Our curriculum has been described as being highly innovative and outstanding by Ofsted, we are often asked to share our ideas through training and conferences and the National College for School Leadership has recently used us as a Showcase School.
Nine years ago we took a calculated risk and made a decision not to follow the set instructions but to teach according to the interest and needs of our children. Our physical environment has been especially designed to maximise opportunities for learning.
We use the National Curriculum as a structure for the content of learning and teach it in a way that most engages the children. We ask what they are interested in and would like to investigate, then we base a topic around their ideas, linking it to the attitudes, knowledge and skills they need. We make learning as experiential and hands-on as possible.
This often means learning outside the classroom through activities in our outside areas, cooking, role play and enterprise schemes. The people who teach these areas in the afternoons also support the children in the classrooms during the mornings so they have a thorough understanding of the National Curriculum and the learning that is being fostered each week. They are then able to reinforce the relevant knowledge and skills by helping the children to apply them in a real life situation. This shows the children how their learning is relevant and useful which is very motivating for them and gives them an enthusiasm for learning more. Here is a small selection of examples:
English Language development is an essential part of the curriculum as it forms the basis for communication and learning. Speaking, listening, reading and writing are developed through a range of activities including exploration in our outside areas and local environment. Other opportunities for writing may be created through trips to places of interest, role play, puppet plays, books, stories, poetry, pictures, games, tapes, discussions, drama, displays, assemblies and I.C.T. For instance, we may use an imaginative adventure into our wildlife garden as the starting point for creative writing, or the plants in the sensory garden as a stimulus for exploring describing words.
We also link English activities to the topic being explored in class, so as to make the learning relevant and fun. We teach reading using a structured system that is grouped into ability bands. We have a Home Reading Link whereby parents and teachers share more actively as partners in the process of teaching children to read. Books are sent home accompanied by a booklet in which teachers and parents can maintain a dialogue reflecting the child’s progress, success and needs.
Children are also encouraged to take home a book of their choice from the class library to share with members of their family. There is a class reading/writing time every day, in which we use “Jolly Phonics” to teach letters and words, and group reading times during the day. In 2010 the Friends of the School set up a very popular travelling library which is open monthly for children to choose and return books.
The role play area is particularly useful for teaching literacy as children make and read signs, brochures, instructions, lists and orders in a way that makes reading and writing motivating and purposeful. When children understand why a skill is useful, they want to learn and practise it. We teach KS1 Phonics and Reading Schemes, Phonics Year 1 Jolly Phonics Letters and Sounds Phonics Year 2 Jolly Phonics and Codebreakers Reading Schemes . We also use a variety of published reading scheme books which are grouped into ability bands. The reading schemes are Oxford Reading Tree, Collins Big Cat, Oxford Literacy Web and Project X.
Handwriting and spelling are very closely linked so we teach our children to form letters correctly right from the start. We use the following script, where all letters start on the line: When children have learnt to form individual letters, they are taught to make simple joins. Capital letters are introduced when knowledge of lower case letter is secure. It is also important to teach children how to hold a pencil in the way that enables a comfortable writing style.
We follow the National Curriculum to ensure good progression in Maths. Children learn when they are having fun, so this is an important part of our maths lessons. We use challenges, games (including playground games), activities and practical problem solving to develop a range of mathematical skills. For instance, an Easter Egg Hunt in the field and wildlife garden was a fun way of teaching counting in 1s, 2s, 5s and 10s, multiplication and division, mathematical vocabulary, and problem solving. Children are far more likely to understand and remember “equal” when it is related to something yummy that needs to be shared fairly! Similarly, when we teach bonds to 10, and that subtraction is the inverse of addition, we play skittles as an entertaining and practical way of demonstrating this. Activities like these also introduce maths as a useful and necessary part of everyday life, and help children to understand its relevance. Learning through problem solving ensures a greater depth of understanding that can be transferred into a variety of contexts.
Children are naturally curious and we build upon this innate ability so that they learn and work logically. We use our extensive resources, including our excellent outside areas, to give children first-hand experience of exploring and discovering. For instance, during a project on comparing environments and understanding habitats, the children explore the different areas of the dry barren playground and wall, the pond, the field and the lush wildlife garden, discovering creatures and recording what they have found. As well as promoting scientific skills and knowledge this also develops areas of maths, geography, art and literacy, and the children are motivated and happy in their learning.
Children love making things! We develop their skills in designing and making by helping them to understand the properties of the materials, and by giving them practical and problem solving activities that are linked to topics. For instance, we make robots during a maths project on 3D shapes, different wheeled vehicles during a science project on force, and wind-up mechanisms during a project on mini beasts. Children are taught how to apply the complete design process. They draw their design, noting what materials they need, they make the project, and then they evaluate it, saying what works well and where they could make improvements. Many of our DT projects are based in our outside areas and Eco-School work.
