Curriculum Vision and Intent

Overall aim

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.  Our curriculum, strives to develop in our students the qualities of being conscientious, considerate and co-operative and to enhance their opportunities for life.

Key knowledge

Each of our curriculum areas has judiciously identified key knowledge that will enable students to have a secure understanding of our cultural heritage and the world around us. We have made sure that this key knowledge at least matches or goes beyond national curriculum requirements in all subject areas. Our curriculum has been carefully sequenced so that students acquire mastery and embed deep and rich 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 not only achieve success in examinations at GCSE and Advanced Level, but also to solve complex real-life problems.

Curriculum subjects have identified precisely defined ‘end points’ for each module.  They have then planned the small components of learning students need to achieve each end point.

Curriculum breadth and balance

A key principle of our curriculum design is to provide a broad, enriching cultural experience through our teaching of subjects and our extensive enrichment programme. These include 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. For example, all students in key stage three visit the theatre, museums and galleries, learn to play two musical instruments to a basic standard and have the opportunity to visit France and Germany for a low cost cultural and languages visit. We ensure that nothing stands in the way of all students taking full advantage of all the school has to offer. Disadvantaged students are supported with costs so that all can afford to attend.  Similar opportunities for older students include all physicists visiting the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, a cultural and literary weekend in London for all students studying English and arts subjects, a French exchange and numerous university and employer visits.

Sequencing learning

In designing our subject curricula, subject leaders have carefully sequenced the teaching of knowledge, so key concepts that underpin understanding and later knowledge are covered earlier in the course, and then revisited on numerous occasions as more detailed knowledge is built.  We have been led by respected research in cognitive science; the understanding that spiralling knowledge acquisition by constantly revisiting prior learning and ensuring knowledge is embedded in long term memory, is fundamental to designing a high quality curriculum.  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, this helps embed learning in longer term memory.

Homework and assessment

Our curriculum is designed to fully engage pupils outside the classroom by integrating homework tasks. These are carefully planned to reinforce recent and past learning and enhancing fluency by ensuring students apply new knowledge to a wide variety of contexts. Assessment is designed across all subjects to give teachers assurance that students have retained knowledge in long term memory and can apply this knowledge.  In this way teachers are 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 routinely 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.

Support and challenge

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 learn key knowledge.  We set students who have mastered key vocabularly more complex challenges, where they are required to apply their knowledge to solve a variety of abstract and real life problems.

Supporting students with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)

We are determined that all students including those with SEND have full access to our ambitious and challenging curriculum.  In order to achieve this, we have put in place the following:

  • The core principle of mastery – that through structure, support and additional help all students are enabled to access the full curriculum, to understand the key concepts and retain essential knowledge in long term memory. Thus through applying the knowledge in scenarios of gradually increasing complexity students gain fluency and confidence to apply the knowledge embedded in long term memory in a skilful way.
  • We have identified weak reading comprehension skills as one of the prime obstacles to learning for many students. 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.  They follow an intensive phonics-based programme called ‘Fresh Start’ for 5 hours per week working with a highly skilled specialist teacher in small groups of 6 to 8 students.  We have found that students participating in the programme typically increase their reading age by two to three years.  In addition to the Fresh Start programme, students have: daily one-to-one reading support with trained staff members; work with student reading buddies; have access to our well stocked library and full time librarian; participate in the Accelerated Reading Programme.  Bespoke support is given to individual students to overcome particular problems they are facing with reading comprehension.  As a result of our close attention to helping every young person become a confident and competent reader, our students’ average reading age is one year above their chronological age by the end of Year 9.
  • The ‘stage not age’ system used for teaching mathematics gives each Year 7 student access to a high quality mathematics curriculum. All students are exposed to a curriculum that is pitched at the level of knowledge, understanding and fluency they acquired at primary school, which builds secure mathematical knowledge and understanding. The sequencing of learning in mathematics is carefully arranged to build new knowledge upon prior learning and constantly revisit key concepts and ideas in a range of practical and real life contexts.  The mathematics teachers place particular emphasis on identifying misconceptions, so that these can be quickly addressed. This approach particularly benefits students with SEND and greatly accelerates their progress in mathematics.  For students who struggle with mathematics and numeracy one-to-one teaching with qualified mathematics teachers, sixth form learning support assistants and ‘maths buddies’ builds confidence and helps students deal with misconceptions and so deepens their understanding of number.
  • ‘The Hub’ is a learning centre based in two classrooms led by a former headteacher and our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator (SENDCO). It provides bespoke support for students with SEND and also for those suffering with anxiety and other mental health problems. The Hub is staffed by specialist staff who confidently lead intervention programmes in numeracy, literacy, reading, handwriting, self-esteem and confidence, social skills, cognitive abilities and other areas identified for individual students eg through an Education and Health Care Plan or a Pastoral Support Plan.

