Unique, innovative, challenging
Our curriculum provision is a unique and ever-changing document: our community is changing, our children’s lives are changing. We have to change with them.
Our parental survey highlights that our children are often first generation, with approximately 50% of parents not speaking any English at home. Culture is firmly rooted in Bangladeshi traditions for the large majority of our community. Our curriculum overview highlights the progression of how children understand themselves, their communities, their cultures and their place in the world.
First hand experiences in our curriculum are essential: trips out of school are vital to our children’s understanding of the world. We understand how religion and the Mosque play such a huge part in our families lives, which is why the rich and varied experiences we offer all our children work around local Mosque times.
Our themes have recently been revised ahead of the 2014 curriculum, with our children’s interests and heritage at the heart of the design. Our themes are engaging, stimulating and challenging for all pupils. We have created a broad and balanced opportunity for creative thinking and learning for both boys and girls.
How is our curriculum delivered?
Every half term begins with fundamental principles of the learning cycle. The ‘I wonder week’ generates excitement and engagement for something new. The children share what they want to know already and decide what it is they want to discover. Children have a first-hand experience related to their topic: something exciting that will always remember. Some of our learning behaviours link extremely well to this area and our children are taught that this part of learning can be scary and usually. This process takes a week.
For 2-3 weeks after this, the children acquire new knowledge. They are trained to be resilient, open minded and to persevere when mistakes are made. The research is done to answer their own questions and new skills are developed.
For 1-2 weeks after this, comes the challenge weeks. Now skills have been practised, our children know they are to think about things in different ways. Thinkers keys are used, problem solving becomes more challenging and children are taught that even though mistakes aren’t as frequent, they are learning through higher order thinking skills.
Finally, we have a perform/ inform week. Our children know that teaching our new skills and knowledge to someone else allows us to embed our learning. Work is evaluated and successes are celebrated. And so the cycle continues…
How was our curriculum designed?
To help our children understand how they learn in the best way they can, we teach them a set of key learning behaviours. In foundation stage these are broken down into: risk taking, cooperation, imagination, independence, concentration, taking care, pride, don’t give up, explore, fun, check it and ideas.
In KS1 and KS2 the behaviours the children focus on are: cooperation, concentration, courage, curiosity, enthusiasm, direction, empathy, flexibility, humility, imagination, independence, humour, open mindedness, perseverance, precision, reflectiveness, resilience, responsibility, risk taking and self-discipline. These are displayed in every teaching area and having a word of the week allows children to practice these behaviours, building up an understanding of good learning skills.
At the beginning of a new theme, usually every half term, our classes will consider what they know already about that topic and discuss what they want to find out. Every child and every class is unique, which is why our planning has to be flexible to change with the needs of the individuals. A wonder wall is created in each class, with a knowledge harvest, questions and work in progress throughout the theme. Our wonder walls are transferred to the corridors for all to see at the end of every half term and renamed as a wow wall. This means our stunning displays are constantly changing.
Our children are encouraged to work together and use coaching skills to help each other achieve an outcome. They are always accountable to each other in a team. When they share ideas, their talking time is equal to avoid children taking over the conversation or being left behind. All children discuss simultaneously rather than the teacher asking one child to answer a question. Our teachers are learning facilitators, creating a challenging yet safe environment for children to want to take risks and learn from mistakes. This is the way our cooperative learning works. The children in Nursery begin with very basic structures, which are gradually built upon in each year group. With a shoulder partner, face partner and team of 4/5, every child has the security of never being alone in learning. Teams change every half term to avoid the children becoming too comfortable with their shoulder partners.
Why put a lid on the level of challenge a learner can access? Lessons at Burnley Brow are a unique and personal experience for every child and are different every day. We do not have set ‘ability groups’, but the opportunity for every child to choose for themselves the level of work they need to access each day (with direction as needed). With our learning behaviours being taught alongside this, our children are becoming experts in knowing what an appropriate level of challenge for themselves as learners would be. Teaching isn’t delivered to a whole class. Modelling and explanations are delivered to groups of children working on a similar level, as we understand that talking 30 very different learners cannot possibly reach them all. Our children have the opportunity to decide whether their chosen level is too hard to manage, or too easy to be challenging, and change their work accordingly.
Our teachers have 20 thinkers’ keys to use in order to challenge our children’s thinking and encourage them to think in different ways. These work well with Blooms’ Taxonomy and our learning behaviours.
Themed Events and Creative Thinking
Once per term we have a week dedicated to a specific theme. During the week, we explore all 20 learning behaviours and teach 2 lessons about how to think. Everything during that week ties into the theme. During the school year 2013- 2014 for example, our 3 themed week were: ‘Resourceful Thinkers’ where children had a no pen day, a no projector day and an outdoor learning day, encouraging the teachers to think more creatively about their planning; ‘hopes and dreams’ where we considered what we wanted for our own futures and what we might do to achieve them and ‘Down on the Farm’ which was a science and geography based week, considering agriculture, where our food comes from, growing our own vegetables and looking after animals. In between themed weeks are our themed days, which may include events such as World Book Day or Everybody Writes Day.
We understand that for learning to take place, we need regular time to reflect on our thinking. At Burnley Brow reflection doesn’t just happen at the end of a lesson, but continuously throughout the day. Our teachers use regular ‘stop structures’ to allow thinking time for children to reflect on the learning process and embed new thoughts with their peers.
In addition to creative homework tasks and online homework on our virtual learning environment, we have a family homework project every half term. The activity encourages the whole family to work together to achieve something which are celebrated and displayed in school. A recent success was our recipe book.
Use of ICT
We strive to engage all learners in our curriculum in as many ways as we can. With that in mind, we use a variety of innovative equipment to enhance learning opportunities. The large majority of our children are learning English as an additional language. They need visual aids to support their learning which is why we use smart boards and touch screen TVs.
If you would like to find out more about our curriculum, please telephone school to make an appointment and we will be happy to answer any queries.