Curriculum intent:

The intent of the AGFS curriculum is to enact the school’s mission by:

  • Promoting ambition – ensuring scholars have the knowledge and skills required to gain access to a Russell Group university.
  • Developing growth – giving scholars the opportunity to experience ‘controlled failure’ and develop resilience and independence.
  • Encouraging fellowship – giving scholars the knowledge to think critically about the world and acknowledge different perspectives.
  • Cultivating scholarship – promoting a love of knowledge for its own sake, to develop a pursuit of mastery in each academic discipline.

This mission permeates all aspects of the school’s life.

 

Context:

  • According to the 2019 Index of Multiple Deprivation, the school’s catchment area encapsulates postcodes from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most deprived deciles in the UK. The school’s population is in the top quintile nationally for scholars with additional learning needs and English as an additional language. There is, therefore, an onus on the curriculum to work rapidly to enable the school to fulfil its mission of helping scholars stand shoulder to shoulder with any young person from any background across the country.
  • The school has excellent views of Canary Wharf, London City Airport and the City of London. The curriculum must ensure that all scholars have access to the employment opportunities the school’s geographical location provides. We believe that the best way to do this is to ensure scholars leave the school with the highest grades possible in the most academically rigorous GCSE qualifications and equipped with the character dispositions required for them to be successful in a modern and competitive world of work.

 

Principles

  • The curriculum at AGFS is unashamedly academic. Our belief is that all our scholars have the right to a traditional and academically rigorous curriculum so that they have access to the maximum number of options in their future.
  • We do not seek ways to artificially boost our provision in school league tables by using equivalent qualifications such as BTECS and VCerts.
  • 90-95% of scholars at AGFS are entered for the academically rigorous Ebacc qualification and over 50% of scholars study Triple Science. All scholars take a modern language from Year 7 through to GCSE level. Selected scholars have the opportunity to study Mandarin as a 2nd language from Year 7.
  • We believe that high levels of literacy are the key to unlocking student potential. The whole school reading programme and ‘read now’ phase of each lesson ensures scholars read for at least 90 minutes every day.
  • The school’s co-curricular provision sits alongside the academic curriculum. The enrichment timetable is built into provision at Key Stage three and ensures all scholars take part in community service, creative activities, sport and young enterprise. The Drop Down Day programme allows scholars to enjoy a wide range of educational trips, visits and culturally enriching experiences.
  • The character programme helps scholars to develop life enabling personal characteristics such as confidence, oracy, good manners and respect.
  • A highly effective curriculum is not built by chance, or in silos. Senior curriculum leaders work closely with department curriculum leaders to ensure all aspects of the curriculum are planned in detail, with coherence and in dialogue with curriculum development in other disciplines. No single person is responsible for the curriculum in each department or faculty. The work to build and maintain an excellent curriculum starts with senior curriculum leaders and runs through heads of departments, responsibility holders and main scale teachers.

 

Year 7-9 Curriculum

The AGFS curriculum is consciously broad and balanced, while simultaneously clearly responding to the school’s context and broader mission. Where national curriculum subjects are not taught discretely, there is detailed tracking of where statutory requirements are met elsewhere within the curriculum.

A copy of this tracking for Key Stage 3 and 4 can be found here (this tool is currently under development and will be continually updated).

For example, statutory objectives for Design and Technology are met through the art, design and photography curriculum and objectives for citizenship, sex and relationships education are met through the humanities curriculum and character programme.

Subject

Y7 lessons per fortnight

Y8 lessons per fortnight

Y9 lessons per fortnight

English Language and Literature

10

9

9

Mathematics

9

10

9

Science (Biology, Physics, Chemistry)

9

9

10

Geography

4

4

5

History

4

4

5

Religious Studies/ Philosophy

2

2

2

MFL

7

7

6

Physical Education

4

4

4

Computing

2

2

2

Music

3

3

2

Art, Design and Technology

2

2

2

Drama

2

2

2

Enrichment

2

2

2

 

Year 10- Year 11 Curriculum

Scholars follow a broad curriculum until they select their GCSE options at the end of Year 9. Scholars study ten subjects at GCSE level in total, in comparison to the national average of 8.

These are separated into two categories: Core and optional.

90-95% of our scholars are entered for the academically rigorous EBACC qualification.