Disadvantaged students

We take great care to make sure that any obstacle to learning that stands in the way of our students who come from disadvantaged families are, to the best of our abilities, removed. We know our disadvantaged students well and go to great lengths to understand their individual and family circumstances. Broadly, our disadvantaged students face one or more of the following difficulties which could, if not addressed, prevent them fully accessing all our curriculum has to offer. Such barriers to learning include:

  • economic hardship for their family
  • a difficult environment at home in which to learn
  • a lack of cultural capital, particularly in terms of fluency and confidence in using a rich and varied vocabulary
  • the stress of balancing being a carer at home with their studies
  • falling behind at primary school and having gaps in their knowledge in reading, writing and mathematics
  • a record of previously lower school attendance

Our curriculum is constantly adapted and developed to ensure we do all we can to address these difficulties. Our determination is that our disadvantaged students achieve as least as well as their more advantaged peers. Some of the strategies that we put in place to make this aspiration a reality include:

  • In all subjects, seating disadvantaged students close to positive and conscientious peers. We aim to place our disadvantaged students in higher ability sets where possible, so that their aspirations are high and that there are many positive role models within the class.
  • Class teachers provide enhanced and precise feedback to disadvantaged students. This includes ensuring their work is checked regularly in lessons with constructive advice on how to improve, checking students are clear on homework tasks and are able to complete these at home.
  • Every disadvantaged student who has difficulty completing homework at home is steered towards our homework support club based in The Hub. Here, they are given one-to-one support designed to enable them to complete homework to a high standard and develop effective study habits.
  • Disadvantaged students are prioritised for one to one or small group tutoring through our catch up programme. We have a team of excellent tutors, the majority of whom are qualified teachers.  The tutoring team work closely with subject staff to plan a programme of learning designed to boost confidence and ensure key knowledge is securely learned.
  • We use a variety of methods to ensure participation of disadvantaged students in enrichment activities as we believe these are vital in providing cultural capital. These include scheduling enrichment activities during the school day (for instance on our challenge days in the summer term), ensuring all disadvantaged students can participate in challenge day trips free of charge, strong encouragement and support in participating in sporting, artistic and cultural clubs and activities, support and encouragement with applying for leadership positions such as prefect, Language Leader, Youth Council, Reading Buddy etc.
  • In curriculum planning for all subjects the development of a wide and rich vocabulary is prioritised so that all students including those from a disadvantaged background can benefit from a greater vocabulary and enhanced cultural capital. Subjects are also encouraged to include cultural opportunities beyond examination syllabi to enrich the curriculum and benefit all students.

As a result of these measures the progress made in the 2019 GCSE examinations was a considerable improvement upon the previous two years, with disadvantaged students progressing as well as their more advantaged peers between taking their KS2 SATS and their GCSE exams.  In spite of this we believe there is room for further improvement.

The Core Curriculum

Our ‘Core Curriculum’ spans all five years and has been carefully thought through to build students’ key knowledge, fluency and understanding. In this way, it avoids a strict division between key stage three and four. We are convinced that this approach ensures coherent and progressive learning, 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.

