At Hillstone, we offer a broad, active and inspiring curriculum, bespoke to the needs of all our pupils. At its core, it is the National Curriculum – but it is so much more than that. Our curriculum is sequenced so that knowledge and skills build coherently on previous learning. Our academic learning is underpinned by a strong emphasis on oracy and problem solving skills, along with the mental and physical development required to prepare our children for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life beyond Hillstone. This does not just take place within discrete lessons, but throughout all aspects of school life; before and after school clubs, residential experiences, arts projects, sporting opportunities and our Food for Life projects all work to inspire, care for and educate our children in a way that promotes successful, lifelong learning.
Parents and carers are encouraged to take part in all aspects of school life as we strive to develop citizens of the future that will make a positive contribution to their community, whilst understanding, respecting and celebrating the diversity found within it.
We believe that Hillstone Life Skills,
often known as PSHE in many schools, are crucial to helping are children to become active, engaged and responsible citizens.
How it has developed
- The content of the Hillstone Life skills was devised by asking children and parents what they wanted to learn alongside a recommended PSHE scheme.
- As time has passed we have added additional useful content that we feel important to our pupils’ growth.
- These included lessons from the No Outsiders schemes, which helps children learn about the equalities act and lessons about growth mind set, providing them with resilience in their learning and development.
Our Wider curriculum offer
The arts, sports, outdoor education and food education. These aspects run not only throughout the projects that the children undertake but can be found in all aspects of Hillstone life. They help equip our pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.
What makes us Hillstone?
Subjects are taught in an organised and sequential way through our half termly projects. Our connected curriculum ensures children can build on previous projects, making links across both subjects and year groups to help them successfully acquire new learning.
The projects have all been carefully chosen to provide breadth and relevance for our children. For instance, ‘Proud to be a Brummie’ teaches the children about the history and geography of the city in which they live, building on learning from our local area project, ‘We Love Shard End.’ Year 1’s ‘Fins, Feathers and Feet’ project takes them to our link farm for the very first time, a visit they repeat three times over the course of their time at Hillstone, working to enhance a great deal of their science learning.
We also run themed weeks across the academic year including ‘Eco Week’ and ‘Power to the People’ week.
21st Century children
Subject leaders have followed research in cognitive science to ensure the content is taught in a logical progression. All teachers are clear of the end points and how learning is built up from the nursery to year 6.
We were conscious when designing our curriculum that we wanted something for 21st Century children. Every year one of the projects has a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) element. This is not just about ensuring those elements are developed, but a methodology that begins with a problem that children have to solve.
Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion is important to all our children. Projects and resources have all been designed with this in mind. Giving diversity a high priority helps to instil moral and social traits that will support children’s growth throughout their younger years and into adult life.
The Early Years
In the early years, we follow the Curiosity approach. The Curiosity Approach is a modern-day early childhood education method, driven by active learning and critical thinking, we aim to create a generation of thinkers, doers, and investigators. Children are encouraged to explore, experiment, and create, using engaging resources modelled by passionate facilitators. Their innate curiosity is awakened and sparked.
Delivering this exciting curriculum
How do we deliver this exciting curriculum?
Projects begin with the teacher sharing the purpose of the learning. Why we are studying this topic and asking the children what they already know and what they would like to find out. They usually have an exciting entry and exit point to which they are striving; this may be creating a guide book or putting on an exhibition. Most topics have a writing for real element. This provides the children with a purpose and audience and raises the quality of their writing. Sometimes these writing for real tasks are fantasy and sometimes they are real. An example of this is Farmer John from our linked farm who asks the children for help in learning more about the animals.
How it works
- Where it fits, we take the children on a visit or have a visitor in school to give them more practical hands on learning.
- Teachers constantly assess children’s knowledge, skills and understanding through conversations with pupils, or looking at their work in books. Children are routinely reviewing learning from previous projects. Where gaps are found in children’s learning, particularly in maths, reading and writing, teachers ensure that those gaps are filled either within the lesson or with specific tutoring time after the lesson. In this way we aim for children to keep up not have to catch up.
- We have found that using drama has helped our children to have an empathy and understanding of a viewpoint which in turns improves the quality of their written work. We use an online programme called Now Press Play which allows the children to be immersed in a topic. We also have an actor in residence from the Birmingham Rep.
Reading and writing across the curriculum
Keen and fluent readers
Ensuring children become keen and fluent readers is one of our most important tasks at Hillstone. For this reason, and because reading unlocks access to a whole range of subjects and learning, we ensure that it is woven throughout our curriculum. In practice, this means that reading skills are taught and practised in both discrete reading lessons and in a range of other subjects.
Whole class reading lessons
Our whole class reading lessons draw on a range of texts that link to the children’s current topic. Not only does this enhance their engagement with – and understanding of – their current topic, but it also favourably impacts on their attitudes to reading: they are keen to learn more so reading is seen positively and it also helps instil a sense of reading being a highly purposeful activity. In addition, other lessons across the curriculum allow for children to practise both their word reading and comprehension skills, through activities such as note-taking and summarising a text.
‘Writing for Real’
Similarly, writing lessons also link to the topic and underpinned by what we refer to as ‘Writing for Real’: this means that there will be a reason why the children are writing (perhaps the local estate agents needs some promotional materials about the local area, or Coach wants to promote healthy behaviours throughout the school), such that they always have an audience and purpose for what they write.
Keen to write
These two factors ensure our children are keen to write and also minimise the amount of time needed to create or find content, thus maximising the time spent on learning and practising a whole plethora of writing skills. In turn, this approach helps ensure children are fully immersed in their topic. And just as with reading, a whole range of lessons other than discrete writing ones, allow for the practising of writing skills.
Any time, anywhere learning
Our curriculum is not just about what happens in lesson times. There are rich opportunities for learning throughout the day from, 8am breakfast club to a wide variety of lunchtime and after school clubs. These are validated for Birmingham Children’s University and children have their own log in in which to record their learning and aim toward a graduation ceremony.
When the Pandemic began, staff quickly mobilised to create our virtual school of which we are very proud.
How did we do it
- We delivered a level of education for pupils unable to attend school that was a close as possible to actually being in the classroom.
- High-quality video lessons that followed our usual timetable were available daily, not just in maths and English but keeping the breadth of our curriculum.
- We also offered a number of clubs, assemblies and much more.
- Parents and pupils could contact the teachers and feedback was given.
- We ensured all families could access learning with loans of devices and dongles
- Since all pupils have returned to school, we continue to run a virtual school, albeit a reduced version.