As a junior school on a large estate, community and moral values remain at our core. This includes the aim of nurturing our pupils' aspirations and preparing our children as world citizens of the 21st Century. In order for this to be achieved our children need high levels of literacy and numeracy. Community links and generating pupils with strong morals remain focuses of our termly enrichment weeks, as does seeking discovery and creativity. The school recognises that science is both an exciting academic subject and another area where children can develop reasoning and provide opportunities to discover.
When planning a curriculum, Birchwood Junior School has had to recognise the very wide social and economic challenges within the community. The school is on the Birchwood Estate – which according to Public Health England using indicators for socio-economics, is in the lowest 10% nationally hence the community deprivation figure. The school has an increasing roll of pupils in general as well as an increasing number of EAL pupils and pupils with SEND needs. Our last Ofsted report referenced how 'Pupils' personal development and welfare are outstanding. The excellent care and support helps the most vulnerable pupils and those with additional needs to settle and make good progress.'
The school prides itself on providing all families with support and sign posting care when needed. Within RSHE and citizenship, allowances for the socio-economics of the area are made and we recognise that the children need both a sense of valuing themselves, and developing aspirations for their future and for their community. We have designed our assembly values and termly curriculum enrichment weeks to provide a breadth of experience within a subject area, drawing on outside speakers, involvement of parents and developing a sense of empathy. Careers advice often features within the curriculum enrichment weeks and enables visitors (including parents) to meet with the children and expose them to life outside school, providing them with ideas for their future. We are passionate that all children realise that it is a big and wonderful world out there that they can play an active and positive part in. With the community idea leaving Birchwood Junior School a better place than they found it.
To do this not only do we pursue excellence but ensure the children are equipped with the correct skills in which to do this, for example we have links with many local clubs such as Birchwood Colts, Lincoln Rugby Club and Hartsholme Cricket Club. We play an important part in providing the means for social mobility. Community links with mini police help children realise they can have a positive impact on their local area. We maintain close links with the local community such as Lincoln University, as part of the mini police community and a very dynamic working relationship with all the local primary schools, Birchwood Federation.
Collaboration is vital in delivering the best equipped curriculum for our pupils. We provide numerous opportunities for staff development with many teachers holding MaST and NPQEL awards. Many staff members have been SCITT trainees and with support have developed their roles within school as examples of how Birchwood Juniors supports professional development. The school also works closely with the LTSA and St Georges SCITT programs providing outstanding maths training to trainee teachers. We are proud members of the Birchwood Federation working closely with the two infant schools. This has been vital in ensuring pupils and their families can have consistent pastoral support.
The Birchwood Federation has strong Governing body that provide challenge and play an active role in school life. Ofsted state: 'Governors make frequent, focused visits and check how well pupils are learning. They monitor all aspects of safeguarding carefully and speak with pupils about feeling safe. Governors act on pupils' comments to make improvements. Safeguarding is effective and remains a high priority within the school.'
In addition to this we hold annual staff training between the 8 Birchwood estate schools which ensure staff can network and share developments across the estate. This collaboration ends with the Birchwood Carnival a musical celebration that recognises the vast talent the children of Birchwood have. Finally we are an active member of the KYRA teaching school alliance taking part in cross moderations, workshops and staff training. The Executive Head works as an LLE and the Assistant Head as an SLE for the alliance.
We also plan opportunities for the children to know about keeping safe, linked to the KCSiE document. We also plan for and promote British values, (Democracy, Rule of Law, Individual Liberty, Mutual Respect and Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs) ensuring that children are aware of their rights and responsibilities as a UK citizen.
The wellbeing agenda is at the heart of Birchwood Junior School's curriculum. Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding. The curriculum aims for pupils to be spiritually open, morally brave, socially confident and culturally welcoming. Pupils show themselves to be deep thinkers. They are able to empathise with the feelings and actions of others, seeing points of views and beliefs other than their own. Particularly in RE and RSHE, they show a keen interest in ethical issues and are able to apply their personal values to situations, giving reasons for their decisions and actions. They are ready to question arguments and situations. The school embraces every opportunity to nurture moral strength and encourage children to not only recognise what the right thing is but also practise this.
