diagnostic assessment is embedded in our provision and coupled with termly formative and rigorous end of year assessments allows us a full picture of exactly what pupils have learnt and whether they are on track to meet/surpass national expectations. We review pupil progress by year, subject, group and at individual pupil level every term.  

 

Evaluating & Improving Our Curriculum Provision     

At Ark Pioneer, we are committed to continually improving our teaching and our curriculum, making intelligent use of data and our collective experience to achieve excellent outcomes for our pupils.

 

Ark Pioneer Curriculum Model - Annual Review: Each spring term, our senior team come together to consider Ark Pioneer’s overall curriculum offer in light of the Ark Base Curriculum. This forms part of our curriculum and staffing review and planning process, ahead of budget setting. The Ark Base Curriculum has been developed from an analysis of what the most successful Ark schools offer and provides a useful benchmark for each school’s provision in the network.  

 

 

Curriculum Review & Re-planning Cycle: We know that excellent planning forms the foundation for highly effective teaching and consequently, pupil learning. The most important component in planning high quality learning experiences is the thinking time put in at all stages and reviewing the curriculum offer is no exception.

  1. We review and refine our curriculum planning during the process of planning. Planning of curriculum maps and schemes of work in each subject are a key focus in senior/middle leadership line management meetings. Our Planning Feedback Tracker is a shared document, used to record feedback and actions taken to improve the quality of and progress through planning for that subject.
  2. Following each assessment, subject leads evaluate the effectiveness of the planning for each year and identify specific improvements to be made to schemes of work for the preceding term, including re-planning of lessons or units, re-sequencing and/or adjusting the time spent on particular topics.
  3. As mentioned above, a number of our subjects build on the base curriculum offered in the Ark Mastery Curriculum Programmes. This includes English Mastery, Maths Mastery, Science Mastery, Geography Mastery and the  the Ark Schools Music Programme. Our subject leads collate their thoughts on planning through co-planning meetings and lesson observations, and feed back to programme leads at least once a term. 
  4. Our English and maths leads attend network HoD meetings on a termly basis, during which time will be set aside to discuss curriculum revision and improvement.
  5. All of our subject leads who are crafting a curriculum from scratch have a link with a subject lead in another Ark school/school outside the network We ensure maximum opportunities to discuss their planning and for moderation and standardisation.

 

Collaborative Planning: As part of the follow up to co-planning meetings, teachers take notes for each year group and action changes in their planning. The subject leader may also make adaptions to planning based on discussion and evaluation of the planning and resources for each year group.