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The Great Barwell Learning Adventure



Our curriculum needs to enable children to know more, to understand more and do more.  In order to do this, we need to be extremely well informed about pedagogic subject knowledge and build a curriculum based, not only on sound research but knowing what works for our school.  Vocabulary and books need to be at the heart of learning and the curriculum needs to be strategically planned so that deliberate links are made within learning across subjects, within year groups and within subjects across the key stage so that key ideas are revisited.  There needs to be a consistent approach whilst still allowing for an understanding of how different subjects need to be organised in order to prepare our children for their next stage of education and also building on their previous learning in Key Stage 1.  We must have the highest expectations that all children can reach national expectations or above whilst also building children’s cultural capital so they can be successful throughout their lives.  In order to be successful in these aims, we need to be explicit in knowing where we want children to get to at key points in their learning and use assessment to inform our planning.



Our Curriculum Design…





There are many debates that are contested within the educational sphere at the moment but none more so than the hotly contested discussion surrounding the pedagogical approaches to learning relating to a traditional approach versus a progressive approach.  Edutweeters risk their ‘social media’ lives in order to argue that they are right and there are often strong accusations flying about.  However, cutting through the trees to see the wood, what emerges is the fundamental principal that the curriculum in a school should be at the heart of learning and drive its practices and approaches.  Too often, the curriculum is not holistically thought out and not strategically planned and this can have a detrimental impact on children’s learning: the ‘it’s the way we do things here’ approach.  In addition, with the removal of levels within schools, assessment in many cases is the driving force behind what is taught rather than assessment being a tool to aid the curriculum.  So, it follows that the real debate should not be about what approach we use from the divide in education and pin our colours to the mast but rather to be asking ourselves questions about what our children need and design a curriculum to match those needs that is strategically planned across the whole school.  Many schools are successful, regardless of their pedagogical approach because of the consistency and drive within the school to achieve the same shared vision.



Our Barwell Curriculum followed the National Curriculum 2014 and had many strong elements that we believed supported children’s learning.  It was exciting and engaging and linked to children’s interests and took them on a ‘journey’ of discovery.  Our subject areas were presented in a thematic approach to ensure that time was maximised and that Literacy was at the heart of all learning.  However, time and time again, staff asked themselves why learning was not ‘sticking’?  They repeatedly questioned what were the barriers preventing our children from being successful?


It was these questions that initiated the start of The Great Barwell Learning Adventure!






In order to begin our journey, as a staff we focused on the work of educationalists, neuroscientists and psychologists to ensure that our work was grounded in the pedagogy of learning.  We used assessment data to see which groups of pupils in our school and nationally make less progress than others and we asked stakeholders what was important to them in a new curriculum.  This enabled us to develop a set of principles unto which our curriculum could be attached so that we could always ensure that we focused on what was important.





Below is a set of principles for our Learning Adventure to be built upon:


Inspiring, immersive and creative – we want children to enjoy the act of learning


Belongs to Barwell – we are an outward-facing school that collaborates with many others and reads widely but ultimately, our curriculum will be unique to us as it is built for us


Books and vocabulary – our curriculum will be built around books and vocabulary to address the gap in word knowledge and life experiences


Widens children’s experiences – it will engage children in things they have not done before or thought about before.  Its roots will spread out from our locality into the surrounding county and then spread to national and global learning.  We want our children to be able to go out into the world and be a successful person


Challenging with high expectations – it will set out exactly what we want children to know and we will check this at regular intervals


Character development – character development will be woven throughout


A clear writing process – there will be a focus on writing for different audiences and purposes linked to tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary


Families involved throughout – parents will be involved in the Learning Adventure throughout


It will be a 3D curriculum – vertical links will be deliberately constructed within a subject so they are revisited across Key Stage 2.  Horizontal links between subjects will be deliberately planned so that children experience the same theme in different areas of the curriculum.  Diagonal links will allow for children to see how concepts are joined across both year groups and subjects.


Retrieval practice – there will be ample opportunities for children to practise retrieving knowledge in a low stakes environment


A thematic approach – our learning will be presented in a learning journey where subjects are grouped together where this works best for learning.  Where it is better for learning for subjects to be taught discretely, this will be planned for


Reduces teacher workload – our curriculum should aid teachers in focusing on things that have a positive impact on children


Promotes the Equality Act (2010) – our curriculum will give children the chance to explore diversity through picture books each half term


No one size fits all – we recognise that all subjects are different and may need different approaches





Our Curriculum Map