Transformative Power of Knowledge
We believe strongly that knowledge has the power to transform the lives of our students and that of the local community. The John Hopkins report titled ‘What we teach matters: How quality curriculum improves student outcomes’ notes that “uneven, scattered curriculum isn’t just boring or confusing; it can widen the gaps between students from affluent backgrounds and their peers from low-income families.” While schools cannot entirely reverse the ‘Matthew Effect’ on their own, what we can do is design effective curricula that puts the students in the best possible position to overcome any obstacle placed in front of them that may prevent them transforming their future.
Mastery and Memory
A vital component of any curriculum is its ability to bring about, as Sweller et al. note, “…an alteration in long-term memory. If nothing has been altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned.” Therefore, our curricula are carefully sequenced, using a component and composite model that features frequent low-stakes assessment of those components to ensure that students master or over-learn the fundamentals of that particular discipline. Students will not return to previous components to make sure they can remember them, but will return to previous components to ensure they cannot forget them. During this process, students’ schemas will be expanded upon to give them more ‘velcro’, in the words of E.D. Hirsch, to ensure that subsequent knowledge is more likely to ‘stick’: Knowledge Begets Knowledge.
To ensure that “an alteration in long-term memory” has been achieved, giving our students more to think about and with as they develop schema, assessments will be carefully crafted to fully meet the needs of our students and our curricula. Each component within a curriculum will be accompanied by a bespoke assessment that precisely considers what the specific knowledge being assessed is, what this information is then to be used for and what the best tool is for carrying out the assessment as a result. Once the components are mastered, composite assessments that call upon all the components learned will clearly demonstrate how much of the curriculum has been mastered at any given point. The curriculum is the progression model.
We acknowledge that each discipline has its own opportunities, challenges and outcomes that are part of the development of schema within that area. Therefore, while the previous three principles are always respected, we also respect the right and the necessity for there to be variation between subject disciplines in order to maximise the learning opportunities for our students.