Our aim is to provide an excellent education which brings out the best in all of our students and prepares them for success in education and life. We aim to deliver a curriculum which equips children with powerful knowledge, maximises their cognitive development and nourishes the whole person and the talents of the individual. The curriculum therefore liberates and empowers, providing pupils with the confidence to understand and shape the world around them, to be active and economically self-sufficient citizens, and to ‘enter into the conversation of mankind’ (Michael Oakeshott).
Our curriculum at NOA is built around the United Learning Common Curriculum. Hundreds of teachers and leaders have been involved in developing this as a core academic curriculum. The curriculum is based on these key principles:
- Entitlement: All pupils have the right to learn what is in the United Learning curriculum, and schools have a duty to ensure that all pupils are taught the whole of it.
- Coherence: Taking the National Curriculum as its starting point, our curriculum is carefully sequenced so that powerful knowledge builds term by term and year by year. We make meaningful connections within subjects and between subjects.
- Mastery: We ensure that foundational knowledge, skills, and concepts are secure before moving on. Pupils revisit prior learning and apply their understanding in new contexts.
- Adaptability: The core content – the ‘what’ – of the curriculum is stable, but schools will bring it to life in their own local context, and teachers will adapt lessons – the ‘how’ – to meet the needs of their own classes.
- Representation: All pupils see themselves in our curriculum, and our curriculum takes all pupils beyond their immediate experience.
- Education with character: Our curriculum - which includes the taught subject timetable as well as spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development, our co-curricular provision, and the ethos and ‘hidden curriculum’ of the school – is intended to spark curiosity and to nourish both the head and the heart.
Christine Counsell describes curriculum as ‘content structured as narrative over time’. Our aim is that all of our pupils experience a broad and ambitious curriculum that is knowledge-rich, thoughtfully sequenced, academically rigorous and challenging, and Increases in depth and complexity over time – week by week, term by term and year by year. In doing so, children bring their own experience into a shared story that enables them to leave our care with confidence and curiosity.
The United Learning Curriculum
We use the shared curriculum in the following subjects:
- Religious Education
- MFL (French and Spanish)
- Physical Education and Health
- Art (from September 2022)
Curriculum Intent – our ambition for our pupils; how we achieve the best in everyone
Our curriculum intent is grounded in providing an excellent education for all our students; an education which brings out the best in all of them and prepares them for success in life. Whilst our aim is to support pupils in achieving the best outcomes in the qualifications they need to move on the next stage of their lives, the NOA curriculum aims for much more than this: our curriculum is designed to help students develop a strong set of values that they can apply to their lives in school and beyond; students will learn how to build positive relationships with their peers and with adults, and how to communicate in a way that allows disagreement with others’ views. They will learn that everybody is entitled to a viewpoint and that our lives improve when we respect that right. Students will understand that learning is not always fun and can be difficult, but that with determination and perseverance difficulties can be overcome.
By teaching our curriculum well we develop pupils’ cultural capital: “the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.” (DFE National Curriculum, 2014) We draw on Michael Young’s distinction between ‘the knowledge of the powerful’ and ‘powerful knowledge’: “Powerful knowledge ensures that people are not trapped by the limits of their experiences.” Yet we also want all pupils to be able to see themselves in our curriculum. United Learning’s recent review into the Diversity and Inclusion of our curriculum included a commitment to this dual function of curriculum: that all pupils see themselves in our curriculum, and our curriculum takes all pupils beyond their immediate experience.
North Oxfordshire Academy Taught Curriculum (Based on a 40-period fortnight)
The curriculum below is designed to provide a coherent curriculum across Key Stage 3, 4 and 5. The curriculum is broad in Key Stage 3 and then narrows in Year 10 and 11, with all students taking nine GCSEs. Students in our sixth form usually take 3 or 4 A Level or equivalent programmes. At Key Stage 5, we also offer a range of enrichment opportunities, some in the form of additional qualifications.
KS3 - Year 7, 8 and 9
- We provide the full National Curriculum throughout Key Stage 3. This includes English, maths, science, history, geography, religious education, and a language.
- We have a broad vocational curriculum with students taking part in PE, music, art, drama, hospitality, IT and DT.
- All students take the full programme of subjects throughout key stage 3. This means that students do not drop subjects before the end of Year 9 when they choose their options.
Key Stage 3 Curriculum
(number of periods over 2 weeks)
In this timetable Personal, Social & Health Education, along with Citizenship and Relationships & Sex Education is delivered through the tutorial programme and ‘dropdown days’ throughout the year. Information on our delivery of information and guidance on careers at KS3 can be accessed here
KS4 - Years 10 and 11:
- Pupils do not sit GCSEs in any subjects before the end of Year 11 as this does not support their progression to further education.
- Our curriculum serves the education of our students, not points-scoring in league tables. We do not want young people to sit meaningless qualifications which do not help to take them anywhere.
- It is more important that children have enough teaching time to get good grades in the GCSEs they are taking than that they take lots of GCSEs. 9 GCSEs is enough to give students an excellent foundation in a broad and valuable range of subject areas.
Key Stage 4 Curriculum
(number of periods over 2 weeks)
The majority of our students take 9 GCSEs.
