The Curriculum at Chobham Academy
At Chobham, we define the curriculum as being the body of knowledge and understanding which students are entitled to acquire in lessons and via home study whilst at the Academy. For the sake of relevance and clarity we also include within our definition of the curriculum the acquisition of skills which our students need so that they can learn well. There are three key questions which overarch our approach to curriculum development:
- What kind of curriculum are we seeking to develop for our students (our curriculum intent)?
- How do we decide what content and skills should be prioritised within the curriculum?
- How can we implement the curriculum so that every student learns and makes progress to the best of their ability?
Before considering these questions, it is worth making three general comments:
- The curriculum is a complex subject. It can be tempting for us to be drawn into over theorising at the expense of clear action. Whilst we value and take account of emerging research and new ideas, we must balance this weight of information with the need to deliver a practical and effective curriculum which benefits our students every day. Therefore, being straightforward without oversimplifying and concentrating on the possible are principles at the forefront of our thinking.
- The curriculum is always evolving, and student needs are constantly changing. Therefore, as a school we are always discussing the fitness for purpose of our curriculum and refining it accordingly. Our guidance and professional development for teachers at Chobham provides a robust but flexible framework within which expert colleagues can respond confidently to the emerging needs of groups and individuals as they see best.
- Subject learning must never be dominated by the requirements of examinations. The body of curriculum content in every subject is of intrinsic value to students in itself. We expect all teachers to demonstrate a passion for their subject. Whilst the particular needs of external examinations will obviously be addressed, the principle of a well taught and interesting curriculum for all at every stage in their school career underpins our philosophy.
1. What kind of curriculum?
Chobham students are drawn from a socially, economically and ethnically diverse inner London community. They have widely differing life experiences (including cultural experiences) and aspirations. In this context, our curriculum must serve the following purposes:
- To enable all students to fulfil their academic and social potential
- To help students to feel curious, confident, successful and ambitious whilst at school
- To provide students with a body of knowledge which is of intrinsic interest to them and also of value in their lives beyond school
- To encourage and enable students to be enthusiastic and effective life-long learners
- To help students to become happy, successful and valued adults in the twenty first century world.
These aims mean that our curriculum must first seek to convey a body of knowledge which students find engaging, relevant and useful. Secondly, we must provide students with learning skills and experiences which are varied and challenging and which help them to retain, recall and apply what they have learned.
2. How do we decide what content and skills should be prioritised?
At Chobham, we believe that an engaging and relevant curriculum should complement academic achievement. If the curriculum is right, then academic outcomes will follow.
At GCSE, A Level and vocational course level we have limited influence over the curriculum content to be learned. Much of the influence we do have at Key Stages 4 and 5 is over the courses and pathways we offer and the examination syllabuses we follow (more details are given in the curriculum statements below). As well as examination content, we also provide a broad coverage of Religious Education, Citizenship and Personal and Health Education throughout Key Stage 4 and Sixth Form. For GCSE the curriculum remains broad with arts subjects well represented. At Key Stage 5, we are able to offer around 20 subjects at A Level, together with vocational courses in sports and business. We scrutinise syllabus requirements annually to ensure that the courses being followed are those best suited to the strengths of our students.
In Years 7, 8 and 9, subject departments have more influence over how they select and arrange curriculum content to best meet student needs. To this end, in younger year groups, we choose curriculum content which is relevant to students’ lives and which fills gaps in their knowledge and understanding. When carrying out curriculum planning in the lower year groups, we remain mindful of the content of GCSE syllabuses. In particular, we take advantage of opportunities to give students a broader subject context in which to set their GCSE studies. A good example is History where study of the Cold War at GCSE is much more accessible for Chobham students if they have some awareness of the broader context of 20th century history. This context is something which not all students acquire from their experiences outside school.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each academic department to decide upon the body of subject knowledge which students should learn and the emphasis and time each element should be given.
The deliberate development of identified learning skills is an intrinsic part of our curriculum.
We seek to prioritise meeting the learning needs which have become most evident amongst Chobham students through scrutiny of their work and learning behaviours. Clearly not all of the identified skills needs will apply equally to all students, but we have prioritised those which are most commonly in need of development. At present, from a whole Academy perspective, these areas are:
This is not a comprehensive list. It is however the list of skills and attitudes in which students generally appear to need most support at the moment. We know that these priorities will vary over time and that skills gaps will differ between individuals. However, even with these caveats, these skills are those which our students most need to improve in so that they can become better learners.
