Learning Experiences

Our innovative, creative curriculum rationale

…The curriculum is taken to mean that which our society deems to be the worthwhile knowledge, skills and understanding that primary children should learn at school…

Primary review Interim report 2008

At the BeDifferent Federation we strongly believe in the concept of lifelong, child initiated learning, where both adults and children learn new things every day. We maintain that learning should be a rewarding, enjoyable and a successful experience for everyone. Through learning and teaching opportunities we equip the children with the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to be able to make informed choices about the important things in their lives. We believe that appropriate learning and teaching experiences help children to lead happy and rewarding lives.

Much time has been spent reflecting on what skills and experiences our children need to equip them for life in the 21st century and what constitutes an appropriately challenging and exciting curriculum. As a result, we have adopted a themed creative curriculum.

Projects are based in:

  • Communication, Language and Literacy
  • Mathematical development
  • Understanding of the World (History, Geography, Science)
  • Expressive Arts and Design (Music, Art, DT)
  • Personal, Social, Health and Emotional
  • Physical Development

They cover all the statutory requirements of the EYFS and National Curriculum Programmes of Study.

Why the cross curricular approach to teaching and learning?

  • It helps staff to make better links between core and foundation subjects, providing a more holistic approach to learning and teaching
  • It gives teachers greater ownership of what they are actually teaching in the classroom
  • It is a more interesting and meaningful way of teaching and learning - children and staff are inspired and motivated to learn
  • Children have a stake in their own learning
  • There is more time to reflect and review work
  • There are greater opportunities for Assessment for Learning
  • Everyone is more willing to take risks, through increased confidence and engagement
  • Children are more engaged and motivated to learn
  • It provides more opportunities to develop skills
  • Outcomes include raising standards as children enjoy and achieve

Our creative curriculum is a carefully planned, thematic approach to teaching and learning designed to support children's enquiring minds and stimulate and nurture their creativity. It offers the children the opportunities to work in more depth, giving them the time they need to reflect, consolidate and transfer knowledge, skills and understanding across the learning experience as a whole

Our collaborative cross-curricular planning is closely referenced to the National Curriculum and programmes of study to ensure coverage, progression in knowledge, understanding and skills for all age ranges. There are clear links to specific subject areas in both planning and teaching, with a strong emphasis on the development of children's Literacy, mathematical and enquiry skills. We encourage children to take responsibility for their own learning, to be involved in reviewing the way they learn, and to reflect on how they learn best. There is a greater flexibility of timetabling to allow for more sustained periods of focused learning targeted on the planned desired outcomes. Subject leaders closely monitor the progression of subject knowledge, understanding and skills whilst also supporting the professional development and expertise of all teaching staff.

At the BeDifferent Federation we recognise that as individuals we learn best in different ways. In our schools we provide a rich and varied learning environment that allows all children to develop their skills and abilities to reach their full potential. Our schools ethos permeates all aspects of learning and teaching. The purpose of our creative curriculum is to ensure that the children at the BeDifferent Federation are provided with outstanding learning and teaching experiences that lead to consistently high levels of pupil achievement. Learning should be challenging, rewarding and enjoyable. Learning involves child-initiated projects that captivate the interests and is directed by all children. Teaching should be relevant, creative and enthusiastic.

At the BeDifferent Federation we provide children with experiences that are fun and memorable, drawing upon their individual interests that ensures high levels of engagement and involvement. The emphasis is placed on helping all children fulfil their potential, not just academically but in all aspects of learning.

This is achieved through:

  • First hand experiences
  • Access to a wealth of resources and learning tools both within school and the local community
  • Opportunities to meet, question, interview and be inspired by aspirational figures
  • Independence, enquiry, reflection, problem solving, active participation, self-management, creative thinking included as strong features of classroom activity
  • Children working collaboratively, with planned opportunities for peer to peer learning
  • The interests of children being used to influence and inform the teaching
  • Children, adults and parents working with each other, bringing together the school, locality and wider community to create a challenging, distinctive and exciting curriculum
  • Use of local area as a learning tool
  • Parental involvement and expertise

We understand that as individual we learn in many different ways, and respond best to different types of input (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic); we therefore deliver teaching in different ways to address the needs of all of our learners and so retain their concentration, motivation and application. We take into account the different forms of intelligence (for example, mathematical/logical, visual/spatial, interpersonal and musical) when planning our delivery of the curriculum.

We ensure the best possible environment for learning by developing a positive atmosphere where children feel safe and they belong, where they enjoy being challenged, but were they enjoy learning and know that they will succeed.

