The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or programme. It talks about the knowledge and skills pupils are expected to learn, which includes the learning intentions, objectives or standards they are expected to meet.
Intent – Our Vision For Our Curriculum
At Birk Hill we want children to encounter exciting learning opportunities, become independent learners through experiences that will support the development of their social skills whilst having fun. Our school aim is that ‘we spend every day in learning, laughter and love’ and this underpins our whole curriculum.
The Birk Hill Curriculum includes the knowledge, skills and understanding that we feel are important for our children to learn alongside the government requirements set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum and the National Curriculum for Key Stage One.
Implementation – How Do We Achieve This?
We have a number of ‘curriculum drivers’ which shape our curriculum and aim to support children in developing values which we feel are essential to teach young children, such as ‘respect’, “teamwork”, ‘perseverance’, ‘empathy’, “positive attitude” and “responsibility”.
The whole school team plan together across a two year cycle in which learning themes are carried out for a whole term. Progression of knowledge, skills and understanding is carefully planned, reviewed and adapted yearly to ensure that children’s learning builds effectively over time to ensure that they are ready for the next step or phase of education. Our teaching practice will be rooted in evidence-based research; teachers will be reflective and will enhance their teaching skills and strategies to help raise expectations and standards. Children across both key stages access learning opportunities with links into the same learning theme which creates a sense of unity and shared learning throughout the school. We aim to include real life experiences, links with the Eckington and wider community and other schools.
All of our classrooms have role play areas linked to the learning theme, a walk around the classrooms could take you to Eckington castle, a police station, a vets or even into space.
The curriculum at Birk Hill is continually adapted and improved through careful evaluation and feedback.
Impact Of The Curriculum For Our Children
From their different starting points, all children will make good progress academically, emotionally, creatively, socially and physically. Knowledge, skills and understanding will be secured and embedded so that children attain highly and are fully prepared for their next stage of education.
The children will have strong communication skills, both written and verbal and will listen respectfully and with tolerance to the views of others.
The children will take pride in all that they do, always trying to do their best. The children will demonstrate emotional resilience and the ability to persevere when they are challenged.
The children will develop a sense of self-awareness and become confident in their own abilities. At Birk Hill, the children will be kind, respectful, honest, demonstrate inclusive attitudes and have a sense of their role in our community and wider society.
Early Years Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception)
Learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage is carefully planned to include a balance of child-led activities (where children are able to select their own learning, explore and practise skills and enjoy activities in an independent way) and adult directed activities (where specific skills are taught to the children in small and large group sessions). All the children take part in a daily phonics session. Learning takes place both indoors and outdoors and there are many opportunities for children to develop their independence. By choosing resources from areas of learning and by taking part in play-based activities, our children are encouraged to play and develop social skills with each other, which build strong foundations for their future learning in school.
Key Stage One (Year One and Year Two)
Learning in Key Stage One is linked closely to the learning theme for each term. Children take part in a daily English and Maths lesson each morning which also includes a separate phonics session. Lessons are directly linked to the learning objectives of the National Curriculum and include a variety of whole class and small group teaching. The Key Stage One classrooms also have areas of learning in which children are able to independently access a variety of resources and extend their learning independently. Within each learning theme we talk to children about what they want to learn and explore these areas of personal interest. We find that this approach engages children and gives them ownership of their learning.
Each week all classes have an Aspirations learning session, the children decide on the theme so that motivation and enthusiasm are ensured. We have found that Aspirations promote questioning, independent learning, research, family learning, higher order thinking skills that challenges children’s knowledge skills and understanding and awareness of different worldly concepts. We have asked questions about plastic pollution, countries and animals in the world, buildings in Sheffield, football, how chocolate is made and have had philosophical discussions about dragons and unicorns.
British and Birk Hill School Values
At Birk Hill we understand how the values of our society are fundamental to a growing and vibrant country and economy. We have considered this in detail, through carrying out action research with the children, considering what we teach, how it is taught and how it is planned to ensure our children develop into excellent citizens of our country.
Reading at Birk Hill
At Birk Hill the teaching of reading is a high priority as it provides the key to accessing so much of the curriculum, we provide teaching of systematic synthetic phonics as the foundation to this. We offer as many opportunities as possible for children to read in both formal and informal settings.
Our approach to teaching phonics begins in Nursery and continues through the Early Years Foundation Stage into Key Stage One. It is important to be consistent in the teaching of phonics, so throughout school we follow letters and sounds and the Read Write Inc. schemes. These schemes aim to develop childrens’ speaking and listening skills, as well as preparing them for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. At Birk Hill we aim for children to become fluent readers by the end of Year 2. We use a multi-sensory approach, using a wide range of resources, including pictures, cards, magnetic letters and web-based resources. Children are exposed to the stages of phonics that are appropriate for their age, if any children experience difficulty with this we help them by providing support or intervention either individually or in small groups. During your child’s time in school you will be offered the opportunity to attend workshops which will help you to understand the way in which we teach phonics in school and how children are checked at the end of Year 1.
Our school reading scheme contains a wide variety of books from many of the published schemes; Oxford Reading Tree, Collins Big Cat, Heinemann Story Starters and PM Library.
Some of the books can be decoded entirely using phonics but most require children to employ a range of reading strategies. The books have been carefully ranked and increase in difficulty while helping children to gain confidence and fluency at that level. The aim of our scheme is to develop fluent, competent readers who understand what they have read. Our scheme contains books from different genres so that the children get used to reading stories, poems, play-scripts, fiction and non-fiction. We have volunteers who, along with teachers and teaching assistants, provide children with many opportunities to read in school and have their books changed regularly. Reading records are sent home with reading books and we aim to work in partnership with parents in helping children both to learn to read and to love reading. If parents or family members are able to read at home with the children then ultimately the children benefit.
Guided reading begins in reception and continues throughout school, children in small groups share a text with a well-trained adult at least once a week. These sessions are intended to be pleasurable and to help foster a real enjoyment for reading. The books are carefully chosen to offer challenge and a wide variety of genres and subject matter. Some of the books are from published schemes and some are sets of stories or information books. The aim of guided reading is to challenge children with texts that are slightly beyond their current reading level in order to develop their decoding and higher order comprehension skills.
Reading Across the Curriculum and Beyond
Reading is a fundamental part of much of the school curriculum. In English children analyse texts and some of our learning themes are based around books and stories. We have a school library and close links with Eckington library, with many of the children embracing the summer reading challenge and in Year 2 the children are motivated to read the 100 books recommended to read before they reach Year 3.
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
At Birk Hill teachers use a range of strategies to teach spelling, punctuation and grammar. As well as being able to spell words correctly, use a wide range of vocabulary and punctuate well, children need to grasp the meaning of grammatical terms such as noun, verb, adjective, prefix, pronoun and adverb. Children need to know what phrases and clauses are and how to use them, understand what connectives are and how they work, know how to turn a question into a command and so on. At Birk Hill we use “Spelling Zappers” as one of the ways to teach the children how to spell, using the “Look, say, cover, write, check” method. These spellings are progressively linked to the age-appropriate phonics phases and tricky word lists they are differentiated according to age and ability.