Rozanna Khan – Assistant Headteacher and Curriculum Lead – told me all about the school’s curriculum journey over the last year. Lockdown really brought home to the staff how limited their children’s experiences were. “We made the decision to enhance their cultural capital by providing memorable experiences and an immersive curriculum to develop the knowledge and skills our children would need to enable them to pursue their dreams and become valuable members of society.” This led to an approach to Cornerstones as the school felt that the package offered would help them to achieve this goal.
A clear set of aims laid out the route to the planned destination
We made sure that we had a clear set of curriculum aims that were shared by everyone at the start of our journey. These were:
•To create a broad and balanced curriculum where children are fully immersed in their learning, making sense of each subject through hands-on experience, leading to a greater depth of knowledge and understanding.
•To inspire children to be fascinated and curious about the world around them.
•To ensure children feel represented in our curriculum, appreciating the world as diverse and valuing the contributions of different groups.
•To create an inclusive curriculum where all children make progress, evidencing their learning in a variety of ways.
We felt that the Cornerstones projects would enable us to deliver these aims so we adopted and adapted them to create our personalised curriculum.
Adapting Cornerstones to develop our personalised curriculum
We have adopted a mix of ILPs and KRPs in our curriculum to provide us with the coverage we feel is right for our children. As time has gone on we have moved to a model where our KS2 children have a main project each term while in KS1 and EYFS the children study half-termly driver projects. This has allowed our KS2 children to achieve a greater depth of study, appropriate to their stage of development. We chose to weave in some ILPs so that we could achieve our aim around representation of our children in our curriculum.
Cornerstones provide schools the freedom to personalise projects. For example, when studying Ancient Civilisations, we have opted to focus on Egyptian and Islamic civilisations and in KS1 when our children carry out the Childhood and School Days projects, we have included what life was like for black children and incorporated a study around Rosa Parks.
Making our curriculum accessible for all learners to ensure we address issues around social mobility
We have a strong team of teachers so it was important to us not to take on a package that was prescriptive. Cornerstones gave us the foundations and we liked the pedagogy around the four stages. Our curriculum now has equity, accessibility, structure and challenge. It was important for us to address our children’s lack of knowledge, limited vocabulary, ability to express themselves and levels of confidence.
We introduced floor books as a vehicle for collaborative working in mixed ability groups, complementing our Thrive approach and developing relationships. We now encourage our children to express their learning in many ways such as through drama, ICT, pictures, diagrams and writing. Tapestry is now used across school to capture the children’s interactions and learning; pupil voice is at the heart of what we do. Their enjoyment and improved skills and knowledge are clear. SEN children access the wider curriculum as we ensure lessons enable them to address their personal targets through the Cornerstones approach.
Our challenges have led to our successes
It was quite a challenge at first as we had to rethink our whole curriculum, but everyone was on board through our shared vision.
The knowledge organisers provided are useful as they highlight the key knowledge the children need by the end of the project. However, we have adapted these to meet the needs of our children, presenting the information in different ways where needed.
Our recent deep dive with our Learning Partner highlighted how we had achieved our initial aims. Our children were able to talk animatedly about their current learning, as well as make connections with prior learning.
Families are engaged through our Cornerstones celebration events where we share our floor books and set out activities. Our next step will be to set home challenges.
We have created documents to look at the importance of prior learning and carried out training around how children learn. Our focus around retrieval practice is supported by the quizzes within the Express Stage of the projects.
Our Golden Thread ensures representation in our curriculum by starting from the children’s own experience and heritage.
The children know, remember and understand more through our commitment to provide experiences to improve cultural capital. They are more curious, ask more questions and from their answers they demonstrate their improved knowledge and skills. They are always absorbed, excited and engaged in their learning now.
“Through the dedication of our staff we have achieved our common goals. It has been a long journey but we definitely have a curriculum that we are proud of.”