“Depth for Breadth “– One of the 6 Ark Pillars that underpin our school
A knowledge rich curriculum and promotion of a growth mind-set which is underpinned by the principles of learning.
All pupils will secure firm foundations in English and mathematics and this underpins excellence in the other subjects. Our curriculum is rigorous and knowledge-based which is reinforced by regular assessments that cumulatively build students’ knowledge. We offer a broad range of subjects from Early Years through to KS2. We believe in bringing learning to life, indoors and out, with an emphasis on engaging and purposeful learning.
Ark Academy aims to provide a curriculum that is engaging, balanced and rigorous. While emphasis is placed on children learning core skills of English and maths, we place great value on developing the “whole child” and provide an engaging programme of study for all curriculum areas. We have taken on board the National Trust’s “50 Things To Do Before You Are Aged 11¾” and have embedded these traditional, outdoor activities into our curriculum maps.
Our high expectation of children begins in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Children begin in Nursery and are regularly assessed against the Early Learning Goals. These assessments are used to identify key subject areas and focus children to be targeted for specific activities. Pupils begin phonics lessons in nursery and these continue through Reception into Key Stage 1. There is a focus on exploratory play in Reception in the afternoons based around topics and core texts, but in the morning all pupils take part in a full, 45-minute literacy lesson, maths lesson and phonics lesson.
In Key Stage 1, children continue their daily phonics lesson and add separate lessons in reading, writing and maths. Maths meetings begin in Key Stage 1 and discrete history, geography, art, PHSE, RE and science lessons. There is once again a strong focus on core skills of reading, writing and maths throughout the morning and children then study topic-based lessons for the wider curriculum in the afternoons.
In Key Stage 2, children continue the daily diet of rigorous teaching in maths, reading and writing and all children are expected to have fully finished the phonics programme (in some circumstances pupils may continue phonic input through fresh start). In year 5 and 6, focus gradually shifts to the end of Key-Stage assessments as children are prepared for these tests and the transition into year 7.
Areas of the Curriculum
Reading is taught using the Ark 5-day model (shown below). Reading is taught daily to the whole class with an emphasis on vocabulary, retrieval of facts, inference and answering a “big question” about a text. Short extracts are mixed with novel studies on a half-termly basis. Children also read at home using their home reading records and read widely in all curriculum subjects.
Writing is taught using the Talk for Writing model. Children are taught genre-specific texts in which they are encouraged to learn the text by heart before trying to innovate it and gradually apply more independent changes to the model until they can freely write on their own. The “Writer’s Toolkit” section of the sequence of lessons provides input on grammar, punctuation and sentence structures. Pupils are given regular opportunities to write independently throughout the unit through “short burst” writes and invention stimuli. Full overviews and genre distribution in appendices.
At Ark Academy we follow the “Read Write Inc” scheme of phonics teaching. Each child from Reception, year 1 and 2 has a daily, 45 minute phonics lesson. The children are put into small groups based on half-termly assessments so that we can accurately match their needs to the correct provision. Phonics sessions are delivered by teaching assistants as well as teachers and is overseen by a member of the senior leadership team as well as through termly external reviews to ensure quality. Sessions are lively, fast-paced and fun, with an emphasis on learning by heart “speed sounds” and exception words. Children learn new sounds and consolidate those through their reading of texts that specifclly re-enforce the sounds learned. There is an emphasis on paired work and lots of opportunities to speak and listen, as well as read and write the sounds. We aim for children to have completed the entire phonics programme during year 2 so that they can focus more on higher-level comprehension of increasingly challenging texts. Any children that do not complete the phonics programme will continue learning phonics throughout year 3 or 4 on our “Fresh Start” programme, once again taught daily.
At Ark, we follow Mathematics Mastery, a programme developed by Ark Schools. The focus is always on a progression from concrete resources to pictorial representation and into the numerical abstract, which supports the development of deep conceptual understanding. Each lesson, our pupils work on practising core skills, applying them to real-life contexts and developing the essential skills of reasoning. Teaching for mastery does not mean we do not differentiate, but we do aim high for all.
We follow the National Curriculum for science and use Rising Stars to support the planning and delivery of science. Science is hands on where possible, and pupils are given the opportunities to experience science in the real world; each unit is also linked to careers in science. Being an all-through academy, puts us in a unique position to have strong links with the secondary science department, using labs, teaching expertise and resources enhancing teaching and learning in science.
PSHCE and Assemblies
We have designed our own PSHCE curriculum based on the Brent PSHCE curriculum and the school’s SRE policy. Assemblies to specific Key Stages cover elements of our teaching of the core British values and outline how these are exemplified in our own school values.
History and Geography
Our curriculum for history and geography encompasses a wide range of engaging topics, underpinned by the use of knowledge mats, which contain key learning and vocabulary for the topic. Our lessons are knowledge fronted, ensuring that the pupils then develop skills to apply this knowledge to different situations.
The following subjects are taught by specific teachers across the school:
PE: taught weekly by specific teacher using the Champions scheme.
ICT: a curriculum designed combining e-safety with Espresso coding and Scratch.
MFL: languages are taught by our secondary colleagues, providing expert lessons to Key Stage 2
Music: taught by Ark musicians, pupils learn to play the djembe, ukulele and develop their rhythm and vocal control across the phases.
For a full analysis of our curriculum and a breakdown of each year groups curriculum, please download our Curriculum Overview here