26th April 2021
Interested in taking a more knowledge-led approach without stifling young children’s engagement? Our new sequenced knowledge-rich curriculum projects could be just what you’re looking for. Here’s everything you need to know about this exciting curriculum, including the rationale behind it and the benefits for primary children.
Over the past few years, we’ve been keenly aware of the national debate around knowledge and skills, and have made new developments to our curriculum to help schools get the balance right. So, if you’re a school that wants to focus on knowledge acquisition while keeping things connected, rich and engaging, you’ll love our latest subject-driven, knowledge-rich projects.
Knowledge acquisition is crucial for all children. It builds their understanding of themselves and the world and helps them become more proficient learners. As Ofsted’s Sean Harford said: ‘Knowledge is sticky. The more you know, the more you can embed new knowledge.’ Teaching children both declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge (skills) gives them the tools to develop a deeper understanding of subjects and concepts.
Knowledge acquisition can also help narrow the gap for disadvantaged pupils, who often benefit the most from what Professor Michael Young calls ‘powerful knowledge’, building their cultural awareness, specialised skills and wider understanding.
There is so much more to say about knowledge here, but if you’re interested in further reading around the topic and hearing different viewpoints, we’ve listed some references at the end of the blog. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some important features of teaching knowledge through the curriculum.
While it’s important to teach subject-specific knowledge, at Cornerstones, we believe that children learn best through a broad and balanced curriculum that enables them to make purposeful connections between subjects. Again, as Harford explains: ‘When connections are made, then knowledge sticks together. You learn things in context, then the story starts to cohere.’
We have seen this in practice over the past 10 years of schools using Cornerstones and use the same approach in our new curriculum. Connections between subjects shouldn’t jar or distract children; they should be authentic if a project is to flow. As one teacher who trialled the new projects said:
“The children’s geographical knowledge has definitely improved. It’s enabled us to go deeper into what a subject, like geography, is and they can see how it links to other areas of the curriculum. The project has flowed so well.’’ Katherine Birchall, Curriculum Lead at Reedness Primary School
To connect National Curriculum subject aspects, knowledge and skills on an even larger scale, the curriculum is underpinned by 10 ‘Big Ideas’ that thread throughout projects and develop children’s understanding over time. These themes and ‘larger concepts’, as Ofsted call them, lend coherence to the curriculum. We’ve written more about big ideas and connectivity here.
So, with this in mind, let’s dive into the features and benefits of the new sequenced curriculum projects from Cornerstones.
Our new projects are subject driven and have been expertly designed to be taught in subject schemas and in sequence. Spanning Year 1 to Year 6, the projects offer full coverage for history, geography, art and design and design and technology, with science available over the next few months. English coverage opportunities are provided through inspiring English packs, described later in this blog. The complete suite of new projects offers you unrivalled curriculum sequencing and connectivity – perfect for learning impact and those Ofsted deep dives.
The entire curriculum follows a rigorous knowledge and skills framework that provides clear progression, with skills and knowledge outcomes identified for every lesson. The framework behind this allows teachers to monitor progress easily over time and check coverage. At the end of each KS2 project, during the Express stage, short summative tests give you the opportunity to undertake a more focused assessment of children’s knowledge acquisition.
The project lesson series are written in sequence and introduce knowledge in manageable chunks. This supports cognitive load theory and avoids overwhelming children with too much information at one time. We’ve also included a focused ‘memorable experience’ at the beginning, with a suggested alternative school-based option if you wish to keep costs to a minimum. A new introductory knowledge lesson also helps teachers to equip children with key knowledge beforehand.
To help children to learn and remember new knowledge, each project has built in opportunities for recapping and knowledge retrieval, including a mixture of low stakes quizzing, independent application of knowledge and effective questioning. Research shows that regular retrieval can help children to store knowledge in their long-term memory and recall it more easily. The practice frees up their working memory to learn new things.
“Our children are now becoming knowledge-rich, due to all the support that we’ve been given through the curriculum and Cornerstones. It’s been a fantastic resource for us, to make sure we have challenge in every lesson.’’ Hannah Brookes, Senior Leader, York
The good news for teachers is that each project is fully supported by carefully researched, high quality lesson resources. These include reading texts, videos, podcasts and stunning information packs. The resources have been designed to present instructions and information clearly, preventing too many sources of information from being given at the same time. Further resources in our KRPs include:
The new curriculum projects offer you a flexible approach to the planning and delivery of English. As mentioned earlier, each project includes a special English pack. These packs provide you with high quality resources activity ideas to help deliver English, with opportunities for children to read and explore stimulating texts while writing for different purposes across a range of genres.
The thematic approach enables children to expand their subject and contextual knowledge further and to use their subject knowledge and vocabulary in their writing. Each English pack includes a model text, checklist, planning template and other useful resources.
We have also included a full class book list, plus a book or novel study to help you to develop children’s reading. Each study focuses on a carefully selected book that is closely linked to the project. It includes a book or novel organiser, which gives an overview of the author, context, characters and settings of the book. The pack also includes a comprehension question booklet to guide the children through the text, which is accompanied by a handy mark scheme.
We know how important is to teach children correct subject vocabulary. Rather than a one-off approach, we’ve built consistent use of vocabulary across the projects, due to their connected themes. This consistency is built into the daily teacher planning and lesson resources on Maestro so that children encounter the same vocabulary used by teachers in the resource videos and in the written texts.
“I absolutely love the level of detail in these projects.’’ Claire Wilkes, Teacher, Parkfield Primary School
To help children broaden the context of their learning, we’ve also accompanied every main project with an art and design project or a design and technology companion project. These projects contain a series of four to seven lessons, which can be taught either at the end of or alongside the main project.
I hope that this blog has given you a flavour of the new sequenced, subject-led projects and the rationale behind them. Some schools, particularly in the primary sector, are nervous about delivering a more knowledge-rich curriculum, but they needn’t be. With projects like these, that balance knowledge acquisition with engaging content and pedagogy, a knowledge-rich curriculum certainly doesn’t have to be dry or difficult to deliver.
Our new curriculum projects are being made available through Maestro, an all in one platform that helps schools design, teach, assess and manage their curriculum.
Existing Maestro user? Access the first series of new projects here.
Still on the Cornerstones Hub? Contact us to move over to Maestro today.
Curious to see what you get with Cornerstones? Find out more about Curriculum Maestro and the Cornerstones Curriculum or contact our curriculum adviser team on 03333 20 8000 to discuss your curriculum needs.