We believe that education has a multiple purpose:
- To develop both substantive and disciplinary knowledge
- To provoke curiosity to learn that lasts for life
- To open the gates to desired next steps for students
- To develop confident individuals and responsible citizens who know how to live their expertise well.
Aldridge Education endorses school curricula which are both effective and efficient. What do we mean by this?
An effective curriculum allows our students to gain a breadth of knowledge and to understand how to apply that knowledge independently and to varying contexts, making links between learning from one discipline to another and using their knowledge to grow new knowledge. It meets the specific needs of the cohorts we teach and never further disenfranchises disadvantaged students by dumbing-down the curriculum and widening experiential and knowledge gaps for them. Rather it challenges them, opens horizons and provides copious cultural capital.
As a trust with a focus on enterprise and employability, our curriculum needs to give our students the attributes, employability skills and experiences to ready them for the world of work in all its varying representations.
We expect all students to gain a strong grounding in STEM, the arts, language, technology and humanities prior to selecting their chosen courses for study. These choices are made to commence in Year 10.
Read more about how we develop our curriculum
For a challenging curriculum to be valuable to our students, they have to be well grounded in core skills. Another of our core principles, therefore, is that our schools start intervention at the earliest possible opportunity in all phases. When our students join us, we assess gaps and we immediately start to close those gaps in literacy and maths so that as many students as possible can access the full curriculum at a sound level for as long as possible.
Aldridge does not state that every school must follow the same curriculum content in every subject, though we do align on some core programmes, such as English Mastery and Math Mastery at Key Stage 3. We know that organisations spend large sums of money and much time designing coherent curricula and we realize the amount of work involved for a school team to attain a similar standard. We therefore encourage school leaders to explore the purchase of externally-created materials when trust leads find published resources that they would be willing to strongly endorse to schools for consideration. However, we also accept that ownership of a well-produced curriculum is a powerful thing. Where any Aldridge school or group of schools evidences strong outcomes through a robust curriculum, we will equally consider promoting this within and across the Trust.
Just as we do not stipulate common curriculum content in all areas but we have alignment in some core areas, we follow a similar protocol around subject choice. We stipulate that an Aldridge school’s curriculum choice and breadth must meet the needs of all learners, including the most disadvantaged and those with SEND. Included within this is an agreement that all Aldridge learners will study both English language and literature, Maths and Combined Science and will sit GCSEs in these subjects, even if they also sit entry level exams. Any unique exceptions to this would be decided by Principals and should be rare and in the best interests of a learner. Equally, all year 6 students will take SATs tests except in exceptional circumstances determined by the Principal.
We do not expect any student to be prevented from studying traditionally academic routes such as the English Baccalaureate due to lower attainment than others – a student who shows the desire these subjects should be allowed to do so. Nor does Aldridge expect students to be forced into a set of courses that they do not wish to study and which do not create a pathway for them to their desired next steps in terms of education and employment.
To assist with this process, robust careers work is undertaken by Christmas of Year 9 so that our learners have a basis on which to make sound choices when considering course options.
Whilst Aldridge does not expect all students to undertake the English Baccalaureate in full, neither do we endorse a narrow curriculum which does not keep future options available to our learners. We would expect the majority of our learners to be studying the full English Baccalaureate and the vast majority of our learners in 11-16 provision to be studying at least one further (to the above) course from the English Baccalaureate suite.
Why don’t we demand full take-up of the complete English Baccalaureate for all learners? Because we use our curriculum purpose as the basis for decision-making. We seek to provoke curiosity that lasts for life and this means we want our students to love their learning and to want to keep learning. Where there is no room for choice in a timetable, love of learning is limited. We want to open gates to desired next steps. If we do not make time in a learner’s timetable for specific study that prepares them for level 3 learning and beyond, we are doing these learners a disservice.
In summary, we know that the English Baccalaureate full suite of learning is suitable for many; we do not believe that it is most suitable for every learner. If one key purpose of learning pre-16 is to allow students to be successful and able to move on to post-16 learning, we must allow some flexibility for learners to show both their success and their passion.
We expect our use of public funds to be smart and high leverage.This means that we try to use research and meta-analysis to determine our choices.
In line with our strategic plan, we have a clear school improvement model which centres around three important levers:
- Student culture
- Lesson observation and feedback
- Data driven instruction
Read more about our curriculum architecture
As an example of how we use research and meta-analysis to determine our choices, we know that class size is not a significant determinant in how students make progress so we do not focus highly on small class sizes. We also know that the Sutton Trust research showed that having teaching assistants in classrooms with students is not likely to have a significant impact on a student’s outcomes. We do not make this a feature of our staffing, therefore, and, when we do employ teaching assistants, we ensure that the work they do has impact by using them in situations of higher leverage such as small group intervention or with the most vulnerable students who need constant support to manage the school day.
We aim to streamline our staffing requirements by using ‘curriculum-led financial planning’ to ensure that the staffing requirements we have planned are appropriate to the number of students in our schools. In addition to this, we use a national leader of education (NLE) with expertise in timetabling to review our curriculum plans, blocking and our CLFP documents and confirm that we are ensuring efficiency in our plans before we start recruiting for our September staffing intake at each school.
Efficiency is also about workload and our use of time. We have a clear school improvement model which centres around the three levers outlined above. These levers require certain structural priorities of our schedules and we write these into our timetables to ensure that workload is appropriately recognised and prioritised.
Therefore, we write time for coaching, for co-planning in English, maths and science and for departmental co-planning into our school schedules on a weekly basis. When we calculate teaching loads for our staff, we consider these and ensure that these three key priorities are scheduled for our staff.
In order to further support our teachers with efficiency and workload, we also make it a clear priority that no teacher teaches more than three preps with our ideal being only two preps. This means that whilst a teacher may have more than one class to plan for within the same year group, they will not have more than three different year groups or exam specs to prepare for on a weekly basis.
The exception to this is teachers in departments of one. In this case, where multiple preps are unavoidable without using non-specialist staff, the Principal will consider a slightly reduced lesson tariff to recognise this additional workload of planning and feedback.
We have a strong emphasis on teaching being delivered by subject specialists. We believe that this is offering our students the best we can provide them in terms of teachers who are passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects and who not only deliver a course but who understand the wider body of knowledge in their discipline and can show their students glimpses of this, building in them a love of the subject and a curiosity to learn more. We also believe that this is best serving our teaching staff and ensuring that we consider their wellbeing and satisfaction in their workplace.
In summary, our architectural priorities are:
- We give a high priority to a three-prep rule
- We expect to offer subject-specialist teaching across our schools
- We deliver a three-year Key Stage 3
- We schedule time for our school improvement priorities – co-planning and coaching.