All students study the following subjects throughout their time at JMHS in Years 7-11

  • English Language and Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Science including Biology, Chemistry and Physics
  • Physical Education
  • Relationships and Sex Education
  • Personal, Social, Health and Careers Education
  • Religious Education and Citizenship

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

Underpinning our Core Curriculum is a strong academic core: the EBacc. The EBacc consists of English language and literature, mathematics, science, a modern foreign language and either history or geography.  We strongly believe that the EBacc particularly when combined with creative, practical or vocational subjects provides students with an excellent knowledge of the modern world and an appreciation and enjoyment of culture that will help students succeed in life and gain all the advantages of a broad and enriching education.  We are ambitious in our expectation that the large majority of our students will follow the EBacc.  Currently all students study English, mathematics and science, and either history or geography, whilst approximately 75% study a modern foreign language.

English Language and Literature

The English curriculum focusses on incrementally developing understanding the craft of the writer. Students firstly become effective readers and then increasingly develop their writing skills from Year 7 to Year 11. The English curriculum aims to ensure that all students develop and utilise a wide vocabulary, become confident and competent readers and write clearly, accurately, coherently and engagingly for a range of purposes and audiences.  Teachers make use of discussion in class so that students can become effective at explaining their own views and listening to those of others both informally and formally.  Through our teaching of English we develop cultural capital by fostering a love of reading, becoming confident in writing and talking about lives beyond their own and appreciating great literature, poetry and drama.


Our forward looking and ‘cutting edge’ mathematics curriculum has been developed drawing influences from other mastery curriculums from both within the UK and around the globe. The mathematics faculty was fortunate enough to be a host school in one of the early phases of the Shanghai teacher exchange program. This experience and subsequent work led to a complete revolution in both how we order topics and how concepts are subsequently built upon.

Our new mathematics curriculum was first introduced in September 2017, initially just starting with Year 7. In 2020-21 Years 7 to 10 will be following our new curriculum. Students in all Years are taught mathematical content to extend their level of prior attainment.  Within each year group students cover one stage of learning

Every stage is split into 14 equally sized blocks of work which are covered over an 8 lesson period (generally taking 2 weeks). Within each stage the ordering of the blocks of work has been very carefully considered and subsequently refined. There is a strong focus on numerical and algebraic skills within the earlier blocks of each stage. These skills are then built upon within later blocks where there is a stronger focus on geometrical and data handling skills.

In all years an emphasis is placed upon students mastering key ideas and concepts. Every lesson has a highly focussed lesson objective. Strategies such as concept/non-concept, directly tackling misconceptions and careful building of skills are used within the majority of lessons. There is a key emphasis placed upon students developing their mathematical vocabulary and accurate use of mathematical notation. Students are given opportunity to develop their skills by being presented with questions that focus on fluency, reasoning and problem-solving skills.

As a result of the carefully planned mastery curriculum in mathematics students, make strong progress and many go on to achieve success on our four advanced level mathematics courses (mathematics, further mathematics, accountancy and mathematical studies).


The science curriculum builds upon and accelerates students’ learning at primary school. The curriculum is carefully sequenced, so that fundamental knowledge and key ideas are first visited early in the course then revisited multiple times. In this way the key knowledge is built upon and connected to a wide variety of scientific applications.

At key stage three there is particularly strong emphases on:

  • working scientifically and making science relevant and exciting
  • developing practical scientific skills and the mathematical knowledge and fluency to apply mathematics to solve scientific problems
  • developing literacy skills and scientific vocabulary through science writing

During the final term of Year 9, students, carefully supported and guided by their science teacher, choose whether to study combined science or three separate sciences to GCSE.  Each year between 35% and 40% of students study the three separate sciences to GCSE. The percentage of our sixth formers studying at least one scientific subject to advanced level is on average 40%, well above the national average and is indicative of the excellent foundation for later scientific study built in key stages 3 and 4.

