The Aims of the Soane Curriculum
At Ark Soane, our goal is to give every student access to ‘the best that has been thought and said’. This constitutes the collective wisdom of humankind, organised through the subject disciplines.
Ark Soane students will receive an excellent academic education and develop the character needed to live happy, fulfilled lives as the drivers of their own destinies.
Our curriculum maps the knowledge our students require to progress from novice to expert in each discipline. By ensuring that new information is grounded in a well-developed web of prior knowledge we ensure that all students, whatever their starting points, can achieve academic success by working hard at Soane.
Our curriculum is designed to ensure that all students can engage with, and contribute to, the academic disciplines by preparing them for further study and aspirational careers.
Our curriculum prioritises the development of academic discourse in scholarly classrooms. Students learn to view the world from different perspectives and respectfully challenge varying interpretations.
A knowledge-rich curriculum:
Each subject discipline is built around a search for truth and meaning. The knowledge that makes up each discipline is continually contested and revised; in our curricula we prioritise the knowledge that will enable our students to understand, and contribute to, the debates and discussions within subject disciplines.
Our curriculum prioritises acquiring powerful knowledge which would not otherwise be encountered in day-to-day life. We have the highest expectations of the amount our students can learn and remember, and we firmly believe that, only by equipping them with a well-structured body of knowledge, are they equipped to access the collective wisdom of humankind.
An academically ambitious curriculum:
Our curriculum empowers students by enabling them to delight in all our subjects have to offer. We believe that the best way to prepare students for public exams is by them grappling with powerful knowledge – even when it is not part of their exam specifications.
We provide our students with a broad and deep grounding in subjects; content is selected to ensure that students understand the true breadth of the discipline and it is taught in sufficient depth to equip students with the knowledge to participate in the discourse of the discipline.
Our curriculum prioritises subject specific language; only by acquiring a rich vocabulary of language can our students understand the claims and discussions that make up the subject discipline.
A well sequenced curriculum:
Our curriculum ensures that new knowledge is grounded in a well-developed web of existing knowledge; we know that our students can only effectively assimilate when they are able to connect new knowledge to their existing schema.
Our curriculum aims to systematically build students’ knowledge to enable them to progress from inexperience to mastery of each discipline’s domain. The curriculum is the progression model and sequences the knowledge that students need to learn in order to become experts in subject disciplines.
Designed to support memory:
The curriculum is designed to ensure that students retain what they learn – we cannot say something has been learned if there has not been a change in students’ long-term memory. We therefore dedicate significant time to retrieval practice, giving students’ the opportunity to recall what they have learnt and to establish links with prior knowledge. Interleaving new and existing knowledge and spaced retrieval practice ensures that students remember more.
How we implement the curriculum at Soane:
At Soane we believe that transformative outcomes are best achieved through direct instruction: a high level of structure, tight sequencing and teacher-led exposition.
Ark Curriculum Programmes:
Soane is proud to base its curriculum on Ark’s curricula; using their Complete Curriculum Programmes (which include instructional and pedagogical resources - in maths, English, science, geography and music) and Aligned Curriculum Frameworks (a common curriculum and assessment framework - in MFL, Religion & Philosophy and history) as a base. In Art and Design we have designed our own curriculum aligned with the design principles of Ark’s common curricula.
Using the Ark Curriculum Programmes provides a number of benefits:
- Dedicated professionals ensure that the curriculum is developed in line with academic research and in response to students’ attainment;
- The curriculum is higher quality than would otherwise be developed in house by a small team;
- Dedicated network training days enable leaders to engage in intellectual preparation across multiple academies;
- Teachers are freed up from the time-consuming work of creating resources from scratch; and
- Heads of Department and their teams have a strong voice in developing the common curricula and their assessments.
Intellectual preparation is integral to effective delivery of our curricula: effectively positioning a unit of work in the context of what has been, and will be, learned; identifying the clearest possible expositions for complex knowledge; clarifying what elements of lessons require particular emphasis; pre-planning for potential student misconceptions…
Our approach to intellectual preparation begins with scheduled co-planning where the department uses Ark’s curriculum programmes to jointly create or adapt a booklet containing the best text, definitions, questions and activities to think about the meaning of new knowledge and commit it to long-term memory. Joined creation of a single curriculum resource ensures a high level of curricular consistency across classrooms and supports all teachers to deliver high quality lessons.
