- Curriculum Overview
At Northfield School our curriculum aim is simple – children leave our care able to fully engage with and contribute to our community and society at large. We expect that every pupil excels across all aspects of school life, having mastered both academic and practical skills.
We intend to ensure pupils make outstanding progress and that the curriculum removes any potential barriers to learning, be these barriers of disadvantage, special educational needs and/or disabilities, or the knowledge and cultural capital that they need to succeed in life.
We want our pupils to leave with knowledge and skills which will not only create excellent life opportunities but will also prepare them exceptionally well for life beyond school.
At Northfield School, pupils will;
- experience a broad, deep and knowledge-rich curriculum, studying the full range of subjects for as long as possible, ‘specialising only when this becomes necessary;
- be literate and numerate;
- have high expectations for their behaviour and achievement;
- build their character;
- develop their cultural, social, moral, mental and physical well-being;
- secure foundations for progression.
Pupils experience a broad, deep and knowledge-rich curriculum
Our school curriculum helps pupils to achieve high standards and make excellent progress. At Key Stage 3, the curriculum is broad and pupils learn essential knowledge built around three themes: community, exploration and discovery. Our planning is grounded in research into cognitive psychology and as such, there are many opportunities built into lessons to ensure recall and retrieve previous learning so that knowledge is fully retained and able to be integrated with other knowledge into larger concepts. Our curriculum aims to ensure that this retention of knowledge does not happen in isolation but goes hand in hand with the development of practical skills such as literacy, numeracy, oracy and ICT as well as helping pupils to become reflective and able to respond positively to feedback. We believe that to be successful, all of our pupils must develop these skills, regardless of what subject they are studying.
It is this belief that ties together individual subject curricula into one, cohesive, curriculum.
At Northfield School, effective curriculum design is responsive. We do not change what we teach and when purely because of external influences, we do so because this is one of the defining principles of what we believe makes a good curriculum. Northfield School has always responded to the needs of pupils and always will.
Pupils will be literate and numerate
The development of pupil language and oracy is at the forefront of our curriculum as we understand how vital it is for our pupils to build confidence in communication skills not only for their time in school but also to prepare them for working life. In supporting our core theme of retention, skills and challenge we ensure pupils have opportunities in all subjects to discuss, challenge and build on other points of view and to develop their formality of language to ensure they can have the confidence to speak to different audiences.
Appropriate levels of literacy will ensure that our pupils can access the world around them, be this in the community or at our school. We know that 90% or more of language is encountered through the written word and as such we have a strong emphasis on reading at Northfield. Reading can be a source of great pleasure as well as a gateway to lifelong learning therefore we dedicate an hour per week of curriculum time in Years 7, 8 and 9 to our reading programme, ‘Renaissance Reading’, and this is supplemented by our use of reciprocal reading techniques in curriculum areas.
We make extensive use of reading assessments so that we can ensure a rigorous approach to the teaching of reading as well as the development of pupils’ confidence in, and enjoyment of, reading. On one end, using this assessment data might see a teacher ensure that a piece of text used in a lesson is appropriate for the pupils in front of them. At the other end of the spectrum, it may help us to identify those children who are struggling to read and as such need extra support with phonics.
We have a number of colleagues who are trained to deliver a recognised phonics programme and some pupils have discrete phonics lessons on their timetables. These pupils are thoroughly screened so that we can support them with exactly what they need. Some pupils, whilst presenting with a reading age below their chronological age, might not need support with phonics but still need help to develop their reading fluency and comprehension. More information on our reading strategy can be found here.
Numeracy skills are embedded across the curriculum. Pupils who arrive with below-expected maths skills are quickly caught up through expert teaching and incisive intervention. The school ensures that pupils are literate and numerate enabling them to flourish, thrive and access the next stage of their education, employment or training.
We are conscious that, in the twenty-first century, literacy must encompass digital literacy. To this end we provide curriculum time that specifically focuses on ‘computing’ as a basic skill and as such all pupils will opt for an ICT-related subject at Key Stage 4. English and maths are the bedrock of our curriculum because of the life chances that depend on success in these areas. To this end, six hours of curriculum time per week are dedicated to these subjects in Years 7 and 8 and eight hours in Years 9, 10 and 11.