3. How can we implement the curriculum so that every student learns and makes progress to the best of their ability?
Our philosophy is based upon a high level of collegiality, shared understanding and shared aspirations for our students amongst teachers.
We expect all teachers to be knowledgeable in their subject specialism and in teaching and learning strategies. We recognise that in order to ensure rapid and consistent student progress, teachers need to possess a sound understanding of how children learn. All should have a clear understanding of the Academy’s learning priorities (above). We expect to see these priorities run through all subject areas, although it is up to individual subjects to deliver them as they see best. Sitting alongside the whole school learning priorities are subject learning concepts. These are the key skills and themes which underpin successful study in each subject and once again are based upon the identified needs of Chobham students. As with the whole school priorities, these themes will run through each subject’s curriculum, however each subject has its own unique list of subject priorities.
To give more detail on our key expectations for Chobham teachers:
a. Understanding and assessment of progress
All teachers must understand what progress looks like in their subject area. This must be agreed within the subject area by lesson, unit of study and academic year. Whilst subject content and learning skills are given equal weight, it is usually the case that progression in subject content is easier to measure than progress in developing skills. However, we can assume that if students are making good learning progress from their starting points then their skills should be developing accordingly. In contrast, where students do not make expected progress in their subjects, there may well be a deficiency in their learning skills.
Teachers (collaboratively and individually) must devise and implement effective strategies to bring about progress with groups and individuals. In order to produce such strategies, teachers must understand the following attributes of progress:
- It has different components for each student
- It should be comparable between students
- It moves at fluctuating speeds over time for individuals and between individuals
- It is present in all aspects of learning
- It is more likely under the optimum learning conditions
- It is brought about by focussed and specific inputs and interventions
- It is built upon shared understanding between teachers and between teachers and students
Regular and precise assessment is key to understanding student progress. Assessment enables us to understand how well students have learned and through this to accurately plan future lesson sequences and target additional interventions.
Formal, centrally recorded assessment at Chobham takes place at least once each term. This is supplemented by a range of ongoing assessment methods such as marking, questioning and teacher observation.
b. Awareness of understanding, retention, recall and application
Learning can be defined as an alteration in long term memory. If nothing has altered in long term memory, then nothing has been learned. For learning to take place, students must understand what is being taught. Teachers have the task of accurately assessing student understanding in order to inform their practice and ensure that content has been understood. Lessons must then build in opportunities for testing recall and students’ ability to apply what they have learned in a range of contexts. So that learning becomes embedded in long term memory, teachers must methodically revisit key concepts and content with students on a regular basis as they progress through the school.
c. Subject expertise
It is essential that teachers are expert in their subjects and that they themselves understand the content of their curriculums in depth. Teachers must clearly understand what they are seeking to achieve in terms of student learning and how the application of a right classroom techniques will help students to make progress. It is the responsibility of teachers to make sure they keep up to date with subject developments and exam board specifications.
d. The more you know, the easier it is to know more
Knowledge acquisition works like a web in the brain. It is easier to make connections and assimilate new knowledge if the web is already extensive because of existing knowledge. Where potential connections do not exist, it can be harder to understand new learning. At Chobham, many of our students do not come from backgrounds in which they develop a wide general knowledge which is of direct relevance to their academic studies. This could also be described as them having a lack of conventional cultural capital. Our students do have rich and broad life experiences, teachers must be thoughtful in making these experiences relatable to school studies.
So, teachers must be aware of variations in students’ prior knowledge and starting points for learning. In lessons teachers should recognise that if a group of students has, for example, learned less than their peers over the year to date, this may make it more difficult for them to assimilate new knowledge. Planning and teaching need to take account accordingly.
e. Our objective is that all students should make as much progress in learning as they are capable of. For this to happen, we must understand that all students have different starting points in their learning and plan around this fact. Teachers must be able to diagnose what students already know and where gaps in learning exist. These may be common to groups of students or may apply to individuals. They may be gaps caused by missed learning or by content taught in school which has not been understood. They might also be gaps brought about by students’ cultural capital and knowledge acquisition out of school. Having identified these gaps, teachers must plan to address them in their lessons so that more rapid and secure learning can take place.
f. Vocabulary, both general and subject related, is essential to academic success. The more extensive a student’s vocabulary, the better their academic prospects. Embedding and extending vocabulary should always be a conscious element of planning across the Academy.