In recognising the development of the whole child the pastoral support given to children so they can access the curriculum is strong. Nurture sits at heart of our school and is mentioned within the curriculum page as this allows vulnerable children to access their learning and curriculum entitlement. The school has various systems which support the emotional and mental well-being of children and provides signposting to their parents.
Emotional and mental wellbeing is also greatly enhanced by sport. Sport has remained central to both our curriculum and extra-curricular provision providing educational opportunities to engage children in their learning through sport is hugely beneficial to all our children. In recognising that there are 60% of boys in the school (with some classes being over 80% boys), we know this is hugely beneficial to all our children. We also believe the pedagogy of P.E. in sport affects other areas of the curriculum and really enhances children's learning, physiologically allowing better learning to happen, as well as children learning skills such as listening, problem solving, team work and resilience. We have invested heavily with the P.E. and sport provision, with inclusion for all and this has been evident through being recipients of the School Games Gold Award which reflects the effective sport provision. The school believes that this is an area of excellence and parent surveys also convey this.
Staff annually review their medium-term planning to ensure topics are relevant to the children's interests and needs.
Subject leaders are currently working on curriculum coverage on foundation subjects, e.g. Geography and History, with all middle leaders being aware of the curriculum expectations and in turn working towards planning the skills within their respective curriculum areas.
The curriculum is designed to ensure: deep learning, with focus made on extending those who are working at a greater depth within the curriculum areas; engagement with their learning and initiating the direction of the units of study, particularly in the foundation subjects along with breadth and balance. Not only do staff review the actual curriculum regularly, but also the principles for learning and teaching. Currently, our maths leader is working with NCETM on projects for developing math mastery within the primary curriculum as we recognise the importance of working collaboratively with other schools.
We recognise R.E. as a core subject, so we adhere to a locally agreed syllabus. We also recognise that parents are the primary educators of the faith and we work closely with the local religious community in embedding these strong links with our local community. We foster an ethos of serving both individuals and society. We place an importance on developing an understanding of different faiths and cultures – developing tolerance and including all those with any faith and those with none.
Currently the staff are working on improving our subject leaders action plans to ensure they have maximum impact in developing a rich and meaningful curriculum. With an additional aim of developing the key skills within the history and geography curriculum. We have also questioned whether we are making the most of our locality and will be assessing our school trips for next year, and hopefully making the most of our beautiful landmarks and the rural location – places we all take for granted.
To meet the requirements of the National Curriculum, all classes in Key Stage 2 follow some set, pre-planned topics. The National Curriculum sets out the minimum content. At Birchwood Junior School, we make sure children learn lots of additional skills, knowledge and understanding.
▸ we offer a range of opportunities (*fee paying) to learn a musical instrument – these extra-curricular activities go beyond the statutory requirements.
▸ if a class or group show an interest in a particular subject, teachers will try to include this in the school year – a recent Year 6 class wanted to learn more about Tim Peake's adventure to space.
▸ current local/national or international events can provide a great basis for learning – the Olympics or the reconstruction of the Magna Carta.
▸ importantly, higher attaining children are not restricted by the National Curriculum - there are activities that children can participate in that 'master' the learning skills.
We prefer to set start and end dates for most of our topics, and we do this by planning topics with a specified length ('Big Topics' last for seven to eight weeks, for example). This is so that we can ensure a broad and balanced curriculum – often with a themed launch "Wow Factor" – and end at the same time – with some sort of reflective activity to share learning with others.
Occasionally children learn with children from other classes or different members of staff. For example, older children might support younger children (under supervision) in reading or PE games. Not only does this help younger children to acquire new skills, but older children's social skills and self-esteem can improve, too. We also make use of many visitors to school who have particular skills or interests, especially in drama and PE. Children (and teachers!) enjoy drama within many topics, typically delivered by specialists in their field. It acts as a powerful, motivating vehicle for all learning and has a positive impact on standards in reading and writing as well as topic work. Our P.E leader, works hard to use PE money to invite lots of specialist coaches and teachers to enhance PE activities which can sometimes link with topics.