Curriculum Overview

At The Downs School, our vision is:

Educating today’s students for the world of tomorrow.

Our curriculum is designed to meet this purpose, enabling students to know more, remember more, and be able to do more.  We promote achievement for all, via a rich and diverse programme of study that allows students to become confident, well-informed citizens who are ambitious for themselves and well-prepared to meet future challenges in education, training, and life.

The following principles underpin our intent (what is to be taught – knowledge & skills):

  • We have high expectations of all students and their potential
  • We provide a knowledge-rich curriculum that is coherent, challenging, and accessible to all
  • We differentiate our curriculum via a range of appropriate pathways for specific cohorts of students with different needs
  • We carefully sequence our curriculum to ensure continuity and progression between key stages, using assessment intelligently to inform teaching and learning, and not solely as a tool for summative judgment
  • We provide a coherent and meaningful Personal Development Programme of education (including Citizenship, PSHE[1], SMSC[2] and RSHE[3]) that ensures our students become confident, well-rounded young people
  • We recognise the importance of both taught curriculum within the school’s timetabled programme and that which takes place out of normal lesson time or the school day, such as home learning, enrichment opportunities and super-curricular study
  • We provide expert, impartial, and up-to-date careers guidance (CIEAG[4]) that enables our students to make well-informed decisions about their future study and career aspirations
  • We promote the fundamental British Values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs (paying particular regard to the Equalities Act, 2010)
  • We ensure that students are well prepared for the increasing academic demands of terminal examinations
  • We maintain the highest standards of communication (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and numeracy across the curriculum, so that students acquire key skills that are essential to improving life chances

The implementation of our curriculum is founded on a belief that our teachers are our greatest asset.  We give our staff the autonomy to teach well-planned, meaningfully sequenced lessons, that utilise strategies to maximise student progression and attainment in line with sound educational research.

The following principles underpin our approach to implementing (teaching and assessing) our curriculum intent.  We expect all teaching staff to:

  • Be highly knowledgeable in relation to subject, pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge
  • Routinely check for misconceptions and adapt their approach, so that teaching is responsive to need
  • Ensure students’ long-term retention and recall of subject knowledge
  • Identify and prioritise the teaching of key and threshold concepts, embedding these within a broader schema[5] of learning
  • Use assessment to embed and use knowledge fluently, check understanding and inform teaching
  • Set challenging work for students that supports the gradual accumulation of knowledge to enable deeper understanding and enhanced skill development
  • Identify and incorporate opportunities to develop cross-curricular learning and careers education into planned lessons
  • Identify and incorporate opportunities to develop communication skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) into planned lessons
  • Model high standards of communication skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening)
  • Engage with high quality professional development, always seeking to further improve their teaching efficacy.
  • Set challenging work for students that supports the gradual accumulation of knowledge to enable deeper understanding and enhanced skill development.
  • Identify and incorporate opportunities to develop cross-curricular learning and careers education into planned lessons.
  • Identify and incorporate opportunities to develop communication skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) into planned lessons.
  • Model high standards of communication skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening).
  • Engage with high quality professional development, always seeking to further improve their teaching efficacy

[1] PSHE – Personal, Social, Health & Economic education, [2] SMSC – Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, [3] RSHE – Relationships, sex and health education, [4] CIEAG – Careers information, education, advice and guidance, [5] Schema is a mental structure to help us understand how things work. It has to do with how we organize knowledge. As we take in new information, we connect it to other things we know, believe, or have experienced. And those connections form a sort of structure in the brain.

Curriculum Structure

At Key Stage 3, all students follow a common core of learning in Years 7, 8 and 9 which includes:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • French
  • German or Spanish
  • History
  • Geography
  • Religious Education
  • Computer Science
  • Drama
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Art
  • Design Technology
  • Physical Education

In addition, students study our Personal Development Programme, which includes:

  • PSHE – Personal, Social, Health & Economic education
  • SMSC – Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development
  • RSHE – Relationships, Sex and Health Education
  • CIEAG – Careers Information, Education, Advice and Guidance

Students select their Key Stage 4 options in Year 9.  As of 2021, all students will study Religious Education, Physical Education and our Personal Development Programme, as well as the following certificated subjects:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • History or Geography

Students are then able to select up to an additional 3 subjects to study. A majority of students are expected to take a modern foreign language unless it is deemed to not be in their best interest.

