Curriculum Overview

Curriculum Intent and Principles

Our curriculum is designed to align with our vision of ‘Educating today’s students for the world of tomorrow’ and our values of courage, responsibility, equality ambition, resilience, creativity, and integrity, enabling students to know more, remember more, and be able to do more.  We promote equality of access and achievement for all, via a rich and diverse programme of study that allows students to become confident, well-rounded and creative citizens who are ambitious for their future selves.  They are resilient - able to bounce back from any mistakes they make, meeting future challenges in education, training, and life with courage.  As a result, they act with integrity and take responsibility for themselves and their future success in education, training, and life.

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

  1. We are ambitious for students and have high expectations of all students and their potential 
  2. We provide a knowledge-rich curriculum that is coherent, challenging, and equally accessible to all 
  3. We differentiate our curriculum via a range of appropriate pathways for specific cohorts of students with different needs, ensuring equity of opportunity to succeed
  4. 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 
  5. We provide a coherent and meaningful Personal Development Programme of education (including Citizenship, Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), Spiritual Moral,  that ensures our students become courageous young people who act with integrity
  6. 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 which can be utilised to foster responsibility and creativity 
  7. We provide expert, impartial, and up-to-date Careers Education, Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) that enables our students to make responsible, well-informed decisions about their future study and career aspirations 
  8. We promote equality via 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) 
  9. We ensure that students build resilience and are well prepared for the increasing academic demands of terminal examinations 
  10. 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 preparing them for the world of tomorrow.

Curriculum Implementation and Principles

The implementation of our curriculum is founded on a belief that our teachers are our greatest assets.  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:

  1. Be highly knowledgeable in relation to subject, pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge
  2. Routinely check for misconceptions and adapt their approach, so that teaching is responsive to need
  3. Ensure students’ long-term retention and recall of subject knowledge
  4. Identify and prioritise the teaching of key and threshold concepts, embedding these within a broader schema[1] of learning
  5. Use assessment to embed and use knowledge fluently, check understanding and inform teaching
  6. Set challenging work for students that supports the gradual accumulation of knowledge to enable deeper understanding and enhanced skill development
  7. Identify and incorporate opportunities to develop cross-curricular learning and careers education into planned lessons
  8. Identify and incorporate opportunities to develop communication skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) into planned lessons
  9. Model high standards of communication skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening)
  10. Engage with high quality professional development, always seeking to further improve their teaching efficacy.

[1]Schema is a mental structure to help us understand how things work. It has to do with how we organize knowledge.

Context of the school

The Downs has a higher percentage of student attendance than that found nationally, with an even distribution of boys and girls. Fewer students at The Downs become NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) than nationally.  The percentage of students with SEN, and/or accessing an Individual Healthcare Plan (IHCP) are lower than national figures.  There are significantly fewer students with English as an Additional Language (EAL) or eligible for Pupil Premium (PP) funding/Free School Meals (FSM) when compared to national data. 

In terms of student outcomes, The Downs performs very favourably against national figures, however there are still gaps that need to be closed – most noticeably for high prior attaining students and students eligible for Pupil Premium.

Geographically, the school is set in a rural location with farming communities surrounding it.  It has a high number of feeder primary schools which can dilute effective transition work.  Students come from a variety of backgrounds, with a diverse range of prior experiences.  The pandemic of 2020-22 impacted significantly on younger students, particularly with regard to delays in the development of emotional and social maturation, fine motor skills, and reading/writing skills.

Our curriculum has been adapted to address these contextual factors in the following ways:

  • A comprehensive review and update of our Personal Development Programme to take account of existing and emerging challenges
  • Subject specific curriculum reviews to better meet the needs of high prior attaining students and those eligible for PP
  • Additional Year 7 lessons to support transition work and boost students’ confidence and love of reading (to be reviewed 2023)
  • Cross-federation/Key Stage phase collaboration to plan for and improve Y6 transition
  • The introduction of timetabled enrichment activities for students in 2022-23 to boost students’ social and emotional development (particularly aimed at students with possibly limited access to such opportunities – for example those eligible for Pupil Premium)
  • The planned introduction of the new GCSE in Natural History from September 2025
  • A comprehensive review of our Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance in the context of T Levels and the defunding of vocational qualifications such as BTECs, to ensure no NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) students

Curriculum Structure and Implementation

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 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.

Students may also study an additional subject on reduced hours to offer greater breadth and challenge to very able students, of whom there are many.  At present, the subjects offered are: 

  • Further maths 
  • Statistics 
  • Triple Science  
  • Religious Education (2021-23 only)

The allocation of time to the various curriculum areas is subject to annual review. 


Curriculum model 2022-23  

2 week cycle of 50 periods per fortnight 



Year 7 

Year 8 

Year 9 

Year 10 

Year 11 

Year 12 

Year 13 












Media & Film 


















Health & Social Care 




















Business Studies 
















Religious Education 





















Design Arts 






Design Technology 





Performance Arts 
















Physical Education 

Physical Education 




Social Sciences 

















































Personal Development Programme 








Option A 





Option B 





Option C 





Option D 
















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" and Enrichment Offer

[1]Please note that in 2022-23 our current Languages provision will be reviewed to ensure better continuation of learning of at least one language though to KS4.

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 Personal Social and Health Education, Careers Information Advice and Guidance, 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.


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

Year 8 and 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’


Years 7 to 9 - Two ‘half’ year groups with students in mixed ability groups appropriate to future Higher or Foundation tiers (placement reviewed each year)  

Years 10 and 11 - Set in ability groups  



Year 7 - Mixed ability groups based on form groups  

Year 8 and 9 - Two ‘half’ year groups, each of mixed ability

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:

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

School website:

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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