Our curriculum is built on the foundations of the Key Stage 1&2 National Curriculum (NC) for England and the Early Years Foundation Framework.
As we teach in mixed-age classes, each consisting of two year groups, all curriculum content is delivered across 2-year programmes of study. The curriculum is divided into four phases: EYFS (Nursery & Reception); Key Stage 1 (Years 1&2); Lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3&4); Upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5&6). Subject maps showing progression in each curriculum subject are available on the Fir Ends Curriculum page here.
The school promotes a learning culture based on the principles of metacognition, making pupils aware of the various skills that they can draw upon to be effective and independent learners and how they can solve challenges or improve their approach through experience. We encourage and celebrate mistake making as a central part of the learning process.
In addition to academic study of the statutory National Curriculum subjects, we incorporate regular outdoor learning /forest school sessions to promote 'soft skills' such co-operation, communication and environmental awareness as well a how to whittle, cook over an open fire and balance on slacklines! We are fortunate to have extensive grounds as well as local resources that support this aspect of our curriculum which is based on the Wild Passport curriculum. .
Personal responsibility is also encouraged throughout the school through classroom responsibilities and whole-school house team system. Pupils in the older year group of each class have opportunities to act as mentors for younger pupils and, in KS2 pupils can become involved in the Rotakids, raising money for a different charity each year, support the work of the PTA, and act as playground leaders.
CORE SUBJECTS - English, Maths, Science & Computing
The English curriculum covers reading, writing and spelling, punctuation & grammar (SPaG) as well as phonics and handwriting. It is delivered pro-actively, identifying specific areas in which each cohort requires specific support, whilst following a rolling programme of content coverage. This means, for example, that whilst a planned theme of 'narrative writing' is being delivered in the summer term, cohort-specific objectives to develop writing skills more generally may be included within this.
Our English writing curriculum objectives are loosely aligned to the Oak Academy resources. Whilst the resources themselves do not form a regular component of day-to-day classroom teaching, this approach enables remote learning in this subject to be linked to classroom experiences during periods of school closures or extended absences as children can use the Oak academy resources to meet the same broad learning goals.
Phonics and early reading across the EYFS and KS1 use Monster Phonics resources, including the scheme's published decodable books. Assessment of phonics progress is completed in phonics tracker, which also allows teachers to quickly identify and provide targeted homework for any gaps.
In general, reading is taught through focused 1-1 and group activities in classrooms, supported by access to a broad range of books in addition to those chosen by their teachers. Children have access to a range of age-appropriate fiction and non-fiction texts in 'book bands' which they are encouraged to choose from more independently. We have both classroom bookshelves and a school library, where children can independently find books to enjoy in a range of genres. Approaches to teaching reading include reciprocal reading strategies, which are introduced from year 2 onwards.
This is complemented by our school-wide handwriting scheme - Nelson Handwriting - which links developing phonics knowledge with physical writing - and further supported by early readers from the Oxford Reading Tree scheme. Each classroom also has its own age-appropriate library area as well as a school library - which has its fiction shelves refreshed annually.
As children move through the school, the teaching focus changes to emphasise reading comprehension skills, and includes the use of recipriocal reading approaches from the end of Year 2 onwards.
Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar is taught sequentially in line with the National Curriculum objectives. In EY and KS1 it closely matches phonics studies, whilst in KS2 the National Curriculum word and terminology lists underpin content delivered. Learning is supported by access to Spag.com.
Handwriting is also taught sequentially across the school, starting in EYFS. We use the Nelson Handwriting scheme (Oxford Owl) and resources. Children start by learning to print in EYFS, adding more complex letter joins to their repertoire as they move through years 1-3 and are encouraged to develop more personal writing styles from year 4 onwards.
In early years, maths teaching focuses on the early learning goals listed for number and pattern. Children are taught to be confident in understanding the composition of numbers to 10, patterns up to and beyond 20, and concepts such as doubling, halving, odds and evens.
Mathematics teaching in years 1-6 follows the Collins Busy Ants Maths scheme - providing a consistent approach to mathematical teaching and learning throughout the school with appropriately differentiated tasks to challenge all abilities.
At the end of each unit of work, children are assessed to monitor how secure they are with each topic.
The calculation policy that underpins learning in each year group can be viewed here; this can be helpful to support parents' understanding of the approaches taught in school when working on calculations at home.
Science teaching follows the national curriculum, appropriately structured for our mixed-age classes. A mix of practical and theoretical teaching approaches is used. Resources are drawn from a variety of sources, with an emphasis on making the content easily accessible to all pupils.
To ensure that our computing curriculum has appropriate breadth and is up-to-date, we follow the iLearn2 scheme. This is regularly updated and utilises widely available online resources that children can use outside lessons.
All children from year 1-6 have their own chromebook, which KS2 pupils are able to take home as well as using in lessons.