In 2021, we introduced the possibility of studying an additional subject on reduced hours to offer greater breadth and challenge to very able students.  At present, the subjects offered are:

  • Further maths
  • Statistics
  • Triple Science
  • Religious Education

The allocation of time to the various curriculum areas is subject to annual review.  For the academic year 2021-22, the distribution of curriculum time across a two-week timetable is as follows:

Curriculum model 2021-22

2 week cycle of 49 periods per fortnight

Faculty

Subject

Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 11

Year 12

Year 13

English

English

8

6

6

8

8

 

 

Reading

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media & Film

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mathematics

Computing

2

2

2

 

 

 

 

Mathematics

8

6

8

6

8

 

 

Science

Health & Social Care

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science

6

6

6

8

8

 

 

Psychology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humanities

Business Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geography

2

2

3

5

 

 

 

History

2

2

3

 

 

 

Religious Education

2

2

2

2

2

 

 

Modern Foreign Languages

French

4

4

3

 

 

 

 

German

 

4

3

 

 

 

 

Spanish

 

 

 

 

 

Design Arts

Art

2

2

2

 

 

 

 

Design Technology

2

4

2

 

 

 

 

Performance Arts

Dance

1

1

1

 

 

 

 

Drama

1

1

1

 

 

 

 

Music

2

2

2

 

 

 

 

Physical Education

Physical Education

4

4

4

4

2

 

 

Social Sciences

Economics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Law

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philosophy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sociology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Development Programme

Personal Development Programme

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Option A

 

 

 

 

5

5

8

8

Option B

 

 

 

 

5

5

8

8

Option C

 

 

 

 

5

5

8

8

Option D

 

 

 

 

 

5

8

8

 

Total

49

49

49

49

49

33

33

Week A has 24 taught periods for students; the school closes early on a Monday to allow time for staff professional development. Week B has 25 taught periods.

Year group curriculum maps for Years 7 – 9, and subject curriculum summaries for Years 7-13 are available on the school website and show the coverage of subject content across each year.

Sixth Form

In the Sixth Form there are a wide range of subjects offered at Level 3 (Applied or A Level) – please see the 6th Form Course Guide for details.

All students in 6th Form are offered the opportunity to undertake an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in Year 12.

All Sixth Form students also take part in our “Personal Development Programme".

Organisation of Teaching Groups and Timetable

Students are taught in a variety of groupings depending on the needs of the students and the demands of the particular curriculum area; these may vary from year to year. Teachers are knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to ensure success shines through at all levels both academically and vocationally.

Mixed ability teaching groups are the most common for the teaching of Years 7 and 8. Broad ability groups or sets are introduced generally higher up the school. The school week is divided into an allocation of twenty-five periods, each of one-hour duration. The timetable operates over a two-week, fifty period cycle. In addition, other aspects of the curriculum, forming part of the Personal Development Programme (including PSHE, Careers Education and Relationships and Sex Education) are covered in separate lessons and programmed events. Time is also allocated for a daily act of worship, assemblies and the registration of students.

English

Year 7 - Mixed ability groups, two ‘progress groups’

Year 8 - Two ‘half’ year groups, mixed ability classes

Year 9 - Two half year groups, mixed ability classes

Year 10 - Mixed ability classes with one ‘progress group’

Year 11 - Mixed ability classes with two ‘progress group’

Mathematics

Year 7 - Two ‘half’ year groups each with students in mixed ability groups following an induction

Year 8 - Two ‘half’ year groups, each with students in mixed ability groups

Year 9 - Two ‘half’ year groups, each with students in mixed ability groups

Year 10 - Set in ability groups

Year 11 - Set in ability groups

Science

Year 7 - Six mixed ability groups based on form groups

Year 8 - Two ‘half’ year groups, each of mixed ability

Year 9 - Two ‘half’ year groups, with students in ability groups (mixed from 2021-22)

Year 10 - Groups of separate sciences (core plus option); all other students follow a two GCSE course and are in ability groups

Year 11 - Groups of separate sciences; all other students follow a two GCSE course and are in ability groups.

Modern Foreign Languages

All years are taught in mixed ability groups; in Years 7-9 individual students may receive literacy support in place of some of their language lessons.

Art, Applied courses, Drama/Dance, Geography, History, Computer Science, Music, Physical Education, Religious Education, Design Technology

These subjects are taught mainly in mixed ability* groups. Occasionally the teaching of these subjects is timetabled alongside another subject and the groupings may follow a different arrangement. In PE, groups are of mixed gender for KS4 activities, at KS3 they are usually single sex.

*Please note that the term ‘mixed ability’ denotes ability based on prior or current attainment.

The impact of our curriculum can be seen in our outcomes at Key Stage 4 and 5 via:

DfE Performance Tables:

https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/school/110102/the-downs-school/secondary

The school’s ISDR (Inspection Data Summary Report):

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/school-inspection-data-summary-report-idsr-guide#download-your-schools-idsr

School website:

https://www.thedownsschool.org/358/exam-results-performance-tables-and-destinations-info

We expect our Progress 8 figure to rise as more of our students sit examinations for the EBacc suite of subjects in in 2023. 

Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 curriculum maps can be found on the individual subject pages.

Courses offered for students entering Year 10Courses offered for students entering Year 12

KS4 and KS5 subject texts and revision books

Click here for more detailed information on individual subjects, including curriculum summaries.

How well are we achieving our aims?

Look at what our students have experienced and achieved.

Click here for information on our curriculum enrichment.

Click here for news and events

Click here for examination results

Click here for information on destinations.

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