Pupils will have high expectations for their behaviour and achievement
Our school is inclusive and ambitious for all. We have high expectations of all pupils and provide the opportunity for pupils to make rapid progress through our belief in 'challenge' for all. Our curriculum ensures that all pupils will have opportunities to succeed and our behaviour policy makes certain that this is recognised. As our classrooms are places of high expectations, there is an environment where bullying, peer-on-peer abuse or discrimination are not tolerated.
Pupils will build their character
In our school, we are committed to improving the life chances and aspirations of pupils. With a focus on building resilience, one of our core values, we ensure pupils have access to a wider curriculum which provides numerous opportunities in sport, creativity, performing, the world of work and volunteering. An extensive extra-curricular programme supports the development of pupils into well-rounded citizens.
Pupils will develop their cultural, moral, social, mental and physical development
At Northfield School, we pride ourselves on delivering a curriculum which makes explicit reference to personal, social, health and citizenship education. PSME is championed in our school to develop pupils as young people, not just academically, to ensure that they are fully prepared for life in modern Britain and hold British values close to their hearts.
Our commitment is underlined by dedicating one hour of curriculum time per week to a life skills lesson in Years 7-11. Life skills lessons at Northfield are very much reactive to need and as such can switch focus if something in the local context needs special or urgent attention. The curriculum in general and the life skills curriculum, in particular, provides for a broad development of pupils, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents, as well as supporting them to develop resilience, confidence, independence, and keep themselves physically and mentally healthy. More information on our life skills curriculum can be found here.
Pupils will secure foundations for progression
It is our intention at Northfield School that pupils have secure foundations for progression into further education and apprenticeships. From Year 7, pupils receive career information with a clear focus on the areas that we are guided towards by the Gatsby benchmarks. Over the five years, pupils receive a rigorous and bespoke aspirations program that exposes our pupils to a huge range of voices and experiences. Our curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced in such a way as to ensure that our pupils have sufficient and appropriate knowledge and skills for future learning in the next stage of their life; our Key Stage 3 curriculum is a body of work in itself, with defined competencies and components. In the subjects that pupils choose to specialise in at Key Stage 4, pupils will have gained self-belief from what they have encountered in Key Stage 3. In the subjects pupils choose to no longer study, they will have learned skills and knowledge that they can apply in their life beyond Northfield as well as composite knowledge that can help them in their Key Stage 4 studies.
Our school community believes that a carefully planned and structured curriculum is the foundation upon which excellent learning and development are built. The curriculum is designed and implemented in such a way that it builds on prior knowledge and prepares pupils for the next stage in their education.
Subject leaders, who are experts in their subjects, carefully construct a curriculum that promotes a deep understanding of a wide range of topics which are appropriate to our local context. Teachers plan lessons that allow pupils to embed and recall knowledge through techniques such as interleaving of topics and spaced practice; lessons are engaging and suitably differentiated so that pupils spend time working at their level of ability. This builds firm foundations for progression to the next level and exam success.
Each week staff spend at least one hour of directed time on continuous professional development, focusing on our course purpose of ‘always improving classrooms’. This ensures that teachers have good knowledge of the subjects and courses that they teach. It also means that, on the rare occasions that teachers teach outside of their original specialisation, leaders can provide training and support to ensure that pupils are not negatively impacted.
Key Stage 3
At Key Stage 3, the curriculum is designed to ensure that pupils engage with a wide breadth of depth of knowledge thus promoting a love of learning and a desire to acquire further knowledge. This encourages pupils to focus on deeper learning to ensure a real understanding of key concepts.
Each subject has a planned learning journey with clear statements setting out what pupils need to know, understand and do to reach their aspirational minimum expected grade. The National Curriculum content is the basis for our coverage at Key Stage 3.
Below is a breakdown of how curriculum time is dedicated to each area of study. To see how each department contributes to our aims, please click on a subject to see their curriculum plans.
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Key Stage 4
At Northfield School, we pride ourselves on a commitment to a broad education. Our curriculum represents the best possible balance for all our pupils and the fact that almost all of our pupils last year went on to further education, training or employment reinforces this.