History and Geography

Our aim of providing a rich and varied curriculum and of ensuring that all students have the cultural capital to lead full and rewarding lives, is reflected in our appreciation of the importance of the humanities subjects.  In addition to students learning about the past and the world today, students develop their thinking skills, oracy and literacy. We have recently increased the teaching time for history and geography in Year 7 & Year 8 by 100% to two hours per week in each subject to enable each subject to fully cover and go beyond the national curriculum content by the end of Year 8. At this point, students are guided to choose to study history, geography or history and geography to GCSE.  This additional teaching time also ensures that all students have a sound knowledge of geography and history before they need to make this choice

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. 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. All students have the opportunity to visit either France or Germany in Year 7 or Year 8 for a reasonably priced languages and cultural visit. Take up is high with approximately 60% of each cohort participating and disadvantaged students are given financial support to help them take part.

During Year 8 a small proportion of students, who due to a range of circumstances including learning difficulties or having a far greater aptitude for practical subjects, are guided towards the opportunity to commence studying a practical or vocational subject of their choice instead of a language from Year 9. This enables these students to spend three years studying this subject before completing their BTEC or GCSE qualification.  Students who in recent years have made this choice, after careful guidance and support from school staff and in consultation with parents, have shown greater motivation in class and are making strong progress in their practical and vocational subject as well as reporting greater enjoyment of school.

Creative, practical and vocational subjects at JMHS

Creative and Performing Arts

At JMHS we believe that arts education is vitally important for two reasons.  Firstly, all young people have an entitlement to be exposed to an appreciation 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, eagerly participating in our annual school production, orchestra and ensembles, dance shows and much else.  For this reason, the arts have a central place in our curriculum. Every student studies drama, dance, music and art at key stage 3.  We build on this entitlement by offering all of these subjects at GCSE and fine art, dance, drama, graphics and photography in the Sixth Form.  Each year there is a strong take up in arts subjects at GCSE and A-level.  We are one of the few schools in the West midlands to have such a strong emphasis on the arts curriculum and extra-curricular arts.

Technology and vocational subjects

Our strong academic core is complemented and supported by our ambition to fully include technological and vocational subjects in our curriculum. Our curriculum aims to ensure that these subjects are seen by our students as relevant to the ‘real world’ and as enjoyable and satisfying, not least 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 are guided to choose to study one or more vocational or technological subject in Years 9 to 11.  Our curriculum offers a wide range of subject choices in the extended key stage 4, 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 Year 9 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 Four for foundation subjects

During Year 8 we have planned an extensive and carefully designed programme to help each student choose four ‘foundation subjects’ to study from Year 9 to Year 11. This programme includes:

  • An impartial careers guidance as part of PSHE;
  • An options evening for parents and students with subject presentations;
  • Taster lessons in subjects they have not yet started;
  • The chance to talk to subject teachers and current students;
  • An individual interview with a senior member of staff.

We have chosen to develop our vision of a three year key stage four curriculum in foundation subjects despite possible objections that this could ‘narrow’ the curriculum. We are convinced that our model shows considerable strengths and reflects the uniqueness of our situation. We have designed and planned our curriculum for our students because:

  • Our curriculum retains balance and is not narrowed as all students study either history or geography and approximately 75% study a modern foreign language to GCSE;
  • The three year key stage four provides greater motivation for students who are increasing more interested and committed to their studies during Year 9;
  • Through very careful curriculum planning, increased teaching time and skilful delivery of the curriculum we ensure that by the end of Year 8 students fully meet or exceed national curriculum requirements in foundation subjects;
  • The three year GCSE course allows subjects to be covered in more depth so that students develop a love of the subject rather than merely memorising lists of facts;
  • Having a three year course and finishing studies by March of Year 11, allows greater time for revision and less stress and anxiety for students which is better for their mental health.

The enrichment curriculum

A key pillar of our curriculum intent is to provide all groups of students with a rich cultural experience. To make our learning enjoyable and exciting and to provide students with the cultural capital they will need to succeed in life, we plan to provide an extensive and ever developing range of extra-curricular and enrichment activities.  These include:

  • A well stocked and attractively presented School Library run by a full time librarian.
  • 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.