Information on our delivery of information and guidance on careers at KS4 can be accessed here
KS5 - Years 12 and 13:
- Six lessons for each of three or four options from the following:
Key Stage 5 Curriculum
(number of periods over 2 weeks)
Students without a minimum grade 4 in English and/or Maths will be enrolled on a retake programme in Year 12 and 13 to run alongside other selected courses. Enrichment opportunities include the EPQ and Core Maths, recommended for students taking sciences or social sciences who are not studying A Level Maths. The tutorial programme at KS5 delivers on a range of topics including the PSHE curriculum and preparation for life after sixth form
Information on our delivery of information and guidance on careers can be accessed here
Curriculum Implementation - how we expose our pupils to powerful knowledge and provide education with character
The curriculum in each subject at KS3 and KS4 can be accessed here. The Sixth Form area of our website can be accessed here, and contains information on the detail of our Key Stage 5 curriculum offer as well as information on the application process and entry requirements.
Subject specialism is at the heart of our curriculum and you will see differences in the way that the curriculum is constructed and assessed in different subjects. Standardised written assessments, for example, play less of a role in performance subjects such as music and physical education. The stability of our curriculum allows subject expertise to develop over time, and we are careful to provide sufficient time for teachers of the same subject to plan together and collaborate. Further subject specialism is provided by United Learning’s subject advisers. These advisers are subject experts who help teachers link the subject discipline to our pupils’ daily experience in the classroom. Subject advisers meet regularly with Heads of Department across United Learning and provide curriculum resources to support the implementation of the subject curriculum.
As a mastery curriculum, our curriculum requires pupils to study fewer topics in greater depth. A 3-year Key Stage 3 provides pupils with the time and space to gain a secure understanding that builds over time in each subject. In our lessons we expect to see all pupils grappling with the same challenging content, with teachers providing additional support for pupils who need it. Rather than moving on to new content, our higher attainers produce work of greater depth and flair. Our approach to teaching and learning supports our curriculum by ensuring that lessons build on prior learning and provide sufficient opportunity for guided and independent practice. We use Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction to develop our teaching practice. At the heart of Rosenshine’s principles is a simple instructional core:
At each point in this instructional core, teachers check understanding of all pupils by asking lots of questions and providing feedback. The Rosenshine principles support the implementation of the curriculum by ensuring that pupils regularly recall prior learning. You will often see this at the start of our lessons. When prior learning is committed to long term memory it becomes fluent or ‘automatic’, freeing space in our working memory which can then be used for comprehension, application, and problem solving. Deans for Impact, The Science of Learning, 2016: “Each subject area has some set of facts that, if committed to long-term memory, aids problem-solving by freeing working memory. Existing knowledge and skills can then be applied to new contexts.” Teach Like a Champion (TLAC) techniques such as ‘cold calling’ and ‘no opt out’ are the practical application of the Rosenshine Principles in the classroom. The Rosenshine Principles and the TLAC techniques are not intended to be a checklist for every lesson. Barak Rosenshine describes his principles as an articulation of the ‘general pattern’ of teaching, while Doug Lemov (author of Teach Like a Champion) describes his approach as a ‘recipe book’ and ‘not an instruction manual’.
In order to allow the mastery approach to be effective (i.e. children learn what they are expected to in the year they are expected to), early catch-up is essential: we aim to promptly identify and support pupils who start secondary school without a secure grasp of reading, writing and mathematics so that they can access the full curriculum. Everything from which children learn in school – the taught subject timetable, the approach to spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, the co-curricular provision and the ethos and ‘hidden curriculum’ of the school – are to be seen as part of the school curriculum. Our principle of ‘Education with Character’ is delivered through the curriculum in this broadest sense.
Curriculum Impact - How we measure and secure continuous improvement for all
With thousands of pupils across United Learning following the same curriculum, we have been able to develop common assessments in most subjects. These are summative assessments which allow pupils to demonstrate their growing understanding of their subjects and enable teachers to assess the impact of their teaching. These summative assessments are typically taken twice a year, allowing teachers to focus on formative assessment for most of the year.
At KS4, assessments are marked and reported on using GCSE, A level and vocational working at grades allowing students and parents to assess progress against student targets. At KS3 we use a ranking system to report on assessment results – this gives students and parents an accurate picture of where a student sits in terms of progress within their year group. A guide to the process involved in ranking at KS3 can be accessed here.
We are particularly conscious of the role that literacy and vocabulary plays in unlocking the whole curriculum. Our teachers explicitly teach the meaning of subject-specific language, and we expect lessons to contain challenging reading and writing. Knowledge organisers provide students with key information that they are expected to learn and recall with fluency, enabling them to develop their understanding of key concepts outside of their lessons. The culmination of our curriculum is that pupils leave our school with the confidence and intelligence to thrive. We know our pupils as individuals which enables us to provide curriculum guidance and careers guidance throughout their time with us. We expect all pupils to leave our school with the grades required to progress to their desired destination, and the character required to flourish once they get there. By teaching our curriculum well, and delivering education with character, we bring out the best in everyone.
For information on our approach to SEND and ensuring equality of opportunity in our curriculum, please use the links below.