Curriculum & Assessment
Years 1 – 6 Information for Parents and Carers
This is a significant time of change for our education system nationally. We always reflect carefully on what we are doing to ensure the best for the children and families we serve with our drive always being equality and excellence. We would like to give you clear explanation of how we as a school are addressing the change in national expectations and also how we are working to improve the educational experience for all children this year as knowing these changes will enable your conversations with the teachers on our first parent/carers’ evening on Thursday 5th November to be focussed on your child’s learning.
2014 National Curriculum
Last year, following government guidelines, Years 1, 3, 4 and 5 started studying the new 2014 National Curriculum whilst Year 2 (who are now in Year 3) and Year 6 (who are now in Year 7) studied and were assessed on the curriculum which had been in place since the year 2000.
This academic year, all year groups from Year 1 – 6 will be studying and will be assessed against the 2014 National Curriculum. Although as a school with academy status we do not have to follow this curriculum, it would not be in the best interests of the children to follow a different curriculum, particularly when they then transfer to secondary school. The complete National Curriculum document is on the school website under Learning/Curriculum and Assessment. The curriculum and assessment of children in Nursery and Reception has not changed.
What is being taught?
English, mathematics and science remain very important and are considered the core subjects in both primary and secondary education. The National Curriculum sets out in detail what must be taught in each of these subjects for each year group. The National Association of Head Teachers has also suggested which of the objectives are ‘Key Performance Indicators’ i.e. key objectives to be learnt each year.
You have been sent an overview of the curriculum objectives for your child’s year group for Spoken Language, Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Science in September. These are also available on the school website in the ‘Learning’ section for each subject and also in the ‘Curriculum and Assessment’ section.
The government said that they intended the 2014 National Curriculum to be more challenging in order to raise academic standards (particularly when compared to other countries) and this is certainly the case.
To be able to make inferences and justify them clearly using evidence taken from the text was the expectation of typical children in Year 6 before and is now the expectation of all children in Year 4.
To be able to consistently use capital letters, full stops, exclamation marks, question marks and commas in a list was the expectation of typical children in Year 4 before and is now the expectation of all children in Year 2.
To be able to calculate the area of parallelograms and triangles was the expectation of typical children in Year 8 or Year 9 (or those working at Level 6) – this is now an expectation of all children in Year 6.
A new unit of work on ‘Evolution and Inheritance’ is introduced for Year 6; work which would have previously been studied in secondary school.
Each year the content of the 2014 National Curriculum gets harder and there is little repetition, it has been developed with an expectation that children will achieve the year group objectives fully so that they do not need to be taught again in the following year(s).
For example: in Year 1 children should be using capital letters, full stops, question marks and exclamation marks in some sentences; they should be using them consistently in Year 2 and in Year 3 this is not on objective at all as they should have learnt this in Year 2 (they start to use inverted commas).
The emphasis on different aspects of the subjects has also changed, for example:
Stronger emphasis on vocabulary development, grammar, punctuation and spelling – you should have already received an overview of the key spellings for your child’s year group and this is also available on the school website under Learning/English/Spelling.
A stronger emphasis on reading widely, regularly and for different purposes, including learning a range of poems by heart and reading for pleasure
Handwriting is expected to be fluent, legible and speedy
Spoken English has a greater emphasis, with children to be taught debating and presenting skills as well as asking questions and explaining their thinking out loud in mathematics and science
Emphasis on strong mental arithmetic – use of calculators is limited, children are expected to know the multiplication tables up to 12x12 by Year 4
Emphasis on using ‘formal’ (i.e. columnar) methods for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in Years 3 – 6.
Emphasis on solving increasingly complex problems, being able to break down problems into simpler steps and persevering to find solutions
Emphasis on reasoning mathematically by following a line of enquiry, conjecturing relationships, developing an argument, justification or proof using mathematical language
Expectation that children should progress through content at ‘broadly the same pace’; that children who grasp concepts rapidly should be challenged through complex problem solving and those who are not fluent with earlier content should have additional practise.
To assist teachers prepare for the many children at Belleville who are ready for complex application of their maths understanding, the role of Juliette Wade has been adjusted to share the practice she has developed with small groups in previous years to all children every day.