Options are structured in such a way as to give pupils a number of pathways. They are designed to stretch and challenge pupils, and to meet the demands of the local labour market. Pupils are offered a mixture of practical and academic skills from a broad range of subjects. Within the option subjects, the school offers a range of different accreditation routes including academic and vocational options. This gives every pupil a broad and balanced curriculum but still offers flexibility to maximise the outcomes achieved by each individual. This model also maintains the widest possible choice for progression routes Post 16 as every pupil will have a greater range of subjects from which to choose future opportunities for education and training (97% of our pupils go on to further education, training or employment).
Whilst we recognise the desire of pupils to be given a choice, we must balance this with our knowledge of what we believe to be the most appropriate and ambitious pathway. Given our local context, and the relevance of IT literacy to future employment, as well as the demographic make-up of our school community, we are passionate in our belief that each and every pupil should study an IT subject and religious education at GCSE.
A key part of our options guidance programme is providing identifiable pathways for our pupils. By selecting within the recommended pathways, we feel confident that our pupils will be able to achieve their maximum potential and enable them to access Level 3 courses in further education and training.
Pathway 1 The English Baccalaureate
To recognise pupil achievement in a broad range of academic subjects the government has introduced the English Baccalaureate. The English Baccalaureate includes academic subjects highly valued by leading universities. This is not a separate qualification but recognises achievement in English, mathematics, science, modern languages and a humanities subject (either history or geography). Pupils selected for this pathway must choose at least one modern foreign language and at least one humanity subject plus one further choice.
Pupils following pathway 2 must choose one subject from the core block (French, German, history or geography) plus a further two choices from a range of subjects on offer. Pupils opt for subjects within curriculum areas and staff then decide whether a BTEC or GCSE route would be the best way forward. This does not apply to all subject areas as some subjects are GCSE only and some are BTEC only.
A small number of pupils are selected to follow pathway 3. Pupils on pathway 3 follow a foundation learning pathway which is a credit-based programme. Learners follow a personalised programme tailored to their individual needs and aspirations. A more personalised approach encourages learners to build confidence and fulfil their potential.
The personalised programme brings together vocational and subject learning, personal and social development and functional skills with a particular focus on additional support in literacy and numeracy.
Below is an outline of the time dedicated to each subject in Key Stage 4. Please click on a subject for more information.
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At Northfield School, our curriculum will:
- ensure that the sequence of learning builds on previous knowledge whilst supporting future progression
- lead to qualifications that are of worth for employers and entry to further and higher education
- enable all pupils to fulfil their potential
- meet the needs of pupils of all abilities at the school
- allow pupils to acquire an appreciation and respect for their own and other cultures
- prepare pupils to compete in the global economy
- prepare pupils to make informed choices at the end of Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4 and beyond
- help pupils develop lively, enquiring minds and the ability to question and argue rationally
- Ultimately, ensure that pupils know more and remember more about the subjects that they study
We will know that we have achieved these aims through regular quality assurance, pupil voice and assessment.
Assessment will be both formal and summative, taking place during defined assessment weeks and informal and formative which will take place organically during lessons.
- This might be through peer, self or teacher assessment. Teachers will check pupils’ learning systematically, identify misconceptions and provide actionable feedback. They will adapt their teaching as appropriate in response to their analysis of pupils’ work
- All pupils will be set a minimum expected grade that we expect them to achieve based on their Key Stage 2 SATs or CAT4 assessment and what our school believes is a challenging target based on nationally collected data
- Regular testing ensures that pupils embed knowledge into their long-term memory as it will include defined revision work
- Following each assessment, incisive intervention to fill gaps in knowledge means that pupils make rapid progress
- Parents will receive reports during the year. The reports will indicate the progress that pupils have made towards their target grade and an indication of their behaviour and attitude to learning
- Curriculum implementation will be regularly reviewed and quality assured through line management and lesson observations
- The individual curricula delivered in each subject will be formally reviewed annually and informally on an ongoing basis by subject leaders to ensure the sequence of delivery allows pupils to build on their knowledge and that pupils are sufficiently stretched and challenged
- Sequencing at a granular level is explored by classroom teachers on an ongoing basis to ensure what is being taught and when is always appropriate
- The curriculum hours and subjects offered will be analysed by the senior leadership team on an annual basis
For information on how Northfield School supports disabled pupils to participate in the school’s curriculum, please view our accessibility policy here.
If you would like to find out more information on the curriculum Northfield School is following, please contact Mr Carling, our Deputy Headteacher.