Creating a Flexible and Future Proofed Curriculum with Cornerstones

School Name: Foresters Primary School
Used Cornerstones since: September 2011
Case study focus: Cornerstone supports inclusion and integration at London school

Creating a Flexible and Future Proofed Curriculum with Cornerstones

School Name: Foresters Primary School
Used Cornerstones since: September 2011
Case study focus: Cornerstone supports inclusion and integration at London school


Schools already using Cornerstones


Schools worked with us on the development of Curriculum Maestro

Deputy Head, Julia Merritt described her school as “unique, very unique actually” when we met to chat about how they have adapted and adopted the Cornerstones Curriculum materials on Curriculum Maestro.

Practicalities of Inclusion – Building Independence

We know every school is unique, and that’s exactly what we would expect to hear, so why does Julia feel it is a particularly apt description for Forester’s Primary School in London Borough of Sutton, South London? She explains, “We have forty-two places for children with autism and they are very much integrated as part of the school. It is not a separate building; we are always looking for opportunities to include these children as much as possible in the mainstream life of school.” There are four classes in the Base, and each has their own physical Base classroom, with a higher ratio of staff to support. Decisions about inclusion for them are very much based around their needs and interests, some children will spend most of their time in that base classroom. “When they do integrate it is based on their needs, confidence, and progress. This may well be supported by an adult but we want the children to become as independent as possible so we will withdraw support when it is right for each child,” says Julia.

Reducing Workload – Broadening Horizons

Foresters has been using Cornerstones Curriculum materials for a long time, in fact they were one of the very first schools to invest, back in 2011. The school had always used a thematic approach in teaching, and they had created their own content but felt that it was in need of refreshing. But as Julia commented, “There’s a massive workload attached to that, plus it’s a real science, isn’t it? Getting that balance right across the school.” In addition to their special needs provision, the school is located in an area of high socio-economic disadvantage. For many children, the estate where they live is the extent of their world and Julia felt there was much in the content of the Cornerstones Curriculum that offered the opportunity to broaden their horizons. She commented “We really liked the way Cornerstones made those connections between different areas of the curriculum and also pushed the boundaries for them. For a lot of our kids their world is very small so to challenge them to learn about things beyond that and build their knowledge is just so important.”

New Materials – New Platform

During the eleven years that the school has been working with Cornerstones there have been changes, as always, in the educational landscape. Whilst the national curriculum has remained unchanged since 2014, the way schools must articulate their delivery of that content has undergone a seismic shift. Inevitably, that has been led by the ever-increasing focus of Ofsted on the progression of knowledge and skills. Schools need to clearly demonstrate that children can do more and know more as a result of their curriculum. From a Cornerstones perspective, it led us to create Knowledge Rich projects and ultimately a whole new sequenced curriculum, Curriculum 22. In addition to this in 2019 we moved from our original online platform, the Hub, to Curriculum Maestro.

Julia discussed with us the ways the school has coped with and adapted our materials as they have evolved. “We were really excited by the new curriculum and the new platform, Maestro, because with workload in mind it was great to know that the Cornerstones team had done all the hard work of thinking through the sequencing, so we decided just to run with it.”

Maestro offers schools the flexibility to adapt and adopt the materials and design a curriculum structure that suits them. Foresters uses a two-year cycle approach to the curriculum because although it is a one form entry school, the Base children are in their Base classes for two years. Julia said, “This means we can integrate the Base children without the danger of repeating themes, so they are always able to do the same learning as their peers in the mainstream.”

Compared to our original projects, the new projects are much more structured and as well as the termly main driver subject projects, based on Geography and History, there are subject specific projects for Science, Art and Design, and Design Technology. Some might argue this removes the creativity and therefore possibly the joy or fun associated with being engaged in learning, but Julia would disagree. “The teachers really like that it is much more structured and they and the children are really enjoying the challenge. I wouldn’t say we have got it completely right yet but the feedback has been really positive, it is still very much a journey we are on.”

The depth of learning in the art curriculum for example has led to some surprising outcomes. Julia was particularly impressed with the artwork that resulted from projects Mix it, Contrast and Complement and Tints, Tones, and Shades. “The depth of understanding about colour mixing and theory was amazing, we had such beautiful artwork and displays that I’ve never seen before.”

Assessing Knowledge and Skills – Subject Specific

One of the challenges in the current climate is being confident that the children know more and can do more within different subject disciplines. Curriculum Maestro can help teachers use both formative and summative assessment to accurately articulate the areas of strength or identify areas of learning that may need to be revisited.

Maestro has specific elements that have been designed to help staff build confidence around the implementation and impact of the curriculum. At Foresters they used the autumn term to trial capturing formative assessments using the “lesson taught” function. Each lesson in Curriculum Maestro has the knowledge and skill clearly defined for the teacher. Within three clicks they can record coverage linked to a specific POS (Programme of Study) and refine attainment information for individual children, classes or learning groups.” Julia explained how capturing this information had led to conversations and understanding about how often POS, skills and knowledge are covered, “So if the intended coverage map shows you have 30 opportunities and you know you have taught the majority of them, by looking at the actual coverage map, you don’t need to worry.”

Live Chat – online support from Cornerstones

Julia was enthusiastic about so much that Cornerstones has to offer but she was particularly complimentary about our Live Chat service. Whilst laughing at herself she said, “It’s absolutely brilliant. It is the best thing ever. I go on it all the time and I probably ask the most stupid questions but there’s always someone there to help and they always find an answer. But the masterstroke is when you are finished and cannot remember what they said, they send you a transcript. I have to say that’s been an absolute game changer.”

Cornerstones is proud to have been involved with this unique school for over ten years and look forward to continuing working with them and their incredible staff, creating curriculum solutions for their very special children.

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