The children have a selection of gardens which they have designed (Art and Design) and maintain themselves.
They are responsible for making this sustainable by generating funds, making their own compost and saving water. They grow fruit and vegetables which they cook and share with their classes. They have won five Eco School Green Flags by increasing biodiversity, reducing litter and waste, conserving water and power, encouraging “clean” means of travel and promoting environmentally sound practises at home and abroad. They learn to keep safe, through Forest School activities.
Throughout all these activities they are learning how to communicate, negotiate, think creatively, problem solve, resolve conflict, plan and work effectively in a team (Speaking and Listening, Physical, Health, Social and Emotional curriculum).
ICT is an important subject, which plays a significant role in all areas of our curriculum. We teach specific skills in our ICT room, in addition to teaching in our classrooms which each have two computers and an interactive whiteboard. We are continuously updating our provisions to ensure we are able to teach the three areas of the computing curriculum Computer Science, Information Technology and Digital Literacy successfully. We give children opportunities to use a variety of equipment including multimedia computer with supporting software, printers and programmable toys. All children have access to the Internet to enhance and support their learning, where appropriate. We use a screened service appropriate for primary school children. Our staff give all children opportunities to develop the skills needed for their future learning through ICT. Children are taught how to stay safe on the internet through a series of e-safety lessons.
History & Geography
We make History and Geography come alive by going on visits using artefacts from the past We make direct comparisons between things from the present and past and the children reinforce their knowledge and understanding during role play. Drama companies are employed to support our topic work, teaching knowledge and understanding through drama, music and dance.
Creative art and craft is of great importance in developing the imagination, boosting confidence and practising hand and eye co-ordination. Wherever possible it is linked with other areas of the curriculum. We give our children a wide variety of materials to use and teach basic techniques and use of tools. They take a pride in their art and craft which is highly valued and displayed in the school.
We encourage children to enjoy all types of music through singing, playing instruments, composing, listening, and performing. Visiting musicians and talented parents also entertain and inspire the children. The children gather for singing practice weekly, with songs chosen linked to a particular time of year, theme or celebration, for example Harvest.
This cross-curricular approach to music ensures lessons are fun and exciting. For example, when exploring the topic of ‘Space’, the children may listen to Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planet Suite’, whilst using art to represent how the music makes them feel. Or, use percussion instruments to represent a particular aspect of space, such as the moon or stars, creating a whole class composition. Throughout the year, the children have opportunities to perform in class assemblies, Christmas performances and at events in the community, such as singing at the local care home
We develop children’s awareness of their own cultures and beliefs, and encourage them to understand and respect the cultures and beliefs of other people. The main focus of RE teaching is Christianity and in Key Stage 1 the children are introduced to elements of Islam and Judaism. We foster children’s curiosity, awe and wonder in the world around them, and develop their skills of reflection and appreciation. Our affiliation with our Parish Church, Emmanuel, enriches the spiritual development of our whole school community. The children gather every day to share a bible story or a tale with a message, an opportunity to be reflective, say thank you or celebrate. Assemblies are an important time for sharing ideas and listening to others. We use assemblies to teach friendship, caring, love, wonder, trust, respect and self-discipline. Parents/carers are invited to join us for class or leaver assemblies. Occasionally parents wish to withdraw their child from religious education and from acts of worship within assemblies. If you would like to do this, please write to the head teachers.
The children will be using the fruit and vegetables that they grow. This forms part of their healthy eating education. It’s amazing how enthusiastic they can be to eat brussel sprouts and spinach when they have gown and cooked it themselves! Cooking involves a great deal of maths (counting, measuring, maths vocabulary), science (food groups and their benefits, properties of materials, the effects of heat in changing materials), geography (origins of foods) and English (speaking and listening, vocabulary, reading and writing recipes and instructions), social skills including manners (helping each other, sharing, taking turns) and the physical skills practised in stirring, measuring, filling, washing up and carrying.
Health education includes areas such as relationships, personal safety, hygiene and nutrition. It is taught on a daily basis as well as being formally built into the curriculum. We have a purpose built Food Technology room which small groups of children across all year groups use every day. The children cook the fruit and vegetables they grow in our allotment throughout the year. Our Emotional Literacy Programme supports emotional health and relationship skills and every member of staff is trained to teach it. In 2005/06 we were National Winners of The Healthiest School in The UK and our practise develops each year.
P.E. is a time for children to develop co-ordination, agility, strength, creativity and skills of co-operation and teamwork as well as understanding why it is important to keep fit and eat healthily. We develop confidence by praising small successes and valuing every effort. P.E. may take place on the field, playground or in the hall, where we are well equipped with small and large apparatus. In addition to timetabled P.E. lessons we also run a variety of clubs, at lunch time, which vary according to the season and include football, cricket, rounders, tennis and fitness. The whole school loves the staff versus children match at the end of the term. After school clubs include, karate, dance, football and dodgeball. We are investing some of the Sports Premium fund in sports coaching. They deliver a variety of games lessons such as tag rugby, cricket, rounders, tennis, football, athletics and multi skills.
