With the new national curriculum coming into force in September 2014, teaching staff at Blackrod Church School knew they needed to change the school’s curriculum to meet the new requirements. They chose to implement the Cornerstones Curriculum. Headteacher, Jill Bramwell, explains their decision:
‘We decided this would be better than adapting our existing curriculum scheme, which had been successful and enjoyable for a while but was becoming a little stale with over-teaching. The Imaginative Learning Projects (ILPs) that make up the Cornerstones Curriculum have given us all a fresh start, and we’ve never looked back.’
Inspiring staff and ensuring coverage
Staff at Blackrod pride themselves on being a resourceful and imaginative team and are used to working creatively to breathe life into the school’s curriculum. They have never been afraid to try something new, and Cornerstones has helped to spark their imaginations and ensure coverage. Jill shares the immediate benefits:
‘Staff absolutely love the Cornerstones ILPs, which are like a treasure trove of jewels. They’re a real time-saver too, with ideas ready to go. Some staff use them as a basis to work from, taking their favourite parts and adding in their own ideas. Others follow the projects more directly, safe in the knowledge that by completing all the activities, they’re covering national curriculum requirements in the right amount of detail.’
As well of the wealth of ideas in the ILPs, there are over 1500 resources on The Hub, Cornerstones’ online portal.
As well as supporting staff, the Cornerstones Curriculum has had a powerful effect on the children at Blackrod Church School. They have embraced the themed projects and are enthusiastic about their learning, particularly when it involves creative and hands-on activities. Jill is passionate about engaging children and feels that the curriculum now captures their interests:
‘Our children have loved the Cornerstones Curriculum, and any child you talk to will happily tell you all about their favourite project, or their current project, which is more often than not their favourite. Projects that have really captured our children’s imaginations include Muck, Mess and Mixtures, Scream Machine, Alchemy Island and Peasants, Princes and Pestilence.’
The creative approach to learning that Cornerstones promotes has also brought the school to the attention of the local press. The Gods and Mortals ILP inspired the children to build a Trojan Horse out of boxes. The model was so large and impressive that the school was featured in the local newspaper.
Learning at home
Since implementing the Cornerstones Curriculum, Blackrod has changed their homework policy. Now, children are given the ‘Home learning ideas’ sheet supplied with each ILP and are asked to work on their own mini projects during a half term. Jill explains the impact this has had in school:
‘Giving our children the ‘Home learning ideas’ sheet has been particularly successful. Children have been producing some spectacular efforts. They take the initiative, and many parents now face exciting demands to make castles the size of dinner tables out of junk materials. One castle even had fully working lights!’
Blackrod Church School has been using the Cornerstones Curriculum since 2014, and the continuing impact is evident from their most recent Ofsted report. Their Ofsted report stated in November 2016 that school leaders ‘have addressed the challenges of a new curriculum and new assessment arrangements well’.
Ofsted also noted that children’s work is of a high standard and demonstrates the breadth and balance of the curriculum:
‘Work in pupils’ books shows that they study topics in depth and develop a deep and broad understanding.’
The curriculum has also had an impact on progress. The report states:
‘In most classes, pupils are making strong progress. Despite the increased challenge of the new curriculum and new assessment and accountability measures, [the school has] ensured that the majority of pupils are achieving the standards expected for their age. This is true in English and mathematics and in a wide range of subjects, such as science and humanities.’
About Blackrod Church School
Blackrod Church School is a one form entry primary school based in Blackrod, Bolton. The school has a full-time nursery and is one of only two schools in Bolton to have a DREAMS classroom and a specialist, resourced ASC provision. Blackrod is an outstanding church school.