A knowledge-based curriculum for all
At Chetwynd Spencer Academy, we are proud to have a knowledge-based curriculum which stimulates our children into asking searching questions, shapes their learning and enables them to develop into independent thinkers and learners. Our curriculum is engaging, exciting and innovative, encompassing and celebrating all curriculum areas, helping to ensure that our children develop the knowledge and skills they need to excel, and become creative and curious citizens.
Our curriculum has been designed to encompass knowledge and understanding of the world in which we live, and also the events that have shaped it in the past to make it what it is today. The topics have been designed to complement and build on one another with clear progression and links so that in subsequent year groups, they will be able to explore concepts deeper, applying their knowledge in different contexts.
The books we select for our Mastery Reading programme complements and support this. For example, in Year 5, a newly developed topic linked to Black History, ‘Freedom’, provides essential background information and justification for the events in ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar, one of the books read by Year 6. Through in-depth discussions, debates and questioning, children develop schema for core knowledge and values that are transferable. In Year 6, ‘Wonder’ is studied, with discussions centred on the mistreatment of someone because of how they look. This knowledge, and the empathy shared through the text, is ‘tapped into’ when they discuss prejudice, persecution and discrimination when learning about the Holocaust. Same concept: different context.
Our community is at the heart of our teaching and learning and topics have been selected to embrace the wider community in which we live – celebrating our diverse family, links with Chetwynd Barracks and our local churches – as well as expanding children’s knowledge of events and places they wouldn’t ordinarily visit or know about.
In recent decades, cognitive scientists have confirmed the need for a knowledge-based curriculum for two reasons:
Knowledge frees up your brain’s capacity for thinking
Cognitive scientists have found that our brain works at different speeds, depending on whether we have learned something already, or whether we are relying on “working memory”. Working memory is new information you can keep in your head and is very limited (holding between three and seven pieces of new information). That is why learning your times tables by heart is useful. Completing more complex calculations is made more simple if knowledge of tables is already ‘locked in’. This links to our use of rolling numbers.
We learn new things by connecting them to old things
The way in which the brain stores new information, and makes inferences and discoveries, is by connecting to existing stored knowledge (schema). You cannot have skills without knowledge, because you cannot evaluate something you do not know anything about. You also cannot come up with new ideas without jumping off existing ones.
This links directly to the complementary English and Mastery for Reading curriculum, mentioned above.