Curriculum intention, definition and structure

What is the intention of the Highbury Fields School curriculum?

Highbury Fields School understands that the content and quality of our school curriculum is vital in ensuring that all students in our care achieve both academic and social success.  If our curriculum is fully meeting its intention, by the end of their schooling our students will have enjoyed accumulating, and will be able to apply, an array of knowledge and skills that have been learnt across a wide range of academic disciplines.  Students will develop and maintain a passion for reading and understand that reading broadly and well is inextricably linked to their future chances. The strong progress and outcomes that all students will achieve as a consequence of their desire to be lifelong learners will put them in control of their future choices.  They will therefore be ready to take their next steps in education and will do so with the confidence and determination to fully discover who they are and where their interests lie.

As they mature into young adults, Highbury Fields students will have developed an independence that enables them to create and sustain positive relationships that improve their quality of life and contribute to their interpretation of it.  Our students will know how to spend time constructively, both on their own and with others, and will have developed pastimes that aid their ability to keep well, but which also deepen their cultural appreciation and broaden their world view.  The scope of our students’ interests and their continuing curiosity will encourage an enjoyment of ideas within and beyond their field of interest, whilst their excellent communication skills will ensure they are able to engage meaningfully in discussion and debate across a range of spheres.  Perhaps most importantly, whilst Highbury Fields students will quite rightly have the confidence and determination to make the very most of their lives, they will want to do so, not just for themselves, but so they can improve the community and society of which they are such an integral part.      

How does Highbury Fields School define ‘the curriculum’?

At Highbury Fields School the curriculum is defined as the planned learning experiences that support students in their holistic development during the time they are in the school.  The curriculum underpins every moment of students’ educational journey and should imbue the feelings of safety, happiness and confidence in all students.  It should also equip students with a knowledge and skills set that promotes academic curiosity and which enables students to think flexibly and thus be adaptable in their preparation for the excitement and challenges of adulthood. 

The school recognises the significance of all aspects of the curriculum and understands that the studied, pastoral and wider curricular have equal bearing on students’ future success and are mutually supportive of one another.  Whilst the school curriculum has consistent ambitions for every student, the school understands that, to provide an inclusive and equitable educational experience, bespoke adaptations will be required to best support all students in achieving academic and social success, which is the principal mission of the school. 

Highbury Fields School also understands that the knowledge and skills associated with each aspect of the curriculum need to be effectively sequenced and structured over time, to ensure they are relevant to the needs and context of all students in our care at every stage of their development.  The school is firmly committed to continually evaluating the impact of the curriculum, to ensure that it provides the very best experiences and opportunities for all of our students.

How does Highbury Fields School structure the curriculum?

The overarching purpose of Highbury Fields School curriculum is to provide all students with the knowledge, skills and characteristics that enable them to be academically and socially successful, both throughout school and in future life.  The school structures the curriculum in three aspects:

  • The studied curriculum, which includes the subjects and lessons which students learn throughout the educational journey
  • The pastoral curriculum, which includes the ways in which students are taught to safeguard themselves and one another and how the school values of community, respect and tolerance are threaded throughout students’ learning
  • The wider curriculum, which includes the opportunities and experiences provided for students outside of their timetabled subjects and lessons

Each of the three aspects of the curriculum are interrelated and all are integral in providing students with the foundations for a successful future and an understanding of how reading throughout life supports both academic progress and keeping well.

The studied curriculum

The core purpose of the Highbury Fields’ studied curriculum is to induct students into academic disciplines in a manner that inspires them to have a lifelong love of learning.  The studied curriculum is intended to motivate students in the quest for knowledge both within and beyond school.  Learning opportunities are framed as moments of discovery, with students encouraged to actively ‘find out’ and creatively apply new knowledge, rather than simply being recipients of it.

Highbury Fields School has a clear vision of how students should develop into curious, independent learners throughout their schooling. Our studied curriculum is therefore carefully sequenced both within and throughout each curriculum year, to support students in acquiring, rehearsing and applying the knowledge and skills that are necessary for future academic and professional success and, just as importantly, allow them to develop a broad and balanced world view.  Students’ experiences of learning are carefully aligned to their development, allowing for the continual layering of appropriately challenging knowledge and skills, that ensures students become confident, determined learners, who enjoy and understand the empowerment of education and are ready for each stage of it.  