NON CORE CURRICULUM - the foundation subjects
The foundation subjects are an important part of developing a rounded knowledge and understanding of the world. They offer pupils opportunities to learn more about historical periods, faiths and cultures, and the world around them.
In history, early years pupils begin by finding out about changes within their lifetimes, and those of their immediate families, as well as the time of the dinosaurs and other notable periods in the historical timeline. During KS1, they take a tour of history from the Ancient Egyptians to the reign of Elizabeth II, gaining a broad understanding of important periods and changes. Ks2 pupils focus in more depth on the Ancient Greeks, Aztecs and the Benin, alongside studies of the settlement of Britain by Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings as well as local history including medieval Carlisle and the role of Carlisle Castle in the Jacobite uprising. As we are in 'Roman Country', we make good use of the local sites such as Birdoswald and Vindolanda.
In geography, from Summer 2022 we are implementing the Oddizzi curriculum. Amongst other things, children learn about climatic zones, the flow of water from rivers to oceans, North and South America, the tourist industry in Cumbria and how mountains and volcanoes are formed and shape the landscape.
Art allows children to express themselves, whilst design & technology encourages them to seek solutions to everyday problems and to consider how everyday objects are designed and manufactured. There is some overlap between both subjects.
Music is delivered using the Charanga Musical School resource. Children learn about musical themes and periods whilst having opportunities to play and sing together.
They learn to play tuned instruments from KS1. Initially they learn to play glockenspiel in KS1, then recorders from the end of Year 3.
From year 2, they also have access to peripatetic teaching of keyboard, guitar, woodwind or brass.
Our Sex & Relationships Education curriculum is taught within Physical, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) which is taught primarily through the JIGSAW scheme and includes coverage of British Values.
Religious Studies delivery reflects the Cumbria Agreed Syllabus and is delivered through the Discovery RE scheme. This is an enquiry-led approach that encourages children to reflect on different aspects of each of the major faiths, and their own spiritual development.
Outdoor Education is integrated into the weekly KS1&2 timetable on an approximately 3-weekly rotation, offering pupils opportunities to take part in collaborative learning in the outdoor environment, on site or in a nearby woodland, to develop their resilience and self-confidence, as well as cookery skills.
In PE, weekly practical sessions in school develop basic skills of teamwork, tactical awareness and movement.
The school endeavours to take part in multiple competitive events throughout the year, providing opportunities for pupils to experience competitive sport.
Opportunities to take part in climbing sessions at a local climbing wall and other opportunities to take part in 'niche' sports are included.
Swimming lessons are provided for pupils in years 3&4 with top-up sessions provided to those in subsequent years.
Immersive Modern Foreign Language teaching is provided by a peripatetic teacher and Key Stage 2 pupils study French from year 3 onwards.
We recognise that many of our pupils spend a considerable amount of time outside school hours travelling to and taking part in extra-curricular activities and sports.
To simplify the setting of homework, we primarily use online resources that allow children (supported by parents) to access relevant tasks and to manage their own learning, enabling them to spend an appropriate amount of time developing the core maths and literacy skills required for success in the classroom. There is an expectation that at least 30 minutes per week will be spent on these resources, but there is no upper limit!
In addition, pupils are expected to complete weekly reading and spelling tasks and teachers will typically set a termly 'project task' to be completed over a period of weeks, linked to their current classroom topic.
Where appropriate, or where a pupil does not have internet access at home, teachers may also choose to send home worksheet tasks and will set an achievable deadline for these.
Our Marking Policy reflects the findings of a 2016 review of practice in line with research.
The marking policy promotes an assessment system that focuses on formative assessment in the classroom, with the onus placed on verbal feedback and responses whilst work is being completed.
This supports our wider aim of promoting independent learning strategies and pupil-initiated review of work as well as reduced teacher workload associated with marking.
Our classrooms are intended to be 'no hands up' zones for the majority of the time, to promote thinking time and individual engagement as well as further facilitating effective formative assessment.
Phonics teaching is supported by ongoing assessment in line with the Monster Phonics programme, completed in phonics tracker. This offers teachers useful insight into areas where children may need more support and allows them to provide parents targeted tasks to help children at home.
In addition to daily formative assessment by teachers, we use more formal assessments each term to track pupil progress in the core subjects (Reading, Maths, SpaG and writing).
We use NFER test materials in the autumn, spring and summer terms to measure pupil attainment against age-appropriate curriculum outcomes.
The NFER tests offer a useful age-standardised scoring scale. We also convert raw test scores in reading, writing, spelling, punctuation & grammar and mathematics into 'steps' which are recorded and can be used to measure progress against broader expectations. Assessment outcomes are reported to parents 2-3 times per year, typically just before termly progress meetings.
In years 2&6, statutory national tests and the teacher assessment frameworks are also completed and data from these informs ongoing development of teaching approaches.
Assessment results help teachers to identify pupils who require further support or who are exceeding age-related expectations in these curriculum areas. They also give an indication of likely outcomes at the end of each Key Stage.