Curriculum Vision and Intent
At John Masefield High School, our aim is to provide excellent and enjoyable learning for all of our students through a broad and balanced curriculum, with opportunity for some specialisation in areas of strength or interest from Year 9 onwards. Through developing excellent knowledge in each of our faculty areas and a broader appreciation of culture, our students develop a love of learning. Through learning the curriculum, we strive to develop the qualities of being conscientious, considerate and co-operative in our students and to enhance their opportunities for life.
At JMHS each of our curriculum areas has judiciously identified key knowledge that will enable students to have an excellent understanding of our cultural heritage and the world around us. We have checked carefully that this key knowledge matches and goes beyond national curriculum requirements in all subject areas. The teaching of this knowledge has been sequenced so that students can acquire mastery and embed the knowledge webs in long term memory. Our students are given many opportunities to apply this knowledge in a broad range of academic and vocational studies, so that they become fluent and skilful in application. This enables our students to achieve success in examinations at GCSE and Advanced Level, but also to solve complex real-life problems.
A key principle of curriculum design at JMHS is to provide a broad, enriching cultural experience through our teaching of subjects and our extensive enrichment programme (which includes a wide range of clubs, cultural visits and leadership opportunities), so that students enjoy learning and understand how so many aspects of science, the arts and culture are interconnected in a fascinating and exciting way.
In designing our subject curricula, our teachers have sequenced the teaching of knowledge, so key concepts that underpin understanding and later knowledge are covered earlier in the course, and then revisited numerous times as more detailed knowledge is built. Respected research in cognitive science, including the understanding that spiralling knowledge acquisition by constantly revisiting prior learning and ensuring knowledge is embedded in long term memory, is fundamental to curriculum design at JMHS. We recognise that short term memory is limited and unreliable. Therefore we always strive to connect new learning to previous experience and knowledge and make learning relevant to real world contexts.
We carefully plan homework to review recent and past learning, this helps students become more fluent in applying their knowledge. Assessment is carefully matched to key knowledge so that the teacher is aware of additional support or teaching required to help individual students and groups of students achieve mastery and to be able to confidently recall and apply key knowledge. Teachers also use homework and assessment to give feedback to students on their progress and on steps they need to take to make improvements. Students log this feedback in assessment trackers in their exercise books.
We are aware that students learn at different rates and that some students will find learning more difficult than others. A core principle for us is all students are supported to learn. In order to achieve this we put in place additional structure, small group and individual support to help students struggling to achieve mastery. We set students who have achieved fluency and mastery more complex challenges, where they are required to apply their knowledge to solve a variety of abstract and real life problems.
At JMHS we have identified lack of reading ability as the greatest obstacle to learning. Each year between 10 and 15 students join us in Year 7 with reading ages of 8 years or lower. For these students we make it our highest priority to increase their confidence and competence with reading so that they can access the full curriculum. With all students, we aim to promote and develop a love of reading through our excellent library and dedicated librarian, reading buddies, book clubs and author visits.
The Core Curriculum
Our core curriculum includes the following subjects:
- English Language and Literature
- Science including Biology, Chemistry and Physics
- Physical Education
- Relationships and Sex Education
- Personal, Social, Health and Careers Education
- Religious Education and Ethics
We plan our core curricula in these subjects across all five years to build students’ key knowledge, fluency and understanding rather than making a strict division between Key Stage Three and Four. We feel that this approach ensures a coherent learning experience, is effective in developing a secure knowledge base in longer term memory and has the potential to make learning both relevant and exciting. Key learning aims and subject overviews for these subjects give further detail about how this is achieved.
Foundation subjects at JMHS
Creative and Performing Arts
At JMHS we believe that arts education is vitally important for two reasons. Firstly all young people need to appreciate our cultural heritage, to be taught the basics of drawing, painting, design, dance, drama and music and be given a chance to learn about and enjoy great art works, literature, drama, poetry, dance and music. Secondly many students are passionate and hugely motivated by their studies in the arts, participating in our annual school production, orchestra and ensembles, dance shows etc. For this reason the arts have a central place in our curriculum. Every student studies drama, dance, music and art at KS3. We offer all of these subjects at GCSE and fine art, dance, drama, graphics and photography in the Sixth Form.
The humanities subjects are tremendously important. In addition to students learning about the past and the world today, students develop their thinking skills, oracy and literacy. At JMHS every student studies geography and history in Years 7 and 8 and chooses at least one of history and geography to study to GCSE in Years 9 to 11. This allows every student to study in depth and develop their love of history and/or geography.