The school recognises that the joy of learning for students is most often located in the discovery of stimulating, life changing  knowledge and ideas and that the skills required to fully appreciate such concepts can only be fully developed once the spark of interest has been ignited.  Highbury Fields is deeply ambitious for our students and through the studied curriculum, they are exposed to vital canonical thinkers and texts, but also to a wide range of cultures, histories and traditions that have helped to shape the values of twenty first century Britain. 

Lessons and schemes of learning are carefully planned to uncover students’ prior understanding of topics, before introducing new knowledge and its relation to the world in which we live.  The manner in which students learn and apply this knowledge seeks to develop the competencies that students need both in a classroom setting, but also to be successful throughout life.  Emphasis is placed on students developing effective communication skills and, in particular, on their ability to listen, read, speak and write well.  In this way, the studied curriculum provides students with the tools that they need to make successful progress throughout school, but also to interpret and contribute meaningfully to wider society.  

The pastoral curriculum

The school understands that as students develop into adulthood, they will form a multitude of different and sometimes complex relationships. The pastoral curriculum is designed to help students interpret and evaluate these relations and to support students in making safe, positive choices for themselves and when supporting others. Through the pastoral curriculum, students learn to identify when they, or another person, may need help, where or who to go to in such circumstances and coping mechanisms to manage on-going moments of difficulty.

By introducing students to the challenges faced by some members of our community and in wider society, the pastoral curriculum also seeks to imbue in students the values of mutual respect and tolerance, as well as to ensure that inclusivity, diversity and equal opportunities are celebrated and that students know how to appropriately challenge in society instances that are not aligned to these values.  In this way, the pastoral curriculum ensures that all students feel they are valued and supported both in and outside of the school community, but also that they have the responsibility of helping others to feel the same way.     

The pastoral curriculum therefore supports students to learn the emotional intelligence and resilience that are required to make an active and responsible contribution to school life and that they develop the necessary strategies to continue such positive contributions to wider society as adults.

The wider curriculum

The wider curriculum is designed to complement the studied and pastoral curricular by further developing in students the confidence and determination that are so vital in successfully negotiating the challenges of adulthood.  Broadly themed into adventure and sport; community and culture; the creative arts; public speaking and debate; science and technology, the wider curriculum exposes students to subject knowledge, cultures and viewpoints that extend beyond the studied curriculum and enables them to practise and apply skills across a wide spectrum of contexts, thus honing their expertise. 

By offering opportunities across a range of areas, the wider curriculum ensures that all students have access to a breadth of experiences that allows them to accumulate cultural capital throughout their educational journey.  Just as importantly, by encouraging participation in fun non-academic pastimes, the wider curriculum helps students to develop strategies to look after and manage their emotional and physical health both throughout school and as they become adults.  Because students are able to choose the activities they participate in, they are actively contributing to their own self development and sense of identity and broadening the parameters of what success in school means to them.

The contributions and support that students offer to one another through the wider curriculum nurtures and strengthens important relationships across the school and further fosters the strong sense of community that is both an integral feature and value of Highbury Fields School.  In this way, the wider curriculum fulfils the essential function of enabling students to have fun in a meaningful way and thus together to create lasting positive memories of their time in school.   

The Highbury Fields School ‘curriculum journey’

The Highbury Fields School curriculum intends to take our students on a journey of memorable and stimulating learning experiences that enable all students to be academically and socially successful both in school and beyond.

As with any journey, it is important for those embarking upon it to know the intended destination and the signposts that help to navigate the right direction.

The information below sets out, in broad terms, how the studied, pastoral and wider curricula  support students’ academic and social success as they progress through each year of the school. 

Year 7 - establishing firm foundations

When students join the school in Year 7, the studied curriculum will expose them to a wide range of academic disciplines that students might be familiar with, but will not have studied in depth during primary school.  Students’ learning across the Year 7 studied curriculum will provide them with the foundations of essential subject knowledge and skills that are necessary for continued progress and understanding throughout their schooling.  Students will begin to learn subject specific terminology and vocabulary and the processes and structures that will help them to comprehend, recall and apply newly learnt material.

