Intent, Implementation and Impact
At Saint John’s School, we recognise that children experience and learn in both planned and unplanned ways. We are intentional in the preparation of our curriculum, but we are fully aware that many lessons are taught unconsciously, particularly the values that our children see and engage with in school life daily. We hope that, as the pupils grow and develop, they would flourish as our key verse reminds us. A dictionary definition for “flourish” is: To grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a congenial environment. We hope that our children will be healthy, even vigorous, and to bloom into mature young people, with us aiming to provide a “congenial” environment!
We want our community to understand the role and purpose of Christian values in their lives. This is not just about learning about the values but is also about reflecting on and then living out values. Our aims are to provide a curriculum which ensures our children love learning, to encourage each other to be caring towards others and towards ourselves, to respond positively to challenge, to work well with others within our community and to recognise and celebrate our citizenship – particularly our diversity - both now and in those communities we will join in the future.
Our curriculum has been designed by the whole staff, as we have worked together discussing and planning what we feel are the learning needs of our pupils at Saint John’s. The National Curriculum is a key starting point and, along with the golden threads of our vision and values running through our curriculum, we have focused on each subject, thinking about the particular needs of our pupils, any gaps there might be and what we want them to gain during their primary school education, in particular, the knowledge, skills and vocabulary. There is cohesion across the different subjects with connections between subjects being clearly defined and with a focus on gaining a deep understanding of a subject area, rather than skimming the surface. With an established sequence of learning provided by the subject lead, there is progression from each year group to the next to ensure we are building on previous knowledge and striving for challenging learning at every stage.
Additionally, our curriculum is designed to fill those gaps which have the potential to alienate our children from thriving in education or which might prevent them from accessing future opportunities. We have a strong commitment to equal opportunities, providing the best possible chance for a pupil to engage in learning both within and beyond the classroom. Our curriculum embraces breadth and balance and we are proud to see our pupils excel not only in the core subjects but beyond. We have built in experiences such as walking to events and locations in central Cheltenham; additional physical activities such as riding a bike and swimming; learning to sing and play musical instruments and organising trips further afield to ensure that all rudimentary childhood experiences are given to our Saint John’s pupils. Our intention is to increase the children’s cultural capital as we prepare them for their future.
The whole staff has worked on our curriculum, with themes that reach across the whole school to encourage a sense of working together as a family, building on core values and academic learning, whilst stretching far and wide (like a tree). There is consistency and progression from year to year. Our subject leaders plan and deliver training in their subjects, ensuring that year group teachers are given the guidance and resources needed for high-quality learning. Delivery of each subject is very much aligned with the national curriculum requirements; for example, the school uses the DfE approved ‘White Rose’ scheme in Maths, focusing on key principles such as providing a concrete and pictorial approach to support a better understanding of the abstract and Deepening Understanding challenges all of our children to apply their knowledge and skills in different context. “Floppy Phonics” (also DfE approved) is foundational in our development of Reading, alongside a daily use of VIPERS and Fred’s Teaching to give a structured plan to our children’s engagement with books. We have both class libraries and a newly refurbished library accessible to all the children on a daily basis. Writing is being developed as we respond to the needs of the pupils, particularly recognising that this was one of the most challenging impacts of the pandemic. We use a variety of resources, alongside high-quality texts, and lessons have a clear sequence of learning used across the school, with our “High Fives” featuring heavily in the children’s learning and making sure there is challenge for every writer. We have begun to use "Talk for Writing" as our foundational approach to teaching writing as this emphasises the need for children to engage orally before putting pen to paper!
Foundation subjects are taught through a topic concept that we believe to be appropriate for our pupils and targeted specifically to their needs. Our curriculum embeds understanding of key concepts, as we support pupils to transfer this learning as they move between subjects. Science uses a structured programme designed by integra in South Gloucestershire, enabling our staff to take part in hubs and training in the area. We know that links with other schools is fundamental to our community flourishing. History and Geography draw upon the rich historical links that can be found in the local area which are easily accessible from our town centre school and often involve our parents or those in the local community speaking with our children from their expertise. For R.E., we follow the Gloucestershire Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education which dovetails with the ‘Understanding Christianity’ resource and with our focus on citizenship, we encourage children to think about the wide range of religions and beliefs within our community. The PINK Curriculum is a basis for our learning in PSHE - Physical, Social, Health and Emotional Education; this has been written by the Healthy Living and Learning team in Gloucestershire to meet the needs of all children and young people in this area. Clearly, our focus on Caring and Citizenship will be a key part of this subject and the connection with our Vision and Values is evident in the way children speak, how they engage with each other and in our school environment. In Music, the Charanga scheme allows staff to develop the listening, composing and playing skills, as well as knowledge and understanding and we teach recorders in two different year groups so that children participate in a music group before leaving primary school. A music specialist comes in weekly to lead our choir and provide music lessons in our library space. “La Jolie Ronde” is a KS2 French scheme of work with both written and aural resources; we also add to the classroom experience by having Language Days when we can practise our French and celebrate the many, diverse languages spoken within our school community. Parents can again provide that extra challenge with French speakers raising the bar high! Our Computing curriculum, using the iCompute scheme, involves regular use of both laptops and ipads for coding, research and writing documents using Word, Powerpoint or Excel. Art and Design Technology are planned by our subject leads to enhance learning in other subjects whilst also ensuring there is diversity in the artists and designers studied by the children. Children’s artistic skills are developed sequentially, shown in our focus on one skill across the school with a final Art Show at the end. In a bid to establish healthy living and recognising the limitations of the school surroundings, Physical Education is given a high profile in the timetable and in extra-curricular activities and “Move More” planning, resourcing, training and staffing provide expertise to ensure the children experience high-quality Physical Education.
In terms of organisation, we teach subject specific lessons from Year 1 to Year 6, so that children can learn and see themselves as “scientists”, “historians”, “geographers”, “artists” etc. We also plan Enrichment Days, where cross curricular links are made with other subjects and additional experiences are added to the "regular" curriculum. This enables links to be made between subjects and ensures that knowledge and skills are embedded through different subjects. Learning is timetabled, so that there is an appropriate balance of subjects, with some subjects being taught every day: Reading, Writing, Maths; some subjects are taught weekly: Science, P.E., R.E. and P.S.H.E. Other subjects are alternated either fortnightly or termly,: History, Geography, Computing. This enables us to teach “fewer things in greater depth”; subjects are allocated the time needed for them to be taught effectively.
Subject leads have developed sequenced planning for their subject from Reception to Year 6, with an outline of the knowledge, skills and vocabulary in each area of learning. In this way, teachers, children and parents know what is taught and when. Knowledge Organisers designed by the Curriculum Leads working with the class teachers, are used to teach the pupils new knowledge, linking to prior learning and leading towards the next steps for learning. In this way, we can provide both support for those finding learning tricky and challenge for those who need further targets to help them stretch themselves and aim high.
The impact of our curriculum is that the vast majority of pupils leave with skills and knowledge in line with national curriculum expectations, not only in the core subjects but across a range of subjects. Many, if not all, will be able to sing in pitch, play a musical instrument, swim at least 25m, ride a bike and have the rudimentary beginnings of learning a foreign language; they will have experienced gardening, learnt woodland skills and engaged in water activities. Some will have played sport at a competitive level and others will have performed in a production or presented their ideas to an audience. For all their differences, the pupils will be rooted in their understanding of how they are loved and valued and will be given the skills and confidence to reach up ambitiously and out towards others, contributing to the wider community both during and after their primary school years.