A fresh curriculum
Soon after Sarah became headteacher, she brought in the Cornerstones Curriculum to replace the existing curriculum that staff felt was ‘uninspiring and disengaging’. Sarah wanted a cross-curricular, meaningful approach that would reignite a passion for learning in school and help raise standards. The Imaginative Learning Projects (ILPs) appealed to Sarah as they provide children with real contexts and stimulate curiosity and engagement:
‘It’s about giving them real experiences and preparing them for life. The Cornerstones Curriculum does this. It makes learning real and fun. If you engage the children at this age, it’s going to help them continue that love for learning.’
Sarah also felt the curriculum pedagogy fitted well within the school’s principles:
‘Soaring for success is one of our values – you create your own future, but you have to learn about life first. Our role as a school is to widen horizons. It’s about giving children more opportunities and raising their aspirations.’
The school now has a curriculum leader: Year 6 teacher, Zoe Horton. Sarah felt this role was crucial to establishing Cornerstones, overseeing the curriculum journey and monitoring standards. Zoe’s role includes checking progress, measuring impact and supporting teachers with coverage.
Zoe has seen the positive impact of the curriculum on children’s enthusiasm and achievement. She also loves the cross-curricular connections:
‘We’ve got much more coverage now subjects aren’t discreet anymore. We cover a lot of literacy through the topic lessons. In fact, in our recent writing moderation, we actually took our topic books; it’s the same standard in our topic work as in our English.’
Impact on children
Since establishing the Cornerstones Curriculum in school, teachers have noticed that child engagement has vastly improved. As Sarah says, ‘Before Cornerstones, they were disengaged and not interested in learning. Now they love it.’
Recently, the children were asked what they thought of their curriculum and learning at school. This is what they said:
‘I like how everything links together. I especially enjoyed our ‘A Child’s War‘ topic, as we didn’t just learn about it in our history lessons.’ (Year 6 child)
‘My favourite topic was ‘Stargazers‘, I enjoyed launching the rockets and finding out what Tim Peake was doing in space.’ (Year 5 child)
‘My favourite topic was ‘Burps, Bottoms and Bile‘ because we made teeth out of clay. We also made our own toothpaste, tried it and wrote a recipe for it. It was a fun English lesson.’ (Year 5 child)
‘I loved our technology project, ‘Tomorrow’s World‘, as we got to learn about computers and technology in lots of different lessons. We wrote a non-fiction text about technology in English, we learnt about the history of the telephone and in PSHE we invented a gadget that could help disabled people and the environment. The best part was making our own robots!’’(Year 6 child)
Sarah also credits the curriculum, amongst other crucial factors, with the remarkable improvement in children’s progress. Ofsted also highlighted this in their report in January 2018:
‘The school’s curriculum very effectively engages pupils’ interest. It has depth and variety.’
Impact on teachers
While staff have seen the positive impact that a broad and engaging curriculum has had on children’s enthusiasm and achievement, Zoe credits the unity and hard work of the teachers for helping the curriculum flourish at Kentmere. Children are grouped in mixed-year phases, each with three classes taught by four teachers – an investment that Sarah felt was essential.
After choosing the most relevant topics for their children, each teaching group plans, tests out and evaluates lessons together. This team planning and lesson study ensures high standards of teaching and learning, helping to create the ‘culture of excellence’ with which Ofsted have credited them.
Zoe says the staff now feel more motivated:
‘Our curriculum used to be boring to plan. Planning in this way is much more fun for us as teachers. Now, it’s a lot more engaging for staff – it’s brought the staff together. We all plan together and do topic days.’
Looking to the future
Sarah’s leadership and desire for a broad and balanced curriculum have been integral to the school’s success. She has a clear vision for the school and determination to see it through. Sarah wants to steer Kentmere ever forwards – a sentiment reflected in the school’s motto, ‘Soaring to success’.
We wish her, the staff and all the children at Kentmere success for the future!
About the school
Kentmere Academy and Nursery is a large primary school on the outskirts of Rochdale. It has a high proportion of pupil premium students and SEN support, and is ethnically diverse. In 2013, Kentmere Primary, as it was known then, was deemed inadequate by Ofsted and placed in special measures. In 2015, it became part of the Wardle Multi-Academy Trust and in 2018, the school was graded as ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. Kentmere’s success has been documented in the news and was recognised in the 2018 Manchester School Awards, where it won Primary School of the Year.