Emphasis on developing understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science through different types of science enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them
Making sure children are equipped with the scientific knowledge needed to understand the uses and implications of science, today and for the future.
How will children be assessed?
When the first National Curriculum was published in 1988, a system of levels was introduced to assess children at the end of Year 2, Year 6 and Year 9. Over the years, as the measures for accountability for schools increased (e.g. league tables, requirements from OfSTED), schools started to use these for every year group from Year 1 – 6 to measure attainment and progress.
The levels were often difficult for parents and carers to understand as a Level 3, for example, was above the expectation in Year 2, was the expectation in Year 4 and was below the expectation for Year 6.
The use of levels was based on a ‘best fit’ model which meant that children could have large gaps in their knowledge and understanding and the level in itself didn’t make it clear where the child had these gaps.
As part of the 2014 National Curriculum, the government stopped the use of levels (apart from Year 2 and Year 6 last year who were assessed against the old curriculum for the last time) – this has often been called ‘life without levels’ in the media.
The government did not replace the level system with a new model and has left this with individual schools to develop.
However, in September 2015, the final report of the government’s ‘Commission on Assessment without Levels’ was published and gives some clear guidelines on what assessment systems in school should look like. We are developing our assessment systems to include this best practice. This report is available for you to read on the school website under Learning/Curriculum and Assessment.
The key principles are:
That the ongoing assessment and adapting day to day teaching to help children to progress is key (called in-school formative assessment).
This includes how children answer and ask questions, how they can explain and develop their thinking, their written work, their use of practical or concrete equipment, their homework, their responses to marking and their self-evaluations (this is completed by children in green pen).
That ‘mastery’ (a term that has been used to mean lots of different things) is about ‘deep, secure learning for all, with extension of able students . . . rather than acceleration’ (p.17).
For some children this may mean they need extra practise and consolidation work. When children have a strong grasp of the content, they make further progress by deepening their understanding, applying their knowledge and skills across a range of contexts.
For example, in mathematics, children are challenged further through solving increasingly complex problems and are required to explain, compare and justify their methods and alternative methods. This approach to challenging children in mathematics has been used at Belleville since 2011, starting with Year 1 each year (the 2011 Year 1 are currently Year 4) and is now in use throughout Years 1 – 6 after a great deal of high quality training for teachers in 2014-15.
The frameworks for how Year 2 and Year 6 are to be assessed by their teachers at the end of this academic year were also published on the same day in September 2015 and follow the same principles.
They are not ‘best fit’ models; for a child to be assessed as ‘working towards’, ‘at’ or ‘working at greater depth’ against the expected standard, they need to show that they can do all of the points listed.
For the higher attainers they are to be described as ‘working at greater depth’, the points they need to show are not from objectives above their year group (i.e. they are not expected to be working on Year 3 objectives in Year 2 or Year 7 objectives in Year 6) but are about using the more difficult skills in the year group curriculum across a wider range of texts in English and about the ability to solve complex problems and use reasoning, deductions and be able to describe and explain in mathematics.
These teacher assessment frameworks for Year 2 and Year 6 are on the school website ‘Curriculum and Assessment’.
For Year 2 and Year 6 there will also be nationally standardised tests to complete in the summer term as previously, but the results will be reported as a ‘scaled score’ with 100 representing achieving the expected standard with some children having a higher score and some having a lower score. So far schools have very little further information on how this new system will work; we will provide more details to parents and carers of children in Year 2 and Year 6 when we can.
What about other subjects?
For the other subjects, the 2014 National Curriculum is much less detailed; all schools have much more flexibility regarding what they cover in these subjects.
In 2014-15, our specialist teachers for Art & Design, Computing, Foreign Languages, Music and Physical Education (games, dance and gymnastics) reviewed their curriculum for each year group.
For these subjects, the children at Belleville were already being taught more difficult content and skills than the National Curriculum for their age group e.g. teaching of a foreign language is only required for Years 3 – 6, but at Belleville they begin this in Year 1. Some adjustments were made to make sure any changes of emphasis were reflected, particularly in the programming, coding and internet safety elements of the Computing curriculum.