To support Year 7 students with the increased academic challenge of secondary school, the pastoral curriculum will equip them with the necessary organisational skills to become more independent in both their studies and outlook than during primary education.  Students’ first steps in self-management are underpinned by embedding the routines and practices that enable young people to travel safely to and from school.  They are also provided with strategies to help them interact kindly and positively with peers, including through the safe and appropriate use of technology, in order to develop meaningful friendships.  Students are taught how to effectively communicate their feelings to peers and members of staff, so that these can be listened to sensitively and meaningfully.  Throughout the year, students are provided with regular opportunities to reflect on their wellbeing, to help them develop an understanding of what it means to keep well in body and mind and initial approaches that they might use to safeguard their own health.

The wider curriculum is a vital medium through which Year 7 students are supported to stay well.  By participating in the school’s broad after school programme, students will discover and nurture both friendships and interests that will stay with them throughout their life.  They will be provided with opportunities that stimulate a world view and build the confidence and determination to speak and lead publicly in a fun and secure environment.       

Year 8 - developing confidence in new situations

Whilst the subjects that students learn through the studied curriculum will stay the same in Year 8, throughout this year, the subject content evolves in both breadth and depth.  In particular, students will build on foundations that they laid in Year 7, by applying their knowledge and skills to new contexts and situations.  They will develop a growing sense of how to think, listen, read, speak and write like a subject specialist and the techniques and structures within each subject that are necessary to develop such specialism.  Students will also begin to understand how their studies relate to wider social and global issues and their relevance to future career pathways.

Throughout Year 8, the appropriate independent use of technology to support and expand learning becomes increasingly significant.  As such, the pastoral curriculum ensures that students understand how to use computers and other devices safely and appropriately, both from an academic and social perspective.  Students are taught the contexts that they might encounter as they develop into teenagers and how to respond to such situations in a way that ensures their own safety and that of others.  Great emphasis is placed on ensuring that students are able to maintain positive friendships and also how to identify when a relationship is healthy and what to do if they feel it is not.  To support students in starting to take active responsibility for their wellbeing, the Year 8 pastoral curriculum helps students to pre-empt potential barriers to their emotional and physical health as they mature and establish strategies to overcome these.

In Year 8, the wider curriculum continues to be an important channel for students to maintain a healthy balance between their academic study and their broader interests and passions.  Students are offered opportunities to become role models to younger students and apply their developing leadership and public speaking skills in unfamiliar contexts that support both the school and the wider community.  In particular, the wider curriculum facilitates opportunities that encourage students to step confidently outside of their comfort zone and thus develop a ‘can do’ approach to both school and life.

Year 9 - informed decision making

The studied curriculum in Year 9 enables students to deepen and progress their foundational understanding of each subject area, with the aim of ensuring that by the end of the year, all students are excited and have the requisite knowledge and skills to transition to GCSE study effectively.  Students’ knowledge of each subject area also continues to broaden, with the effective platform of Year 7 and 8 allowing them to be exposed to the complexities of the studied curriculum, both in terms of subject knowledge, but also the interconnectedness between their studies and the world in which they live.  Such breadth ensures that students have a firm grasp of the relevance of each subject to their own self development and hence are able to make informed, supported choices for their future studies at GCSE and/or BTEC.  Just as importantly, the content of the studied curriculum means that students continue to develop into conscientious, critical citizens who are able to effectively challenge and question decisions that affect the local and wider community.  Each subject area ensures that students develop the communication skills necessary to express themselves academically, but also to a range of audiences, so that their view and feelings are presented meaningfully and purposefully.         

Supporting students with the increasing exposure they are likely to have to different people and situations is also a key feature of the Year 9 pastoral curriculum.  Students continue to develop their skills in how to communicate effectively with their peers and increasingly with a range of adults, so that they feel comfortable and safe in knowing how to express their feelings about themselves, others and particular situations.  In this way, students develop thoughtful social skills and judgements that ensure they maintain or grow friendships in a healthy and mature way and that their social interactions take place in safe and secure environments.  In particular, students are taught to be fully aware and cognisant of both their rights and responsibilities in relationships at all times.  Through the pastoral curriculum, students also learn how to adapt their communication skills depending upon the circumstance, with a view to preparing students for the formalities of adult life.  Emphasis is placed on students understanding both the benefits and potential difficulties of having an ‘online presence’ both in the short and longer term and how to manage their use of social media and technology accordingly.    