Individual teachers intellectually prepare for their own classes by: rehearsing expositions; planning for misconceptions; responding to prior knowledge gaps; planning targeted checks for understanding; and providing additional scaffolding or stretch for their groups.
Oversight of the curriculum:
Heads of department are the drivers of successful delivery of the curriculum and are challenged and supported by their SLT line managers.
Weekly line management meetings, lesson observations, booklet reviews, assessment reviews and co-planning outputs enable line managers and heads of department to assure the strength of the planned and enacted curriculum and that it is continually improved.
Assessing progression through the curriculum:
We use assessment to ensure that students are making progress through the curriculum.
Lessons are characterised by routine checking for understanding. Teachers know their students’ strengths and areas for development and target questions accordingly. Independent practice is prioritised and intentionally monitored so that misconceptions are tackled at the earliest opportunity. Teachers regularly check for understanding through questioning and reading student work to ascertain whether students are learning the core content of the lesson.
Do now activities interleave prior learning to ensure that knowledge is transferred to long-term memory. All units are accompanied by a knowledge organiser which sets out the core knowledge that all students are expected to retain, and students use this to support independent revision. Homework is set at least once per week (twice in core subjects) to support retrieval practice and to commit the critical knowledge in the knowledge organisers into long term memory. Low-stakes quizzes are used to assess whether critical knowledge has been retained.
Unit assessments take place at least once per half-term (twice in core subjects) to assess whether content has been learned. Cumulative assessments take place twice per year and assess all content covered in the key stage. Following each assessment results are analysed, feedback is given and teachers plan how to close knowledge gaps and refine the curriculum to pre-empt misconceptions for future cohorts.
Teaching groups at Soane:
Students are primarily taught in mixed ability teaching groups with limited streaming for maths and science. Two smaller groups (primarily for students reading well below their chronological reading age) have a teaching assistant to support students’ progress. Student groupings are reviewed twice each year.
All students are entitled to the same rigorous academic curriculum irrespective of their starting point. Teachers ensure that the supported groups are able to access and make effective progress through the curriculum by providing additional scaffolding and by ruthlessly focusing on the most powerful knowledge of the lesson.
21 students who are reading at 3 years below chronological reading age have a reduced allocation of French lessons to enable small-group phonics teaching to take place. Reading progress for this group is assessed each half-term and those who have mastered phonics are supported to return to a full French timetable. All students will have three lessons per week of French in Y8 and beyond.
Routines support implementation of the curriculum:
Many of our school routines including line-ups, silent transitions and lesson entry and exit routines are designed to ensure that we maximise the time available to deliver our rigorous academic curriculum.
In our classrooms we expect nothing less than 100% focus. We insist on crisp transitions using clear in-cues to ensure that all students are focusing on the same task and that instructions are clearly understood. During expositions all students are silently listening and tracking the speaker.
New knowledge is primarily delivered through well-crafted text in booklets. Students always follow along with reading and are ready to pick up when asked. New vocabulary is frequently stamped using “I say, you say” to give students an opportunity to use new language before applying it in context.
Extensive retrieval practice, questioning, use of “turn and talk”, silent independent practice and routine self-marking ensure that new knowledge is effectively committed to students’ long-term memories.
The non-examined curriculum:
The non-examined curriculum is designed to provide all students with a love of reading; a passion for a school activity; opportunities for leadership and creativity; insight into careers and universities; and cultural capital and exposure to broader ideas.
Through our taught PSHE programme students learn: RSE; how to stay safe and healthy through their interactions with others (both in person and online); how to maintain their physical and mental health; and how to live according to the Fundamental British Values and the academy’s values. We continually reiterate the highest expectations of living according to our values through line-ups, assemblies, family dining and tutor time.
In our Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Programme we give all our students a love of reading. In our termly Exploration Days we give students an opportunity to engage with wide ranging questions and issues through a museum-based research project. Through our termly Exhibition Evenings students showcase their work to parents and others in the community.
In our weekly timetabled enrichment lesson, we enable all students to choose an activity they love ranging from drama to henna, Japanese to Arabic and badminton to chess. This is supplemented by an after-school offering of clubs including well attended music, art and chess clubs as well as a daily homework club in the library.
Family dining is an integral part of our non-examined curriculum. A member of staff or an external careers speaker gives a short address on a topic beyond the curriculum - which students then discuss in their tables. Students demonstrate kindness and good manners through serving each other and clearing up after each other. Students then show gratitude and confidence by publicly giving appreciations in front of their peers.