For Design & Technology, History and Geography few changes have been made as yet given that the curriculum for these subjects had been re-written in the previous two years and is already challenging, along with the need to place greater focus on ensuring that the teaching and learning in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science is effective for all children.
The subjects of Religious Education (RE) and Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCHE) do not currently have National Curriculum objectives but there is a clear requirement that schools promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society and that schools must teach RE to pupils at every key stage and should make provision for PSCHE, drawing on good practice.
The RE program at Belleville is based on ensuring children learn about a wide range of different faiths and practices (including those of no faith) and reflect upon their own views and beliefs.
The PSCHE program focuses on helping children develop the skills to build and maintain friendships, to recognise and manage their emotions, to know how to keep themselves safe, to understand and manage change in their lives, including as their bodies change and for Year 6 children, the change as they transfer to secondary school.
Classroom Seating Arrangements
A number of parents and carers have been asking questions about the consistent use of table arrangements and seating plans that have been in place since September 2015.
Before September, teachers could arrange their tables and their seating plans in the way they preferred as long as they could justify their decision. Some had five groups of six children, some had children working in pairs, some had tables in rows, some had tables in a U-shape and/or combinations of all of these. Some teachers had children with similar attainment sitting together, some had children with mixtures of attainment sitting together; many teachers had different combinations of children with different attainment sitting together depending on the subject and indeed on the type of activity (e.g. drama or spelling work in English would often have very different children working together).
As you have read above, the expectations of what the children need to do has risen in every year group, there are clear expectations of the level of discussion/questioning and explanation that is now expected from all children, that all children should be predominantly working on their year group’s objectives (unless they have serious gaps from previous years) and that all children should be given access to challenging extension of what they have learned when they are ready.
Alongside this, there has been perception of being ‘the top’ or ‘the bottom’ of the class which is often incorrect (e.g. there are many more children working at a similar level of attainment than could comfortably fit around one table) and in practice can be detrimental to children’s learning (for example, an individual child’s profile of understanding is uneven even within a subject, some children are afraid to make mistakes or try challenging work if they think they are the best/worst in the class, many children rely on the few in the class who always contribute rather than try for themselves even when they are able to).
After a great deal of research and successful trials in classes in the summer term of 2015, there is now a consistent approach to table arrangements and seating plans in Years 1 - 6:
- Wherever possible with the room size/shape, children are seated in smaller groups of 4 ideally, occasionally groups of 5 - this is to facilitate effective discussion for all children.
- Children are seated carefully at these tables so that their ‘shoulder partner’ (the person sitting next to them) and their ‘face partner’ (the person sitting opposite them) is always someone of similar attainment – this is to ensure all children can be supported by their peers when they get stuck and all children can participate in high quality discussion.
- Children have a number from 1-4 to help them pair up with other children in the whole class and this can also be done completely randomly.
Teachers have been trained in how to make their use of questioning and discussion (which is key to developing children’s understanding and helping them make progress) more effective than one person at a time answering the teacher’s question whilst the rest of the class listen; this is supported by having clear and consistent use of table arrangements and seating plans.
Effective discussion and questioning is being enhanced through carefully selected use of co-operative learning structures, when appropriate, which have children working in many different ways: with their face partners, shoulder partners, groups of 4 and the whole class to make sure that all children are participating equally and are also individually accountable for contributing to and developing their own understanding. There are a variety of seating plans for different subjects and these will change during the year to ensure the children work with many of their peers.
These arrangements do not mean that children who need additional support/practise or children who are ready for extension work will not have access to it; teachers regularly rearrange who is seated together, who is working on which aspect of the tasks for the day, who is working with the support of an adult during the course of a lesson in response to the children’s’ needs as they arise during a lesson, over a series of lessons and over longer periods of time.
We hope this information has been useful to you.
If you have any further questions, comments or concerns, please speak with one of our senior leaders or make an appointment to see them during the next parent/carers’ evening. Our senior leaders are:
Mary-Lyne Latour (Years 1 and 2), Michelle Hayfron (Year 3 and 4), Elen Meredith (Years 5 and 6), Jane Ford (based at Meteor Street), Sarah Atherton (based at Webb’s Road) or myself.
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