The Year 9 wider curriculum supports the work of the pastoral curriculum in facilitating opportunities for students to work with older peers and responsible adults and thus adapt or develop their communication and public speaking skills accordingly.  Students are encouraged to take responsibility for independently pursuing interests or pastimes that help them to develop a keen sense of who they are and what they stand for, but which also allow them to contribute meaningfully to the school and wider community.  As with the academic curriculum, the Year 9 wider curriculum seeks to enhance students’ understanding of wider communities and cultures and hence be able to refine the characteristics, skills and attitudes that enable them to confidently speak about and begin to address social issues and injustices.

Year 10 - honing academic and social expertise

The Year 10 studied curriculum builds on the subject knowledge and skills that students develop throughout Year 7, 8 and 9 to truly hone their academic credentials in both the core subjects of English, mathematics and science and the preferences that students have elected to study.  Students’ learning of each of their subjects is guided by an examination board set ‘specification’, the detailed and specialist teaching of which ensures that students develop the specific disciplinary literacy to express their knowledge in a manner that accesses the very highest grades but, just as importantly, provides them with the academic voice and style necessary for further and higher education.  Whilst an important aspect of the Year 10 academic curriculum is developing students’ competence in preparing for and sitting formal examinations, subject content is carefully and thoughtfully linked to potential higher education and career pathways, further enabling students to make informed, positive decisions about their potential next steps in education.   

The Year 10 pastoral curriculum anticipates the increased responsibility for students that comes with GCSE preparation and meaningfully guides them in how to maintain a healthy and sensible balance between academic study and engaging in activities that keep young people well.  Students are encouraged to reflect on what success means to them and the characteristics that they need to develop to ensure they achieve their future goals.  Through the pastoral curriculum, students are taught strategies for effective time management and revision, but equal emphasis is placed on how to use time in a way that continually contributes to health and happiness.  The Year 10 pastoral curriculum explores the excitement and challenges of becoming an adult, with a particular emphasis on confident communication skills, which enable students to successfully maintain friendships as they mature, as well converse with teachers and adults in a proactive but considered manner.      

Confidence in speaking is also at the heart of the Year 10 wider curriculum, with students taking part in public speaking training to develop their conviction in presenting to a wide range of audiences about topics and issues that they are passionate about.  This determination helps students make the most of a series of future success events that are provided by the Year 10 wider curriculum, including a ‘meet the professionals’ careers event, bespoke careers advice and guidance for each student and university visits that helps students understand the links between their current and future studies.  Through the wider curriculum, students are also encouraged to continue or develop the interests and pastimes that help them to develop into well rounded adults, but which also support them to keep well.

Year 11 - realising potential 

The Year 11 studied curriculum builds on the self-management skills that students develop in Year 10 to allow them to independently apply their subject specific skills and begin to map out their continued academic journey to Year 12 and 13 and higher education.  Teachers carefully revisit learning with students, to ensure that students develop as sophisticated an understanding and interpretation of subject content as possible and are able to express their knowledge in the language of subject specialists.  In this way, students are stimulated, not just to answer examination questions, but to also consider how GCSE content links to their own future interests and their developing world view.  Across the studied curriculum, students are taught to plan ahead, so that they are in control of their exam preparation and able to maintain a healthy balance between their studies and their wider interests.  Throughout the year, there are regular opportunities to practise their examination skills, so that they can rehearse the techniques that will enable examination success and also help them to manage challenging situations in the future.  Students are supported in the development of these skills through a bespoke, individualised revision programme and an online revision portal.

Given that Year 11 is a year in which students make decisions about their lives that can shape their futures, the pastoral curriculum seeks to fully instill in students what the school terms ‘guided independence’.  Throughout life, everyone will need continued advice and guidance, but by helping students establish a framework for decision making, the Year 11 pastoral curriculum ensures that they are asking the right questions of themselves and of others, both at this moment of transition and beyond.  Students are coached to determine the support networks and structures that they will need in place to help keep well as they mature into adulthood and how to take responsibility for establishing these.

As with Year 10, the Year 11 wider curriculum seeks to ensure that students maintain the pastimes that help them to keep well during the challenges of the year, but which also contribute to their future success.  Students are encouraged to take a leading role in the life and development of the school and are provided with opportunities that support them in establishing their next educational steps.  These include talks regarding specific universities and degrees, as well as varied careers provision that encourages students to think beyond established careers.