Forest School was introduced to us by Surrey Wildlife Trust who ran it once a week for a year in our wildlife garden. We were so impressed by the benefits and positive impact it had on our children that we applied for Lottery Funding to train 10 people and offered this training to 3 of our own staff and 7 from local schools. Staff came from a variety of key stages including secondary.
Children learn outside in a wooded area that may be on or off site.
They learn how to:
Create and sustain a camp fire
Cook and make drinks on the camp fire
Source wood and sort it into different sizes for different purposes
Use tools effectively and safely such as saws, non-electrical drills and fire sticks
Keep themselves safe in a variety of situations
Work co-operatively in pairs as a team
Anticipate and offer when help is needed
Solve problems in a variety of situations
Listen to and follow instructions
Use language to ask questions, describe situations and explain procedures
Think, plan, sequence actions and evaluate
Appreciate and care for the environment and the diversity of creatures it sustains
Persevere (making fire is hard and we have witnessed children persevering for as much as an hour until they master it!)
Adapt techniques and plans
Forest Schools is incredibly engaging and motivating for children and is one of the best things we have found for promoting confidence and self esteem.
May be delivered through a topic, aspects of science or the use of storytime and circle time. Aspects of sex education appear in National Curriculum Science at Key Stage 1. Although parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex education they cannot withdraw them from the following areas, as children are taught:
that animals including humans, move, feed, grow, use their senses and reproduce.
to name the main external parts of the body.
that humans can produce babies and these babies grow into children and then adults.
to recognise similarities and differences between themselves and other pupils.
We have been awarded The International Eco-Schools Green Flag five times for our work in this field. Children are taught how to care for our world, conserve resources and increase biodiversity. They are also responsible for designing, creating and maintaining our allotment and gardening areas. The children then learn how to cook the produce they grow. Our Forest School teachers work with small groups outside every day and this sustainable work also supports every area of our curriculum in a motivating and memorable way
We value all our children equally and embrace their special abilities and special needs. Skilled and trained staff provide expert support for children with difficulties, either individually or in small groups. We ensure that every child has equal access to the curriculum and we have a policy of identifying and building upon their strengths in order to foster their confidence and self- esteem. We follow the Code of Practice on Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs and seek the advice of outside agencies such as the Educational Psychologist Service, Speech and Language Therapy, Language Difficulties Service, Literacy Support, Medical Service, Occupational therapy, Learning Support and the Behaviour Management Service. Children with Statements of Special Educational Needs are supported by a Special Needs Assistant within the classroom and are fully integrated into school life. Through our outstanding curriculum that offers such a diverse range of innovative activities we are committed to finding every child’s talents, whether it be as a mathematician, gardener, eco-warrior, artist or good friend so that each child is valued by our community, makes a recognised contribution and develops sound self-worth.
Our children are growing up in a world that is increasingly multi-cultural and we want them to be able to function successfully, both socially and professionally within this environment. Understanding and respect are the keys to relationship and we give children a variety of opportunities to learn about other cultures and communicate with people from different countries. We enjoy our link with a school in Uganda and we sponsor children in South America and Asia. We also teach about other cultures through RE, dance, cooking, role play, art and music and this occurs throughout the year.
Exceptional Days & Special Weeks
These are special days which were first introduced in 2003 and have been a great success. Staff, children and parents appreciate them highly because they teach knowledge, skills and values in a highly imaginative, creative and child-centred way. The whole school including Nursery participate, and staff, parents and Governors organise small groups of children in an atmosphere where self-expression and creativity are encouraged and valued. Activities have included a treasure hunt where beautiful natural objects are hidden and found, exploration of the Sensory garden followed by relaxation and visualisation of a journey through the jungle, exploring using a variety of home-made masks, African and Indian tribal dancing, The Haka, Aboriginal bark painting and many more. The children love these days and talk about them for weeks afterwards. We have 4 different days which run on a rolling programme and include Fabulous Friday (Spiritual), Funky Friday (Creative), Fizzy Friday (Science) and Friendly Friday (Worldwide).
We also welcome a wide variety of visitors to the school, ranging from mobile farms to African drumming workshops. Parents with special skills and members of the community such as nurses, firemen and builders are always welcome to talk with the children when this is relevant to our topics.
All Infant year groups go on school trips, and we also use our local environment as much as possible. For instance we go to the park to learn about forces in science, structures in Design Technology and shape in Maths. We do a survey of the pond and park to investigate litter and we do a tally of traffic in a selection of neighbourhood roads to learn about road safety, traffic congestion and parking. The neighbouring buildings provide a great resource when we study different types of homes and how they changed over the years.