An all-through curriculum
University preparatory curriculum: backwards planned and data driven
Our mission is to provide a rigorous and transformational education that prepares our pupils for success at University and beyond.
It’s worth spending some time really interrogating what we mean by each of those terms. We want our pupils to have the knowledge, skills and experiences which means that they can be both ‘successful at university’ and in their lives ‘beyond’; we know we can’t be sure that we have prepared our pupils for every and any situation but we also know we can prepare them to be thoughtful and motivated enough to figure out how to navigate the world after the structured environment of school. An ‘education’ is much more than a series of lessons or a pile of exam certificates. Every interaction we have both in and out of school between the ages of 3 and 18 is a learning opportunity: saying good morning, shaking hands and insisting on eye contact is as much a part of a KSA education as knowing our times tables; navigating the Brecon Beacons on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition without a teacher is just as valuable as being able to analyse supply and demand curves in A level Economics.
So what do we mean by ‘rigorous’ and ‘transformational’? We chose transformational because KSA is trying to do something different. We don’t want to ‘get our kids some qualifications’ or ‘exceed the national average.’ We are trying to make real and sustained change for our community where pupils’ academic outcomes and their characters enable them to access opportunities which are too often closed to pupils from disadvantaged communities in our country. Being truly transformational requires us to be brave in our curriculum. If we just do what every other school in the country does, then we’ll get the same results. We want our pupils to learn more and learn better and sometimes that means trying things out which haven’t been tried before. Equally, many of our curriculum choices are not particularly controversial or radical: we just commit to doing what we do really, really well.
That’s where the ‘rigour’ comes in. Our curriculum will not be shaped by educational fads or quick wins. For example, when we first set up the secondary school, we prioritised reading above all else; English lessons were 1hr45 mins every day, supplemented by a 45 minute small group tutorial. That meant we chose to narrow the curriculum to just include maths, science, French, music and PE. We only began humanities in Year 9 once we knew our pupils could read well enough to be able to access rigorous historical sources or complex case studies in geography. We chose to teach French properly to every child from Year 7 onwards in 30 minute lessons every day. By the time those pupils were in Year 11, everyone was talking about the EBacc, English and maths being prioritised, languages and humanities being core to a balanced curriculum, and asked us how we knew to prioritise those subjects five years previously. We thought it was the right thing to do by our kids.
As such, we continue to prioritise ensuring our pupils orally communicate effectively from Nursery, prioritising reading in Reception and then mastering the skills to be great readers, writers and mathematicians by the end of Junior School - picking up specialisms in music, French, sciences and humanities as they progress. Pupils all continue their study of these facilitating subjects throughout Middle School and the vast majority of our pupils go on to study E-Bacc subjects at GCSE so they are best prepared for rigorous sixth form study which will enable them to access selective universities. We also provide a range of outside the classroom opportunities, such as residential trips in each year group, which are also carefully planned with a view to enabling our pupils to navigate the wider world beyond KSA and the Edgware Road.
Our curriculum is data driven and we are unapologetically clear with pupils about key academic milestones along the way. Given our aim to ensure all our pupils are able to be successful at university and beyond, it is imperative that we carefully analyse data on a regular basis and respond to the data we gather. Pupils need to be communicative at age related expectations by the end of Reception; we aim to ensure all our pupils are working securely at age related expectations by the end of Year 2 (around 103 as a scaled score in reading and maths) and working above by the end of Year 6 (achieving scaled scores of 108+). These foundations set pupils up to be attaining a 6 by the end of Year 9, as, with strong progress in Upper School, this level of attainment will then support them to achieve 7s, 8s and 9s in Year 11, thus facilitating A-Level study and highly selective university access at 18.
Each Curriculum Leader is responsible for mapping out the knowledge, skills and experiences which will enable our pupils to become great readers, writers, mathematicians, linguists, historians, chemists etc. The Curriculum Leadership Team work together to ensure the whole curriculum is coherent, both across the different Small Schools and across different subjects.
For more information on the different subjects, you can find more details on each subject page of this section of the website.
Pride in learning and purpose of learning
All pupils should leave school each day feeling proud of what they have learnt. They can only do this if they have also engaged with the purpose of what they have learnt. If pupils know why they are learning a particular topic or skill, or why they are going on a particular trip, then they are much more likely to engage and enjoy and thus, much more likely to remember what they’ve learnt and be able to use it again in the future.
Part of showing their pride, is in the way pupils talk about their learning. We should never miss an opportunity to ask pupils what they are enjoying in their learning and why and to dig deep on their responses.
Another way pupils show pride in their work is the way they record their learning in their books or folders or performances. Their work should tell the story of their learning journey through a topic, skills set or experience. Furthermore, as pupils get older, the way pupils record and organise their learning becomes a vital factor in their ability to review their learning, synthesise it and revise effectively.
Mixed attainment groupings
A key part of our ethos is the fact each year group in the school is a team. Pupils are taught that our whole team needs to work together to be successful and that all of the pupils in their year group are working together to get to university. Therefore, pupils from Nursery, right through Middle School are taught in mixed attainment groups which work together.
In order to ensure all pupils are able to be successful in the mixed attainment setting, lower prior attaining pupils largely sit with higher prior attaining pupils so that those who have achieved success academically in the past can inspire others to be successful too and support them to make progress along the way. We believe this mixed attainment model has been a key component in our success to date.
When pupils are asked to work in pairs or in groups, we largely aim to ensure lower prior attaining pupils are paired with higher prior attaining pupils to encourage teamwork and support.
There are, of course, instances in which pupils will benefit more from working in groups or partnerships with pupils of similar attainment levels. Teachers may choose to make data driven decisions about suitable pairings or groupings in such instances.
Moving into Upper School, pupils are currently taught in new classes based on their prior attainment, particularly in core subjects. Within this environment, there is nevertheless a spread of attainment levels and class teachers produce seating plans based on their knowledge of pupils' prior attainment, using the same principles as above.
While pupils make decisions about which subjects they will study in Sixth Form, teachers nevertheless apply the same principles of using higher prior attaining pupils to support lower prior attaining pupils within each class group. As elsewhere in the Academy, pupils in Sixth Form sit in a seating plan designed by the subject teacher in each classroom to ensure pupils make the most of peer to peer support.
Habits for learning: sentence, voice, precision
All pupils at King Solomon Academy are expected to speak in full sentences, with voice and with precision. We know that having relentlessly high expectations of these core habits for learning enable pupils to become more articulate, develop more complex thoughts and more confidence.
Reading is at the heart of all we do at KSA. We know that reading provides knowledge for our pupils: knowledge of vocabulary, language and of the world around us, all of which are essential for success at university and beyond. Pupils are encouraged to read as much as possible and, wherever possible, we should aim to provide pupils with access to the written word in all subjects to ensure they are exposed to as much language as possible.
In Infants, we prioritise reading in our daily phonics programme and the English curriculum which is also supplemented with story time twice a day in EYFS and ten minutes of DEAR in Y1 and Y2. In Junior and Middle School, pupils have a dedicated half hour of reading time each day. This is called DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and in it, pupils and adults read a book or a non-fiction article. Pupils also complete DEAR homework every night and must read their book at home too. In Upper School and Sixth Form, there is no such formal reading time in the timetable, but pupils are actively encouraged to read in all subjects and teachers regularly provide further reading which helps to extend pupils' knowledge beyond the curriculum.