We believe that children learn best when:

  • they are interested and motivated;
  • they are successful;
  • they are provided with tasks that take into account ability, interests and needs;
  • they are provided with differentiated tasks and activities that require learners to think and develop their understanding either individually or collaboratively;
  • they are provided with quality resources to maximise their engagement;
  • they feel secure and are aware of boundaries;
  • they are challenged and stimulated by our high expectations;
  • they are involved in assessing and measuring their own learning;
  • provided with challenging yet achievable expectations, with clear explanations at a rigorous pace;
  • presented with varied and flexible teaching styles, dependent on the task and the individual needs of the learner (Visual-Auditory-Kinaesthetic);
  • provided with a clear focus, through explicit learning intentions (WALT) and success criteria, which identity what learners need to understand and be able to do in order to achieve;
  • there is an excellent use of teaching assistants and resources are provided to support the children's learning;
  • positive behaviour management strategies are used to motivate and encourage children to respond appropriately and help to create a climate for learning;
  • opportunities for self-evaluation and reflection are built in throughout the session;
  • they are involved in setting and reviewing personal targets;
  • a consistent approach to managing behaviour positively us used, in line with whole school policies and procedures;
  • each and every child makes progress in their learning, regardless of ability;
  • a purposeful learning environment is created;
  • learning is linked to children's prior skills, knowledge and understanding;
  • a range of questions are used e.g. open questions and closed questions. Children are encouraged to generate their own questions for investigation;
  • information is presented in short chunks, which enables children to maintain their concentration;
  • creative ideas are valued and actively encouraged.

At the BeDifferent Federation we offer opportunities for children to learn in different ways.

These include:

  • Investigation and problem-solving;
  • Research and discovery;
  • Group work;
  • Paired work;
  • Independent work;
  • Whole-class work;
  • Asking and answering questions;
  • Use of ICT, including the safe use of the Internet;
  • Fieldwork and visits to places of educational interest;
  • Visitors with first-hand experience or expert knowledge;
  • Creative activities;
  • Watching interactive clips and responding to music through movement;
  • Debates, role-play and oral presentations;
  • Designing and making things;
  • Participation in athletics or physical activity.

How do we plan and organise our creative curriculum?

There are three parts to our planning:

The programmes of study of the National Curriculum tell us the minimum requirement of what needs to be taught in Key Stages 1 and 2. The aim is that the required Knowledge, Skills and Understanding are covered as many times as possible throughout the Key Stage

  • 1/ Long term planning for the year, using a yearly overview format: these are the themes that will be taught and when they will take place.
  • We will also include a series of 'Themed weeks', whereby the whole school works on a common topical theme (e.g. Going for Gold - Olympics, Storytelling Week, Farm to Fork and more!).
  • 2/ Medium term planning: Project themes are devised in a number of different ways: by members of the senior leadership team, by teaching staff and as a result of child led, school engine consultation. Senior Leaders will select appropriate objectives and units for coverage using the National Curriculum and programmes of study. They will then be mapped onto the medium term planning across year groups or key stages, according to the nature of the project. Objectives will be planned carefully to ensure progression in knowledge, understanding and skills across the various age ranges. Using a mind map of activities, including children's input about what they would like to learn within the project, we then consider what learning opportunities would be most suitable and they key skills that will be developed. This will also include how the project will be launched successfully in order to captivate and inspire the children. This may be achieved through a special visitor or workshop, a 'crime scene' or drama activity that has been left for the children to explore, a film or educational excursion in the local/wider community.
  • 3/ Short term planning: Weekly plans are created, taking the key objective and skills to be taught from the medium term project grids. Lessons may have one or more subject focus. For example a singe lesson's objectives could include History, how artefacts reflect time and culture within Art, developing sketchbook work evaluating the work of Ancient Greek potters.

Children's work is recorded in their individual A3 project books, which is a collection of the learning experiences for each half term project. The project always begins with a mind mapping activity with children reflecting upon and recording their previous knowledge and understanding that relates to the given project title. They record key questions of interest, aspects that they would like to learn more about and the different ways in which they feel that they learn most effectively. The class teacher would use these to inform and guide subsequent planning to take into account the children's interests and areas for development. Children's learning is recorded in a variety of forms - this may be written tasks, investigations, use of recording frames of other scaffolds, through inclusion of annotated photographs and speech bubbles. All work recorded in books will include a dated WALT (We Are Learning To) with specific bullet point Success Criteria that the children use to guide and support achievement. Children complete regular assessment for learning activities to reflect upon their individual achievement and successes. All work is marked in accordance with our school policy and time is timetabled effectively to allow for continued dialogue between the child and the class teacher. Each project is then reviewed upon completion using a 'what have I learnt' frame. The children use this scaffold to record their enjoyment and achievement in the planned project. They also complete an 'even better if' section that allows them to share ideas for further development.