Year 12 - specialist pathways; broadening horizons

The excitement of the Year 12 studied curriculum for students is that they follow a suite of subjects that they have chosen, are passionate about and the effective study of which will facilitate a range of academic or vocational pathways by the end of Year 13.  At the start of Year 12, the studied curriculum established the links between Year 11 and Year 12 subject knowledge, so that students understand their academic journey and are able to transition confidently into the next stage of it.  Students start to consider how emerging subject knowledge and skills might be applied in the context of a degree or further training, as well as developing their own intellectual curiosity through wider reading around their own subjects and other fields of interest.  In each subject, they consider the skills and characteristics that have underpinned their success to date and how to utilise and further develop these, so that across the next two years, students develop into genuine subject specialists, who fully understand the rubric necessary for academia and professional life and are ready to demonstrate their expertise in a wider context.

Similarly, the Year 12 pastoral curriculum seeks to ensure that students are fully prepared for the opportunities, but also potential problems, that are created by their exposure to broader environments and contexts.  Students are rightly given the time to reflect on their academic and social journey to date and whether their likely or previously considered direction is still appropriate for them.  In this way, students are encouraged to take with them into Year 12 the mindset, skills and strategies that ensured their success in Year 11 and to build these into their way of working and living in Year 12.  At the same time though, students are coached to determine where they might like or need to make changes and so throughout Year 12 are able to develop a confident sense of who they are and what their direction in life might be.  Critical to this sense of self is ensuring that students are able to effectively manage the competing pressures of study, social life and financial planning, whilst still keeping well.  Through the pastoral curriculum, students are exposed to a range of scenarios and strategies that help them to develop the emotional intelligence to safely manage and thrive in early adulthood, so that they are able to enjoy and make the very most of this moment of their lives.

At the heart of the Year 12 wider curriculum is the ambition that students have access to as broad a range of opportunities as possible to help them discover the adults they might want to be.  Throughout Year 12, students attend a programme of university and further training visits to help them to establish the right course and environment for their next educational steps.  Students are also encouraged to contribute to the school community through our community coaching programme, which supports younger students in a range of ways, both academically and socially.  As well as providing Year 12 students with a range of school associated opportunities, the wider curriculum coaches students in how they can independently develop and pursue their individual interests.  

Year 13 - self-determination

In Year 13, the studied curriculum operates as a bridge between students’ current academic study and that of their degree or future vocational study.  Through specialist teaching, students develop into wholly independent learners, who are confident in synthesising and applying their deep understanding of sophisticated subject knowledge and theory to a range of audiences and in a wide range of contexts.  Because of their expertise, teachers draw out from subject specifications purposeful links to potential degree courses and professions, which enable students to make informed decisions about higher education, as well as utilise their highly effective study practices to further explore areas of passion and interest beyond the curriculum.  By this stage of their education, students habitually use their credible wider reading to support and challenge their own ideas and are able to assimilate, synthesise and develop informed judgements about viewpoints from a range of sources.  Students therefore have a breadth and depth of academic understanding that puts them in control of, and ensures they are excited about, their next educational steps.

Building on the emerging sense of independence and self that students develop in Year 12, the Year 13 pastoral curriculum ensures that, by the time they leave school, students have the emotional intelligence required to successfully navigate the early stages of adulthood.  Students practise a comprehensive command of self-management strategies that enable them to negotiate new situations and develop keen instincts about the people and contexts that they encounter.  Most importantly, they have a strong sense of self-worth and confidence in who they are and what they can contribute to society.  

The Year 13 wider curriculum is designed to support students in feeling ready for the broader responsibilities, exciting and everyday, that come with early adulthood.  Students are exposed to a range of experiences that broaden and potentially challenge their world view, so that they are able to consider the issues that face society from a range of perspectives.  They are coached in expressing their own views in a reasoned and responsible way and, where they see injustice, are guided in when and how to challenge it effectively.  Through the opportunities that arise through the Year 13 student leadership programme, students develop a keen sense of what it means to be a role model and, by working with both their peers and younger students, hone the communication and team working skills that are invaluable in later life.  Just as importantly, students are prepared for the practicalities of adulthood.  From basic cooking to financial planning, the Year 13 wider curriculum considers aspects of adulthood that students might not otherwise think of and ensures they have practised them.