We believe that learning is a continuous process which involves acquiring and applying knowledge, skills and concepts as well as fostering positive and worthwhile attitudes. This learning process is designed to enable learners to take on increasing levels of responsibility depending on their stage of development. We maintain that learning should be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for everyone. In short, it should be fun! Through our teaching we equip children with the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to be able to make informed choices about the important things in their lives. We believe that appropriate teaching and learning experiences help children to lead happy and rewarding lives.
Our Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception) children follow the statutory curriculum while the rest of the school follows the national curriculum. Teachers in each Year Group plan together to ensure each pair of classes achieves the same coverage.
In Year 1, we place children in sets for Mathematics according to each individual’s ability. Similarly in Year 2 we set for both Mathematics and Literacy. In Key Stage 2, we set across two Year Groups for Mathematics and in Years 3/4 also for Literacy.
Since September 2012, every classroom has a book corner to reflect the increased emphasis on reading in the school’s curriculum.
Topic Days & Theme Weeks
Regular topic days take place throughout Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6) where the whole day is focussed on cross-curricular learning and start with a WOW! event. The children focus on key skills through hands-on learning which totally immerses them in the given topic and inspires enthusiasm.
In addition, across the year we have theme weeks when the normal curriculum is suspended in order to concentrate on and deepen knowledge in a cross-curricular project. Building on the success of our whole Key Stage school trips, we have two whole school excursions planned during the academic year.
International Primary Curriculum (IPC)
We use the techniques of the IPC throughout the school as the basis of our teaching and learning of the National Curriculum. It is a comprehensive, thematic and creative curriculum with a clear process of learning and with specific learning goals for every subject. The IPC has been designed to ensure rigorous learning but also to help teachers make all learning exciting, active and meaningful for children. Learning with the IPC takes a global approach; helping children to connect their learning to where they are living now as well as looking at the learning from the perspective of other people in other countries.
The IPC is a curriculum that prepares our children very well for their future as adults. It gets children interested and focused on their learning and helps children to make real life links in their learning and to understand the purpose and direction of their learning. It also helps children in the developing and mastering of essential skills that will be applicable in whatever form of employment they will be faced with in the future. Further, it empowers children to be creative and to initiate and direct their own learning and that of others, encouraging personal and interdependent working to resolve tasks and problems.
Alongside the IPC, we use the critical skills model to enhance teaching and learning. The techniques include problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, creative thinking and communications, all of which provide purpose in the classroom, engage children in their learning, enable classes to run more smoothly, address curriculum targets and focus on quality work. Problem solving skills are used daily to encourage children to think creatively, tackle problems with resilience and persistence and to become independent learners. Parents/carers and pupils will be familiar with critical skills vocabulary such as quality audience, check in and check out, sweep, thumbs up, brainstorm and full value contracts. These methods are used throughout both key stages.
One of the characteristic activities of critical skills are the Challenges which usually are topics which extend across the whole curriculum. Challenges involve identification of the criteria by which the topic will be evaluated; brainstorming ideas; evaluation of each suggestion against the agreed criteria; task allocation such as facilitator, timekeeper, quality checker; a time management procedure; research of the topic using a range of resources and technology; exhibit the topic in some way eg presentation, poster, instruction booklet; answer questions from peers, teachers or other adults about the challenge. Topics end with reflection on the pupils’ learning and evaluation of the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes and where they need to focus in the next challenge.
Reading and Phonics Schemes
Guided Reading is taught each morning for 30 minutes. Some teachers prefer to divide their class into guided reading groups, focusing on one group each day, whilst other groups work on independent activities. Other teachers prefer to conduct guided reading as a whole class through group discussion, individual questioning and text-based activities. Both methods ensure that all children are reading and engaging with high quality texts.
There are a variety of texts available for teaching guided reading but in Years 5 and 6 English is taught from the basis of novels. It is generally expected that in these Year Groups the current class novel will be used during guided reading sessions. This is important because it provides contextualised learning for the children, allows lower-attaining children support in their understanding and also informs English sessions while allowing sufficient time for writing.
Individual reading provides children with daily opportunities to read and all children should be heard to read by their class teacher at least once a week. Every classroom, including nursery, has a dedicated ‘book corner’ with a suitable selection of books appropriate for the range of pupil ability in the class and each child’s reading progress is tracked throughout the year. Children are encouraged to record their own reading progress and to choose their own reading material with guidance from staff. The ideal book is one which stretches but does not overburden and, more importantly, is a book which interests the child. Children are encouraged to explore other texts from school and class libraries.
Not only are children expected to read in class but in as many other contexts as possible in independent reading. Reading at home is greatly encouraged by all teachers and individual reading records are continuously monitored. The school library is readily available to all and new books are constantly being added to the school’s collection. We have always strived to encourage parental involvement in children’s reading wherever possible and reading at home is one strand of this. Other opportunities for parental involvement with reading are currently being explored.
Other reading opportunities are provided for those children the school knows require additional support. We have a team of volunteer readers, including parents/carers, who work with those children who benefit from one-to-one reading sessions. Key Stage 2 classes are paired with a Key Stage 1 class so that they can meet for ‘Reading Partners’. This gives children the opportunity to hear each other read and to share books with younger and older children.
In Years 5 and 6, English lessons are based around a shared novel. This is a relatively new approach at Shirehampton Primary School which has produced very positive outcomes. Novels are selected for their purpose, their union with class topics and their literary gravitas. The rich language is explored and imitated and the progression of the story provides excellent narrative sense and awareness of structure. Using the novel, all main English lesson activities and guided reading are based around it.
Phonics is taught in Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception), in Key Stage 1 and lower Key Stage 2. It is also used as an intervention programme for a few children in upper Key Stage 2 and as a strategy to review and revise supported learning. The Letters and Sounds programme is the strategy started in the Nursery and it is developed through six phases which build on each other as the children move up to Year 2. It starts with environmental and instrumental sounds and then moves onto the spoken word and listening to rhymes and rhythms. As children become more familiar with this, the programme goes on to include oral blending and segmenting.
Starting in 2012, there is a national phonics screening check for children towards the end of Year 1. This screening is “a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard.” Children are prepared for this screening with the use of the Letters and Sounds programme. If additional support is required, Learning Support Assistants are trained in the intervention programme Read, Write, Inc. They also use Nessie which is an interactive teaching resource which engages the children but also enhances the learning process.
More information relating to the National Curriculum is available on the DirectGov website: Understanding the National Curriculum.
Information relating to the IPC can be found at The International Primary Curriculum (IPC).