Some Curriculum Principles
At Chobham Academy, we believe that what our students learn and the way in which they learn are fundamental components of the school. The curriculum shapes both of these aspects but particularly what students learn. The overriding principles which govern our curriculum strategy are:
- A broad curriculum which gives students access to a range of academic disciplines. We recognize the key importance of English, Maths and Science but also believe passionately in the value of languages, the humanities and the arts. At Chobham, all of these disciplines are represented within our curriculum.
- A balanced curriculum in which all subjects are given a reasonable proportion of curriculum time so that students may learn in depth and come to understand the nature of each subject.
- The principles of a broad and balanced curriculum are maintained until the end of Key Stage 4, notwithstanding the need for a degree of greater specialism when the students make their GCSE choices.
- There is a balance struck between giving all students a broad curriculum entitlement and ensuring that the individual needs and aptitudes of all students are recognized. In practice, we look to introduce a degree of greater individuality for students when Key Stage 4 begins.
- We currently begin Key Stage 4 in Year 10. This enables us to cover all subjects in greater depth to the benefit of students throughout Years 7-9.
- Wherever possible, our curriculum is designed to reflect the backgrounds and interests of our students. We want our curriculum to be relevant to their present lives and their future aspirations.
- Our Post 16 curriculum is designed to accommodate students with a range of academic abilities and aspirations. Consequently, we offer a range of A-Level and vocational courses.
- As well as the academic curriculum delivered through lessons the school is very aware of the value of PSHE, Citizenship and careers education. These form an integral part of our education through our half termly Innovation Days and through tutor time as well as in lessons whenever appropriate.
- Enrichment is an integral part of our curriculum on two days each week. Enrichment classes are a compulsory element of each student’s timetable and they give students an opportunity to extend their learning beyond the normal curriculum, increase their cultural capital and develop interests which will hopefully last a lifetime.
- The concept of the wider curriculum is embedded at Chobham. We believe that learning at school incorporates everything the students do between leaving home in the morning and returning in the evening. This includes the way the students build relationships, how they move around the school buildings and how they conduct themselves at breaks and lunchtimes.
- Homework forms part of every subject’s curriculum and we expect students to complete homework conscientiously.
- The effective and principled use of technology is built into our curriculum as a theme running across all lessons and other curriculum activities. We want Chobham students to be competent users of IT equipment and software who also understand the opportunities and potential perils presented by the internet and social media.
- Throughout the Chobham curriculum, we wish to encourage the development of key learning skills. Foremost among these are resilience, independent organization, problem-solving and inculcating a love of learning.
Hopefully, this website will answer many of your questions on the Chobham curriculum. However, if any questions remain, please address them in the first instance to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Covid Response
Chobham takes very seriously its response to the Covid pandemic, the resulting lockdowns and the ongoing student absences caused by Covid related issues. We are determined that our students should not in any way be disadvantaged by these disruptions and any resulting learning loss and that all should fulfil the academic and social potential they possessed prior to the pandemic beginning.
In response to the pandemic and the resulting absences of some or all students from school for extended periods of time, we have refined our approach to teaching and learning to emphasise the following areas:
- Ensuring that we have a clear idea of what exactly we want Chobham students to learn and understand during their time at the school. This has been discussed at length across the school and is built into the planning of all departments. It is only through having a shared appreciation of our learning aims for all students that we can effectively implement the points which follow
- Being forensic and comprehensive in our identification of the gaps in each student’s learning which have occurred. These gaps may be in subject content or in learning skills and dispositions. These gaps are identified and reviewed through regular assessment during lessons and in more formal tests. All departments will complete an update audit on Covid recovery as part of their 2021–22 development planning
- Allocating the dedicated Covid recovery budget to ensure individual and group needs are met through the provision of tutors and other additional resources as required
- Having a clear plan to address gaps in learning in each individual subject area and across the school as a whole. Each subject has identified curriculum aims specific to the needs of Chobham students.
