Our Curriculum's Big Ideas
We have established two big ideas for our curriculum…
Diversity and Culture
We want these two big ideas to span all subjects and year groups at the school. The aim is that by the time our pupils leave Woodlands, they will have a deep and detailed understanding of both words and see the links and connections between the two. Diversity and culture are both multi-faceted words and are concepts that have much crossover. When we identified these big ideas, it was important to us that they felt like they belonged together and formed their own partnership. We see these as critical concepts in themselves, both generally and specifically with our pupils in mind…
Britain today is a country rich in diversity. Never before have we been able to celebrate so much difference in terms of our ethnicity, family structure, sexuality and gender. However, we have identified that – broadly speaking – many of our pupils do not experience or see diversity in their day-to-day lives. This is reflective of our local community, which is predominantly White British. Division, ignorance and mistrust is at the source of prejudice and we want to do all we can to protect society from this. Consequently, we want to teach our pupils about the diversity of the country and world they live in. We want our children to see this as a positive and vital thing. We see it as our duty to broaden and deepen our pupils’ understanding of the diversity of our world - its people, its religions, its wildlife, its food, its music, its art and so much more. We do not want to let division eclipse diversity. We want Woodlands’ pupils to see that our differences are what makes Britain so special.
Culture is a pattern of knowledge, belief and behaviour shared by a society or group of people – their way of life. Many different things make up a society's culture. These things include food, language, clothing, tools, music, arts, customs, beliefs and religion. A culture is passed on to the next generation by learning. In our diverse world, we believe it is important that children have a good and continually developing understanding of the breadth of cultures across the world. By building pupils’ understanding of these cultures, we are helping them to become, not only more knowledgeable, but ultimately we hope, more caring and empathetic of others. It is also important to us that Woodlands’ pupils experience aspects of our own culture that might otherwise pass them by, such as visiting the theatre, going to an art gallery and attending a music concert. Our exposure to all the cultures of the world does nothing but improve our own.
A curriculum that supports remembering
Our curriculum is very deliberate in its aim for children to remember more of what they are taught over the long term. The curriculum is the mechanism through which we share the things that we most value with our next generation. In this way, our curriculum aims to empower young people, nourishing both them and the society of which they are a part. However, remembering what they are taught is critical. If the knowledge we teach is forgotten, then our aims remain unfulfilled. Our two big ideas are one way that we intend for more knowledge to be retained. They are golden threads that run through our curriculum, upon which current, previous and future learning can be hung. By weaving these two big ideas through our curriculum, we are able to develop two concepts of genuine weight and importance, whilst also building detailed and elaborate schema for our pupils. The development of schema enables prior learning to be revisited or be seen in a new light and it allows new learning to have powerful contexts – all of which supports the building of robust long-term memory structures.
Clare Sealy (a primary Headteacher and highly respected curriculum expert) talks about a three-dimensional (3D) curriculum and this idea has been very influential in our thinking. She talks about a curriculum needing vertical links, which are links within a subject across year groups (high-yield concepts encountered repeatedly). There should be horizontal links, which are links within a year group between subjects. Finally, a curriculum should have diagonal links, which are those that join concepts across both year groups and across subjects. Our two big ideas – diversity and culture – are our diagonal links.
The document at the bottom of the page entitled 'Diversity and Culture Example Schema and Links' helps visualise the interconnectedness of the links made to and between diversity and culture throughout our curriculum. This also illustrates (admittedly in an over-simplified way) what a developed schema for our two big ideas, might be like for a pupil in reality. It also identifies the subjects and year groups in which those ideas and links might have been first introduced and formed. This is only a summary rather than a comprehensive list, which we have on a separate document (not yet available). We also know that teachers and pupils will identify many ‘new’ links organically and we want to encourage this. Each unit of learning has a page called ‘The Big Picture', which will indicate where there are opportunities to make links to our big ideas, so that this is clear for our teachers.