  • Core subjects are compulsory and will be studied by all scholars
  • Optional subjects are when scholars choose to study certain subjects and not others. Scholars can choose to study three option subjects. Teachers will offer guidance and support to ensure appropriateness of option subjects.

 

Core Subjects:

All subjects will study each of the following subjects:

Subject

Lessons per fortnight

Number of GCSEs gained

English Language and Literature

11

2

Mathematics

11

1

Combined Science (Biology, Physics, Chemistry)

11

2 – Triple science may be selected as an ‘option’ to gain an additional GCSE

Core PE

2

0 – GCSE PE can be chosen as an ‘option’

French or Spanish*

5

1

History or Geography

5

1

*A very small number of scholars may be selected to study additional English, maths and science instead of a modern language in key stage 4. This is to ensure that all scholars are given every support to be able to reach the basic standard in core subjects.

 

Option Subjects (worth one GCSE)

All scholars select three of the subjects below as their options:

  • Art and Design
  • Computer Science
  • Drama
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Physical Education
  • Religious Studies/Philosophy
  • Statistics
  • Triple Science

 

Curriculum Planning:

Senior and subject curriculum leaders work together to ensure that each discipline is planned in detail, according to the below principles:

  1. Primary to university progression – each department carefully considers the knowledge and skills scholars have in the subject when they join the school and what knowledge and skills will be required for access to the best universities in the UK. The progression model in each subject ensures all scholars have access to entry to the best universities in the UK, regardless of their starting point.
  2. Subject Power standards – these are the ‘essence of each subject’. Scholars will develop mastery in these standards across each year group and progress in each subject will be tracked against them.
  3. Core knowledge – scholars are expected to complete self-quizzing and revision of the most powerful knowledge required for success in all subjects at home. Independent practice of core knowledge is essential for success.
  4. Golden nuggets - scholars are regularly tested on the schema of most powerful knowledge developed over time to enhance scholar progress.
  5. Medium term plans – departments complete detailed medium-term plans for each unit of work so that all scholars receive the same, high-quality instruction.
  6. Scholarship lessons - these 50-minute lessons serve to ensure that scholars develop mastery in the most important knowledge required for a particular lesson sequence to reduce cognitive load in subsequent growth lessons:
    1. Read or recall now - initial reading of knowledge and testing on basic comprehension, or closed questions testing of high leverage knowledge from previous lessons.
    2. Consolidation activities -high intensity recall tasks to consolidate knowledge.
    3. Exit ticket - Scholars complete an independent task to demonstrate whether the knowledge has been mastered.
  7. Growth lessons - these 100-minute lessons help scholars to develop proficiency in applying knowledge within a skill-based context through deep, deliberate, independent practice.

    1. Read now - knowledge in context, linked to the ‘big why’ or an exemplar response to see what great looks like. Questions test skills in comprehension, vocabulary, inference, and synthesis.
    2. Daily review - questions targeting retention of golden nuggets, core knowledge and prior learning. Scholars draw the link between this lesson, knowledge lessons and previous units of work.
    3. Exposition - Metacognitive steps carefully scripted by the teacher, supported by a visual to focus scholar attention, underpinned by dozens of questions, answered by all scholars to ensure everyone can move on to threshold practice.
    4. Threshold practice - A quick task to measure whether all scholars are ready to move to deliberate practice and the best level of practice for each scholar.
    5. Deliberate practice - Multiple rounds of practice of increasing depth and complexity.
      1.  DP1 – tightly controlled, minimal variation.
      2. DP2 – less tightly controlled, greater variation.
      3. DP3 – more complex, unsupported, recontextualised practice.
    6. The teacher completes intentional monitoring, gathering data, response to misconceptions, re-teach and intervention of target groups.
  8. Learning behaviour - all scholars are expected to conduct themselves in a scholarly manner during lessons. We define this as:

 

Adaptations of the curriculum for scholars with additional needs:  