Our whole school learning priorities of memory, reading, vocabulary and resilience ensure that all lessons focus upon developing these key areas;
- Adapting each individual subject curriculum content and/or delivery in response to emerging needs amongst learners. The curriculum will be differentiated between and within teaching groups to ensure that the learning needs of individual students are addressed. One general area of emphasis has been to ensure sufficient opportunity for social interaction in our classroom approaches. This includes the development of whole class question and answer, discussion, group work and paired work
- Talking more to students about their learning experiences as part of our monitoring, evaluation and review systems. Gathering student perceptions and using these to inform our planning and practice are becoming ever more important as we refine our curriculum offer and delivery
- Adapting our PSHE curriculum to take account of identified academic and social needs amongst our students which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. For example we now have an increased emphasis on building and maintaining healthy relationships and more time devoted to class discussion topics
- Identifying individual students who have been most affected by an extended time away from school. In some cases this has manifested itself in social and emotional challenges, in others the issues arising have been mainly to do with school work. In all cases, plans have been put in place to address the needs arising.
We are aware that Covid recovery is an ongoing process and that our planning may well be subject to further changes of direction. We understand the need to keep a close oversight of all of our strategies and to be flexible in responding to issues arising. We also see clear benefit to students in our recovery strategies – with or without the direct effects of the pandemic. Some of the areas listed above were school priorities before Covid and have if anything been given a boost by trajectory of events since March 2020. These areas include the development of our approaches to regularly speaking with students about their learning and the development of students’ social and discussion skills.
Chobham Key Learning Concepts
As part of our desire to meet the particular learning needs of Chobham students, we have identified four key areas in which Chobham students in general need to develop their skills and attitudes.
These areas are;
Memory: if information is not stored in students’ long-term memory then they are not learning effectively.
Reading: the single most effective way to become a better learner.
Vocabulary: having a broad and accurate subject vocabulary is key to success in examinations.
Resilience: being able to keep going positively when things get tough or go wrong.
By helping our students develop in these areas, we believe their wider learning, academic and social skills will improve.
Each of our subject departments has looked at the key knowledge and skills students need to succeed. All of them have come up with five or six key learning concepts which underpin the curriculum in Years 7-9.
The Moral Dimension and Citizenship
There is a strong moral dimension to the curriculum at Chobham. We believe that there are beliefs and behaviors which our school should seek to inculcate and develop in our students in order that they may become active and happy citizens. As such beliefs can often provoke discussion if not disagreement, it is important to us that all members of the Chobham community are clearly aware of what the Academy stands for and therefore able to express informed views on our practice if they so desire.
The values central to our world outlook at Chobham are based upon the aspiration that all of our students should become global citizens, content with their place in the world and successful in their families, friendships, careers and communities. Foremost amongst the beliefs which support this ambition are:
- That all of our students learn to value democracy and the fundamental freedom of human expression
- That other core freedoms (for example in worship, relationships and political views) are equally respected
- That our students embrace, celebrate and will protect the diversity of local, national and international communities
- That our students will seek to always treat others as they would be treated themselves
- That our students always listen and seek to see other points of view
- That our students understand the threats to their natural environment and seek to challenge them
The enactment of our belief system is most visible in the relationships between students and staff across the school and the example given to students by staff. Our sixth formers are also very aware of their responsibility in setting a moral example to younger students through their behavior and the attitudes they display.
The Chobham curriculum has been designed to enable students to reflect on the themes outlined above. Across all of our academic subjects, teachers will encourage students to reflect more widely on issues arising and their relevance to the world around us. The curriculum has many opportunities for students to think, talk and write about topics which, as well as furthering their general education, have particular relevance to their local circumstances.
The moral dimension of our curriculum is further enhanced by those aspects of the curriculum which extend beyond academic lessons. Each half term we have an Innovation Day which allows students to explore themes relating to morals and active citizenship in greater depth. This includes activities which introduce students to aspects of our democratic system and also visitors from a range of faith backgrounds. Through our daily tutorial structure, students are encouraged to learn about and reflect upon key issues in our society (such as crime, drugs and the use of social media). They are then given the opportunity to discuss the moral dimensions of these issues and guided in developing their own views. One day each week is spent discussing a current affairs topic in tutorial. This assists students in developing their own perspectives on national and international issues.
Our weekly assemblies are also an important part of the Academy’s systems for developing the thinking and attitudes of our students. Every student is involved in a house or year group assembly each week. These assemblies discuss a moral theme for the week which is also addressed in tutor time. At the end of every assembly, students are given time for prayer or silent reflection.
In combination, these systems and practices help us in developing Chobham students to develop into the active and thoughtful citizens we hope for them to become. All of our curriculum content is constantly under review and will respond to new ideas, national and international events and changing student needs.
Chobham GCSE subjects:
- Art and Design
- Business Students
- English Language
- English Literature
- Physical Education
- Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
- Religious Studies