Modern Foreign Languages
All JMHS students study at least one modern foreign language in Year 7 either French or German, in Year 8 approximately 50% commence studying a second language whilst all continue with their first language. Approximately 80% study at least one modern foreign language to GCSE, a far higher proportion than in the vast majority of schools in England, a significant number study both French and German to GCSE. The languages curriculum builds sequentially from Year 7 starting with the present tense, the basic grammatical rules and the vocabulary to describe the world most familiar to our students, and then adding complexity whilst spiralling and revisiting previous learning and building a wider vocabulary.
Technology and vocational subjects
Technological and vocational subjects at JMHS enable students to gain the knowledge, skills and self-confidence that will help them succeed in their future careers. These subjects are seen by our students as relevant to the real world and as enjoyable and satisfying due to the considerable amount of practical work involved. In Year 7 and Year 8 all students develop their knowledge and skills in design and technology, food and nutrition and computer science. Students may choose to study one or more vocational or technological subject in Years 9 to 11. We provide a wide range of subject choices so that as many students as possible can study subject areas where they have a genuine strength and passion. These subjects include Business Studies, Computer Science, Food and Nutrition, Health and Social Care, 3D Design and Travel and Tourism. The opportunity to commence these subjects from Y9 is particularly motivating for students who wish to spend time studying subjects they see as practical and relevant to their future lives
Three Year Key Stage 4 for foundation subjects
During Y8 there is an extensive and carefully planned programme to help each student choose four foundation subjects to commence study in Year 9. This programme includes a careers programme in PSHE, an options evening for parents and students with subject presentations and the chance to talk to subject teachers and current students and an individual interview with a senior member of staff.
We have chosen to continue to pursue a three year KS4 curriculum in foundation subjects after giving this matter very careful thought and analysing both advantages and disadvantages. Our main reasons for making this decision are as follows:
- The curriculum retains balance as all students study either history or geography and approximately 80% study a modern foreign language to GCSE;
- We have found that the three year KS4 motivates students and they are now more interested and committed to their studies during Y9 than in previous years before this was introduced;
- Through effective curriculum planning and skilful teaching we ensure that by the end of y8 students meet or exceed national curriculum requirements in foundation subjects;
- The three year course means that subjects can be covered in more depth and that students can develop a love of the subject rather than cramming;
- Having a three year course and finishing studies by March of Year 11, allows time for revision and less stress and anxiety for students which is better for their mental health.
The enrichment curriculum
In order to provide a rich cultural experience and make learning enjoyable and exciting we provide an extensive range of extra-curricular and enrichment activities. These include:
- Book clubs, author visits, poets in residence and joint projects and participation in the annual Ledbury Poetry Festival.
- Regular Visits to art galleries, concerts and the theatre to enhance appreciation of the visual and performing arts and support learning in the arts and English Literature.
- Over 100 students participate in musical ensembles, choirs, the jazz band, swing band and our orchestra and play in at least two large concerts per year.
- Our annual whole school musical production with over 100 students participating including a large cast and ensemble, live band, technical team and back stage team.
- Over 80 students participate in dance clubs and perform at our two dance shows per year.
- Highly successfully after school sports clubs and teams who regularly win county championships in a wide variety of sports with particular strengths in athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket, football, handball, hockey, netball, rounders and rugby union.
- House sports competitions at least once per term in which every student participates.
- Arts and sports colours are awarded annually to students who make an excellent contribution to extra- curricular sports and the arts. In 2019, approximately 150 students were awarded sports colours and 120 arts colours.
- Affordable cultural and MFL visits to Normandy, Paris, Cologne, Mosel and Berlin. These are very popular and by Year 11, over 50% of students have participated and greatly enjoyed one of these visits.
- Regular opportunities for fieldwork in geography and history in which all students participate.
- Two Challenge Days per academic year in which all students participate in enrichment and off site activities. In 2019 these activities included a visit to the Black Country museum, a performing arts experience day, a practical problem solving day, a STEM day led by a local science employer looking at drug development, an environmental awareness day, outdoor adventurous activities, university and college visits and an enterprise day based on developing and marketing a new product.
- A variety of other clubs including masterminds, environmental groups and HEAL club, chess club, art club, practical club and cookery club.
- Mathematical enrichment activities including challenge days for able mathematicians, participation in UK Individual and Team Maths Challenges for all age groups in which our mathletes have performed exceptionally well.
- A broad range of science activities including stem clubs, university and employer visits, attending lectures and practical workshops challenges and winning the physics Olympiad for local state and independent schools.
- Approximately 25% of students participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
- A very wide range of leadership schemes including mentoring younger students, Reading Buddies, Maths Buddies, Arts Leaders, Language Leaders, Sports Leaders, Primary Transition Leaders, Prefects, House Captains, House Sports Captains and sixth formers acting as Learning Support Assistants. These activities are particularly valuable in developing an ethic of service and the qualities of being conscientious, considerate and co-operative.