  • There is no narrowing of the curriculum for scholars with additional needs, nor is there lowering of expectations. The school is relentlessly ambitious for all scholars and expects all scholars to meet the school’s very high standards. Some scholars will need more support than others to meet these standards, however, and the school varies the level of support on offer to scholars according to their prior educational experiences, additional needs and disabilities and academic progress.
  • SEND scholars are not withdrawn from certain subjects in order to receive learning support because this is counterintuitive. Nobody ever caught up by falling further behind.
  • In addition to the bespoke, personalised support that will be offered according to scholars’ Education, Health and Care Plans, the following support is in place to help SEND scholars make rapid progress at AGFS:
    • Bespoke reading interventions (e.g Lexia and Fresh Start tutoring) during morning reading time for scholars who are reading significantly below their chronological reading age.
    • Classes with high numbers of scholars with additional needs are taught by the school’s most experienced teachers. These classes are often smaller in size.
    • Scholars who have fallen most behind in English and mathematics are taught in classes of no more than 20 in Year 7 and Year 8.
    • Seating plans ensure that vulnerable scholars are sat closest to the teacher and receive assistance first in class.
    • The school’s approach to independent learning provides opportunities for ‘over-learning’ of important terminology and subject content; this is a key support mechanism for scholars with dyslexia.

 

Stretching more able scholars through the curriculum:

Scholars are taught in loosely assigned sets according to their ability in mathematics. This arrangement allows for mixed ability teaching, but within a narrower range. The following structural and in-lesson provision is in place to stretch the most able:

  • Opportunities to study a European and Asian language as part of base curriculum entitlement. The most able Y7 scholars are enrolled on the Mandarin Excellence Programme.
  • Core knowledge acquisition through independent learning means that the starting point in lessons can be direct application of this knowledge.
  • Differentiated practice in growth lessons. Deliberate practice 3 focuses on greater application of knowledge in less controlled conditions.
  • 45% of scholars opt for Triple Science as part of their GCSE curriculum.
  • Key Stage 4 Oxbridge tutor group for scholars on track to achieve an average grade of greater than 7 across all their subjects.
  • Enrichment opportunities: Russell Group enrichment project, STEAM, student leadership, debating and entry to computer science hackathons.

As a result of this provision, typically 50% of scholars at AGFS achieve the grades to gain entry into a selective post 16 provision.

 

Research underpinning the AGFS approach to the curriculum:

Research

Impact on the curriculum

M Schmoker, Focus: elevating the essentials to radically improve student learning, 2011.

The challenges to scholars making rapid progress are often more similar across disciplines than different:

  • poor knowledge retention
  • poor literacy
  • inability to move from knowledge retention to application
  • poor metacognitive skills

The solutions to these problems are far more effective when they are simple, systematic and satisfactorily implemented:

  • a focussed and coherent curriculum
  • clear, prioritised lessons
  • purposeful reading and writing

D Lemov, Teach Like a Champion, 2021

Lessons should insist on 100% cognitive engagement by 100% of scholars.

Classrooms are characterised by a strong culture of error, where no scholar opts out.

The format of lessons are standardised to reduce extraneous cognitive load.

Routines and systems help to accelerate learning.

Joyful routines create a climate where scholars enjoy learning.

P Kirschner & C Hendrick, How Learning Happens: seminal works in educational psychology and what they mean in practice, 2020.

Novice learners are not the same as experts, and so should not be taught as such.

Tasks should be practiced in small parts, before being built up to more complex tasks.

Prior knowledge is a key indicator of future learning.

Intelligence is not fixed, but thinking you are intelligent makes you so.

Dl Willingham, Why don’t students like school?, 2009.

Knowledge sits at the root of critical thinking.

Recall as the route to retention.

B Rosenshine, Principles of Instruction, 2021

Daily review of important prior learning.

Exposition broken into clear, metacognitive steps.

Deliberate practice as the most direct route to mastery.

D Christodolou, Making Good Progress: The future of assessment for learning, 2016

 

R Coe, C Aloisi, S Higgins, L Major, What makes great teaching: review of the underpinning research, 2014

The curriculum as a model for progression.

Formative assessment as a tool to improve the quality of instruction in the classroom.

Pedagogical knowledge (specification mastery) is as important as general subject knowledge in accelerating scholar progress.

Study of high performing schools in similar contexts.

High quality explanations where all scholars participate lead to rapid progress.

Clearly sequenced curriculum programmes, with frequent opportunities for knowledge recall and application of knowledge in controlled practice are those that lead to the highest outcomes.